One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

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The Best Body Image Videos on the Internet Remind Me How I Ended 15 Years of Yo-Yo Dieting

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Two videos have recently reminded me how I stopped yo-yo dieting. Let me see if I can explain.

The first is a little dramatically filmed but very telling and I applaud them for showing men and women for a change. 

I love love LOVE how all the kids wanted to change their bodies in fun ways that made them function differently (run like a cheetah, wings so I can fly, eat like a shark, etc.)

Five years ago I wrote a question of the week post where I asked what we love our bodies — click here to check it out. The comments are great!

Regardless if you ask what you love or what you hate (want to change), I find it interesting that there are really only 2 ways people respond: 

  1. Something physical. I hate my arms. I love my legs. I wish I was taller. My smile really shines. etc.
  2. Something functional. I love that I can run fast. I wish I had wings. etc.

The kids seem to focus on the functional while their adult counterparts poke and prod at physical imperfections society has told them aren’t beautiful.

I watched another awesome body image-based video the other day. One of my fellow Special K Mentors, Dr. Engeln, is a psychologist and body image researcher at Northwestern University. She did a TED Talk called An Epidemic of Beauty Sickness.

Toward the end she sums up in one sentence what it has taken me 10 years to figure out:

Your body is not for looking at, it’s for doing things.   — Dr. Renee Engeln

That may be my favorite quote of all time. Wanting my body to be able to do things for as long as possible is what really motivates me daily. It’s why I want to eat better, stay fit, get more sleep, etc.

Many yo-yo dieters can stop the negative cycle of weight loss/weight gain by simply shifting their focus from vanity-driven weight loss to functional, experience-based goals.

Of course, I have no proof of this besides my own experience.

I used to be a yo-yo dieter. My weight would easily fluctuate 50 pounds in a year. I was driven purely by beauty-based goals — I wanted to be as thin as possible. That’s it. That’s all. When my goal was simply “skinny” I struggled, a lot. I could never stay on diets. I’d binge, fast, binge some more. I’d look to quick fixes, pills, detoxes, liquid diets. I’d do anything just to be thinner yet I seemed to have no willpower to follow through on any of them.

Once I started to tip the scales (pun intended) toward functional goals over vanity ones, I not only lost weight but I really never, ever looked back. After I had my first child, my goal shifted. Sure, I still wanted to be thin (who doesn’t?) but I wanted to be a fun, fit active mom more so. That became my new focus, and thinner, in a weird way, ended up to be a byproduct of that pursuit.

Ten years later I can honestly say it’s the times I start to focus on being thinner for thinner’s sake that actually set me back. Those are the times I seem to struggle more in this never-ending stage we call maintenance. On the flip side, when I’m training for events,  having adventures with the kids, and experiencing life, everything from healthier food choices to fitting in workouts seems easier. Maybe easier isn’t even the right word. Everything is more intuitive, natural, effortless.

That small shift in my focus has helped me make the past 10 years a journey of self-discovery and experiences instead of a frustrating pursuit of skinny. 

I would love it if other long-term weight loss folks would chime in. Would you agree? What flipped the switch for you?



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Discussion

There are 13 comments so far.

    Amy G.

    November 5, 2014

    Emphatically YES. While I am looking forward to not having such a big tummy, the things I am most looking forward to as a result of losing weight are things I want to DO. Kayaking, snowshoeing, hiking on trickier terrain, surfing, etc. I do agree, it makes a big difference in the process.

      RoniNoone

      November 6, 2014

      It really does. I wish I figured it out a little sooner.

    Emily Smith

    November 5, 2014

    These videos are pretty inspirational. I have been struggling with my weight for a long time now. I have always done my best to get to the gym and eat healthy. I am thinking of adding a diet pill in to my health routine. I just think it would give me the extra boost I need to lose weight.
    Emily Smith | http://www.intermountainhcg.com

    Tina

    November 6, 2014

    AMAZING post, Roni!! All of it.

      RoniNoone

      November 6, 2014

      Thanks!

    HeyBeckyJ

    November 6, 2014

    “Sure, I still wanted to be thin (who doesn’t?)…”
    I definitely agree with you that our focus should be on bodies that function, and are not just to look at. But I think your assumption that everyone wants to be “thin” is flawed. Sure there are plenty of people who are focused on weight loss just to be thin, but there are still plenty of people who don’t want to be thin. There are people who struggle to put on weight, or who are comfortable in their bodies but need to lose weight for health reasons.

      RoniNoone

      November 6, 2014

      You’re right but most people (again, another assumption) reading the blog of a weight loss person who’s sharing weight loss tips and mindset are interested in weight loss, and I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. There also wouldn’t be a billion dollar weight loss industry if a hell of a lot of people weren’t seeking thin. So, although I agree, there are people out there trying to gain or are comfortable, a huge majority still seek thin.

    Connie C.

    November 6, 2014

    This is exactly what I needed to see today.

      RoniNoone

      November 6, 2014

      AWESOME!

    Jenna Martinich

    November 6, 2014

    I love this post. I have lost 66 pounds and am closing in on my own goals. I have been working on shifting my focus over the past few months from just being skinny to wanting to be able to do more. I made a goal to do a sprint triathlon next year and that has been a huge motivation, and mind shift. Thank you for Dr. Engeln’s video. The ending really struck a chord with me. I have two young daughters and within 30 minutes of watching that video, my 4 year old picked up her necklace, put it on and said “Mommy, can you please say I’m beautiful”. WOW! What a wake up call. Already at the tender age of 4 my daughters are being taught that beauty is all important. Already they are questing and desiring to be beautiful. I am definitely going to be more aware of how I compliment my children, and focus on their other amazing qualities, not just their physical appearance. Thank you again for this post!

      RoniNoone

      November 6, 2014

      You are so welcome, I’ve watched her video a few times. It has really resonated with me.

    Martha Glantz

    November 7, 2014

    Fantastic! I love the TED talk. As I’ve gotten older I have basically stopped criticising myself. I love how I feel and how I look and am smart enough to know that the magazine pics are fake

    Caroline

    November 9, 2014

    This is great and really resonates with me. I absolutely find it true that when I focus less on what my body looks like during weight loss and more on what my body is capable of, I can stay focused. Settling silly weight loss goals (lose 30 pounds by Christmas!) could leave anyone disappointed. But, setting experience-based goals (PR an upcoming 5K) will always win out…even if I miss the mark.