Almost a year ago, I decided to stop dieting. At that time, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, what my goal was, or even what “not dieting” meant, but I had decided to stop following a diet. I was 7 months postpartum, halfway through my Countdown to Summer Challenge, and was growing tired of counting my macros (IIFYM). Not only was I discouraged, but I was mentally and physically tired of dieting. I had reached a place where I just couldn’t go on one more diet.
A month later, with the goal of hitting my pre-pregnancy weight by Magnolia’s first birthday, I decided to tackle another Scaleless Summer. I may not have been following a diet, but The Scaleless Summer gave me a focus I had missed since deciding to stop dieting. It gave me a deadline and I worked really hard to reach my pre-pregnancy weight. Playing football for the DC Divas, giving up coffee, working out a lot, watching what I ate, and doing two juice cleanses helped me reach my pre-pregnancy weight by Magnolia’s first birthday. I wasn’t following a diet, but I was definitely reducing my calories in order to lose weight, and I did.
Since reaching my pre-pregnancy weight I haven’t really known what to do with myself. I think I was just so relieved to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight that I allowed myself time to just be and to figure out what this whole “not dieting” thing meant. I enjoyed my birthday celebrations in October, running races and celebrating Thanksgiving in November, and celebrating Christmas in our new home with Neal and Magnolia in December.
It was freeing to go 3+ months without being focused on weight loss. Not only had I stopped following a diet, but I had stopped focusing on weight loss all together. The end of 2015 was really great, but since the new year my weight has fluctuated and I just don’t feel as great as I did at the end of the year. Although it has been incredibly freeing to live in a world without dieting, I knew it was time to normalize my relationship with food and to really work through my issues with dieting.
You see, I didn’t realize it at the time, but it wasn’t dieting I was tired of. What I was really tired of was failing. I was tired of starting and stopping diet, after diet, after diet. I was tired of all the fresh starts and rarely reaching my goals. I stopped dieting a year ago, not because I didn’t want to diet anymore, but because I was tired of failing. Of course I wanted to lose more weight, but after 20+ years of dieting and rarely reaching my goals, I was discouraged.
To be honest, losing weight without dieting is hard for me to even comprehend. Weight loss is the result of taking in less calories than you’re burning, so in some form or fashion, you have to make sure that you’re eating less than your body is burning. Losing weight last summer was a result of focus and calorie reduction. Though I wasn’t on Weight Watchers or another structured diet, but I was still focused on weight loss.
The realization I’ve had after a year without dieting is that the ability to truly move away from dieting occurs through normalizing your relationship with food. Weight loss on the other hand, occurs through a true change in your diet, and that takes focus. While this might sound like common sense, the vicious cycle of weight loss is clearly something a lot of us battle. We diet because we want permanent change, but permanent change really only occurs through normalizing your relationship with food and finding a lifestyle that is livable.
If you normalize your relationship with food enough, over time, you will naturally lose weight, but this can take years. My behavioral nutritionist has reiterated this over and over again. That it is a sloooooow road to normalizing food, but it is worth the journey.
Although it has taken me 7 months to work through all this, I have an energy of refocus that I haven’t had since last summer. I’ve enjoyed a lot of foods this past year, foods that I never allowed myself to eat, and I’m so thankful to be in a healthier mindset. I now know that I can eat whatever I want, which has helped me to reduce my compulsive eating habits. I still struggle, which is why I’m working with a behavioral nutritionist, but I’m so thankful to have moved away from banning certain foods.
What I’ve also learned this past year, through allowing myself to eat whatever I want, is that I feel best when I eat a more whole foods based diet. Again, not rocket science, but it was important for me to understand how I felt when I ate certain foods. In addition, I now strive to limit my bean intake, stay away from certain cereals, and am working to eat more protein throughout the day. I also know that I don’t eat enough most mornings and mid-days, thus leading me to eat more than I need at the end of a day. I recognize now how important it is for me to have a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
In the end, this year has shown me that it is going to take a lot of work to change the habits I have developed over the past 31 years. It will not be easy and is going to take a lot of work. I can either live in freedom, maintaining my unhealthy habits (emotional eating, compulsive eating, and eating out of boredom), or I can change and over time find true freedom.
I want to lose weight and thus, that is going to require that I burn more calories than I am taking in. Although it would be easier, in many ways, to just follow a diet plan in order to lose weight, I know that will not lead to life long change. I am going to continue working with a behavioral nutritionist to work on normalizing food and am also going to create goals to help me remain focused. I am still 30ish pounds away from the weight I’ve felt healthiest at and I want to work to get back there.
This year was really good for me mentally. It gave me time to understand why I am over weight, why I’ve held onto my weight, and why I use food to cope with various emotions. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m thankful to now have healthier tools in order to be successful.
I did not lose weight by not dieting. I still have too many habits to improve before I can reach a place where I naturally lose weight or maintain my weight just through my daily lifestyle. Weight loss occurs through change and I am grateful to be in a place where change is happening. Change is really, really hard, especially when you’re changing the core of who you are, but instead of sitting back, wishing I had a healthy lifestyle, I know that I must change and live a happy and healthy life.