I’ve recently had an epiphany about diet and weight loss. First of all, let me tell you that as a female in today’s society, not only have I been aware of my weight and body image since I was about 10, but I have also been dieting since the age of 12.
At 12, I happened upon an old diet book from the 70s that had belonged to my parents. I found it wedged between novels and history books on a dusty bookshelf in my basement, while I was looking for something to read one summer. I plucked from the shelf and brought it up to my room to read. As of the next day, I was on the Scarsdale Diet, which was a low carb diet, high protein diet permitting 1000 calories or so a day.
I lost around 30 pounds on this diet by the time I was 14 and my entire family thought I was anorexic. Physically, I certainly was not since the weight of my 5’4” frame never dipped below 130 pounds. Mentally, I was definitely going through some issues with food which I am sure have been familiar to every girl at some point.
I eventually gained the weight back, and more, but the thought-cycle never stopped. Every single night for the last 15 years, I have been falling asleep to the sound of my thoughts telling myself to “do better” tomorrow. The thoughts depended on the whatever diet I was attempting that month, but generally revolved around Cut calories, cut fat, cut sugar, cut carbs, cut breakfast, cut coffee, intermittent fasting, eating 5 small meals a day, not eating after 7 pm, Whole 30, Vegan, juicing, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Ketogenic, Paleo… Ugh….
At 18, I lived in Italy for a few months and my weight dropped significantly. Down 25 pounds. At 19 I was diagnosed with PCOS, my weight increased by 10 pounds. At 22, I met my current boyfriend. Down 30 more pounds. At 23, I developed anxiety. Up 15 pounds. At 24, I did the keto diet for months. Down 10 pounds. At 25, I entered the working world and began a 9 to 5 desk job. Up 10 pounds.
Over years, the number on the scale fluctuated but my thoughts stayed the same. Every night I would hate myself for what I ate during the day and tell myself the next day would be different.
Enter the epiphany. A few months ago, I realized how tired I was of this horrid cycle. I have a family who loves me, friends who love me, a boyfriend who loves me. Yes, I have been called fat and overweight. I have also been compared to an actual BISON by a man in Italy (not fun). But I have been also called average, skinny, fit and curvy by others.
So, a few months ago, I decided to forget about focus on dieting or food but do my best to break the thought-cycle. Because the thought-cycle NEVER made a difference in my weight. It was the only thing that was consistent and it was chipping away at my sense of self-esteem and worth. It had to go.
How did I break the destructive thought-cycle? I decided to limit thinking about “dieting” or “trying to be healthy” to when it was time to eat. Because, in the end, the only time you really need to thinking about food is when you’re about to put it in your mouth. There is no reason to hate yourself between meals because it won’t have the slightest impact on what you actually eat.
Transitioning my thoughts was actually way easier than I thought it would be. It took a few weeks to get used to, but the minute I felt my mind wandering to that dark place, I stopped it. “No point”, I told myself, with the reassurance that I could about it at the next mealtime.
Since my epiphany, I swear to god my stress has been cut in half. I literally feel an immense weight lifted of my shoulders (no pun intended!). As simple as it is, this new way of thinking has helped me build a better relationship with food as well.
When you’re always dieting, you really deteriorate normal responses to food which hurts you in the long run. Cravings are basically a by-product of dieting. The less you diet, the less you will crave things. It makes sooo much sense.
And another thing. Think about the number on the scale for a second.
If you are trying to lose weight for appearance: Would you care what the number was if you looked like a supermodel?
Okay, and if you are trying to lose weight for “health”: Would you care what the number was if you could accomplish that health goal regardless? Like, if your goal was to run a 10k and you could do it a good time, why does the number on the scale matter?
It does nooooot matter people. The number on the scale does not reflect your beauty or fitness. It doesn’t even reflect whether you’re fat or skinny.
Stop using the scale as a way to measure your beauty or your health. I know it’s hard, because that’s what the rest of the world does, but you don’t have to let it matter to you. Besides, it’s not like you’re walking around with 155 pounds printed on your forehead.
To be clear, I am not trying to encourage you to gorge yourself on Big Macs all day. Nutrition is important to survive. Exercise is important for mobility. But as long as your health is in check, your weight shouldn’t matter. Being fat is not in and of itself a health problem. Heart disease, high cholesterol, poor blood circulation, bed sores, malnutrition, immobility… THESE are health problems. Fatness is not.
I can run, jump, rock climb, paddle, swim, scuba dive, carry my 185 pound boyfriend around the house and hang upside down from monkey bars. So I figure I’m good for now, and don’t need to worry about the scale or my lil love handles.