Posts Tagged ‘dieting’
At this stage of whatever new year it happens to be, we often focus on areas of our lives that need to be overhauled in one way or another. Perhaps you want to drop a few pounds. Or finally start that novel you’ve had an idea for since junior high. It might be that you’re determined to reinvigorate your love life (with an old or new flame). Perhaps you want a new job or to get that promotion (or, after the calamity that was 2020, simply find any kind of work). No matter what “get” you’re after (even if it’s more general—such as attaining more mindfulness in your daily life), it’s likely to require some kind of mental or physical change. And there’s the rub.
Many of us subconsciously think of “change” in a negative way—often because it connotes shame or guilt; in that we’ve been doing something wrong and, therefore, must be punished for it by altering our lives in seemingly untenable ways. Perhaps some of these change-isms are familiar to your psyche:
I’m not allowed to have ice cream because I have to lose weight.
I can’t watch the football game because I have to work on my resume.
I’m not attracting the kind of mate I want because I’m not attractive enough.
I don’t deserve “wins” in life because I’m not manifesting them properly.
I could go on and on with these kinds of examples. But I’m going to stop short because I want to suggest that we (yes, even myself) change the way we think about “change” in this new year.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to evolve—however that might be defined for you. As someone who once weighed over 450 pounds, I can assure you that dropping the excess weight and getting fit has changed my life in both expected and unexpected ways (all of them very positive).
After attempting to stay on diets time and time again (literally from when I first began putting on extra weight in the first grade and my parents took me to a doctor who put me on a restrictive diet), I associated change with lack and restriction (punishment as it were). I became laser focused on everything I was giving up in order to lose weight—instead of everything I had to gain (pun intended).
After what seemed like a million different attempts at successful dieting, I finally nailed it when I focused on what I was getting as opposed to what I was giving up. To do so, I created a scrapbook that became my personal bible of sorts. In it I placed motivating magazine articles, pictures of clothes I wanted to fit into, helpful advice I cut out of newspapers, photos of vacation spots I wanted to visit in the future, images that captured my relationship goals and more. Then, anytime I wanted to stray from my healthier eating plan, I would pick up this book and instantly be reminded of why change was going to bring me so much more than I thought it would take away. This wasn’t so much a vision board in book form as it was a useful reminder as to why I was enacting the changes in my eating and exercise habits. In other words, I changed how thought about change.
This concept that change didn’t have to be horrible also taught me that there didn’t need to be any kinds of “forbidden foods” as I ate in a healthier way and lost excess weight. Sure, I could adjust the portion sizes. Suddenly what had been eating two quarts of ice cream for dessert became eating one precisely measured cup. Again, I found a way to make the change more positive than negative.
I also worked on not shaming myself for decisions I’d made in my past. About eating. About exercise. About not wanting to leave my home because I felt like the world was adversely judging me. Permanent change is not often born from negativity. If we’re constantly berating ourselves for decisions made in the past (decisions we cannot un-make no matter how often we scold ourselves for making them), how can we possibly feel good about the changes we want to incorporate into our lives?
As you contemplate what it is about this year you want to be different and how some positive (and dare I say fabulous) change might improve your life, think about it from a place of plenty—rather than a place of lack:
I can lose weight, exercise, get healthy and occasionally enjoy dessert.
I’m going to create a resume that attracts an employer that offers the kind of pay and benefits I deserve.
I’m going to have fun dating all sorts of people as I look forward to meeting that special someone.
I deserve good things and I’m going to remind myself of that daily.
Temporary setbacks do not mean I’m not manifesting properly. I’m happy in this moment. No magical thinking necessary.
Try shifting how you think of your new tasks at hand and remind yourself you’re enacting them for a reason. You deserve happiness. You deserve success. Not in the future, but right at this very moment—even with all the wonderful and well-deserved changes ahead of you.
As someone who was overweight for most of my life, weighed over 450 pounds by the time I graduated from college and then finally took off the weight sensibly without surgery or prescription medicine (and has kept the excess weight at bay for almost two decades), I’m often asked: “What’s the secret to successful dieting?” To which I often want to reply, “Don’t.” (Diet, that is.)
While this response might seem factitious to some, I assure you it’s not. It’s communicated with compassion and understanding.
I started to gain excess weight during the first grade. And my parents, thinking they were making smart decisions on my behalf, immediately put me on a strict diet, which taught me the rules of what and what not to eat. Naturally, I was more drawn to the “forbidden fruit” (the richer, more caloric foods) than I was to the iceberg lettuce and cottage cheese. So my parents next started locking up crackers, chips, sweets and any other foods they deemed not diet-worthy. Although still at a young age, I quickly learned the concept of being “on” and “off” of a diet.
For anyone reading this with a furled brow, I will quickly point out I do not demonize my parents for doing this. Again, they were making the best decisions they knew to make. My father was in the Air Force, so his whole family being perceived as trim and “in shape” was very important to him (and, he believed, to his job).
But mentally armed with knowing what it meant to be on a diet, I knew exactly how to go off of said diet. I eventually began stealing money out of my dad’s wallet and used the cash to buy sweets and treats that I would hide in my bedroom closet. My “secret stash” as it were. By the time I was a teenager (still being put on various diets—some even completely liquid-based), I was buying “contraband” food while my friends were trying to get their hands on “contraband” beer.
You can probably surmise that as my constant dieting efforts continued, so did the excess weight gain. Because we were stationed on an air base in Germany, I was forced to shop for clothes from the Sears Big & Tall catalog (nothing like forcing yourself into a pair of large-sized Toughskins jeans to remind you of even more ways you didn’t fit in at high school). But not even that kind of self-perceived shame kept me from going off of whatever diet I happened to be on. And certainly there were times I stayed on the diets. But that was usually just the first day of them—after which all bets were off.
I continued to try every kind of diet known to man as I gained more and more weight. Sometimes I’d actually lose weight on the diets. But I’d eventually re-gain the weight I lost along with some extra “bonus weight” when I finally went off of the diet I’d been most recently “successful” on.
On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. All with more and more weight gain. And what was the common denominator? The diets themselves.
It wasn’t until I finally dropped the diet mentality that I began to make some real progress toward getting healthy. Healthy being the key word. Suddenly I wasn’t as focused on getting thin (and getting out of those damned Toughskins jeans) as I was on feeling good. When weighing as much as I did, I would get breathless just talking on the phone. I would become winded walking up a single flight of stairs. And I even had broken a movie theater seat that buckled under my weight (while on a date no less).
When I focused more on feeling good and the benefits that working my way to a healthier weight would bring me, I realized the “diet” wasn’t as necessary of a tool as it had been originally presented as.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t do everything I could to learn about nutrition. But I also dedicated myself to embrace the concept of moderation. As I learned to enjoy food in a way that wasn’t like it was the last time I would ever have it, I didn’t have to overeat extreme amounts. I could have one scoop of ice cream because I knew there would be more reasonable amounts of ice cream in my future. The concept is simple I know. But sometimes it’s the simplest changes that lead to the biggest triumphs.
I did a lot of work on my mental self as well—realizing that after many years of child abuse (separate of the extreme diets I had been put on), I had as much mental weight to get rid of as I did physical weight. But this was all do-able. And it began with reminding myself of my true goals: Feeling good, being healthy and loving myself (no matter what brand or size of jeans I was wearing)—all while being able to enjoy the occasional rich food in moderation.
Don’t get me wrong. A reasonable (and nutritious) food plan is something that can definitely help you learn portion sizes. But you might want to drop the word “diet” while incorporating the food plan. And the plan shouldn’t be as much about restriction as it is about delicious, healthy choices in quantities that satisfy your hunger while fueling your body.
Dieting can be a concept that doesn’t work for a lot of people. Otherwise those of us with “diet mentalities” wouldn’t have to keep starting and re-starting diets over and over again. For some who are trying to change their lives and better their health, it might be time to try dropping the D-word from their vocabulary as they commit to their overall goal of living a happier, healthier life.
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.
Does eating a healthier food choice like green beans to excess still equate to overeating? Short answer? Yes. And trust me—as someone who once weighed over 450 pounds (and who took off over 250 pounds of excess weight and has kept it off for almost two decades), I should know.
This might seem like a question that didn’t need to be asked in the first place. But I recently saw a segment on a national morning show, during which they spoke to a celebrity who had just “joined” a national weight loss company. No need to mention any names. But said celebrity (AKA endorser) was going on and on about how edamame was a “free food” on the program and thus she could eat as much edamame as she wanted while still on the diet.
In my opinion, this is a potentially harmful theory when it comes to making healthier eating and lifestyle choices—and one of the reasons that so-called “diets” sometimes do not serve us as well as some of these for-profit weight loss companies would lead us to believe they do.
I know what it’s like to binge eat. I used to do it because I was depressed. I used to do it because I was happy. I used to do it simply because I liked a certain food and hadn’t yet comprehended the concept that I could have the food in a healthy portion and then have it again sometime in the future. This was mainly because I’d been taught the “on/off” diet mentality from a very early age. Favorite foods became forbidden fruit (so to speak) and I would eat them in huge amounts, thinking I would/could never have them again when on a healthier eating program.
After years of starting and then cheating on diets, I eventually realized that the issue of my constantly gaining more and more weight had nothing to do with my stomach (a place so many focus on when fighting the battle of the bulge) but, instead, had everything to do with my head (meaning my thinking). After coming to this conclusion, I set out to learn about why I was using food as an emotional crutch. At the same time, I was becoming aware that whenever I started a diet, I would focus on what I was giving up, instead of focusing on what I was gaining (no pun intended).
But even after successfully taking off the excess weight (without giving up certain food groups, without fad dieting, without pills and without surgery), I realized I was still bingeing at times. Sure, I was eating steamed green beans to excess rather than cartons (yes, plural) of ice cream. But I was still binge eating to the point of discomfort.
I soon realized that although the foods had changed, the behavior had not. There is a healthy portion of green beans to eat just as there is a healthy portion of ice cream to eat. And exceeding these portions only works to reinforce old habits that don’t necessarily serve us.
Eating to excess, no matter what the food choices, is still eating to excess. We’re left feeling uncomfortable, bloated and perhaps even feeling some shame about actions.
I have not kept the 250 pounds of excess weight off by eating unconsciously. I think about what I’m eating daily. I still use measuring cups and measuring spoons. Why? Because feeling good is worth any “hassle” that meal prep (and proper portion control) requires. Does this mean I never overeat? Of course, not. I’m human. I still enjoy dining out and will sometimes clear my plate in a restaurant (although sometimes I choose not to).
No matter if it’s food prepared at a restaurant or in a private kitchen, there is no such thing as a “free food.” Overeating is overeating. And binge behavior is still binge behavior. And these are actions that anyone wanting to lose excess weight and/or make healthier eating choices might want to examine. (And for the record, edamame can often be salty, which brings up an entirely different reason as to why it—or anything else—is not a “free food.”)
If dieting and weight loss has been a recurring theme in your life or if you struggle with mastering your own motivation or making peace with food and your body, I have something exciting to tell you about. My fellow coach, colleague and pal, Lisa Goldberg, has invited me and over twenty other well-known experts to join in a discussion that can help you discover the real reasons why dieting fails, and how mindset techniques and strategies are the key to not only losing weight and keeping the weight off, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These are people who have overcome incredible challenges and have made it their life’s mission to help others do the same. You will feel inspired and ready, fully equipped to meet and maintain your goals, free yourself from dieting, master your own mindset, and change your life forever. This online event is 100% free, but what you will learn is 100% priceless.
This event can help you to:
• End the struggle with emotional eating and create a healthy relationship with food – and stop dieting for GOOD
• Have more confidence in yourself and your body’s progress to see real and lasting results
• Break down your barriers to health and wellness success
• Discover real solutions that are delivering lasting results for people just like you
• Learn the importance of mindset in weight loss
• End Self-sabotage
• Make peace with food and heal your relationship with yourself and your body
• And more
Starting January 10th, you can listen in as these renowned health experts discuss the mindset of success, healthy lifestyle techniques, building confidence, self-care, and finally having the body and life you deserve! I’ve been invited to speak at one of the sessions, but I also personally plan on listening to each speaker so that I can gain important insights from other professionals to help my clients stop settling for less in life than they deserve, start feeling good about themselves every day and finally have the peace and health they’ve always wanted.