I was going to write a longer post with some of my history but "tis the season" and there just isn't time. I do, however, want to share a couple of things I've learned in my journey so far, as encouragement, because I absolutely believe we can all do this.
Synopsis: I've been at this journey fairly seriously for 4 years (I'm the turtle, not the hare). I'm 5'7", 43 years old. My highest was 212 (probably more, who knows). I weighed 149 this morning and am generally a size 10. I will probably lose about 10 more pounds before I'm finished but I'm in no hurry. I've done this in fits & starts, eg working like crazy for six months, logging every calorie, etc., then taking it easy for four months (and gaining a little back), then back on it.
These days I feel fantastic. I run about 6 days a week (2-4 miles each day), I do strength training, rowing machine, & other stuff. I eat healthy food, almost nothing processed (pretty much everything from scratch) but I do eat dark chocolate every day, usually 2-4 ounces (I don't weigh it anymore). I did not follow a diet plan, just figured out what made me feel best, what made my blood sugar steady so I wasn't starving, etc. Took a long time to figure it out.
When I read some of the posts from people who are just beginning my heart really goes out. I could have written so many of them ("can't stop eating!" "feel so hopeless"! I struggled with serious depression for many years). And yet when I read them now, I almost can't believe I ever felt that way, it is just so far from how I think today. I just read thinking "wow. That really isn't me anymore".
So, some thoughts.
1. It does get easier - but not in a month. You can change the (unhealthy) habits of a lifetime, but it takes a while. Sometimes you're making progress, other days not. Just keep your eye on the goal (in my case, health & fitness, not a number) and don't let setbacks get in your way. When you "fall", get up as soon as you can, dust yourself off, forgive yourself, and keep on plugging away.
2. Patience: give yourself time, forgive setbacks, allow imperfections. Unrealistic expectations set you up for failure and disappointment, which for many results in binges. You can't be perfect. So what?
3. You can literally re-wire your brain. I've read a lot of scientific stuff recently about how the brain works and it's very clear that you can physically change it. I believe this. My attitude is vastly different from what it was. I don't get cravings (my bod/brain do tell me, okay, time for cheese, spinach, beef, nuts, fruit, whatever, but not cravings as we generally understand them).
4. It's okay to be "selfish". Your health is vitally important to your entire future. In the early days, months, years, you need to focus on that. Turning down offerings of food is just fine: somebody may act a little miffed, but that is 100% their problem. They don't have to deal with the rotten feelings that come with eating something we really didn't want. Be polite & just say no thank you. Women, in general, are too polite & don't want to rock the boat. Get over that! The harm it can do to us otherwise is just too great. I learned this about food, and about alcohol.
5. I can eat whatever I want - because after four years my body simply doesn't want things that aren't good for me. Yes, I eat chocolate, and occasionally something else like a bowl of ice cream with lots of maple syrup, but I have less than zero interest in the chicken wings, fries, crackers, pizza, pasta, bread, etc., that got me into this mess in the first place. When I go out for a meal I don't eat a big mixed salad or fish & vegetables because they are good for me, I eat them because they're the only thing on the menu that actually appeals to me. Honest! Right now, if you are in the early days, you will find this impossible to believe. I know I did. I never thought I'd actually much rather have the "healthy" option, I always thought deep down the struggle would go on forever. But it's true. You really can train your brain.
6. You need to do the inner work. Apart from those of us with metabolic problems (and not just the sluggish metabolism that comes from eating junk & not moving our bods), I'd say most of our problems are in our heads. It's a mental battle. Some soul-searching is required in order to make permanent, lasting changes.
7. if possible try to avoid the judgemental language of good & bad foods, or "I was good today" or "I was bad today". Not helpful. If you eat a little extra over the holidays what's the worst that can happen? You gain a pound or two. Instead of harsh judgements, try to just observe what happened. "Hmm, I ate more than I had hoped I would. Why is that? Perhaps next time I can change that a little or make a different choice." Learn from errors but don't obsess about them.
8. You need, deep down, to believe - and to want it badly enough. Sure, it requires commitment and dedication and a degree of obsession, but it is absolutely worth it.
Suechef, thank you so much for posting this. It actually came at a perfect time for me. I haven't totally screwed up yet as far as holiday eating goes, but then again I haven't started making the cookies I have to take to a family gathering.
I started losing weight in July and I've lost consistently except for a week or so ago, when I gained 2 pounds, and now I feel like I may have hit a standstill. It's too early to tell that yet, but I can kind of feel it coming. I've set all these little goals for myself, and even though I know it may take longer than I anticipate, I got excited about my progress and got caught up in it. Your post is exactly what I needed to read right now, to remind me that it's ok to get there slowly and that I WILL get there if I'm patient, if I commit to it, if I do the work, and if I forgive myself for not being perfect all the time.
Again, thank you -- that was a great message and this is the perfect time for it.
Lisa Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -- St. Francis of Assisi
Thanks from me too, Suechef. I've been trying to lose this baby weight for so long (I'm 35 now), and thought I was just getting too old. Stuck in my ways, metablism slowing down, ect. But reading posts like yours here, I've realized it's not an impossibility after all.
Mostly I've been stuck with the mindset of "why bother" if I was going to be living in Denyland the rest of my life. There are certain foods I don't want to give up, and exercises I don't want to do, forever. But lately my thoughts have changed. I have faith now that in a few months I will begin to enjoy my new lifestyle more and more (one I create and can live with) and look back at the way I've been treating my body (mostly eating junk, and a lot of it) with disgust. I know it will take time, I need patience, and I don't have to give up everything I enjoy. I don't have to eat only yucky foods. I don't have to run or lift 10 lb weights. I'm a walker and I can keep doing that, but on the treadmill with a slight incline. The incline can go higher as I see fit. I will find new foods I enjoy. The possibilities for me are endless.
For the first time I feel confidence. Confidence that I can do this, and by next Christmas I won't be running from the cameras and will look forward to having my picture taken. My back won't hurt when I wake up in the mornings and I'll have more energy to clean my house and chase my kids. I won't have stomach aches from eating too much junk food. It's going to be a long journey with a lot of planning and patience, but my faith is growing. I can do this. I will do this.
Thanks again for your insights and story. Posters like you are the reason I come here.
On the subject of giving up foods. First, I have refined what works for me over time. Two winters ago I lost 35 pounds, eating what was working for me then. Since then I've learned a thing or two, and what I eat now is somewhat different. But I wouldn't have been happy eating what I eat now, back then. So, it's a process. I love the way I eat.
Second, a mindset issue - "giving up" has a negative connotation. It might help if you can let that go. Think about the benefits to come, and the fact that you are doing something positive for yourself. It's not a loss, it's a gain. And in time, once you figure out what foods work for you (I really do believe everyone is different and you MUST find your own way), you won't miss the things that caused all the trouble.
As I said, I eat dark chocolate nearly every day. I love it, it makes me feel good, it is in fact good for you, and because I exercise & eat healthy, I'm in balance. I don't ever feel like it's "sinful". It's a pleasure.
Wow, very, very well put. I could have written many of those things myself. Although for me it just started September 4th of this year.
It most certainly does get easier. I found the first 2 - 3 weeks atrocious. I also think it's the coolest thing that I actually look for the healthy foods when I dine out. Although I have a loooong way to go, I too feel that I have definitely reprogrammed my brain. And therefore I am just not the same person I was a short 4 months ago. I know that sounds crazy, but that's how I feel.
I loved what you said about being selfish sometimes, and as women we don't want to rock the boat - how true.
And I so strongly believe that is 100% doable. But you must want it badly enough. For me I was just sick and tired of being a fat person. I just didn't (don't) want to be fat anymore. And finally realized - "Hey, if I don't want to be fat, I DON"T HAVE TO BE FAT". It is all up to me. It is within my power.
And for the part I could have and should have written word for word - It requires commitment, dedication and a degree of obsession, but it is worth it.
Just for the record for me it has become a HUGE obsession - and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Have a wonderful, stupendous and marvelous Christmas everyone!!!
I was reading a brief newspaper story recently and there was a nutritionist who said that it was clear that effective long term weight loss does seem to require something verging on obsession, and I think that's true. I'm not obsessed anymore - I don't log my calories or my exercise & I'm still losing - it's my lifestyle now, though if it ever changed I would recognize that & get obsessed again in a heartbeat! - but I certainly was for a long time. Total focus was the only way.
I figure there's nothing wrong with being obsessed with weight loss for a while - I was certainly obsessed with eating for long enough!!!!
Thank you!!! Now that you say I actually DO feel like I'm doing pretty okay!!!
Ahhh, but that's EXACTLY how I feel. I went from one obsession to another. I went from one EXTREME to the other, but both obsessions. I look forward to the day when I don't have to think about my food consumption. That it will just be........... I don't know if that day will ever come.
I doubt there's ever a point where we don't think of it at all. But I do think that once you're at a healthy weight & you've trained yourself to eat healthy and enjoy that, and you're exercising very regularly, then you can relax. You know what to do, and doing it becomes automatic.
Have you read Thin for Life? It was my bible for a long time. It's the stories of people who have lost weight & kept it off for significant lengths of time, and it was hugely inspiring to me. It gives some good perspective on what maintenance is like. I think gist is that it's vigilance, but no longer obsession.
When you think about it, most people who are at a good weight (who haven't had weight problems) are able to self-monitor. When I watch women in my family who've never been fat, it's very clear that they are careful about what they eat. They're not thin because of some genetic gift, they're thin because they keep an eye on themselves.
Same goes for my husband: everyone in his family is overweight except him. He has a gorgeous bod. He made a very conscious commitment to himself when in his teens that he would never wind up like them. When he gains five pounds, he stops eating after 7 at night & it's gone in no time. It's not that he doesn't want another bowl of ice cream - it's just that he doesn't want to get fat more than he wants the ice cream. Sounds easy for him (and frustrating to us, perhaps), but it does require vigilance.
Yes, I know you're right, I don't EVER see myself not thinking about food . And I can't see myself ever relaxing. We shall see, I've got a long way to go til I'm even near that.
And I hear you on the thin people self-monitoring, I suppose this is key. And it makes perfect sense. I now ask myself before every bite "Is it worth the calories?" Something I never, ever did before. It just makes you aware of what you're eating instead of doing it mindlessly. It kind of gives me back the power, which is where it should have been all along. It's taken me way too long to learn this. Had I learned this earlier I never would have hit 287 lbs. I guess I should just be thankful that I learned it at all.
So this "Thin for Life", is it just stories or is there some kind of plan involved?
Like helpful hints and all? I'm curious to know.
Thin for Life is a gathering of useful information from people who have lost significant amounts of weight & successfully maintained for a significant number of years. It's more of a psychology book. They lost weight in many ways, from fad diets to developing their own plan to WW & other organised plans. But they all pretty much keep it off the same way - eating healthy and exercising (no big secret revealed there!). It's just very, very inspiring. Apart from a few weeks at WW years ago I never tried a "diet". I don't really trust them as a long term option, I knew I had to make fundamental changes and that's what I did.
Anyone can do it if they want it enough, and care enough about themselves. But there's no denying it's a long hard road. So, soooo worth it. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!
You know I must be one of the few women who has never, ever owned a "diet" book, with the exception of a calorie counter many years ago. I really always knew what to do, but DIDN'T do it. So I've never felt the need to own a book. I also knew that a "diet" wasn't for me. That a complete overhauling and lifestyle change was what I needed. But these days I just can't seem to get enough of the stuff, the fitness and diet stuff that is. Which is probably why I'm so addicted to this website, this is where the obsession part comes into play.
I am curious to read the book, just like the new book "You on a Diet", but don't feel like purchasing them. I will see if my library has them. All my money these days are going into new clothes!!! The only thing I haven't had to purchase was new socks. And of course the plan is that these clothes won't fit me much longer either.
Thanks for all your support and encouragement. I look forward to hearing from you more often, you bring a wealth of wisdom to this website.
Suechef thanks for sharing this. I tend to forget when I start eating healther and doing what I am supposed to that I become obsessed to a perfectionist and then when I blow it I really get down on myself. It is wonderful to read that no matter how long or short a time it takes that the mental part will come along also.