Before I get too deep into the weeds, let’s see if we have anything in common in our weight struggles. I’ll share with you some of my unhealthy habits and then share with you what has worked for me in creating a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever:
- Gone to a public pool/beach and spent most of the experience comparing your body to the bodies all around you
- Struggled with your weight for more than 10 years (mine began in third grade. Yep. 9 years old)
- Done something extreme and unsustainable to lose lots of weight (Subsequently put it all back on)
- Used food to manage emotions like stress, sadness or procrastination
- Made many promises to yourself about the healthy habits you’re going to adopt, only to break them
- Looked in the mirror naked and had all negative thoughts about yourself
If you resonated with any of those points, then I hope my words today can bring you some encouragement.
First of all, you can see by the photos I post regularly that I’m not Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition material. If you were hoping for the secret to getting skinny, you came to the wrong blog.
But if you want to chat about having healthy blood work, high levels of energy, a positive self-image when you look in the mirror and patience with yourself, I might be able to help.
Ready for the secret…it’s an inside job. The outside of your body is reflecting what’s happening on the inside.
Most of us are fighting a battle with the stories in our minds. It’s not a secret that significantly upping your vegetable intake, lowering sugar and processed food intake, and increasing exercise will lead to results. Implementing that is a completely different story…but why?
Well, a myriad of reasons that are complicated and not fixed easily. Here are a few things that have worked well for me over the last few years:
1. Positive Self Image
A few years ago I attended a workshop that used the Wheel of Life. My physical spoke was one of the lowest, and the coach helped me realize that a significant part of the reason why was because of how I perceived myself. She challenged me to write “I am beautiful” and tape it to my mirror where I would see it every time I saw my reflection. It was extremely uncomfortable to speak those words to myself for a long time. Eventually I said it enough times that I began to believe it.
Is this going to make you lose weight? Well, not directly, but definitely indirectly. By believing you are beautiful, you will increase your self-worth. When you love your body you will have an increased desire to make healthy choices because you know you are worth it.
2. Small daily habits
Many programs I have followed, and even taught, require many changes all at once that are usually not sustainable for the long term. Most of us can use will power to push through something we don’t like for a short stint, but if deprived too long, we will overload on the pleasures we avoided.
For that reason, I have found that the most sustainable weight loss comes from focusing on one healthy habit at a time that I’m willing to make a lifestyle change and mastering that before overloading myself with others. A few daily habits that I have mastered one at a time have been:
- I drink 100oz of water a day
- I keep my sugar intake at or below the recommended 25g for women per day
- I eat high quantities of vegetables
- I create a 12-14 hour break in eating between dinner and breakfast
- I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Notice that none of these habits are what I’m “not” doing. To be fully transparent, I have food allergies with corn, peanuts and soy so those create enough avoiding in my life. By focusing on small, sustainable habits, the weight I lose stays off because there isn’t a period where I go off the program and return to my normal ways. I just make changes that I am willing to make a lifestyle.
Many of us are using food as a coping mechanism for emotional baggage we are carrying around. Over the years, I have poured massive amounts of time, energy and resources into my personal growth and development. I’m not talking about motivational ra-ra. I’m talking about digging deep into the why behind my behaviors and emotions. It’s very uncomfortable work, but absolutely worth it.
I did this work slowly over about an eight year period of time. I have multiple friends who expedited their success by hiring therapists or counselors who specialize in this work. Yes, there are weight loss coaches who are actually counselors. Behind many people’s layers of weight gain is childhood trauma, lack of self-confidence or self-worth, abusive language planted by someone else or many other issues. There is no quantity of vegetables or sugar that will help you heal those wounds.
I highly recommend investing in counseling or therapy as part of your overall health and wellness plan.
4. New Coping Mechanisms
In a similar light, many of us, myself included, turn to food when we are stressed, sad, bored or any other situation where we are avoiding our feelings. To be honest, this is one I am still working on. I am much, much more aware of when I am doing this than I use to be, but I have not mastered it yet. At least I have replaced my comfort indulging of ice cream with hummus and pretzels or frozen berries covered in almond butter.
For some reason, many of us don’t like to feel our feelings. When they start to come on, we look for a distraction rather than sitting in them. A major part of weight loss for me was to recognize when this was happening and to look for other coping mechanisms. Depending on the emotion, I have tried to create new habits to resort to when I feel it coming. Feeling stressed? I go take a bubble bath. Procrastinating? Pivot to other work, go on a walk, or drink water. Sad? Meditate on the root cause and let the tears flow.
5. People Pleasing
Man…if I had to pick one pet peeve that bothers me the most, this one would be HIGH on the list. So often when someone proclaims they are making healthy choices, the people around them will peer pressure them into falling off course. I hear it all the time. “Oh c’mon! It’s your birthday, you HAVE to have a piece of cake.” “It’s just one glass of wine, it’s not a big deal.” “You are seriously missing out, this is the best spinach dip I’ve ever had in my entire life,” etc. You get the point. Rather than supporting and encouraging the people around them with their goals, so many people would rather help them justify why they should break a promise they made themselves. It infuriates me.
The ability to say no to the peer pressure is a strong muscle that for us people pleasers, can be a tough one to overcome. I’ve learned to just avoid the conversation in general. If I tell people I’m being healthy, they may resort to the taunting. If I just say “no thanks” or “I’m not in the mood” or “Maybe later, but not now,” I don’t deal with any push back.
Like many of you, this is an ongoing journey for me. The more time goes on, the more I am able to feel comfortable in my own skin, love my body, prioritize taking care of the one body I get, and increasing my self-care healthy habits.
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