This is a complicated topic, so I took a while to write about this, but I thought it would be nice to start a discussion.
It is no secret that I have been trying to lose weight for the last year and half. I struggled with the idea of actually telling you guys that I have weight loss as a goal, because I think most women have been worrying about their weight since forever (I remember first thinking I was too fat at 10 years old) and I didn’t want to add to the discourse. But the more honest approach is to say that I did want to lose weight among other fitness & health goals, and as much as I would love to not engage in this weight-loss-for-women discourse, I also feel it’s important to make my decision clear.
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, not a dietitian, not a doctor. I am not giving a guideline or advice, this is an anecdote and should be treated as so. The following content describes my relationship with food and weight, which has not always been entirely healthy, so please be mindful if you have a history of eating disorders, disordered eating or body image issues.
When I put losing weight as a health goal, I thought it was a pretty obvious thing to do: I’ve always been on the slim side, and gained a lot of weight after going on medication for depression in 2017. Since then, I’ve struggled with my weight and body image. I thought going back to my slim figure would be a HEALTH goal.
It took a long time for me to accept that the main reason why I wanted to lose weight was not for health. Surely it’s better for my heart health (which is a big issue on my family history) if I am not overweight, but exercising and eating well should be enough to improve that, without necessarily losing weight at all – specially considering I’d been sedentary most of my life and living off junk food mostly for the past two years.
On my first year of trying to lose weight, I joined a local gym, started eating lots more protein and lots more low-carb vegetables, cut sugar out of many things, shuddered at the thought of white rice. Then I found solace on burgers and fries and thought they were a fair reward for all the hard work I’d put in all week. I binge-ate from time to time, cycling that with eating almost nothing at all the entire day. I eventually would lose a bit of weight, just to regain all of it within a couple months, maximum.
I got fed up. This cycle of dieting and guilt-ridden eating was exhausting. I decided to stop doing crazy things like fasting too long, eating almost nothing etc and to take steps to a healthier way to weight loss – and more importantly, to learn to accept if no weight loss occurred at all. My self-esteem clearly needed some working on, since every time I gained weight I felt like a complete failure.
I heard someone say, one day, that self-love is a verb. You DO things to love yourself better. You prioritize yourself. You choose how you live your life and do active changes in order to achieve that life you envision for yourself. This made me really think.
So when I decided to continue pursuing weight loss, I knew I needed a plan.
In proper overthinking fashion, I created some rules for my new approach:
- I would not make conditions anymore to allow myself to eat something that would not be considered “clean, healthy food”. I did not want to eat this stuff only when I felt I “deserved” it, be it after exercising a lot, or eating “clean” for a certain amount of time, etc. I’d eat it if I wanted to.
- In the event of becoming too worried with my weight, I would stop weighing myself for a week or more. If the worry did not go away, I’d stop weighing myself altogether.
- After reaching each of my weight milestones, I’d take a break from any efforts to lose weight for at least two weeks.
- I would make an actual effort to get into intuitive eating. I like to listen to this podcast while cooking, so as to shut up that part of me that wants to make only low-caloric, bland “clean” food that would surely keep me hungry, moody, tired and craving food.
- Conversely, I would not count calories, in order not to encourage my obsessive compulsions*.
- If losing weight did not happen at all, I would put in place more actions to work on loving and accepting my body. I would make a plan and follow through.
- No fasting for more than 16h.
- No spending over 1h at the gym. Also no going more than 5x a week, preferably about 2-3x.
- No sleeping very long in order to skip meals (I’ve done that many times… yikes).
- No giving up healthy eating altogether if I don’t lose weight.
- I would try to cook all my meals at home. Keyword: try. I like cooking, so this was not as difficult as I thought it would be, but not everyone enjoys cooking, especially every day.
- I would practice self-love in the terms of what I needed more deeply: nourishment, acceptance, mental health, confidence, forgiveness.
*I have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Behavior at a couple points in my life, normally when I get into a depression & anxiety crisis, and I was quite worried that I would turn my weight loss goal into another obsession. Or perhaps even developing orthorexia. Which is why I created all these rules. I know it sounds a bit much to have so many, but this is how I thrive: I like clear rules, even if they are many. I’m a natural overthinker, and clear rules makes for less need to overthink things.
I will not disclose how much weight I gained after being sick, how much I weigh now, or if I lost weight or not.
What I have to say is that right now I’m heavier than I was a few years ago – and much, much happier with my body. I go goddamn running a few times a week and ENJOY it, I lift weights, I haven’t had allergies for a long time now and my immune system seems to be quite stronger. I don’t know when I last had a bad flu, even when ALL my coworkers AND my fiancé got it.
In fact, I got a new tattoo with a quote from Wonder Woman because that’s basically how I feel right now.
Me vs. The Flu
I am not perfectly where I want to be in terms of self-love. But that is okay. When I feel my resolution faltering and skip the gym for a month, when I eat junk food several days in a row, when I look at the mirror and hate what I see – I know it’s part of the process. I know I can do better tomorrow. Just no giving up.