How does the saying go? “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.” That’s what breaking bad habits is like and last week’s post seems to have struck a chord with a lot of readers.
I’d like to thank everyone for all of the comments, both on the post and in my email. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people have looked at the scale, or the gaping button on their pants, in dismay. So, when I wrote last week about being frustrated and angry that I’d gained back some weight, the people spoke!
I received comments of empathy as well as questions asking how I initially lost my “half a person”. So, today’s writing is a follow-up. Why leave in the comments what I can disseminate to the masses? Am I right?
So, all those years ago when I saw myself in the mirror and asked “When did I get fat?”, I wasn’t alone. Mr. Muse was right there with me. He and I had a chat about how our eating habits had gotten out of hand. He wasn’t happy with how he looked or felt, I wasn’t happy with how I looked or felt, and since it’s always better to have the household on board with making life changes, we decided to do it together.
I’m pretty great at research, even if I do say so myself, and I got on the internet to ferret out all of the success stories of people who had lost a lot of weight and kept it off by making reasonable changes. Neither of us wanted to diet. That word is a dirty, nasty cuss word if ever there was one – and I swear a lot!
We are also somewhat boring eaters when it comes to day-to-day fare which made it easy to make some of the initial adjustments. We didn’t go through the house, throwing away food from the cabinets in some wild, “OMG! Get it out now!” rush. The first thing we did was buy a food scale and following the recommended serving sizes on what we were eating.
Did you know that a serving of Triscuits (this was pre-gluten-free) is only 6-7 crackers? No fooling. As people who had mindlessly crammed them into our maws, THAT was a difficult cracker to swallow.
The second change we made was eating off, or out, of smaller plates or bowls. Food looks bigger and like you have more than you do when you change dish size. Step three was breaking our habit of wolfing down our meals. Put the fork down!! Take a sip of water. Have a conversation. Take a small bite, savor what you’re eating and actually taste it. It does work.
Making the changes with food wasn’t going to do it alone; exercise is a necessity for success. I know, I know… Working out can be a super big pain in the ass, and for someone whose has an old tailbone injury that has flared up and is sitting on a “butt pillow” as she writes this – I’m familiar with pains in the ass. The trick here is to find something you enjoy doing.
When we ventured into a healthier lifestyle the first time, our dogs were alive, and though they loved to run around the yard, we made an effort to take them for walks. We scheduled evening bike rides together. Cardio shouldn’t do it alone, so we added in body weight strength exercises.
We didn’t join a gym. We moved under our own power with what we had around us. We had feet, we had bikes, we had body weight.
Motivation for Mindfulness
All of those things above were a great start, but if you’re not aware of why you’re shoveling potato chips into your face every chance you get, you’re probably not going to break the cycle. So, I tracked calories (I used, and still use, SparkPeople.com) and I thought about how I felt when I ate or drank something. Was I using food or beverage to soothe, or cope, with a stressful or unpleasant emotion? How about boredom?
It was then that I realized that I was a stress eater and drinker. As soon as my stress levels reached a certain point, I was reaching for the bag or bottle. It is my coping mechanism. I say “it is” and not “it was” because each time I’ve become too stressed out – that’s what I do. Salty, fatty, sugary: that’s what I want, in solid or liquid form.
Thinking about how I felt before I reached for anything that fell under those categories, and how I felt afterward, helped. I built up an awareness of my triggers (work stress, every time, so far), and that helped me recognize earlier when I was reaching a bad point.
Be Healthy, But Be Happy, Too
When it was all said and done, Mr. Muse and I each lost about 70# – in essence, combined, we lost an entire person. One hundred and forty pounds!
There are a lot of fads out there, pills, programs, imagery… “Drop 10 pounds in 2 weeks!” “I lost 25 pounds using this product!” And, folks, I’m not an expert. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian. I was someone who knew they’d reached a point where they weren’t happy, didn’t feel good, and knew changes had to be made.
I’ve never struggled with eating disorders, so what worked for me may be unwise for someone who has had issues of binging, bulimia, or anorexia. Nothing I did resulted in overnight weight loss – it took me six years to lose 70 pounds. I kept most of that off for the last eight years or so. I do not advocate any unhealthy approach to losing weight – the research is out there, those methods are unhealthy, unsafe, and don’t work in the long run.
I’m not going to lie – it’s not easy; it’s work. But, it’s worth it when your whole body and mind feel better. So, here are my tips:
- Eat what you want, but keep it to a serving size.
- Think about why you’re eating/drinking something. If it’s a coping mechanism, is there a better way to deal with the reason behind your choice?
- Don’t deny yourself of all the foods you love*; denying causes all kinds of problems.
- If you know you’ll eat ALL of something if you buy it, stop buying it.
- Set small, realistic, attainable goals: losing 5# is easier to think about than 50#.
- Expect stumbles and roadblocks in your progress; you’re human, it happens.
- Don’t change everything all at once – chances are you won’t be able to keep it up.
- Slow down, think about why you’re hungry for what you are craving.
- Move your body, do something you enjoy; if you don’t like running, don’t! Do something you look forward to most of the time.
- Schedule your exercise – if you can fit in a 20 minute walk on your lunch break, then get in your 20 minute walk on your lunch break.
- Work on having a colorful variety of food – eat a rainbow!
- Don’t worry so much about a number on a scale – focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel.
There are a lot of other things Mr. Muse and I have done to keep healthy, but those are a good starting point!
And since I restarted the adventure of losing this 20 pounds I regained, I don’t have to suck in to button my tailored pants. I call that a good start.
*A little bit on denial – please enjoy a slice of birthday cake, go out for pizza with friends, indulge in a piece (or three) of chocolate. Don’t deny yourself right out of friendships or relationships. Life is meant to be experienced and sharing food creates a sense of community – be a part of your community.