If you know me or have been following my posts for while, you’re aware that I’m all about loving and accepting your body at what ever size it happens to be at any given moment. You might also know that I’m not a huge fan of restrictive diets or insane exercise regimens. The kind that not only negatively affect your emotional and mental well being but are also full of body shaming, fat stigmatizing messages all in the name reaching a goal weight or jean size.
So what happens when a client, a friend of mine, or may be even you, the person reading this post, loses a significant amount of weight from diet and exercise and keeps it off?
No. I don’t hate you or my client or my friend for losing weight, but I do have other concerns regarding what comes next, after the weight loss.
To get to where you are now, you’ve most likely worked your booty off by sticking to strict guidelines and possibly a restrictive diet and an intense exercise program. May be you’ve made other sacrifices like skipping desserts or sweets for a few months or waking up extra early to squeeze in those required cardio sessions, but regardless of what steps you’ve taken to get to where you are now, most likely you feel pretty proud of yourself and your discipline; you’re also loving all the positive reinforcement and attention you’ve been receiving from friends, family, coworkers and even acquaintances.
Being congratulated and complimented for hard work feels wonderful no matter what the endeavor. No doubt with all the attention you’re receiving you’re also getting asked a similar question over and over;
“How did you do it?”
Suddenly you’ve become the go-to weight loss person amongst your circle of friends. You hold the secret. It might make you feel important or even powerful. But before you sharing the list of good and bad foods in your plan or the macronutrient percentages you eat at each meal and snack with all who ask, take a moment to remember a few important things.
As much as we would like to believe our body is a machine and weight loss is a simple equation of calories in verses calories out, it’s just not that simple. There are a variety of factors that influence weight and these factors are very much unique to each individual. In fact the majority of us have an underlying biological system called a set point that prevents diet and exercise from making any amount of difference in our long-term weight loss efforts. And although the methods and strategies you imposed upon yourself worked for you, it’s highly unlikely that they will work for someone else. The truth is someone could eat the exact same way with the same foods at the same times and same amount and do the exact same exercise regimen with the same amounts and types of activities as you and still end up with completely different results. Your weight loss and your ability to maintain that weight loss are indeed abnormal. As the statistics will show you, 95% of those that lose weight regain (and then some) it at one point or another.
So even when you feel like you are being helpful and encouraging by sharing your weight loss strategies and tricks, you are most likely setting the other person up to feel like a failure and other harmful, self deprecating emotions. Remember what it felt like when you tried and failed and tried and failed again?
Pretty crappy, right?
And then there is the new you and the possibility of returning back to the old you if you regain the weight one day. Did you ever think of what your relationship with food, exercise and your body would be like once you reached your goal weight or your goal size? Most would imagine a bright light shining above their head and angelic voices singing off in the distance but unfortunately this isn’t the case.
If you’ve reached your weight loss through strict food and exercise rules, negative self-talk, negative emotions about yourself, and/or external motivators don’t expect to automatically feel blissful in your body. There will always be a constant pressure to retain your success; this means never feeling at peace within your body, anxiety and preoccupation around food and seeing exercise as a way to purge calories or as a punishment for being “bad”.
You will forever be trapped inside your “new body” until you give up the fight.
I am NOT saying to give up healthy behaviors you have incorporated into your life, I simply want to draw your attention how you feel at this point.
When we bring our attention back to how we feel in our body regardless of how much gravity is pulling at us, (weight) we can begin to respect and listen to our body as well as communicate our healthy habits to others in a non-shaming and non-stigmatizing manner.
Changing our conversation from “cycling worked for me to lose weight” to “I feel really great when I go cycling” puts the emphasis on how you feel; Making the reward of cycling into something that feels good thus cultivating an intrinsic value toward exercise, which is more predictable of maintaining long-term healthy behaviors in the first place.
Getting in touch with how you feel also helps you stick to the healthy behaviors you’ve established during your weight loss journey and may also lead to letting go of the ones that truly don’t serve you. Is this scary? Yes. But it is the first step in giving up the fight, being free of the preoccupation with your body, food and exercise and finally living a life free of body shame (which I’m guessing is what you really wanted when you started a diet in the first place).
So you lost weight…
Do I hate you? No, because your weight was never the determining factor of your health, the basis of your morality, the truth behind your personality or a measure of your beauty as a human being in the first place. It is, and continues to be, simply a number reflecting the earth’s gravitational pull - nothing more.