#1 – Though I’m overweight, I’m under nourished. As a child of the 80s and 90s, when I focus on losing weight, it is as if I have a calorie and fat counting app that I can’t seem to delete from my brain. Even when I intend to lose weight through healthy lifestyle changes, I find that I end up monitoring my eating choices at least partially based on calories and fat grams. This means, I may say no to super-nourishing foods like avocado or coconut oil. Ironically, avoiding these high-calorie health foods not only robs my body of incredible things I need to flourish, but it also means that I will be much more likely to veer from my intentions to eat healthfully because I will end up feeling hungry and unsatisfied. That’s why this year, I want to focus on providing my body the best nourishment possible through nutrient-rich, non-processed whole foods.
My plan is to eat abundantly, keeping my choices as close to their unprocessed, natural state as possible and asking myself if something will truly nourish my body before taking my first bite. If I tell myself I’m not trying to lose weight, I will enjoy myself more on this nutrient-dense journey and end up feeling more satisfied while accomplishing my goal of staying away from the foods that are dragging me down and filling me out.
#2 – “Losing weight” triggers negative images, thoughts and feelings. Overeating and making unhealthy food choices are often fueled by negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, guilt, shame and worry. Not only do restrictive diets deprive us of our familiar, go-to coping mechanisms of feel-good comfort food, but they also trigger even more negative emotions and unhelpful concepts related to “ideal” physical beauty, dieting anxiety and self-criticism.
Instead of enjoying my body, having fun with fashion and celebrating who I am, I’m worried about what people are thinking, anxious for when I’m going to fit into my “skinny” clothes and zeroed in on how my butt/tummy/thighs look when I could be meditating on the beautiful day at the park or enjoying my little boy’s beaming smile as he reaches out to tickle my belly. At the end of the day, if my goal is to become as healthy as possible by eating nutrionally dense food, I can avoid these negative thoughts and feelings regarding my weight and find the on-ramp to making healthy choices. I won’t be so tempted to reach for that sugary milk chocolate bar, fast food mystery burger or over-processed glazed donut to relieve the stress complex of trying to lose weight as a remedy for feeling bad about myself. It’s true, I may very well be healthier at a lower weight, but I am going to courageously let nutrition guide the way instead of the numbers on the scale, low self esteem, unrealistic Photoshopped models and cultural dieting propaganda.
#3 – I just went on a plus-sized shopping spree. It sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Let me explain. When I’ve packed on some extra pounds in the past, I used to feel so ashamed of my weight that I would avoid buying new clothes to flatter my fuller body. Whether it was because I thought I would look terrible in anything, felt embarrassed to shop in the plus-sized section or feared the letdown of not being able to zip up the largest pair of jeans a store carried, I couldn’t bring myself to take the time to find clothes that looked nice on me. What’s worse, I would end up feeling so bad about myself that I would gradually stop doing my make up and styling my hair.
I felt like nothing could hide how bad I looked.
My self worth has grown by leaps and bounds since then and this time around, I’m facing those unhealthy, self-degrading patterns head on by investing in a comfortable and stylish wardrobe that fits well and that I feel proud to wear.
Over the last year, I steadily put on weight to the point that I am 2 sizes larger than most of my wardrobe. I started identifying those old panicky feelings of having nothing to wear that wasn’t obviously too tight or ill fitting since I could no longer squeeze into my favorite clothes. I decided since I’m going to focus my efforts on better nutrition instead of some crazy crash diet, I probably won’t comfortably fit into my current attire for a while. So, I branched out to find clothes that fit me well now, that not only express my own unique sense of style, creativity and personality but also show how much I value myself. This will give me the freedom to embrace the changes of long-term nutrition instead of feeling pressured into some temporary sure-to-fail extreme diet scheme.
#4 – I’ll exercise more if I’m not trying to lose weight. I find that I actually enjoy moderate exercise like jogging, cardio workouts and light weight training if I’m not preoccupied with how many calories I’m burning, what my heart rate is and whether or not I’m doing it “right” to make those pounds drop off. When I focus on those things, I feel like I’m never doing enough or get discouraged that I have so far to go.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t set goals or have a regular exercise routine, but instead of checking my weight before and after and then focusing on how much smaller I wish I was while I workout, I am going to enjoy exercise for the sake of health and how good it makes me feel. Here’s the best part: if I’m having fun, feeling good and enjoying myself, I will be much more likely to slip on those sneakers and hit the trail than if I’m dreading another session of beating myself up while I attempt an unrealistic “weight loss” workout.
#5 – I want to avoid fake food and false highs. What got me into this mess in the first place are the non-nutritive imposter foods filling our grocery store shelves. These fake, over-processed foods hijack my brain with temporary spikes of comfort, energy or euphoria but then leave me crashing down, craving more and full of unhelpful preservatives, fillers, chemicals and toxins. Processed foods are notorious for being packed full of way too much salt, sugar and hydrolyzed oils while at the same time being devoid of nutritional value. What you get in exchange are lots of empty calories at the high cost of depriving your body of what it really needs.
Most diet foods, supplements, bars and shakes are no better – in fact, they can be worse. Diet foods are usually marketed to be fat free or lower in calories but in order to create these imposter health foods, companies often have to use even more stabilizers and additives to imitate the foods people often eliminate when dieting. Instead of perpetuating my dependence on fake foods to feel good, I am going to focus on minimally processed or unprocessed foods that are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and other micronutrients that will truly provide what my body needs to maintain a sustained feeling of wellness and health.
#6 – I am strengthening healthy mental habits and emotional attitudes towards myself, my body and my food. There is power in action. I can sit around all day and say that I value and enjoy myself just the way that I am, but intentionally choosing to push pause on the knee-jerk panic reaction of trying to lose weight fast puts these claims of self-acceptance to the test.
I am looking forward to eliminating the negative emotional thought patterns that feed the vicious cycle of overeating and gaining weight. By releasing myself to learn to respect my body, mind, soul and spirit – instead of bowing to some unrealistic cultural ideal – I hope to heal physically, mentally and emotionally from years of misguided eating and well intentioned dieting.
To clarify, I’m not advocating irresponsibly refusing to lose weight. Instead, I’m proposing a radical shift in my self-concept and how I relate to food, trusting that when holistic health and vitality are my goals, a healthy weight and sound mind will naturally follow. Will you join me?
Please share your insight and encouragement with me along the way and don’t forget to check out our two free printables to establish your own reasonable weekly goals regarding nutrition this month. Comment below with your own experiences on your journey towards health, wellness and healthy weight management.