I don’t even have one specific question to paste at the start of this post, because I receive so many e-mails that sing this same very sad tune. Realizing that your health has gotten out of control, you no longer have any understanding of what’s going on in your body (or are just realizing that you, in fact, never understood it), whatever. It’s a hard realization to have, and when you feel like you’re at a point where you have no way to stop the problem from getting worse, you start to fear for your life. We all know someone who has suffered at the hands of one of those diseases, considering their prevalence in our community – both my parents are suffering – and if it’s not us today, then we’re scared as hell of waking up tomorrow and finding out that it has become us.
Well, I hear ya. I have a few words for you and more than a few links to help you along the way.
Refrain from using the word desperate. Every time I see this, I cringe… but this isn’t for my personal emotional thoughts and feelings. It’s a self-esteem issue. “Desperate,” as defined by Merriam-Webster, means “having lost hope, moved by despair, suffering extreme need or anxiety, involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration.” The quote in bold is why I cringe. So many of us have such poor body image and command of our overall health that those “extreme measures” that we employ involve things that, by and large, ruin our health and put us in jeopardy. Pills with nebulous ingredient lists, eating disorders, starvation tactics… these are things that only further compromise our bodies’ ability to heal itself, nourish itself properly and carry you through your day adequately. The answer to long-lasting, sustainable, healthily obtained weight loss – to me, at least – is never, and never will include, anything that fails to nourish (or steals nourishment from) your body.
Do not diet. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t diet. The same way you lose the weight needs to be the same way you keep it off. IF you want to starve yourself eating only baby food for a month, do you, boo. However, when you go back to eating chewables and find yourself putting on all that weight and then some? You’re going to feel like an ass. Use this time to change how you live in a way that is conducive to your continued success. Don’t starve yourself and then feel proud that you survived – literally – only to look a plum nelly fool when you gain it back. Do successful dieters exist? Sure, they may… I’m just not one of ’em.
Realize that this is not an overnight process. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to wipe out your cabinets, clear off your counter tops and start eating cleanly. It doesn’t happen that way. Our environments include certain subtle elements that not only encourage our current habits, but also make it a struggle to leave them behind. It takes time to flesh out the things that contribute negatively, and it takes us learning to not be mindless eaters so that we have the ability to identify those enablers. Everything from the path you take to work that crosses in front of “Fast Food Avenue” to the drawer full of chocolate at your desk that you may reach into every time your boss says something snide to you (what better way to feel better about potentially losing your job in this economy than with chocolate?), it all must go.
Be compassionate towards yourself. Regardless of what society might say and how people might treat you (even if you’re 5lbs or 50lbs overweight, all it takes is one cruel comment to make you wanna throw something), you deserve compassion. You are a human being, and you deserve respect… and that starts with you. Connect the way you treat your body to “self-respect.” Take the time to sit and identify your weaknesses. Take the time to learn where you struggle. Give yourself the space to error, and then sit and think about what happened. Did you buy something you wanted to give up? Why? What do you need to do to prevent from having to deal with this situation again?
Use this as a self-esteem building experience. Don’t think I’m saying you have no self-esteem if you’re wanting to lose weight. However, understand that learning where we’ve gone wrong and how much work it will be to change and fix this is kinda demoralizing. Actually, it’s really demoralizing. It sucks. Trust me. I had an ego before I began. I got humbled. Verily. However, when I take the time to think about what I’m feeling instead of reaching for something that I know would make me feel better, I take pride in that. Not because “being able to say no” is some great moral platitude, but because I was able to teach myself how to say no to something I could never turn down before. It’s a new ability that’s hard to develop, and you should always allow yourself the ability to revel in the joys of that kind of success. It feels good. Yes, this good.
Again – be compassionate toward yourself. Remember – if the weight doesn’t come off as fast as you’d like, and you’re positive that you’re not cheating yourself by sneaking things you’ve aimed to get rid of, then don’t beat yourself up. I’m not a proponent of the scale – though many of my readership are – and I find it pretty annoying as a weight lifter, but that’s because the numbers never tell the full tale of how changing the way you live can improve your health. Don’t be mad that you can’t always see the changes you’re going for. Just appreciate the progress you are making, allow yourself to become excited by the possibilities of a healthier tomorrow and give yourself the time necessary to make the strides you want.
As for the mechanics of weight loss, I’ve written quite a bit about that all over the blog. I’m a calorie counter, but not in the sense that I have to compute every meal before I ingest it. I learned calorie counts, protein and fat percentages by learning how to cook and learning what ingredients belong where and what certain ingredients do to certain dishes. I can look at a dish and estimate the amount of calories and how far it’s going to set me back in my calorie wallet. That’s the knowledge that keeps me from eating the mess I was eating before. It might look good, it might taste good, but it’s not helping me get to where I’m going.
The final point that I have to share is to be patient. Patience is the enemy of desperation, because if you want to come out of dire circumstances immediately, the last thing you want to have to do is be patient. It prevents you from taking drastic measures to “save yourself.” We’ve talked about those measures already.
Sure, I could’ve written about calories and protein and treadmills and diets, but I think the things I’ve listed above are far more important and take precedence over the others, simply because a person who uses a word like “desperate” is signifying a very specific need and urge, and I can’t entirely ignore that. Do you think I left something out? Let’s hear it!
I believe the only thing missing here is a disclaimer…Please consult with a physician when embarking on this journey to better health and weight loss. So in addition to the newfound health awareness, ending the vicious cycle of guilt, refusing to diet ourselves to death, giving ourselves the gift of patience and compassion and focusing on “losing” negative self perceptions – we MUST NOT forget to treat our whole selves, which includes consulting with a physician to rule out any hereditary conditions or immune disorders that cause inflammation and work against weight loss. Each individual must tailor their nutritional lifestyle changes to their specific needs. Food and exercise is not the entire equation, sometimes medical testing and treatment is needed and I’m not talking about diabetes, heart disease or cholesterol numbers. Do you know that fat can produce an inflammation causing hormone that can prevent weight loss? Do you know that allergies can be caused by certain inflammations that are flared by eating certain foods? I discovered that clean eating is very similar to a gluten free diet. Do you know why pasteurized food is not as “clean” as it is claimed to be? Clean intestines strip us of our natural flora (bacteria) that protect us. Have you heard about the great benefits of probiotics? There are several great books on the subject of autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, Hashimotos Thyroditis, inflammation and the rising prevalence of chemicals and gene mutations in our food chain. One day I went in the produce section of my grocery store and they were selling grapes that taste like apples – why is that even necessary? My son watched the movie Fast Food nation and now refuses to eat hamburgers. Our meat has been compromised with antibiotics, disease and gene mutations. So not only do we have to fight external institutional constructs that socialize unhealthy living but we have to fight our bodies internally – literally, and we can win but only if we continue to educate ourselves about those things. So the moral of my post is? Go see your doctor! If you don’t have one, try to find a clinic that subsidizes care based on your income or a clinic that provides affordable sports physicals and physicals for those who get a new job. They usually have a flat fee. For those of you who do have a doctor ask for specific tests that relate to autoimmune disorders and thyroid conditions. You must insist to be referred out to a specialist if you want the right tests to be completed. Ask to be referred out to an Endocrinologist, this was the best thing I have ever done. I would have to dedicate an entire post just discussing the type of tests you need and the resistance of these tests by general practicioners. Although doctors are aware of diseases and conditions that primarily affect African American women my experience has been that they will not do anything unless they are forced to do so. They would rather tell you that all your problems are because you are fat, not that you may have a condition that contributes to your lack of weightloss.
Sometimes it is hard not to see myself as desperate. I’m going to admit full out that the reason that I look the way I do is because I HAVEN’T treated myself with much respect. In reality I have learned that the only way that I am going to make healthy choices for myself instead of easy choices is to work on the source of the problem – the lack of respect that I have for myself. I’m willing, often, to take the quick fix – the chocolate to make myself temporarily happy – instead of actually working to make myself really happy. It is hard to admit that I don’t love myself the way that I should – but acknowledging the root of the matter is the only way to fix it. Thanks for being you Erika. Thanks for this blog, it really gives me inspiration and keeps me on track.
I totally understand. When I become frustrated, I grab a snack. Salty or sweet, or sometimes both. I need to get rid of the snacks.
My biggest issue is consistency. I have the equipment, videos, on Demand shows, you name it. But, it is when I become frustrated, sad, angry….I go to food. As she discussed in a previous post, Papa Johns became my comforter. So, I have to start slow, but at least start somewhere, and work extremely hard in not going to food when my feelings are not pleasant.
The hardest part for me, by far, of losing weight was mental. Losing weight is easy once you have the mindset, but it’s pretty much impossible if you don’t.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with me physically that would have kept me from losing weight. I could have done this five years ago. Except that I couldn’t. Physically, yes; mentally, no. “Desperate” might have been an overstatement in my case, but I definitely felt powerless and helpless. The more desperate we feel, the more powerless and helpless we become.
Once I got to the point where I could stop beating myself up about it, it got easy. Well, it involved a lot of basic math and a lot of jogging, but suddenly that stuff didn’t seem like impossible obstacles any more.
Yes, mindset.. Mines had to change before I finally lost weight. I was never small, but not exactly fat in school. I was always on the line. Staying active during school help… but I look back and know that my eating habits were a mess. In college and after college especially, is when I gained the most weight. When I entered college I was 165, graduated at 201, and when I looked up at the age of 28 going on 29 I was 225. Mind you, through out that time I tried to “Diet”, which of course reaped little to no benefits; my weight and dress size increased.
It was not until I finally decided that I needed to change my life style and change my diet, not diet. I think that change in thinking was what I needed to make. Diet is what you eat everyday, it is a noun, not a verb. That change sparked other changes like making the gym a part of my daily life style, just like watching my favorite show or checking my email.
Today, 5 years later at 156 lbs., because I made a lifestyle change, I still maintain my weight lost. I get asked the question ” How did you loose the weight?”, sometimes. It makes me chuckle to see the look when I say I changed my diet and got active. There is no magic pill. The way you loose it is how it will stay off… understanding that, I chose to do it the right way. Yes, I definitely had to wean myself off of some food idem when I first started, not reintegrating them back into my lifestyle until I had found better options( chocolate, ice cream). I found that I loved homemade gelato and organic truffles. Yes they cost an arm and a leg, but thats the point. I enjoy these items when I have them… and thats not everyday, because they are of quality. Yes every once in a while I eat something I know better then to eat… lemon pepper chicken wings at happy hour..lol. The difference today is that I understand why it is not a good choice and I definitely don’t bring them into my house.. and the feeling I have the next day reminds me of why I need to make my own. I don’t feed myself the lie of I’ll work it off in the gym.. because that is not how weight lost works.. or living a healthy lifestyle works. You make choices.. some better then others. The goal is to make the better choices 90% of the time and not knock yourself for every hiccup. Use it as a learning experience and move along your journey.
Five years into this journey, I am still learning and growing. But that is the great thing about this journey, it never stops; it is always evolving and it will holistically, change you for the better.
This is really true! I’ve always been degrading and denying myself for my real worth, that’s why before I couldn’t care less what will happen to me. I always have that thinking that “people will judge me if I started to do diet”. Whenever I thought of that before somehow I feel ashamed . . . when in reality, I shouldn’t feel that way. I weighed the people’s comments more than listening to what my body is telling me. But now i finally realized my mistake and I am going to be good for my body, I see losing weight as a promise to take care of myself. I am still in the process of losing weight and from now on I will be good and give my body the respect it deserve.
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