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No More Dieting Articles!
Mild trigger warning, as this article speaks briefly about past trauma with food, body dysmorphic disorder, and contains a disturbing image of me while I was overweight. Please be advised and if you are sensitive to these issues, proceed with caution.
Weightloss Is Not A Religion
We are a generation of fairweather dieters and gym visitors. We live in a world where skinny, toned bodies surround us, subconsciously telling us that if we don't look a certain way, we won't be loved or wanted by our prospective mates. There's so many diet supplements and diet foods on the market, we can't keep track. So as a result, we fall into this insecurity trap and truly adopt these harmful beliefs. Most people follow the "must lose weight" consumerism mantra so blindly, they don't even understand why they think it'll make them happier, only that somehow it magically will.
It's exactly what the corporations who sell you this garbage want you to believe. They spend billions of dollars a year to make sure you do.
But let me tell you a little secret: I've known people who have lost hundreds of pounds with gastric bypass surgery, only to become miserable, lost and completely unbearable to be around. I have also known some heavy-set people who are some of the most luminous, joyful folks I've ever met. Happiness does not come from weight. If you want to lose weight, you must ask yourself why. This is a step a lot of people skip, and it's importance cannot be overstated. I understand introspection can be difficult for some, so I've included a handy poll to help you.
Click any and all options that apply to you, as many times as you want. (If the site allows)
Be honest with yourself about why you think losing weight will help enrich your life.
Is it simply because of the images you see, dictating your ideals of beauty? Is it peer pressure from those around you? Is it all the health blogs you see, convincing you that you're diet is all wrong?
Well, that last one might have some merit to it, seeing as how many first world nations are adopting an "American diet" of red meats, dairy, carbs and fried foods out the yin-yang. Also, we aren't as physically active as we used to be. Do you make it a point to go out and enjoy life on your days off, or do you sit around playing video games or veg out in front of the TV?
If you're serious about losing weight, you have to get active. Take the stairs. Get off the train a stop early and walk. Actually use that gym membership you probably already paid for but convinced yourself you never had time to go. If you can't afford it, look up some beginner workout videos on youtube, they're free and nobody has to see you doing crooked squats in your house. I used Chris Freytag's 10-Pound Slimdown on hulu so often that when I got a few extra bucks, I bought the DVD. (I highly recommend it) But now it's on youtube so go check her out!
Honestly, I don't care what you do, but do something. For the sake of your health and happiness.
Activity is part of life, people. It doesn't even have much to do with dieting or weight loss. If you don't want to work out, go run around a park or play a game of football with your friends in a nearby field. Play is the best way to heal yourself. I'm not talking about video games either, not even the Wii or Xbox Kinect. I'm talking about actually leaving your house, absorbing sunlight, and enjoying the fresh air. I'm talking about meeting up with friends in real time, or going to a meetup and doing something cool. This interpersonal experience cannot be fully replicated through a mumble overlay. Go to the park with your kids or pets, or take a serene walk alone and appreciate nature. Take a day off work, see a friend you haven't hung out with in a while. If you're disabled and don't get out much, at least try, even for a short walk. Life without joy is not really living, so go towards your joy every single day.
Your goal should be more "healthy" than "skinny".
Many people I know have traumas surrounding food. If you've ever been told that there are starving children in other countries and that you needed to clean your plate, if your parents fed you fast food 3-4 times a week because it's all they could afford, if everything you've ever eaten has come in a pouch, jar or can, chances are you have an unhealthy relationship with food as well. I had absolutely no idea about food and nutrition growing up, and didn't learn until I found myself pushing 260 lbs, borderline diabetic, fatigued, and saddled with hypothyroidism that kicked in when I became that large. 260 lbs may not seem too obese to someone who is 300 lbs and above, but for someone who's 5'3" and had never been so big in her life, I felt like an overstuffed sausage and could barely move. What's worse, I had no idea what I was doing wrong.
The turning point was when I began keeping a food journal to track the calories and fat of everything I ate, even the stuff I used to cook with. My results were staggering and it disgusted me to know how unhealthy I was. Things needed to change and I was determined to get better. That decision, I realize, was the first real step towards self love.
I read voraciously, studied and learned that I had known so little about nutrition, it's a wonder I survived on my own as long as I did. (And seriously, if you knew how long I forced my body to subsist on nothing but snickers bars and white sticky rice, you'd wonder too!)
I didn't stick to a set diet plan, because I wasn't dieting. What I did was change the way I saw food, the way I made food and the way I ate food. I changed my entire lifestyle. At times it was very difficult because most of my friends are big and ate lots of junk at parties. I couldn't really partake and they mocked me for it. I was romantically involved with someone at the time who actively discouraged me out of fear that if I were to lose the weight, I'd go out and find someone better. The irony of it was that by standing in the way of my happiness so fiercely, it was enough of a deal breaker for me to leave. I was doing this all alone and there was a lot of temptation, bitterness and discouragement but I did a lot of self-parenting and instilled a few hard and fast rules for this new lifestyle change. I won't lie, I did cheat sometimes, but I compensated with extra exercise.
You don't have to stick to all these rules, but they did absolute wonders for me.
The ground rules were as follows:
- No MSG, high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, (red 40, yellow 6, etc) or autolyzed yeast extract.
- I read the back of every single freakin' thing I bought. This made shopping trips take hours, and it felt like a minefield because the above chemicals are in a ton of the products I used to eat.
- I "went brown", meaning I cut out all white bread, pasta, rice, anything that would spike my insulin levels and replaced all of it with their whole wheat and multigrain counterparts. It took some getting used to, but eventually I got to a point where I prefer it. It's also helpful to add grains like spelt, quinoa and farro to your diet for variety.
- I had a fruit or veggie of some type with every meal.
- No coffee, juice, smoothies, not even tea. I still to this day try not to drink my calories. Though I have started drinking coffee again.
- Cut red meat out of my diet completely, and cut down significantly on other meat portions. One serving of meat shouldn't be larger than a deck of cards. That's like.... one chicken thigh. The last time you had chicken, how many servings did you consume? Scary, isn't it?
- No cow milk. Zero, zilch, none. This wasn't hard because I dislike the taste of it anyway. Not only does coconut and almond milk taste better, but it has more calcium than regular milk with none of the antibiotics or hidden aspartame.
- Cut down hardcore on sugar. This.... THIS proved to be one of the hardest things to pull off because it's in literally everything; it has hundreds of different names and so addictive. After watching this video on YouTube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth (which changed my life and blew my mind, to be honest), I realized what it was doing to my body and swore to myself I'd do better in the future.
- The absolute hardest part of this change was getting my portion sizes down. Lawdy, for two weeks I felt like I was perpetually starving. It was awful and I walked around with the only chip on my shoulder! ~Snorts~ Ha! Good times.
After my body acclimated, though, I was eating less, feeling fuller, and the weight was melting off me. I was going on walks after work and feeling amazing. The journey is an arduous one but I promise you the results will be worth it. Just understand that this journey should not actually be about weight loss. That isn't the real prize here, that's just the side effect. Once you rid yourself of all the gross chemicals and start moving, and start feeling better about yourself, the rest will fall into place. You'll look back at all you've accomplished and the pride will be overwhelming. I cannot even tell you, you will be smiling all the time and your zest for life will knock people's socks off. And suddenly, you'll find that being skinny isn't as important as feeling like this.
This is me after hitting my first-tier goal of 159 lbs where I was no longer considered "obese" according to the BMI chart. (My final goal was around 140 lbs)
Let me tell you, according to the BMI chart, a 5'4" adult woman is supposed to be 130 lbs to be considered healthy, not taking into account my body type or muscle tone. I was pushing 260 lbs at the time and thought I would have to chop off one of my legs to achieve this, which caused me to become extremely discouraged. Do not listen to the BMI; it's evil and wrong, and should not be used or taken seriously by anyone, ever.
The sad part of this photo is that I did not see the same thing you're seeing now. No matter what weight I'm at, I look down at myself and still see me at my largest. This is a textbook definition of body dysmorphic disorder. It's relatively common in men, women, and even children as young as seven. If you experience similar, know you're not alone. Seeking help does improve your situation, because the more awareness you have about it, the less power it has over you.
There is no separation between your body and your mind.
Yes, I've managed to put some of the weight back on since 2012, but these days I'm a much happier person because I'm learning how to identify and heal up the holes in my soul I had been trying to fill with food. Inside healing should always come first. Feeling good is looking good. If you aren't actively trying to deprive yourself, if you go towards your joy every day and have a good time with it, everything else will follow.