Over the past few months I have been struggling, without success, to lose my baby weight. It’s been weighing (haha, see what I did there?) on my mind for awhile I may have finally reached a tipping point in my life. You may or may not know this about me, but I have deeply complicated issues with weight loss and my weight in general.
Here’s a story. A few weeks ago I was being very healthy. I had several days in a row of eating well and getting outside, exercising. Drinking lots of water. You know, all the things you’re supposed to do. I was feeling great! I definitely must have lost at least a pound! I think optimistically as I step onto the scale. Much to my horror and disgust, I discovered not only had I not lost any weight, I had in fact gained a kilo.
Horrified and in tears, because losing weight actually does mean that much to me, I furiously started searching for something to help with these last stubborn pounds. I went online and searched Master Cleanse. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this gem of a diet, it’s something that some celebrities use to lose weight quickly and drastically. You eat nothing but a drink of water with a bit of maple syrup and cayenne pepper mixed into it. I guess so you don’t pass out for low-blood sugar? It’s supposed to get pounds off, but is also potentially dangerous and probably painful, and the weight would likely go back on right away again because you’re just starving yourself on sugar water and your body will regulate itself the second you give it actual sustenance.
Not healthy, right? Just revel in the total unhealthiness of everything I just wrote. I had spent a few days being really healthy and was feeling good. And, due to a number that popped up on my scale, I went into a complete tailspin of self-loathing to the point that I was considering starving myself. Let me also be clear that while I haven’t lost all of my baby weight, I am well within a healthy weight range for my height and activity level – I am of a normal weight. My thought process is based in anorexia – I must lose weight and in order to do this I should stop eating. And the truth is my thoughts on weight loss have always rubbed uncomfortably close to “eating disorder.” I don’t lose weight easily and in order to get down to a specific number on a scale I often engage in fasting or crash diets. In order to keep the number down, I must continue to fast or periodically stop eating.
I’m not sure why now, but I really stopped and realized how awful this all was. Right there, with my search engine open, I deleted the words Master Cleanse. Change isn’t easy, but it’s something that I think I have to do, for my own health.
I think it’s having children. Specifically, a daughter. When I think that she might feel the same way about her body that I do about mine, it makes me want to cry. I want her to have a beautiful, strong, healthy body that she never takes for granted. We as women are always told we must be thinner, smaller, (lesser?) and it sucks. I don’t want that for her. But it is so ingrained in our society that we are simply never good enough, that we must be smaller and sexier and so on and so forth, that it’s incredibly hard to not think that way. Do I want my daughter to hear her mother complaining about her chubby thighs and talking about her fantastic juice cleanse? Worse, hear her talking about this stuff?
How is it that a number has become the definition of not only my health, but who I am as a person? What do I gain exactly from a smaller weight on the scale? Especially if I’ve gotten that way in an unhealthy manner. The reality is, absolutely nothing. I’ve spent most of my life actively trying to lose weight without ever achieving the result I’m looking for, because no matter where I am I’ll always want to be smaller. I’ve wasted SO MUCH TIME thinking about it, obsessing about how I could be smaller. About how much more perfect my life would be if I weighed five pounds less. The scary thing is I’m not exaggerating here, and I bet there are so many women out there who feel the same way that I feel.
So here’s my revolutionary thought: throw out the scale. I’m taking a break from weighing myself, at least until the new year. Then, I don’t know, we’ll see. But I need a three month no-scale time, where I’m not completely obsessed with my weight. Because the reality is that number doesn’t actually quantify my health, although we are told it does.
The change is this – instead of the focus on “getting” to a number, whether it’s a scale or a dress size, the focus is on living healthy. That’s something that isn’t an ends – it’s the everything, the means, the journey. It’s something that starts today for me, and every day, of making good choices in life.
I do still work really well when things are quantified for me, so I am doing something really dorky that just might work for me. I’m making myself a star chart, just like my son has for his potty training. When I have a day when I feel I made healthy life choices, it’s a gold star day. I put my sticker on the chart. And because I really enjoy being rewarded, after 30 stars are up there, I get to do a little splurge shopping. Without judgement on the size of the clothes, just finding things that make me look and feel awesome.
What does a gold star day look like? It’s a day where I don’t feel guilty about a choice I made. It’s a day where I went outside for a walk rather then binging on Netflix. A day where I walked instead of taking the bus. Or chose a salad instead of fries because I knew I’d feel a lot better afterwards. Some gold star days even include having a cookie. Not five cookies, but sometimes it is good to have a treat. I’m trying to cultivate an actual real lifestyle that I can live by everyday of my life.
And a healthy lifestyle also means breaking the rules sometimes. Not having a gold star day is sometimes the best for you. Maybe there will be a day when Z and I just bust out some good wine. Or the day when the appetizer was way to good to pass up, or we’re having a delicious Thanksgiving feast, which includes second helpings. Taking a break is healthy too.
I have a little checklist to go through, and I don’t have to cover everything on it, it’s a good guideline for me to check in with myself to see how I did for the day, and remind to do things sometimes. My list is this:
Did I drink enough water?
Did I put on sunscreen?
Did I go outside?
Did I go for a 20 minute walk?
Did I do yoga?
Did I make healthy eating choices?
Did I eat reasonable portion sizes?
Did I drink alcohol moderately?
While this is probably laughably easy for anyone reading this, I find having this close at hand is actually helping me change habits in a big way. Am I losing weight while doing this? I don’t know and I don’t care. The important thing is everyday I’m making sure I put my health first and foremost.
Now, this revolutionary weight-free thought is a start. With these new thoughts come even more drastic, disturbing thoughts such as: “What if I am good enough exactly the way I am?” I wish I could say that I was, but I’m not there yet, guys. Maybe someday I will be. But just living a healthy life day to day is a good start.