This June will mark five years that I’ve sat down in front of this keyboard and shared something with y’all.
I’ve been committed to this blog longer than I’ve been committed to my husband. How weird is that?
In fact, the only thing I’ve been committed to longer than I’ve been committed to this blog is my weight loss journey, which started approximately six years ago, with its anniversary coming on May 15th.
Maybe I don’t have the commitment issues I originally thought I’d had.
Let me get back to my point.
Six years is a long time. To be able to say I’ve kept off so much weight for almost six years is a privilege that I, unfortunately, don’t share with very many people… but I’d be lying if I said it was easy. It most certainly isn’t.
In fact, as I think back over the years, I’d have to admit that there are a few things that I’ve done over the years to keep me focused, mentally, so that I don’t backslide into former unhealthy habits and can always remain as healthy as possible.
That being said, there are five meaningful and valuable things to which I attribute my success in my weight loss journey, and hopefully they’ll be just as helpful to you as they have been to me:
1) I journal. A lot. Recently, I’d started doing video journals of my training, and posting them to my YouTube channel. I’m a believer in writing and telling my story, if for no other reason than I can go back and take a prescriptive look at what I’m doing, why those things are and are not working for me, and how to improve the process. Prior to that, I kept a folder on my old laptop full of little Notepad files, each one titled with the day’s date, and writing a little bit about how my day went, how I felt, and what kind of training I did. (This is largely why, if you’ll recall, when my laptop essentially melted upon itself in 2012, I practically shut the blog down. I was beyond torn up about losing those files. Silly me for not backing them up.)
Journaling is essential. Not only are you chronicling your own story, which can keep you in the game mentally, but the mere process of writing and reading your own work and committing to that changes the way you see what you do. It’s meditative. It’s your time to be focused solely on you, and let’s face it – you need that. It’s a personalized form of self-care, made specifically for your needs. There’s something stress-relieving about sitting down on your floor with a cup of tea or a glass of water and spending some time writing all the things you wish you could’ve said [but didn’t because they would’ve gotten you fired], all the things you did [and didn’t do], and how proud you are of yourself or how you need to start working towards improvement. It is you-centered, you-focused, and – by extension – self-empowering.
2) I surround myself with positive and uplifting images, people, and resources. When I first started growing my relaxer out, I never wore my hair down. I always had it in two pixie braids – lovingly referred to as Miss Celie braids – and left it alone. I spent too much time dealing with everything else to play in my hair.
However, as I started to find community, I noticed I was also meeting – in person as well as online – women who wore big, giant, fluffy curls, kinks and coils. They had positive and transformative perspectives on their hair and themselves as beautiful women. They were positive and transformative people, and it shifted my perspective of myself.
Surrounding yourself with positive images and people, people who are daring, people who take risks, people who are hopeful and positive and resourceful and enlightening and compassionate and encouraging… this changes your perspective of life – not just your hair, not just your body, and not just your journey. Suddenly, it stops feeling so ridiculous to say, “Hey, let’s go join that hiking club upstate.” In a culture that thrives and profits off of shade and negativity, being positive naturally breaks you from the mold. Everything feels like you’re just “being different,” so “being different” feels like less and less of a problem every day.
Slowly, I started to see more of myself in the images around me. I felt more comfortable doing daring things with my lipstick. I felt more daring with my afro. I felt more comfortable with the choices I was making with my body. I looked for images of myself and people like me rocking the hell out of workout gear, who were sporty and bright and fun, who wore fabulous makeup, who were holistic and positive about their health, who encouraged body positivity, and I looked to them as lights and guides. Even as I’ve found myself slowly approaching expert status, I never tire of looking to these people for their positivity. You can never get enough.
Removing the negativity from your life also shifts your focus towards forward motion, as opposed to stagnancy. Talking trash about someone else and spreading negativity – though, I won’t lie, sometimes you need to throw a lil’ shade every now and again – feels a lot like texting while you’re behind the driver’s seat of a car. You can’t go forward safely in the right direction when your focus is off, and you’ll likely hurt people – namely yourself – in the long run. Also, you just shouldn’t do either one. Period.
3) I re-read The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite twice a year. Every. Year. In fact, I’m late for my reading this year.
This book was integral to my understanding my eating habits, and realizing that I, too, am an emotional eater. It opened my eyes into understanding and quantifying how that emotional eating was playing into my life – how much of my life I’d wasted away by hiding and bingeing on food instead of finding healthier solutions to what I felt was plaguing me.
And, every six months or so when I read it again, I’m able to connect it to newer research, information, and contexts, which give me a better understanding of how I’ve evolved.
Furthermore, it forces me to remember that I am a recovering food addict and binge eater, and will always know what it feels like to get that “high.” It reminds me to remain extra-vigilant about avoiding that backslide.
4) I plan. I plan my tail off. If I could plan my day from 12am to 12 midnight, I’d do it. Even when I know my day will be virtually un-plannable and my schedule will be completely irrational, I still make plans for both the day, and the week. Food and activity. Not because I’m a masochist, but because I believe this forces me to prioritize what’s most important.
Whatever showed up that schedule was clearly important enough for me to write it down. Whatever meals I planned out for the day were clearly important to my plan, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Therefore, if I have to deviate from my meal plan, I do my best to grab something as close to what I originally planned as possible. If I can’t adhere to my daily schedule, I at least know these things are essential and must be accomplished.
5) I run all of my thoughts through a compassion filter. Yes, that’s right – a compassion filter. I ask myself, “Would I want a complete stranger saying this to my daughter?” “Would I want a complete stranger saying this to my best friend?” “Would I want my loved one to come home telling me that someone said this about them?” If the answer is no, then chances are high that whatever I’m thinking is bordering on irrational.
Remembering my thoughts on shame when it comes to our bodies,
Because shame shuts down engagement, it also dually shuts down community, partnership and – yep, you guessed it – love. Both because the person being shamed doesn’t think they’re deserving of love, but because now the shamers take it as their duty to deny you of love or esteem. That’s why the dude above think it makes sense to say “It’s too easy for fat women to get men, so of course she doesn’t have motivation” – because apparently loneliness should be a motivator for weight loss. He also offers up his white wife as proof that women at the gym get married, making sure to tell us that she is white. Because that was central to his point. Somehow. Or something.
Also, because shame is a successful silencing tactic, shame also leaves us open for abuse. That’s why people believe it’s fair and acceptable and necessary for people to say hateful things about fat people. It’s deserved – they couldn’t possibly know all these things that they’re being beaten over the head with – otherwise, why would they be fat? It’s not possible that, at any given moment, a person who’s 255 today was actually 285 last season and they’re busting their ass after work every day. In a world where shame is king, there are only two static points: deserving of shame, and deserving of the right to shame others.
And, don’t you dare get any bright ideas about defending yourself. A shaming society is already ready for whatever little defense you’ve already cooked up. “Oh, but your blood panels came back and you’re all healthy? BUT YOU’RE STILL UNATTRACTIVE. IT JUST DOESN’T LOOK GOOD.”
Shaming ourselves for not being who we wish we were has yet to prove as a productive method for progress, and here is why: shame cuts you off from people, thereby denying you the positivity and risk-taking nature necessary to advance; shame denies you encouragement, leaving you to feel like you don’t deserve compassion, but you do. Filtering my thoughts about my body – and, occasionally, my progress or lack thereof – through a filter that ensures compassion guarantees that I am not shaming myself, and that my thoughts are focused on progress and positivity, not emotional abuse masquerading as “tough love.”
When I think about what I’m trying to do with my figure now, it feels like I’m completely starting over… except in a new starting point. Looking back and reassessing how I’ve ensured progress in the past, helps me make sure I’m adequately equipped for my future, whatever it may look like in the end.
What about you? What tips or tools have you used to guarantee progress or maintenance in your weight loss journey?