Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Weight Thing

When I moved over to Blogger, I planned to focus more on my writing and less on my weight. I guess I knew that my weight would be a subject I'd eventually broach, but I didn't want it to be a focus for my blog anymore. So I haven't talked about the weight thing much since I moved over here, despite the fact that it's often on my mind. Those of you who read me over at Spaces can attest to this. In fact, my initial goal in blogging was to track and discuss my weight loss journey. Unfortunately, this journey hasn't always been successful as far as the numbers on the scale are concerned. About a year ago (on December 9, 2006 to be exact), I decided to take a new approach to my health and I posted the following over at Weight of My World:

I've started a little experiment, and while it's not going all that great at the moment, I have a feeling it's going to be the most successful weight management and healthy lifestyle tool that I've ever used. The goal is not to diet. I know that may sound like a cop-out, and it's even a bit scary from where I'm standing, but it's beginning to make more and more sense.

I've been counting calories or Weight Watchers Points for so long I can barely eat anything without mentally calculating something in my head. I exercise not for the health benefits, the energy and the mood elevation, but for the calories it burns. I eat foods based on their calorie/points count instead of their nutritional value. And while I know this is all wrong thinking, it seems to be the only way I know how to go about losing weight. Then one day recently, I looked at my calorie calculator and had 300 calories available in my daily calorie range (1300-1600 calories). Instead of considering that I wasn't really hungry and therefore didn't need to use these calories, I immediately started thinking about what I could and couldn't do with them. After munching my way through the 300 and then some, I realized what I was doing. I wasn't eating because I was hungry, but rather because I had calories available to use. It was a wasted purchase, like buying a formal dress, not because I had an event to attend, but because I had the cash in my pocket.

I started wondering why I eat and exercise. I went over certain situations in my mind and it occurred to me (not for the first time) that I often eat when I'm not hungry. In fact, just last night, I continued to eat despite palpable stomach discomfort. So what's the deal? And how can I change this pattern? I also started thinking about what it would be like to have children and what kind of an example I would be. Would I teach them healthy habits naturally, or would I teach them to look at food as the enemy and exercise as a chore? Honestly, I don't know the answer to any of these questions yet. But I do know that even if counting every calorie I put in my mouth and writing down every food that I choose to eat causes me to lose weight in the short term, it's not a weight loss that I'm ever going to be able to maintain over the long term. If I don't first discover what is causing these binges and how I can disrupt them (and maybe even avoid them), then I'll always be bound by them. And I certainly won't be able to teach my children to have a healthy mindset about food and exercise. The last thing I want is to transfer my own obsessions and false ideas to others.

So my plan is simple. No more dieting. Instead, my focus is on getting in touch with myself. I need to understand why I am eating in every situation. I need to develop skills to decrease my tendency to eat everything but the kitchen sink. I need to figure out what it is that allows me to be satisfied with a single bowl of cereal some mornings, and what causes me to crave four or five bowls, and to give in to that craving, on other days. While the plan seems simple, none of this is going to be easy. And it's clear to me from last night's fiasco that I may lose sight of my goals and fall into old habits while I'm learning. But I think that this way may be the best way for me to learn what I need to know in order to accomplish my ultimate goal of living a healthy life, instead of just becoming successful at a lifetime of dieting.

After a year of trying not to diet, and getting out of the habit of exercising, I've put on many of the pounds I had lost. I tend to reevaluate my goals around this time every year, and rereading this post gave me pause. Turns out, I'm still dealing with the same issues. I've learned a lot about my eating habits and have a better understanding of who I am, but change is hard. My behaviors haven't really changed. That is the bottom line. I've decided to keep trying, though. I haven't failed unless I give up, right? And I know that not dieting, that learning to eat based on my body's needs and not on my emotional state or the number of calories I've allowed myself for the day, may be one of the most important things I'll learn in my lifetime.

So I'm tracking what I eat and counting calories again, but I'm trying to do it while focusing on hunger rather than numbers. The goal is not so much the number of calories I consume, as the understanding of how food affects my body and what foods provide me with the nutrition I require. I don't plan to always do this, but I needed a refresher on what and how much I should be eating to fuel my body.

I've also rejoined the gym and am working to regain the muscular and cardiovascular fitness I was so proud of a year ago. I'm not dieting, but I am trying to reprogram my brain and my body to eat and exercise differently. I'm working with a friend who's a dietitian, and when I joined the gym again, I got three free sessions with a trainer. I plan to use these tools to the best of my ability.

Most importantly, I am trying to change how I think about food, exercise and my body. Negative thoughts are not allowed. Bad foods do not exist. Overeating at one meal does not mean all is lost--not for the day, and definitely not for the week or month. Every moment is a moment to make a healthy choice. I can chose to eat well for my body and mind, to love myself no matter what the scale says or what the media tells me I should look like. This time, I'm not rewarding myself for pounds lost or calories eaten. I'm rewarding myself for consistency: regular exercise sessions get me iTunes downloads; each day I track what I eat gets me a dollar toward a manicure and pedicure.

All of this may seem obvious to you. It may seem like a small step or a basic understanding, it may seem like more empty commitments. Believe me, sometimes I see it the same way. This is a struggle I have dealt with since I was very young. But I've come to realize (again?) that moving forward, one day at a time, is all I can do. Today, I choose happiness and health. Tomorrow I hope to do the same.


Anonymous said...

I only read this blog since I can't comment on the other. So I haven't been following your weight journey.

That being said, while it may seem obvious, it's never easy. Weight is a difficult thing to manage and I applaud you for keeping up with it even when it's so difficult.

katy said...

Good for you.

It's HARD! I count points only because it's smaller numbers! It's nice having people on the same journey with you (my mom and Kate are both doing WW too).

I'm looking forward to good reports, my friend!

Ami said...

Thanks for the support, gals! It's always good to know I'm not the only one on this roller coaster. I'd like to get off eventually, though :o)

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