This post has been brewing in me for some time but it was two separate interactions that made me sit down and write it all out.
First was Robyn’s comment on Friday’s post. She had me re-evaluating my advice and thinking back to what “Old Roni" would have needed to start this journey all over again. What do I know now that I wish I knew then?
Second was this Ask Roni question from Nancy:
How was it that you REALLY got going on your weight loss …..I am so unbelievably stuck….and have been for a very long time…feeling very hopeless……but I know this is something I really want and need in my life….how do I break the awful cycle of negative thinking????
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I did and how I got to where I am today. I’m going to attempt to get it all out of my head. Bear with me, this is going to be a long as I try to make some sense of it. Let me break it down into a few specific parts.
1. Ignoring the Inner Mean Girl
It all started in 2005. I was 29 and a serial dieter. Before then my weight would literally fluctuate 60lbs and punishing myself for hating my body was at the heart of the yo-yo dieting.
I can remember exactly how I felt the day I started this journey. It’s hard to put into words, but I just had this calm feeling of acceptance. I remember looking in the mirror and saying,
“OK, Roni, that’s it. Look at you. This is YOU. And that’s OK. You are making changes to be a healthier, more active person. Your body will change in the process, but you need to accept yourself now. It’s the only way."
I would be lying if I told you I immediately felt a sense of self-love. I didn’t just wake up with a healthy body image. My inner mean girl still, to this day, points out every flaw, tells me I’m not good enough, and laughs at me when I put on a bathing suit. However, I decided then I would no longer allow her to stop me from experiencing life. She was no longer going to prevent me from reaching my goals.
Learning to ignore her took practice and patience, especially with myself. It’s been 8 years and I’m still working at it. I think that’s what everyone needs to realize from the beginning. If that negative voice lives inside you, you will never wake up without it. NEVER! Even if you could snap your fingers and be at goal weight right this very second.
The solution, instead, is to do things despite the negative thoughts. Wear the tank top even though it makes you uncomfortable. Try the step class even if you think you can’t keep up. Reach out for support even if you think no one will respond. Take the risks. Prove the inner mean girl wrong. The more you do, the more confident you will get.
Now, how many of you are thinking,
“But what if she was right? What if I try and fail?"
To which I respond: then you try again and again and AGAIN because the alternative is what? To live your life in fear of looking fat/stupid/needy? No thank you. I spent my 20s worrying about things like that. Life is too damn short. Give your inner mean girl the finger and tell her to get our of your damn way. You’ve got goals to reach.
2. Working on Your Own Weight Loss Strategy
Robyn’s comment was spot on. I did need a specific strategy in the beginning, but I don’t talk about it much any more. There’s a few reasons for this, but most notably it’s because I really believe there is no “right" way. You have to approach weight loss with an open mind and be ready to figure things out as you go.
For me it started with Weight Watchers’ Flex plan. I needed a daily target to help me control portions, I needed to food journal and I needed to weigh-in for accountability. However, I had to make the plan my own as I went along or I don’t think I would have been as successful.
For example, back then Weight Watchers had you count fruit Points. I remember thinking:
There was no way I’m going to weigh out grapes. I’m not going to stress out and get all obsessive about it. Eating too many grapes isn’t what caused my weight gain. I’ll just count all fruit as 1 point and be done with it.
So that’s what I did. I also ignored activity points, counted my dinner points before I ate them, and always rounded up when estimating.
My point here isn’t to tell you exactly how I made the plan work for me. My point is to simply show you I made the plan my own. I made it work for me, my personality, and my lifestyle instead of feeling constricted by it.
I truly believe If you are stressing over every decision and worried about every piece of food that goes in your mouth, you will never be successful at weight loss long term.
You have to be prepared to change your strategy as you go BUT (big “but” here for a reason) not go “off plan" when you do.
When I say “off plan" I’m referring to my concept of Stateless Dieting. You can’t use the strategy as an excuse to eat whatever you want with abandon. That’s what I used to do.
Instead you have to stay “on plan" while you actively change your strategy. If paper journaling seems tedious, try keeping track on your phone. If you find yourself stressing over having a daily target, try an approach where you focus on specific foods like the old Core plan or Paleo.
You may always be actively and consciously working on the strategy (I am) but never going off plan. It’s a strange concept, I know, but it makes sense if you really think about it. In 8 years I’ve continuously changed my approach but I never just walked away completely. That is the key long-term success.
3. Stop Fearing Hunger
I always fear bringing this up because I know so many have strong feelings about it. All I can do is share my thoughts and experiences.
My diet was so full of crap before, I don’t think I ever really experienced true hunger. I felt the post processed-food cravings, that’s for sure! But once you clean up your diet and eat more sensibly, you can really start to feel the difference between “fake hunger" and “true hunger."
I’m not advising you to fast or abstain from eating for a specific length of time, but when you get hungry, feel it. Take note. Experience it. Don’t just shove the quickest thing you can find into your mouth like it’s some kind of emergency.
This may not go over well, but I like to feel hunger before I eat. I don’t always do it. Honestly, I’m writing this while munching on popcorn just because I wanted it. There was no hunger involved at all. However, day to day, meal to meal, I always feel better when I feed a stomach growl with a well balanced choice then when I eat just because _________. Insert —> I feel like it, I’m bored, I’m sad, I’m depressed, I already ate ____, I just want something, etc, etc, etc.
I think we all instinctively fear hunger, but for most of us our next meal isn’t a mystery. Next time your stomach growls, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s not an emergency. Then, sensibly decide on a snack that will satisfy you. Don’t just shove a handful of M&Ms in your mouth to take away the pangs.
4. Moving More
Most people are surprised when I say I didn’t work out to initially lose my weight. Back then I had NO desire to run, go to the gym or take an exercise class. I considered it all torture. I cannot stress enough how I had NO desire to do any of it.
I knew if I was going to lose the weight, I had to do it on my terms, and those terms did not involve a gym membership.
However, I also knew I needed to move more. My 20s basically consisted of three states:
- Sitting at my desk at work.
- Sitting on my couch watching TV.
- Sitting in a movie theater eating popcorn and Snowcaps.
I’m not kidding. That’s all I did. Believe me, I regret it, ESPECIALLY now that I have kids. If I could go back in time I’d punch myself in the face for not taking advantage of those 10 kid-less years!
Anyway, I digress. When I started I simply made an effort to move more. Do more.
Taking after-dinner walks, playing active video games, taking the stairs, hiking at parks, going bowling — these were the baby steps that led to things like step classes, which led to running, which led to boot camps, which led to CrossFit.
Don’t underestimate a simple goal like moving more. You never know where it will lead and I speak from personal experience, it’s awfully fun to find out!
5. Enjoying the Journey
I’m assuming if you stuck with me this long what I’ve said so far, and how I said it, make at least a little sense to you. I sure hope so, because at this point I feel like I’m just spewing random thoughts on the screen.
The last thing I can think of that really made the biggest difference in my weight-loss success may explain why I continue to do *this.* It’s why I see myself as an old lady posting food photos on GreenLiteBites and reminiscing about feeding picky kids. It’s why I continue to do #YogaADay month after month and why I challenge myself to come up with a new #DailyYogurt day after day. It’s why I continue to post my weight on Wednesdays, quotes on the weekends, and Sensational Sundays.
I do it all, because it’s FUN. I enjoy it. I’m inspired by inspiring. I stay motivated by motiving.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be a weight-loss blogger to actually lose weight, but I am saying you have to find what inspires you. What motivates you.
I know weight-loss success stories who have never blogged a day in their lives. They do what they do, day in and day out, because they found their way and they enjoy their journey. Some are motivated by the group of friends they met at the gym. Some are inspired by their kids and staying active with them. Some fell so in love with running they do it daily.
You have to fall in love with the journey. Your journey. Find the activities that you WANT to do. Latch on to things that inspire you. Maybe it’s blog writing. Maybe it’s blog reading. Maybe it’s a Weight Watchers meeting. Maybe it’s joining a running group. Maybe it’s a challenge to eat more meals at home. Maybe it’s a challenge to eat healthier out. Maybe it’s learning to cook, trying new vegetables or joining a CSA. Maybe it’s weekend weigh-ins with your friends.
I can’t tell you what will work for you. You have to discover that for yourself just as I did. Stop doing things just in the name of short-term weight loss. If you are, I’m going to bet you aren’t enjoying them and you won’t want to do that for the rest of your life.
Enjoy the journey.
It’s really how I lost the weight and maintained my loss for so long.