After losing so much weight, I’ve had to buy new things and I often find myself trying on dresses, jeans and shirts, dress slacks and blouses. High heels. When I get dressed, I examine myself from all angles. I am very pleased. I am wearing wedges and a wrap dress. How very cute I am. Then I go out into the world and face the comments—You’re getting so skinny! You’re going to dry up and blow away! You’re melting! How did you do it? How much have you lost? What do you weigh NOW?
The comments are endless. They think they are helping, being nice. They aren’t. I am only confused. Exposed. My fat was like a lead mantle, protecting me from their probing gaze. Now I am becoming see-through. I feel as though I am on display, constantly judged and measured. I’m working very, very hard to stop listening to what everyone says. What they say, what they think-- it doesn’t really matter. I’m teaching myself to believe this. I want to be more than what I weigh, or how I look. I AM more.
I’m not exactly sure when I last weighed what I weigh now, but it’s probably been over fifteen years. When you’ve gained and lost and gained and lost and gained it all back and then gained a lot, lot more—well, your life is a solid blur of this. A blur of your body and food and numbers on a scale. Numbers on a scale and food diaries, begun in earnest, then discarded. A blur of self-help books on overeating, on miracle diets, on how to love yourself at any size. Then, somehow, there is no scale. There is only the gaining. And the black tunics with leggings. And big black shirts. And the sweat. The out-of-breathness. Avoiding the profile. Avoiding the photographs.
That I’ve broken free of this ongoing, maddening see-saw of existence is remarkable. I am watching my mother-in-law, once again, eating Nutri-System food. She doesn’t like the food. She weighs herself every day. The scale drives her crazy. She talks about her “diet” and her food constantly. She knows and acknowledges that she will gain it all back.
I refuse to gain it all back—I will show up every single day and record my food on MFP. Every day. Even when I know I’ve gone over by 1,000 calories. By 1,500 calories. Even when I’m just so busy I really don’t have the time. Even when I’m annoyed with the whole thing, the watchful eye, the diligence.
But the diligence, however annoying and tiresome, works. I’ve lost almost 90 pounds. I’ve been on this journey with MFP since last March. I’ve been incredibly successful.
When people ask me how I “did” it, they want me to tell them about the “diet” I’m on, probably expecting me to say “low carb” or “Paleo” or some other such nonsense. I’ve decided, after a few months of this dreadful attention to say, “I’m eating less.” Because I am. Eating less. Watching my food like a hawk. Showing up every single day.
After many years of counseling, I have begun to change my THINKING. That was the beginning. Now I know that EVERYTHING is a CHOICE.
Every time you eat something, you have made a choice. I used to eat things, stuff them in, and wonder why I did it. What was wrong with me? I don't even LIKE Twinkies. Obviously, I couldn’t control myself. I was “addicted.” I was an emotional eater. Surely I had an eating disorder. Surely I wasn’t “normal.” Now I don’t think this way. I whirled round and round inside my food “obsession” for years, but once I embraced the fact that everything in my life is a result of decisions that I have made, losing weight has become doable. And other things in my life make more sense too. I have several serious health issues, but I choose how to react to my ailments. I have limitations—there are things I just can’t do anymore, but I choose to either feel sorry for myself or look for other solutions.
I choose what to eat and what not to eat. It really is that simple. But I must pay attention. I must be aware and stay aware lest I return to my addled way of thinking. And I refuse to go back.
Here are some things that help me--
I do not say “exercise” and I do not say “diet.” Ever. I say “food.” And I say “move.” I’m careful to never use punitive language.
I do not play games with the scale. I weigh ONCE a week on MY scale. I place the scale in the same position on the floor. Every time. I weigh ONE time. My scale is the ONLY SCALE THAT COUNTS. I do not weigh at the gym. I do not weigh at other people’s houses. The doctor’s scale doesn’t count.
I eat ALL of my calories. I eat back my extra calories from swimming or walking or stretching or cleaning house. I eat what I want to eat. I do not “play” the numbers—no banking calories. No “cheat” days.
I eat often and I “front-load” my day--breakfast is often my largest meal and I never, ever skip it. I try to stop eating by 6:00 pm. I usually stop eating well before then.
I naturally drink a lot of water. I never drink sugary drinks and I have only a small amount of juice.
I ignore the latest “nutrition” advice. This can be hard, but once you realize that what shows up in the news, and what you watch on “documentaries,” is either very sketchy, very biased, or too preliminary to be of much use, it’s rather easy. In spite of what the “experts” claim, food studies are only approaching “accurate” when performed in a lab in a completely controlled setting. There have been very few such studies. And there are no “miracle” foods, no miracle diets.
There is only food--what you decide to eat and how much you decide to eat of it.
I eat my sweets. But I have become very aware of what I’m eating and I weigh the choices before I choose. If a protein bar will do it, I eat one. If the protein bar won’t do it, I eat a candy bar. If only a pastry will hit the spot, then I have a pastry. I pretty much know the calorie count of everything at this point so I can think to myself—500 calorie apple fritter or 280 calorie candy bar?
If the calorie count for a food on MFP is questionable, then I look it up on the restaurant’s website. Or I get it from the actual label. When I must guess, I tend to overestimate rather than underestimate.
I try not to get too obsessed with this whole process and as much as I can, I don’t talk about it when I hang out with friends (except my walking buddy who is also losing weight).
I allow myself to fail. I am in this for the rest of my life. The scale will go down. The scale will go up. I just need to show up. MFP works. And that little message at the end of each day provides excellent comfort and accountability—If Every Day Were Like Today.
This message makes it very clear that you would have to have a steady stream of 1,000+ calorie days to gain 8 pounds. But it reminds you, too, that you could easily wander off course.
You could obsess over your body, its imperfections. Its bulges. Its jiggly bits. You could deprive yourself of food until you find yourself having just finished a Baconator, two donuts, and a bag of chips, unsure of how you got there. You could play games with the scale—Oh, that can’t be right, Let me weigh again. What if I move it over here? What if I lean to the right? To the left? You could drive yourself batty. Or you could take food holidays until you realize it’s been two months since you recorded your weight. You could talk about your “diet” nonstop and annoy your friends who aren’t on diets. You could do all sorts of things to sabotage yourself or make yourself miserable.
Or you can choose to feel better. To do well. To succeed. You can embrace those jiggling wiggly bits. You can be proud and stand up straight. You can reach the top of the stairs without dying for breath. You can wear a blazer inside without sweating. You can turn sideways and look at yourself in the mirror.
And you can have that Baconator. You can have those donuts and that bag of chips. You can eat what you really want to eat. You can be very aware that all you’re doing is making choices, that you always have a choice to make. You always have options. This? This? Or That?
You can refuse to play games. You can try your damnedness to listen to yourself instead of everybody else. You can just be “okay” that you struggle with food. Why you struggle doesn’t matter so much. Change your behavior and the rest will follow. I used to think that was nuts. Now I know how very true it is.
Today, you can make a great choice. You can choose to show up. And tomorrow, you can decide to show up again. And again. Pretty soon you’ll have a whole string of days where you decided to show up. To pay attention. To make choices. And good things will happen.
So show up. And keep showing up.