As someone who has always been overweight, I often dream of a lifestyle where obesity doesn’t define me. Where weight loss is a thing of the past and I am free from emotional eating. As someone who has always been overweight, it’s hard to even imagine this life. At the core of any diet I have ever been on is the hope that I will someday reach a healthy weight and be released from journey I have been on for far too long. It has taken far too many failed diets, great success on others, weight gain, weight loss, pregnancy, and a life without being on a diet plan to realize that I will always have to work to be healthy.
What I had to accept about weight loss is that it will never end. Regardless of the number on the scale, I will always need to work to live a healthy lifestyle. To have a healthy lifestyle. Whether I lose 20 pounds, 50 pounds, 100 pounds, or nothing at all, I had to accept that I will always need to work to live the healthiest lifestyle I can and I can’t avoid what it will take for me to get there.
Our life is a series of phases and through each of those phases, our weight will fluctuate. Our weight will change day to day, week to week, and month to month. Our weight will change through the highs and lows of life. Our weight will change as our families grow and our weight will change as we become empty nesters. Our weight will always change. What I’ve had to learn is that at this phase in my life, I can influence my weight. I may not always be able to, but at this point in my life, I have the physical ability to eat healthier, to move more, and to invest in my own self care.
This past year, I worked hard to normalize my relationship with food. I still have foods that trigger an emotional response, but for the most part, I have reached a place where I allow myself to eat any and all foods. It’s hard to treat a brownie the same way I treat an apple, but I’ve learned that a brownie is just a brownie and I don’t need to feel bad for eating one or two. It is still a battle to not turn to food as a way to cope with various emotions, but I am working on it. I have used food to cope for 30ish years, so I recognize that it is going to take more than a year to develop new habits for coping.
This past year, I also worked tirelessly to reach my pre-pregnancy weight. Though I may not have been on an organized diet plan, I worked diligently to reduce my calorie intake, to detox my system, and to burn calories through fitness. I maintained my weight loss through the fall and holidays, but as the winter months arrived, I started gaining the weight I had lost slowly. A pound here and half a pound there. I won’t make excuses, but I struggled to eat intuitively through the winter and lost sight of how easy it is to gain back weight slowly without noticing.
Working with a behavioral nutritionist helped me to recognize the way I was using food to cope with stress and alternatives for moving forward. She helped me to see that change is in my power. Change is a decision. Overeating, eating out of emotion, and even not eating are all within my power and I have the ability to make decisions that lead to change. I have learned that although I am learning to normalize food and to listen to my hunger signals, I still naturally consume more than my body needs in order to lose weight. I have learned that in order to be successful with weight loss, I thrive under direction and support. I hope to reach a place where my healthy lifestyle choices become intuitive, but I have learned the hard way that I do not possess instinctive intuitive eating habits that’ll lead to weight loss naturally. I truly believe that you can work to create new habits and that over time, the fruit of your hard work is a more intuitive lifestyle. but this will take months… years if we’re being honest.
Going into weight loss saying, “Alright! I am going to lose weight and just eat intuitively”, it’s going to have a lot of ups and downs. It takes a lot of kindness to self as most days you’re really having to go against your natural mental instincts. We all have a lot of habits and you really have to sacrifice those habits in order to break the cycle, to listen to your body, and to lose weight. What I’ve realized is that I want that over time. I want to reach a place in my life where I just eat intuitively. What I’ve had to accept about about weight loss, about my weight loss, is following a structured diet program or at least having a method for tracking my intake is not a bad thing.
As I’ve shared before, it wasn’t dieting I was tired of. I was scared, frustrated, and upset with myself for all of the failures. I was tired of starting over, again, and again, and again. What I’ve had to accept is that we start over every single time we eating something, workout, or invest in our own self care. We start over in each phase of our lives. It’s ignorant to think you can change once and that will cover you for the rest of your life. I’ve read article after article about how challenging it is to maintain weight loss. I’ve never been there, well, at least not at a healthy weight, so I can’t share from experience what maintaining a large weight loss is like, but I can imagine it is hard. I saw this winter just how easy it is for the pounds to creep back on. A little added weight from a vacation. A little added weight from a stressful week at work. A little added weight from your period. It can creep back up so easily.
What I had to accept about weight loss is that being healthy takes work. For some, the work is just natural and it happens intuitively. They don’t know life any other way. For others, it is a daily battle to go against our instincts and to choose to make healthier choices. Either way, it takes work. I’ve had to accept that it will always take work. I wanted so badly to just swear off dieting and to lose weight naturally our of intuitive behaviors. What I had to accept is that at this point in my life, I have to use tools to compensate for the behaviors I don’t naturally possess. I had to accept that it’s ok to use the tools around me, to be on a structured diet, and to be honest about what it takes to lose weight. It’s ok to start over again. It’s ok to admit my failures. It’s ok. I had to accept that I do a lot of things well, but there are just some habits that need a little more support in order to change them. What I had to accept about weight loss is that being on a diet can be a really good and healthy process.
I will have ups and downs in the future and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of start-overs, but I’ve accepted that it’s going to take work. A healthy lifestyle is a choice and I am choosing to work for a healthier life. My hope is just that one day, most of the skills will be more intuitive than they are now.