It seems that there are a few basic healthy eating mantras out there, you know, the usuals. Things like, “moderation!” and “eat to live, not live to eat,” or “Don’t eat if you’re not hungry.” But what if you just really want a pretzel?
In my recent health epiphanies, one thing I have realized is that I have spent an exorbitant amount of time thinking about my weight over the last four years. To my surprise, and against most statistics, I made a new years resolution on day one of 2010 to lose the weight and not hate my body anymore. I lost around 50 pounds by that November and I ended a lot of my body loathing and replaced it with the thrill of running.
But from there I began a completely different cycle of unhealthy habits which included mentally berating myself for poor food choices and not dieting. For years I felt my life revolved around my weight and the guilty feelings that I carried around with those thoughts. Doing nothing more than work, eat, run, sleep, and think about my weight. Ride my horse, think about my weight. Go out for drinks and think about my weight. Hey mom, how are you? Gosh my pants are tight.
With all this diet back and forth because I feel it’s what I am supposed to be doing – or eating – I regularly fluctuate in weight range. And the mental anguish – yes, I am going to call it anguish because it is something that would routinely upset me to think about – made it even harder to eat right than the actual difficulties of a diet itself.
So, what would it be like to not diet? To just eat?
I feel my guilt monitor rising just saying those words. Would it be possible, after eating a reasonable dinner before going to a Cleveland Cavs games, to have a pretzel just because I wanted one?
I don’t want to diet anymore. And I can’t really say “I just want to be healthy” either because I find that to be a very vague desire. What if I just treated my daily food intake as a day to day decision? Could I possibly live happily while making appropriate choices – I’m not even going to say “good” choices – as the situation and my desires call for? For me that would mean being happy with how I look right now as part of the journey to an ultimate goal. That would mean loving myself even though my skinny jeans still don’t fit. Scary thought.
Not dieting does not mean giving up working out. But why does working out have to be a means to an end? I want to lose weight therefore I must workout. Can’t working out be as fluid of a decision as choosing a salad for my side instead of french fries? Dieting should not be a punishment just like going to the gym for 30 minutes shouldn’t either.
The best thing I could do for myself is to drop out of the rat race. Draw the motivation to eat a more healthful menu and go for a spin on the treadmill from the fact that I am OK with my body, not because I’m not OK with it. Rather than going to spin class because I weigh 160 and I want to weigh 150, but going to spin class because even at 160 my body deserves to be treated right.
Stop struggling and let go of the guilt. There are elements of me and my body that I cannot change, so instead of struggling and fighting against them, just breathe and accept them. For me the struggle and resistance has only pushed me father away from where I want to be and leaves me looking into the mirror feeling dislike, not love. Can I make this change? I will make this change. I’m done with not liking my body, so now the challenge shifts. And once I’ve learned to be OK with myself exactly as I am, I believe reaching goals will get easier. Making profound changes in things that aren’t physical, like self-esteem and acceptance, committing to your bodily and mental health together. Without these things, what is weight loss anyway?