When I moved to Pittsburgh in November, one of the best things I did was take a yoga class. Not only did I discover a new form of exercise, but I also met BFF Debbie.
Debbie and I have a lot in common – we love birds and dogs, we each have two daughters, we both meditate, and like so many woman, we’ve both struggled with weight most of our lives.
Debbie’s on a quest to lose – for the last time – 50 pounds. Here’s how I know it’s her last time: “Tomorrow is Weight Watchers. I am going to the meeting, but doubt I have lost weight. I don’t think I’ve gained either, but we’ll see. I read a WW success story today that resonated with me. The woman lost 50 lbs, but it took her a long time. She knew she had to make a lifestyle change, not just follow a temporary diet, so she was determined not to get discouraged when she occasionally gained a little or did not lose weight. That gave me inspiration. I tend to be an all or nothing person, and if I don’t lose on a consistent basis, I tend to give up. I don’t want to give up this time, even if it takes me 3 years to lose 50 lbs. What I do know from experience is that once I quit WW (or the diet of the moment) I GAIN weight, so I do know that if I don’t just totally quit, my weight won’t continue to spiral up the scale.”
I totally relate to needing to change that mindset from “Get it off NOW” to slower is better. When I first started losing weight, especially the first 50 pounds, I was highly motivated. Almost too motivated. There were some days I felt so desperate to get the fat off that I’d chastise myself for the following: 1) putting on the pounds in the first place; 2) waiting so long to start doing something about it; and 3) not getting it off faster. I’d get this really anxious feeling throughout my body, like I couldn’t get the fat off fast enough, like a centipede was crawling up my leg. “Get it off me!” I screamed in my head.
I spent way too much time being angry and judgmental, too. I’m sure this will sound familiar: You get on the scale and see you’ve lost a pound or two, so you’re a “good” person. You get on the scale and you’ve stayed the same, lost “only” point something or, God forbid, gained, so now you’re a “bad” person. I still struggle with this. I’m “good” if I eat or exercise perfectly and I’m “bad” if I don’t. I’m always reminding myself that I’m on a lifelong journey of eating well and exercising, not just a day trip.
I’m not a bad person if I don’t feel like going to the gym. Rather than have that emotional knock down drag out and calling myself names, I’ve learned to ask myself, “Why don’t I want to work out?” The answer that emerges is never “Because I’m a bad person.” The answer is always something tangible like I don’t feel well or something is on my mind that is distracting me. Those are issues I can deal with. This also works when I see a number I don’t like on the scale. Instead of judging, I ask myself, “OK, what are some of the reasons this is the number I’m seeing?”
We have to replace destructive thoughts with tolerant ones. It takes a conscious effort to change our self talk from negative to positive, but being fully aware of what we are saying and how it affects our behavior will turn our weight-loss journey into more than just a “Get it off me!” race to some goal we think will make us happy. By being happy in the process of losing weight, by being accepting of our bodies and what they do for us, by appreciating that we’re taking good care of ourselves by eating well and exercising, and forgiving ourselves those times when we don’t, we’re learning to love ourselves as we are in the moment.
There’s a reason, other than the baby’s physical growth, why pregnancy is nine months long. It gives parents time to prepare for the huge lifestyle change that occurs when a baby joins the family. It’s like that with weight loss, too. Every milestone, sometimes every five pounds, comes with a change to our bodies, and we need time to adjust to and appreciate that change. I didn’t start appreciating those changes until I settled my mind down a bit after losing 50 pounds. I bought some new clothes because I was still wearing the old ones, and seeing my body in well-fitted clothes helped me enjoy the body that was emerging.
This journey takes a lot of deep breaths, a lot of patience, and a lot of attitude adjustments. By being your own best friend, by standing beside yourself instead of always running away from who you are in the moment or standing over yourself like some mean coach, chastising your mistakes, you can appreciate who you are and see more clearly who you want to become.