Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hey...Slow It Down

When I moved to Pittsburgh in November, one of the best things I did was take a yoga class. Not only did I discover a new form of exercise, but I also met BFF Debbie.

Debbie and I have a lot in common – we love birds and dogs, we each have two daughters, we both meditate, and like so many woman, we’ve both struggled with weight most of our lives.

Debbie’s on a quest to lose – for the last time – 50 pounds. Here’s how I know it’s her last time: “Tomorrow is Weight Watchers. I am going to the meeting, but doubt I have lost weight. I don’t think I’ve gained either, but we’ll see. I read a WW success story today that resonated with me. The woman lost 50 lbs, but it took her a long time. She knew she had to make a lifestyle change, not just follow a temporary diet, so she was determined not to get discouraged when she occasionally gained a little or did not lose weight. That gave me inspiration. I tend to be an all or nothing person, and if I don’t lose on a consistent basis, I tend to give up. I don’t want to give up this time, even if it takes me 3 years to lose 50 lbs. What I do know from experience is that once I quit WW (or the diet of the moment) I GAIN weight, so I do know that if I don’t just totally quit, my weight won’t continue to spiral up the scale.”

I totally relate to needing to change that mindset from “Get it off NOW” to slower is better. When I first started losing weight, especially the first 50 pounds, I was highly motivated. Almost too motivated. There were some days I felt so desperate to get the fat off that I’d chastise myself for the following: 1) putting on the pounds in the first place; 2) waiting so long to start doing something about it; and 3) not getting it off faster. I’d get this really anxious feeling throughout my body, like I couldn’t get the fat off fast enough, like a centipede was crawling up my leg. “Get it off me!” I screamed in my head.

I spent way too much time being angry and judgmental, too. I’m sure this will sound familiar: You get on the scale and see you’ve lost a pound or two, so you’re a “good” person. You get on the scale and you’ve stayed the same, lost “only” point something or, God forbid, gained, so now you’re a “bad” person. I still struggle with this. I’m “good” if I eat or exercise perfectly and I’m “bad” if I don’t. I’m always reminding myself that I’m on a lifelong journey of eating well and exercising, not just a day trip.

I’m not a bad person if I don’t feel like going to the gym. Rather than have that emotional knock down drag out and calling myself names, I’ve learned to ask myself, “Why don’t I want to work out?” The answer that emerges is never “Because I’m a bad person.” The answer is always something tangible like I don’t feel well or something is on my mind that is distracting me. Those are issues I can deal with. This also works when I see a number I don’t like on the scale. Instead of judging, I ask myself, “OK, what are some of the reasons this is the number I’m seeing?”

We have to replace destructive thoughts with tolerant ones. It takes a conscious effort to change our self talk from negative to positive, but being fully aware of what we are saying and how it affects our behavior will turn our weight-loss journey into more than just a “Get it off me!” race to some goal we think will make us happy. By being happy in the process of losing weight, by being accepting of our bodies and what they do for us, by appreciating that we’re taking good care of ourselves by eating well and exercising, and forgiving ourselves those times when we don’t, we’re learning to love ourselves as we are in the moment.

There’s a reason, other than the baby’s physical growth, why pregnancy is nine months long. It gives parents time to prepare for the huge lifestyle change that occurs when a baby joins the family. It’s like that with weight loss, too. Every milestone, sometimes every five pounds, comes with a change to our bodies, and we need time to adjust to and appreciate that change. I didn’t start appreciating those changes until I settled my mind down a bit after losing 50 pounds. I bought some new clothes because I was still wearing the old ones, and seeing my body in well-fitted clothes helped me enjoy the body that was emerging.

This journey takes a lot of deep breaths, a lot of patience, and a lot of attitude adjustments. By being your own best friend, by standing beside yourself instead of always running away from who you are in the moment or standing over yourself like some mean coach, chastising your mistakes, you can appreciate who you are and see more clearly who you want to become.

17 comments:

  1. YES. This. Exactly this. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I'm new to your blog, but today's entry really spoke to me. I'm off to my yoga class but had to write that it will help me stay positive today. You will help me turn off the negative voice and replace it with the healthy gentle voice who says, "You can do it all in good time."

    Thanks.

    HMBalison

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  3. amen, couldn't agree more. Even though I lost slow and consistent, I still thought - just get it off me. I was just thinking it in less angry, slower motion.

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  4. Talk about being on the same wavelength with that "talking" scale! And you are so right with taking it slow on the weight loss - I can't tell you the number of bloggers I've watched who lost A LOT of weight (75 plus pounds) quickly, only to gain it back. Slow, while boring, really leads to some major, lifelong, lifestyle changes.

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  5. I had that same "just get it off me" feelings many times in the beginning. The rational side of my brain knew it would take some time to get over 100 pounds off. Thanks for the reminder that we are not good or bad because of food and exercise choices. That's something I'm still struggling with.

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  6. I really understand this too. I have a lot to lose and very occasionally I have overheard an unkind comment or seen a 'look' and known it was about me. The truth is, the really nastiest comments, the cruellest put downs and the negative message all come from me to me. Getting away from the BAD messages we give ourselves and being more positive is so necessary.
    Thanks
    Dawn

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  7. Well said. I lost very slow, and sometimes it was depressing to see other bloggers and board participants start after me and reach goal losing a lot of weight. I figure at least I have kept off the majority of that weight and learned how to do it in the process instead of getting to goal and feeling lost.

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  8. (not anonymous, this is Ivana):

    The public needs to hear more messages like this. As much as I enjoy watching shows like _The Biggest Loser_, _Heavy_, and _I Used to be Fat_, they all encourage dramatic weight loss. I think if I had begun my weight loss watching these shows, I would have been more annoyed by my moderately paced weight loss.

    I realize that these shows want to show a dramatic reversal, but it only feeds our cultural notions of fast. (This is the country that invented fast food, after all.)

    I know there are people out there who have lost fast, transformed their lives, and kept the weight off, but I am also suspicious of this approach.

    (Now if I can only lose these additional 7 pounds in the next year!)

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  9. All or nothing... hmmmmmmm... I have *no* idea what that's like! Haha! Sounds like your friend, Debbie, and I would get along famously. Perfectionist? Yep, I'm sure she is!

    This is great advice and it also is perfect timing. I don't have a lot of patience for this weight loss thing, I'm trying, but that damn centipede wants to get the best of me. I will not let it. I will stay committed. Love you, sister!

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  10. I know this is not facebook, but, LIKE, LIKE, LIKE, LIKE! My last 20 pounds have a very loud "good person", "bad person" voice. I need to practice being my own best friend! Right now your blog is one of my best friends in England!!!! Thank you!

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  11. Lynn, how long have you been meditating? I started doing it about 6 months ago to help with stress and to increase concentration (amongst many other things).... It's worked wonders for me.

    Sometimes I'm apprehensive about telling people other than my wife that I meditate, because it seems so many people misunderstand it or think I'm a weirdo for doing it.

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  12. Ivana, those fast weight-loss shows worry me, too, because the most people without the constant support provided by those shows can't do it, shouldn't do it, and will not keep it off in the long run. I'm afraid shows like that are more discouraging than encouraging.

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  13. I am also new to your blog ... down 90 pounds and I feel I need another 50 pounds to go to be where I want to be ... I so RELATE to your post ... I'm an all or nothing person ... This so helped me today as I have a stress fracture from working out too much and the incline on treadmill ... so no cardio until early March ... so I've been in a slump all week bc of it and beens "stress eating" back on track tomorrow though! Thank you for your words. Tracy K.

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  14. I want to lose weight and I am trying to eat veggies, no sugar..........but once a month or more I come and eat at KFC.

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  15. After a week of the blahs and going over my cals 3 times, I needed this! It is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time~LOL!

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  16. Thank you for writing this. I have lost 75 pounds and I have 135 left to lose. It makes me feel like my plodding pace and all the struggling with my attitude and judgment toward myself might just be normal and a good part of the process.

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  17. Thank you.I'm on the right place at last :)
    I've been playing yo-yo with 10-15 kilos since 6-7+ years. That's NOT my excess weight. That's the moving weight...
    6-7 years ago I was 95 kilograms to my 171 cms. I didn't know how easy losing 20 kilograms would have been then - Now I know, I can compar that to NOW...
    Throughout almost a decade I thought it's only physical, and all I read and heard and listened to about the topic convinced me that the fat one shall be punished with a "Work-that-body-regardless-you-hate-the-gym"-whip, and the "don't eat CH-s & ban all the fat."-spacevacuum. Everything around me said that I need to feel bad aong the way and I have right to feel good only if the scales show I lost weight.
    I have no other illegally overweight person around me, so I think I just adopted their measures.
    "Thanks" for the lack of mental coaching I weigh 119 kilograms now. In spite I lost 30+ kilograms altogether, I found myself accepting the hatred from others and myself more than ever. Because the damned kilos always bounced back, and painfully brought their pals too...
    Now I'm determined to find the right way, this time it must be forever. I'm 35 now, very fed up with hating myself and that I have never liked by body in any way. People sometimes say to themselves "oh, this blouse looks good on me" - I have never said or felt, or heard that.
    I want to live my next 35 years in good terms with myself. I started with the homework: this time I wanted to research motivation and knowhow properly, and only not study the Diet- and the Fitness Regime-part, overrun with information and think that I have the key...
    I thought I needed information, but to my surprise, I've found way more than 'information': feelings, thoughts, opinions - people who go through the same as me, experiencing the same drawbacks, fight with the same excuses, search resolution for the same problems as I have...I didn't know this is so important to me, till I read this post.
    To the hell with the tons of diet and fitness advice they push into our faces on hypercolorful pages overburdened with information more than forty libraries contain together - because, honestly, TOO much information! As many others, I feel more secure if I have information available on something BUT that is not what we need for changing a whole lifestyle forever. I know now. This huge amout of 'knowledge' is satisfying a need for the same type of distraction as at the doctor when we were children. He made us feling safe. But that is not real safety.
    I think the real need is to know that we are not alone. That we are not aliens, and even if our loved ones can't really understand what's going on, there are others who do. When everyone around me looks at me like I was a horrible person because I regained weight again, I need to feel that I am not a bad person. I need to know that everyone, including me is lying in that moment when I hate myself together with my surroundings.

    I wish it'd make sense to send this link to my boyfriend, and make him read these lines and the blog. I whish he'd understand the point...I love him, but unfortunately he is a mean coach - moreover a tad uneducated too :) He is convinced that all kind of nuts are bad for the body, because I enjoy to snack ~10 pieces of nuts in the evening, and snacking is BAAAD. But processed ham is good, because c'mon, it is MEAT =PROTEIN... He also wants me to eat more meat. I don1t get why he doesn't accept that I simply don't like meat...

    So, I think I'll keep reading your blog. And I'll keep you to myself, to be my secret weapon in my everyday, neverending battles with my boyfriend and other mean coaches, including my inner one - who says I am a very, very bad person, 20+ kgs worse than 6-7+ years ago.

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