Lately I’ve been joking that I’m trying to lose weight for my friend’s wedding, but truthfully I am trying to take off a little bit of unhappy weight. In general I’m good at maintaining my weight and lifestyle fairly easily, but the last few months at my job were really hard on me physically. I was totally depressed, and it showed. I gained about 10lbs: I worked out less, I slept more, in fact I just about fused with the couch, and sought serious comfort in the office vending machine. I’m feeling pretty good about my life now, and don’t think it will be too hard to take off that cranky weight. Still, whenever my pants start feeling tighter I definitely am reminded of the many years I felt like it was me against my body.
A few years ago, right before I started this blog I lost about 30lbs. I didn’t do it by dieting; I did it by simply living. In fact, it was the first time in my life I can remember not being on a diet. I was just really happy, and because I was happy I started making better decisions when it came to food, exercise, and sleep. It was a huge change in my life, and now that I’m looking at 10lbs I want to nix, I can’t help but be reminded of some of the lessens I learned from that experience. They are true for me. They may not be true for you, but I figured I would share them.
In commandment form of course:
- Thou shalt not go to extremes. In my experience extremes just don’t work. I love a good diet book (I’m reading two right now), I read them like they’re romance novels. They’re juicy, dramatic, and leave you feeling all warm and hopeful inside. But there really aren’t any quick fixes, well quick fixes that last anyway. My theory about weight loss is ‘easy off, easy back on’. Here’s the deal, and methinks you already know it: Increased physical activity creates lasting impact on your muscle tone—more muscle mass equals higher metabolism. At the same time, if you cut calories too drastically (or burn too many calories to the point where you’re running at too high a deficit) your metabolism with freak out, it will diminish to keep you from starving to death and that will backfire the next time you’re confronted with a milkshake. Exercising and eating within a healthy calorie range for weight loss, is better for you in the long run. It means you can have that milkshake every so often without guilt because your metabolism will be running on all cylinders. Who doesn’t love milkshakes? Mmm, milkshakes.
- Thou shalt like you–you right now. It’s pretty silly to hold off on liking yourself until you’re whatever predetermined number you’ve established for self-love. You rock now, you’ll rock then, and you’ll rock all the time in between. I hate to break it to you but all that crap people say about your life not being better when you’re a size X isn’t true. Your life is better when you’re happy, when you’re confident and comfortable in your own skin. People are nicer, you’re more gregarious, the world is a happier place, but it’s not actually because of the number on the tag in your jeans—it’s because you like you. Who hasn’t experienced that blissful dieters high? Why not cut out the middle man and start having all those perks now? No one cares as much about your weight as you do. Really, I wouldn’t lie to you.
- Thou wilt wear clothes that fit you. I know you’re on a diet, and you’re going to fit back into those jeans eventually, but you don’t right now. Right now all they’re doing is making you feel like crap about yourself, which seriously inhibits your ability to follow through on commandment #2. When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good you’re more likely to take the action necessary reach your goals. A couple of wardrobe pieces in the right size can mean the difference between breakdown and breakthrough.
- To thine own self be true. Okay, I stole that from Shakespeare, but dude had a point. This is just my opinion, and it goes against pretty much everything diet gurus tell you: I don’t think people change. I think we are who we are and there’s nothing wrong with that, the key to changing a situation is to learn how to work with our natural instincts. I am personally a bulk eater. I like big meals, so I try to make meals that are HUGE but mostly vegetables. It works with my natural eating habits. Maybe you’re a grazer, great: put some thought into finding a healthier way to graze. Huge sweet tooth? If you try to give up sweets cold turkey chances are you’ll be homicidal, perhaps start by subbing in fruit for some of your candy cravings. Whoever you are, you’re you—work with what you’ve got.
- Thou shalt find exercise you like. Again, this is contrary to a lot of expert advice, but I think if you don’t like whatever exercise you’re doing you’re probably not going to keep doing it. You know what I hate? Bootcamps. Hate them, they’re mean and grunty, and I feel like a spaz. Why would I subject myself to something I hate, when I can do something I like and still get a physical benefit? It’ll probably take some time and dedication on your part to trying a bunch of things out, but when you find forms of exercise that you actually enjoy, you will really look forward to doing them.
- Throw not the baby out with the bathwater. You are imperfect, I am imperfect, and the chick with the thong in the American Apparel ad is imperfect. It’s an imperfect world. You are going to have set backs, everyone does. Can we all just admit that perfect people are creepy? Who wants to go out for a beer and talk smack with someone who’s perfect? No one. Who wants to go out for a beer with you? Tons of people! The key here is to know and accept there are going to be doughnuts and days you don’t get off the couch. You are not a failure, you are a human being. Life’s not worth living without gummy worm binges and movie marathons.
- Thou shalt keep it real. Processed foods are unavoidable, but they shouldn’t be the majority of your diet. The more foods you eat that come naturally without a bar code printed on the label, the easier your body will process them—plus real food is generally lower in fat, calories, and sodium which means you can eat more of it. Mmm, more food.
- Compare not yourself with wee tiny celebrities. I understand the pressure, believe me, I’ve spent a good portion of my life working in the entertainment industry. In the brief time that I lived in Hollywood I worked on a TV show; one of the (quite famous now) actresses that worked on the set was so small the wardrobe people would put her in children’s clothes. The reality however, is that that’s their body (regardless of how they get and/or maintain it); start thinking of health and fitness in terms of your body. What looks good for you? What’s a healthy weight for you? Forget the charts in your doctor’s office, your body is its own entity completely separate from lists compiled by insurance companies (that’s how those weight ranges were initiated) or magazine editors—judge your body on how you feel in it. I, for one, know that once I get under a certain weight that my boobs completely disappear. If you ask me, it’s not worth the smaller pant size to lose the girls. That’s just me. The point is: your body is going to change the way it changes and only you can be the judge of whether or not it’s right for you.
- Celebrate your victories. I am a firm believer in celebrating everything. Enjoy life while you’re living it. If you’re reaching goals don’t just sweep it under the rug, throw a party, get dressed up, buy a new pair of jeans, get your hair done, flaunt it—you’ve accomplished something and that’s a big deal.
- Thou shalt not let weight loss be the focus of your life. Life is so much more than what you eat for lunch. We live in a weight obsessed society, but if you ask me that’s just idiotic. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is just one small aspect of your life. When trying to shed weight it’s easy to become obsessed. Everything in our society feeds into that obsession. Really, it’s just a salad. Great choice, but it’s only one small part of your day, and a much, much, much smaller part of who you are. When you’re telling your grandkids about your life, do you want to look back and think “I spent a lot of time counting calories”? Please say no.
What words of wisdom can you share for the dieting public?
Okay, now that I’ve bad-mouthed salad I’ll show you mine:
Egg white omelet with spinach and goat cheese
Salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sunflower seeds, avocado, oil & vinegar
Ugh, Passover! I had to get creative today when my sweet tooth kicked in. Jelly beans out, baked banana with almond butter and honey in
Turkey breast with tomato and mozzarella
Roasted Brussels sprouts