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:
- Something physical. I hate my arms. I love my legs. I wish I was taller. My smile really shines. etc.
- 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?