Saturday, April 7, 2012

Weight loss, body image, and that evil little voice in your head

Do you ever wish you could go back in time, to that age where weight wasn't a daily issue?  A time where you wore what you liked and didn't care what others thought?  A time where body image wasn't even something you thought about, much less worried about?

I can't really remember a time where I didn't think about my body image.   As a child, I was always very sick and people would comment on the "skin and bones" I was becoming.  I know they didn't mean for it to affect me well into adulthood, but I can still distinctly hear those voices.  The thing is, it never sounded negative to be skin and bones.

I was a fairly thin child until I hit puberty.  Even then, I wasn't overweight, but I started to perceive myself that way.  Of course, noticing boys looking at other girls made me look too.  I would compare everything from skin to hair to hips.  I always felt too big or too plain or too dorky.  Even though I was involved in sports and was far from being fat, it didn't matter.  Comments stood out, such as "You have really big legs for a girl."  I, of course, took this to mean fat.  It's only now that I can rationalize maybe the person speaking (a boy who I'll call Tom) meant "strong".  Looking back, I was pretty muscular from playing soccer.  But big thighs are the "curse" of our family, so of course, I could only see it as a negative comment.

In college, my new friends and I were determined not to gain the dreaded Freshman 15...those 15 pounds you can't help but gain in your new freedom of making your own choices (and drinking more beer than anyone should).  We would jog or go to the campus gym.  I actually lost weight my first semester, but then we all got comfortable and it spiraled down from there.  I felt huge next to many of my taller, slender friends.  I think I might have weighed a whopping 125 pounds, but that's when "the voice" started talking clearer to me.  "You're thighs are huge", "You eat way more than anyone else", "You'll never be as small as _______".    Oh, this voice loved and preyed on my insecurties.

As an adult, I went many years without worrying about weight.  For one, we never had the money to buy a scale, so I was in a state of being blissfully unaware.  When I got pregnant, I was able to lose the weight fairly easily with all 3 kiddos.  My size of clothes really never went up either.  When I needed to lose weight for something, I would just stop eating certain meals (totally not healthy I realize now).  But it worked, or seemed to.  I could shut the voice up for a while.

A few years ago, some online friends and I began to talk about weight and body changes as we were getting older.  I had recognized that I was having more trouble losing weight and I generally gasped when I saw pictures of myself.    I was 143 pounds at this point.  Doing a "Biggest Loser" style challenge, I lost 8 pounds from exercising and cutting calories and was the healthiest, leanest, and proudest I had been in a long long time.

I bought size 6 jeans.  Had a flat belly.  Glowed.

Then I gained all the weight back and more.  At my heaviest, I was my pregnancy weight.

That little voice started working overtime.  "I knew you couldn't do it longterm."  "You look disgusting."  "You feel disgusting."  "What a way to be a loser."

I tried diets.  I tried cleansing.  I tried mild starvation.  I tried exercising to the point of exhaustion.  I tried logging everything on websites designed for weight loss.  Nothing worked.  Now, I realize, that I was doing things all wrong.  I had messed up my metabolism, created a monster in my head, and felt utterly confused and depressed.

In February 2011, I went to the bookstore looking for a new cookbook to spark my interest.  I found Metabolism Miracle.  It all made sense, and most of all, gave me hope.  (You can check the link if you are interested in the details of it).  It even worked!  I started to lose belly fat, started clearing my head, and didn't always feel so tired and cranky.

Then I stopped doing it.  Gained even more weight.  Got depressed.  Gave up.  Oh that little voice was having a field day I tell ya.  I felt like I was on a huge yoyo that never stopped. 

At the beginning of this year, I decided ENOUGH!  I knew what I needed to do:  exercise, eat right (for me that does mean cutting most carbs and sugar), and get this little voice to SHUT THE HELL UP.

When it "clicks" it works.  What I discovered:  there's no magic way to lose weight.  While counting calories works for some, it doesn't for others (I find it to be so tedious it just sets me up for failure).  So I eat less, treat myself occassionaly (I now only eat chocolate that is 85% or higher in cocoa...and only a few pieces at a time), challenge myself in exercising (just walking on the treadmill was great for staying status quo, but I knew to see changes I'd need to up it), and have people I can talk to about progress.

I made a playlist of music just for exercising.  I look forward to hearing those songs at 5:30 in the morning!  I limit myself to 30-40 minutes of exercise.  I don't want to burn out.  It's a long road ahead.  I try to plan meals in advance, but with 3 busy kids it sometimes falls by the wayside.  I have learned eating out is an experience and not an excuse to overeat (a salad made by someone else can be heaven!).  I know my trigger foods and try to avoid them (since I do all the grocery shopping, this should be a no-brainer, but hey, we all have moments of stupidity and weakness).

Probably the best thing I have done, however, is to hush that little voice.  Well, she's still there, but she's getting a little quieter each day.  When she tells me to skip a workout and stay in bed, I ignore her.  When she tells me to give up, I run faster.  I am not ready to stop.  I love to see the changes in my body.  Yeah, there's still some flab.  But there's also muscle.  There's still some extra pounds, but there's a smile that wasn't there for a while.  I am getting more flexible, I can do real pushups, I can jog a little further each day.  It no longer matters what the scale says.  I worry less about what others think of me.  I may be bigger than I was years ago, but that doesn't define the person I am. 

When I need extra help, I sing this song, which I have dedicated to that voice:   

I will no longer let that voice tell me who I am or what I am capable of.  I am stronger than that. I am better than that.  I deserve more than that.

I will no longer be my own worst enemy.

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