Lately I have been working on myself. I have been trying to become better in many respects, but most importantly, a friend to myself. Up until recently, it was very easy to get caught in the “I don’t deserve that” trap. The trap that causes me to loathe what I see in the mirror and in my heart. The trap that criticizes everything I do. The trap that reminds me over and over again why I am not successful at many things. The trap that finds excuses for every little thing. I was trapped.
Most importantly, though, I was caught in the “I can’t do it, so I may as well not even try” trap. I know you’ve been there… You have a goal, but don’t even bother taking the action steps because you know it will be hard work and that you may not be successful. You judge yourself so harshly and talk to yourself so negatively that there is no wonder you are not able to meet your goals. You stumble over your own two feet and become your own worst enemy. There’s nothing that anyone can say to you that is harsher than what you already say to yourself, right? Have you been there?
Well, I’m working on that. And I’m also educating myself about things that I was semi-aware of in the past… one of those being my health. Now, when I started my journey back in May, it was about my weight. Until I realized that my 8 year old daughter was getting on the scale berating herself for being almost 100 pounds. I had to stop doing what I was doing. I realized why my “diets” never worked- and I’m about to share that with you right now. Hopefully my knowledge, insight, and struggles will be of use to you.
- It’s about the scale. You want to be _______ again. Any number fits in there. If you were just ______ again, you’d be happy. Right? Wrong. The scale has ZERO correlation to your happiness. Your happiness starts with your inner self. Your ability to stand on your own two feet- your ability to be a friend to others- your ability to be a friend to yourself- your ability to persevere through tough situations. Your happiness cannot lie within a number on the scale, so stop making it about the scale. Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying: I do weigh myself. I hold myself accountable. But I don’t hate myself if it’s going up or stuck and I don’t love myself more if it’s going down. I feel successful if it’s going down, but I cannot feel like a failure if it’s not moving. That just means that I need to take a new approach.
- It’s about the calories. It’s about the fat. If you pick a low fat & low calorie diet, chances are you will go to the store and seek out labels that say so. Labels are so confusing! Remember that food companies are in it to make money, not make you healthy. “Low Fat” muffins are often laden with so much sugar and so many chemicals that you’d be better off eating the full fat one (or better yet, make them yourself!). Don’t make it about calories or fat, make it about quality. Quality trumps quantity in ANY walk of life. Diet sodas are a perfect example: People really think they are the healthier choice because there are no calories. They are not. Diet soda is cancer in a bottle disguising itself as healthy and a better option. You can work off calories, not chemicals. Make sure the food you take in is whole- if your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it. Simple as that.
- You’re looking for a quick fix and don’t want to work hard. It won’t work. Sorry. You may lose the weight quickly, but your body will gain it back- trust me. Fads & fastings fail. You may have the willpower to stick to it, but you are losing weight for looks, not for health. You want to do what’s easy and you just want it done overnight. You want instant gratification. What I’ve learned about instant gratification, though, is that it’s instant, but fleeting. It lasts as long as it takes to get. You lose 10 pounds in a week? You may be happy for a week… but you’ll stop trying and it’ll all come back and then some. Quick fixes won’t change your life- like a tire with a slow leak: You can patch it quickly, but chances are there’s a leak for another reason. You will eventually need new tires (even if your vehicle is brand new… but that’s for another day). You will have to start over again, which sucks (almost as much as needing to shell over money for brand new tires in the first year of owning a vehicle).
- You have not addressed the root cause of your weight gain. You are simply trying to fix the outcome, not the problem. If the problem is a toxic relationship, you may lose the weight, but it will find you, because your body is dealing with that stress. You will allow the other person to control you and bring you back down that path. If your problem is stress at work, until you fix that, the weight loss will be temporary. If your problem is an illness that is not being dealt with properly, you will not be able to lose weight. Find your root cause, face it head on, and make a choice.
- You make it impossible. You say it’s all or nothing. You give yourself 6,327 rules to follow and if you don’t follow one, you are done. But rules are meant to be broken… your inner rebel tells yourself, “You can’t tell me what to do!” You overcomplicate it and plan too much. You overdo it on the forefront in order to get the best results quickly (see number 3). You create ultimatums for yourself: If you don’t _______, then you can’t _______. Or: If you ________, then you can ________. It’s preposterous that we would set rules and guidelines for ourselves to become better, healthier people. Each step you take on your walk is one more than if you were sitting on the couch. Remember that if you are out there doing something, you are more successful than if you were doing nothing. It’s possible, so stop making it impossible.
- You replace your previous addiction with a new addiction. Ouch. That one hurt. “I’m addicted to chocolate, I can’t diet!” That’s an easy one to admit, right? How about, “I’m addicted to caffeine, I can’t make it through the day without 3-4 coffees!” or “I drink too much to lose weight.” That one is harder to say, huh? We are all addicted to something, whether it be fried foods, adrenaline, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, work, etc. So, we think if we replace our ‘bad addictions’ with a ‘healthier addiction’ (counting calories, exercising, starving, etc.), we are not finding the answer… we are replacing the problem with a new problem (see number 4). Addiction is addiction.
- You are not knowledgeable about food science and nutrition. If you don’t do your research about what your body needs, you will not be successful in becoming healthy. For example: I have Hashimotos Hypothyroidism, PCOS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I’m pre-diabetic. Based on my research, I know that Paleo diets work best with autoimmune disorders because of the issues that non-Paleo foods have with leaky gut and inflammation. I know that gluten aggravates the digestive system and is actually an inflammatory, so my body will not easily be able to rid itself of this product. Guess what: my doc didn’t tell me this, even though she is amazing and phenomenal with me, she doesn’t have the time to research just for me. She supported my choices, but she also knows that I have read countless books, articles, and scientific studies to know this. I had to figure it out for myself. If you don’t have the capacity or time to do this for yourself, see a nutritionist, they know what they are talking about. You have to know about the foods you are taking in and understand what they are doing to your body. Processed foods with multiple chemicals, or eggs & chicken laced with antibiotics, or grain fed cows instead of grass fed cows… the research is out there and available to you. Start learning about how food affects the body, illnesses, and diseases.
- You replace your workout with food. “I ran today, I can eat this!” You think working out is the end all way and when you don’t lose weight the first week, you think, “This isn’t worth it, what’s on Netflix?” You forget that change happens with 80% diet and 20% exercise. And remember people, when I say diet, I don’t mean a complicated mix of hot dogs and ice cream- I mean whole, healthy foods that fit your lifestyle. You don’t have to be a home chef to accomplish this. I mean it! It’s so easy. Fresh cut veggies & hummus or guacamole, grapes & cheese (unless you’re like me and can’t eat that amazing goodness), trail mix (made by you, none of that nasty store bought stuff), cubed meats, sliced tomatoes & cukes, hard boiled eggs… the list goes on. If you take the time (see number 9), you will be successful. I promise. Don’t give yourself ‘extra’ food if you’ve worked out… unless you like ran a marathon or climbed Katahdin. If you did a 30-60 minute workout, take those extra burned calories to the bank and put them in your calorie savings account. You worked hard for that!
- You don’t have the time. Oh, okay, just stop reading this, then. If you don’t have the time, there’s no way you can fix that! But wait, how long did it take you to read this ridiculous rant? How much time do you take every day to update your status, read other people’s statuses, watch Dancing with the Stars, Netlfix and chill (that’s not an innuendo or euphemism, I mean that in the most literal sense), play Candy Crush, etc. You get the picture. Yes- you should be able to unwind after a long day… but maybe you’re unwinding the wrong way. We need to set priorities, and if your health and well being is not a priority, then yeah, you don’t have time. You have to MAKE time. Set aside 2 hours on Sunday to prep snacks or get a meal plan together. Include your kids with this. Wake up 15 minutes early and do some squats and jumping jacks in your living room. Bring your bored dog for a walk. Bring your bored husband/ wife for a walk. Dance. Play with your kids. Do you, but for the love of God, if you say you’re too busy, you have to let something else go. You can’t be too busy to secure your future, can you?
- You track weight and not inches, pants size or other tangible (and intangible) measures. This sounds like number 1, but it’s different, so bear with me. “I’ve been working so hard for two days and haven’t lost a pound!” First, we need to patient. If you are doing it for the scale, you won’t realize how much you’ve changed. I used to start a ‘diet’ and give up because the scale didn’t move. When people would tell me, “You’ve lost weight!” I’d say, “No, I haven’t. I actually gained.” I’d shoot their compliment down because it wasn’t true. I didn’t realize that they were seeing changes in me that I wasn’t seeing myself. I didn’t notice I had lost two inches in my waist but gained 2 inches of muscle in my arms. Taking before/ after pictures are also a great way to see changes. You may not move the scale, but you start transforming. You won’t see it in two days, though. I’m most proud of the number of pushups I can do in a minute. Or maybe you shaved a minute off your running time. You see a change in your blood work (like me this week: lowest fasting blood glucose levels since I’ve been diagnosed pre-diabetic). All of these tangible victories will help you feel confident and motivated to keep going. Your goals cannot be centered around the scale because you will not stick with it. When it doesn’t respond the way you want, you’ll throw in the towel. Intangible measures are also a great motivator- when you can feel strong and confident, you will keep going.
- You feel empowered when you don’t eat. This is kind of like the addiction one. If you feel strong or awesome because you haven’t eaten all day, you are not being healthy. You need to eat to keep your body working productively and starving all day is counterproductive. Science has proven that we go into starvation mode (thanks to our ancestors) and store what we eat as fat… we are built to survive. Now, I know personally that eating disorders are a real thing; and I also know that there’s nothing quite like the high you get by being able to control yourself so much that you don’t eat. It’s empowering. But it’s a false sense of empowerment. When you finally cave and eat, you have lost that high and feel like a failure, starting a cycle of self hate. Plus, if you’re anything like me and you go for too long without eating, you misjudge how much you’re actually taking in. You say, “Oh I have plenty of calories to go, I didn’t eat lunch!” And then when you sit down to actually log your food in, you realize that your supper consisted of 953 calories. Not a good situation. Just eat.
- You lie to yourself. This was my biggest roadblock. I’d tell myself that because it’s healthy I could eat as much of it as I wanted. Or that I just had a fun size Snickers, it doesn’t count. Or that I lost weight when I really didn’t. Or that I only had 1 serving of wine (did you know a full glass is not a serving unless you are drinking out of a teacup from a kid’s tea set?). Or that I don’t have a drinking problem. Or that I don’t have a food addiction problem. Or that I don’t have a lazy problem. Or that I worked myself hard enough. Or that my excuses are valid. So many lies we tell ourselves. Just stop. If you are not honest with yourself, you are basing all of your choices on lies. It’s not fixing your problem.
- You do it alone. This, my friends, family, and faithful readers, is the key. Your “diet” won’t stick because you’re doing it alone. You can’t do it alone. You are an amazing person, and I believe in you, but without the support of someone, you will not be able to share your joy, successes, and admit your failures to anyone but yourself. I have an amazing husband (don’t tell him I said that) and he’s always been so supportive of my choices, but I am afraid of his judgement. He’s an active, athletic person. I always told myself I was not as good as him… and that didn’t come from him. So I didn’t share things with him because I knew that when he sneezed and lost 5 pounds, it was way cooler than me losing a pound after a month. But that deficiency was with me and not him. Never once did he make me feel this way… I felt that way. I look back and realize he was helping me, I just couldn’t see it. Now I talk to him about it all the time because I know that he wants me to be happy and healthy. But before I felt confident enough with myself to talk to him about it, I joined a challenge group and found the perfect person to coach me along. Social media is a wonderful thing sometimes- so I have found that the support I received during this challenge group (on the good days and bad) held me accountable and allowed me to be honest.
- 13.5)You don’t talk about your struggles for fear of judgement. We are all afraid of judgement in some way, we are afraid that someone will berate us for eating an entire cheesecake. I was afraid to go running with my cousin and her friend just a couple days ago because I was afraid I wasn’t as fast as them they would judge me. I went anyway, even had to make them walk with me, but they didn’t judge me. I used to not run with my husband for the same reason- I was not as good as him and I didn’t want to expose my weakness or struggles. Here’s the trick: You are only judging yourself. If you see someone obese in the grocery store buying junk food, you look down on them. But you forget that you are overweight and just put in a bag of Cheetos in your cart. You judge people based on how you judge yourself and you think people are judging you, too. If you are afraid to admit your struggles, remember that your spouse, success partner or members of your challenge group can’t help you. And if any of those people DO judge you and make you feel awful about your choices, they may not be the best person to help you through this journey. Find someone or a group of someones that are like minded and won’t judge you. Then you can call yourself out and maybe get feedback on different ways to approach.
Wow. That’s a lot. I was on a roll. Remember that if you’re on a ‘diet’ in the superficial sense, it won’t work. If you eat whole, healthy foods in moderation and move, it will work. It will take time. Don’t overcomplicate it. Be honest with yourself. Find a success partner. Challenge yourself. Trust the process. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be confident in your abilities. You can do this.