I’m talking weight loss this week. If you missed Part Two check that out first.
So my first adult foray with Weight Watchers went well, for a while, but as I mentioned it felt like a huge life sacrifice. I realize that not everyone is like this, but I can become a bit obsessive when it comes to data tracking and food logging was no different. It became the thing I thought about most, and began to affect how I felt in all aspects of my life. There were weeks when I did everything right and lost no weight. Then there were weeks when I did nothing right and lost tons of weight — and the lack of rhyme or reason felt frustrating to me.
It didn’t compute for me that if the only variable was “points” then how come I could never guarantee success at the scale? There had to be other factors involved but I had no idea what they were and no idea where to start. The one size fits all approach, and its emphasis on calories in/calories out, (which is a giant oversimplification of how weight loss works) made Weight Watchers feel like a temporary solution to me. I didn’t want to live that way long term. I wanted to find a lifestyle I could maintain.
(Sidebar: I know things have changed about the program these days and there is more of an emphasis on whole foods, and I don’t mean for this to be an all out assault on Weight Watchers; however, it obviously did suit my personality. If it suits yours and you are happy with it: ROCK ON!)
From where I sit today, having lost a significant amount of weight without sacrificing my life or sanity makes this a convenient literary turning point. It’s so obvious to me that giving that up was the right decision (for me) but at the time quitting the only method I knew was a leap of faith. And success certainly did not happen overnight.
What I realized was that I wanted to lose weight. But I wasn’t willing to do something that didn’t feel right to get there. I decided I would rather be fat and happy, than miserable all the time worrying about it — and it was the best decision I ever made. I want to shout from the rooftops that if you are not experiencing success with losing weight, or if you are beating yourself up about your lack of “self control”, or if you are “doing everything right” but giving up other parts of your life that bring you joy: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY! THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS FOR YOU. And most importantly YOU WILL NEVER HAVE SUCCESS IF ALL YOU ARE DOING IS BEATING YOURSELF UP AND FEELING GUILTY! But I didn’t know all of that when I made my decision.
And as you might have guessed, I gained most of that weight back. And then even more over the next 6 or 7 years. I did feel varying levels of guilt and went running back to Weight Watchers here and there in a panic, but it still didn’t feel right and I never had long term success. There were times when I would feel like an absolute loser and that this was something I would never get under control. But there were also so many times that I would feel really at peace with my decision not to obsess. Sure I struggled with the idea that I wasn’t a person who wasn’t skinny, but I had great friends, an awesome family, a loving boyfriend, and I just wasn’t going to feel bad about this one thing for the rest of my life. My weight did not define me. And I went about trying my best at carving out a successful life.
And then the strangest thing happened. When I really decided to give up on trying to lose weight – or rather, when I gave up my drive to pursue the physical ideal, I started eating more intuitively. I started to think about food as something nourishing, not something I was at war with. I began to think about what I put in my mouth, researching the benefits of a whole food diet vs. eating processed foods or eating “everything in moderation”. I also began to learn about where my food came from and made the decision that Factory Farmed meat was not for me.
During that time period I tried many diets that my body didn’t thrive on — and it wouldn’t be until later that I would discover why — but I was open to everything and it was all because I had given up on Being on a Diet.
One of the most important things I did along the way was learn to cook. I challenged myself to learn different techniques and different cuisines. I discovered a passion that had been dormant in me, and that alone ended up being one of the healthiest things I have ever done for myself. I can honestly say I don’t think I would have spent years exploring my culinary side had I not let go of measuring every single thing I ate, or more importantly the guilt I felt when I didn’t. Giving up was one of the many secrets to the success of my journey.
But at the end of the day, I still had weight to lose. And that weight had its consequences. In Part Four I will tell you about the turning point that made me seek out professional help and realize it was time to get back on the horse.