When people learn that I used to weigh over 450 pounds and not only dropped the excess weight, but also have kept it off for almost two decades, they have questions. Lots and lots of questions.
These questions only increase when people find out that I had been overweight most of my childhood and young adult years before finally getting rid of the excess weight. And the questions multiply from there when they hear that I took the weight off without surgery, pills or fad dieting.
The trouble is, after many of these people ask their questions, they’re not very happy with my answers.
Despite wanting to lose weight in order to feel, look and be healthier, people often don’t want to hear the hard truths: To successfully lose weight you need to reduce you calorie intake, eat healthier (cleaner, less processed) foods, exercise more (burn more calories than you’re taking in), get plenty of sleep and drink enough water. When hearing these edicts, people usually become blank faced. Then, a few seconds later, most will ask, “But how can I lose weight really fast?”
Their horror continues when I tell them that even though I reached my weight loss goal years ago, I still must continually think about what I eat, how much I workout, etc. People want to believe the myth sometimes propagated by the billion dollar diet industry that once you lose weight, you never have to think about dieting again—and can even go back to previous habits of overeating and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
This is why I’m sometimes frustrated when people come to me for dieting and health advice. Not only do they not want to hear my honest answers, they also don’t want to apply these common sense tactics to their lives. And I’m sympathetic, I assure you. Change isn’t easy. Especially life changes that could affect your way of doing things in almost every way.
Peoples’ disappointment when hearing my advice isn’t their fault. Again, the diet industry is a big business that pumps out a lot of confusing rhetoric in order to get potential customers’ to fork over lots of money in exchange for an easy way to lose weight. There’s a reason that organizations like Weight Watchers offer methods for old members to rejoin. They know that people often fail at dieting and will have to start all over again.
And no, I’m not knocking Weight Watchers, since it’s one of the few diet programs that allows all foods and works to teach balance and moderation. Plus, when it comes to trying over and over again, what other choice do those of us with a dieter’s mentality have? I tried to start a diet a million or more times before it finally stuck. So there’s no shame in “Try, try again.” Own your efforts even if they’ve fallen short—and be proud of them. Barely anyone gets it right the first time. Especially us supermodels.
The good news is that you can (literally) have your cake and eat it, too. But that starts with changing the overall question about dieting. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking HOW to lose weight, but instead ask yourself WHY you want to lose weight.
That’s right. I suggest you change the narrative that surrounds your desire to drop excess pounds and fit into skinny jeans, lower your blood pressure and live a happier, healthier life. (It is, after all, really true what “they” say: Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.)
So instead of approaching a potential diet as a diet, approach it from another angle. Get out a journal. Or scrapbook. Or start a new Pinterest page and begin to articulate or visualize why you want to lose weight. Is it to feel better about dating someone? Is it to stop being breathless when climbing a flight of stairs? Is it to be able to keep up with your grandchildren on the playground? Is it to fit into a favorite outfit for an upcoming social occasion? Or is it to show a certain someone that you’ve got what it takes and then some? Hey, these are all great reasons to get healthier. And focusing on these reasons has to the potential to provide the motivation that might have been missing during previous attempts to lose weight.
While I was on my journey from over 450 pounds to around 175 pounds, I kept what I referred to as a “Me Book.” In it, I placed magazine articles about health and cutouts of whatever else that motivated me (even if just a certain picture or image). I also added photographs of clothes I wanted to wear and pictures from different kinds of media of “happy couples” that inspired me to visualize the kind of romantic relationship I wanted to find. I also included all sorts of health information, advice and even recipes that I would come across. I wasn’t into scrapbooking per se. But I was into reminding myself of why I wanted to take off the excess pounds.
Anytime I would be tempted to stray from my eating and exercise plans, I would pick up my “why I wanted to lose weight” book and thumb through it—reminding myself of all of the reasons I was committed to really achieving dieting success this time around. And guess what? It worked.
Again, not only did I take the excess weight off, but also I kept it off. All because I had an easy vehicle (my book) for reminding myself of my WHYs. And as mentioned before, these days you can even create a virtual “reasons” scrapbook on a site like Pinterest or something similar.
So if you’re contemplating a weight loss journey that can lead to many of your dreams coming true, start with putting the dreams into focus. Then the healthier eating, the healthy movement, the better sleep and even the 8 glasses of water (or however many) might become more routine a little more easily than they have in the past.
Whether virtual or otherwise, you might want to try creating a book that becomes the testament to WHY you want to lose weight and just let the HOW fall into place naturally. What have you got to lose?
Apparently I need more of an assurance that ‘change happens’ beyond night turning into day every 24 hours. In fact, there are many times when circumstances seem so bleak that I can’t imagine them eventually becoming history and being replaced by happier, more hope-filled times. Or even by some additional challenges. And yet, no matter what kind of changes are ahead of us, we can bank on them occurring. Even though many of us often fail to acknowledge change as a constant.
People who follow me on Instagram know that one of my weekend rituals is getting up pre-dawn and taking a power walk through my neighborhood. It’s usually just me, a few feral cats, the occasional (and literal) early bird, the moon and a whole lot of trees. It was during the winter months that I took a picture of a favorite tree as the last of its autumn-y leaves clung to it (just before falling). I was able to capture its beauty lit by a nearby streetlight with my phone camera.
But on a recent morning, when passing said tree, I noticed that its branches were “suddenly” covered in thick greenery. It seemed like only yesterday this tree was sitting in the dark, practically naked. And yet here it was on this day, crying out to the world that summer was imminent. I was as astounded by this change as I was grateful for it. It seemed like such a short period between this tree’s two states of being. Change occurred. And it was beautiful. And this change courtesy of Mother Nature reminded me of other times in my life that I didn’t think change (real and lasting change) was even possible.
I remember weighing over 450 pounds during my college years. Despite going to school in sunny Florida, I lived life as if I were a vampire—venturing into daylight only when necessary (usually to attend classes at Florida State University), while relegating everything else to nighttime hours. I was terrified to let people see I was morbidly obese and had become convinced that doing most things at nighttime would cloak me in a way similar to a vampire who might otherwise combust should he or she move about during daylight hours.
These nighttime errands included grocery shopping, which (lucky for me) could be done 24 hours a day thanks to a nearby chain store. There were others who deemed it necessary to shop during late hours as well. So I was still forced to encounter the general public. My mission was clear. Get in, fill my grocery cart, pay and get out—without making any eye contact or letting anyone get a good look at the 450-pound man I’d become.
One such night I was in the breakfast cereal aisle, which was unfortunately very crowded despite the late hour. As I quickly scooted by other shoppers with my cart (grabbing the nearest high-fat, sugar-soaked cereal I could reach), a little girl (who was shopping with her mom) looked at me, pointed, and screamed out, “Mommy, mommy! Why does that man have boobs?”
Everyone in the aisle turned and stared—in what seemed like slow motion fashion. I could swear the muzak playing over the loud speakers even screeched to a halt. There I stood, facing the general public in the same way Quasimodo might have when coming down from the bell tower. The little girl wasn’t wrong. I was a man and I did, indeed, have “boobs.” They were what some might refer to as man boobs, but still…
To say I was mortified is an understatement. I felt so “less than” and would have scurried under the closest shelving unit like a cockroach had I been able to. I was so angry at the little girl for calling attention to me. And even angrier at her mom for not turning it into a teachable moment and helping the little girl understand that men with boobs have feelings, too.
I abandoned my grocery cart, fled for my car and hurried home as quickly as possible. I remember sitting in the dark of my apartment, barely able to catch my breath (being at that excess weight wasn’t any better for me physiologically than it was for me physically) and wishing for change. But as much as I wished for it, I couldn’t comprehend it. I just couldn’t visualize me weighing less than 450 pounds. Much less 300 pounds. Or anything below that number. This kind of change wasn’t fathomable. And, I was just as sure, wasn’t reachable.
Even though I vowed to stay in my college apartment for the rest of my life, I eventually left my self-imposed fortress of solitude. And guess what? Soon after I discovered that all the crash diets I’d been on didn’t hold the key to getting healthy. Soon after that revelation I was eating more natural foods in healthier portions. Shortly afterward, I added an exercise routine to my new way of eating—along with proper hydration (drinking enough water) and healthy amounts of sleep. It was a four-pronged approach (without any gimmicks, pills or surgery) that eventually led to… (Wait for it…) Change.
Even with my own dramatic change and this recent change demonstrated to me by my neighborhood tree, there are still times in my life that I feel trapped. That I feel like change can’t possibly occur. Even when I know in my heart of hearts it can. And will. This occurrence of change will be as true for hard times as it will be for joyful times. It’s constant. And there’s a real gift in knowing and remembering this if we’ll allow ourselves to.
So if you’re going through a happy period in your life at this moment, embrace it. Soak it in. Hold it in your heart so tightly that it will always be a part of you—even when circumstances change. And the same edict is true for anyone who’s in a dark moment at this time, convinced that there is no way things could get better. They can. We can’t see around the virtual corners ahead of us. But all sorts of possibility—and change—lie just beyond them. Of this, we can all be sure. Just look to your favorite tree for proof.
Guest Post by Lisa Goldberg, Certified Dietician & Nutrition Specialist
Do you find yourself repeating negative habits and behaviors when it comes to emotional eating and yo-yo dieting? Do you find you set an intention to get healthy and by the end of the day or week you always “do yourself in?” This is self-sabotage showing up.
What is Self-Sabotage?
Self- Sabotage is any behavior, thought, emotion or action that holds you back from getting what you consciously want – as well as the conflict that exists between conscious desires and unconscious wants that manifest in self-limiting patterns of behavior. It’s usually rooted in lack of self-esteem and self-worth.
All of us sabotage ourselves at some point . We say we want something and then we do the opposite that prevents us from getting what we want. Not only can self-sabotage prevent you from getting what you want but its also a safety mechanism from disappointment. This safety mechanism keeps you in your comfort zone. This can be especially true for those of us with a dieter’s mentality. We talk about wanting to initiate positive change that will lead to a healthier body weight. The only problem is that we are sometimes talking about this while bingeing on fries or other foods in portion sizes that don’t serve the goals we’re saying we want to achieve.
We usually sabotage ourselves because we have trouble mastering our emotions. So if you are an emotional eater, you use food as a coping mechanism to deal with your emotions.
What does self-sabotage look like?
- Succumbing to fear of failure
- Not taking action if we think we can’t do it perfectly
- Not planning ahead
- Not considering the consequences of your actions
- Incessant worrying
- Allowing your inner critic to take charge
- Always complaining or being the victim
- Focusing on what’s not working vs what is
- Always making excuses
Do any of these examples of self-sabotage resonate with you?
Can you overcome self-sabotage?
Good news… The answer is yes! The whole reason I created The MindShift Method was to help lifelong dieters stop self-sabotage, lose their excess weight for good and change their lives for the better. After all, what good is looking great if we’re not feeling great?
If you’ve been telling yourself “I should be able to lose weight on my own” but you haven’t been able to, self-sabotage might be getting in the way. Or, if you keep beating yourself up because you promised yourself that your latest food binge was going to be the last one ever, but it never really is the last one, this is another example of self-sabotage that might be creating mental roadblocks on your wellness journey.
Getting past self-sabotage comes down to changing your mindset. Instead of being your own worst enemy, you want to become your very best friend. This might sound like it’s simplifying things. In a way it is. But I also understand that beating the negative voice (along with the negative habits) isn’t always easy. This is why I work with my clients to create tools that they can turn to any time self-sabotage threatens their goals.
Because self-sabotage can vary greatly by individual, I’d be happy to discuss your “mental roadblocks” to help find ways to get past them once and for all. To find out more, I invite Just Stop! readers to schedule a complimentary call with me today.
The only thing that stands between you and your weight loss, the body and the life that you want is your self-sabotage and the emotional relationship you have with food. If you have spent too many years trying to change it on your own but haven’t been able to, you can click here to find out more about The MindShift Method Online Program I’m starting very shortly.
About the Guest Blogger:
Lisa Goldberg is a nutritionist with a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. In addition, her certifications and Licenses include: Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Dietician/Nutritionist licensed by New York State, Certified in Adult Weight Management by the ADA. Lisa is also a personal trainer certified by the American Counsel on Exercise since 1994. She was the Nutritionist at the New York Stock Exchange from 2003-2007 and for 10 years served as the nutritionist to traders on Wall Street. Anyone who would like to discuss their weight loss goals with Lisa can schedule a free 30-minute weight loss consultation with her by clicking here. (Simply let Lisa know you found out about her on the Just Stop! blog.)
A Note from Gregg:
As some of you Just Stoppers might remember, I have been lucky enough to be a guest in nutrition rockstar Lisa Goldberg’s recent weight loss summits not once, but several times. I love Lisa’s total approach to wellness, which not only includes getting to a healthy weight, but also enjoying life and learning to love and appreciate yourself in the process. Any Just Stopper who wants to find out more information (without any obligation), can click here to schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Session with Lisa herself to find out more about the upcoming online group weight loss program.
Top Photo Credit: Grace Filled Plate