(Following the strong and positive responses by readers to Point #5 - Love yourself as you are right now! from, "Once Upon a Time - The Weight Loss Myth" - Part 2, I expand a bit further here to more fully explore the topic of self-love and non-caloric weight loss from an Eating Psychology perspective.)
Let’s start at the beginning, middle, and end: In order for our body to be the weight it's truly meant to be, we need to be the person that we're truly meant to be. The idea that we can actually lose weight long-term purely by cutting back on what we eat and/or exercising like crazy, simply isn’t true. Not for the long haul at least. And when weight loss occurs under these circumstances, it’s not without stress and being at war with ourselves.
Simply stated, any weight loss strategy that begins from a place of stress, demand, anxiety, self-loathing, or hate for the body is doomed to fail in the long run. Research shows that 98% of us who diet with the best of intentions and motivation will gain all of the weight back and more within 2 years. What's missing for most of us is beginning from a place of feeling good about ourselves and being in an overall relaxed state in life. And the kicker is that anything in our life that constantly stresses us is a contributor to our weight gain, or an inability to lose it.
Calling a cease fire on disliking or even hating our bodies and our weight is an unbelievably powerful and life changing strategy. For many, lack of self-love is what causes us to gain weight in the first place. Moreover, so many of us are locked into perfectionism and are addicted to the obsession of having to have the "perfect" body. We think we will finally be happy and confident after losing weight. This is rarely the case though as we’re so much more complex than that! In other words, if we truly want to lose weight long-term, we need to lose a significant amount of self-hatred first.
What can we do that's not the same old, same old method for health and weight change? What are the strategies that have potential for making a long-lasting change in our weight, body image, and life? Let’s take a look.
1) In many cases, start by consciously taking several months off from dieting, losing weight, and just let yourself be as you are with as little negative judgement as possible. This is especially true for people who identify as chronic dieters. Get off the scale – place it somewhere inconvenient like your attic - and focus not on the scale number but on relaxing and loving yourself exactly as you are right now.
By the way, sometimes it happens that we do everything right – (you may follow everything to the tee here) - and we gain weight nonetheless. If you’ve adapted a weight loss strategy from a place of stress, this could actually very well happen. If you’re trying to lose weight and feel anxious over it, you’re then in the physiologic stress response which indeed can cause unexpected weight gain. Learning and practicing relaxation techniques is key. This is why it’s also helpful to start a weight and body change way of life by focusing on yourself with love and gentleness vs. engaging in eating deprivation.
Also, if you’re on a non-starvation diet and are consuming enough healthy fats and protein, many people initially will gain weight. This is temporary and will reverse. (Another reason to be off the scale as it has too many pitfalls to assess our success.) After sometimes years of stress and unhealthy food consumption, our body needs time to re-calibrate and re-adjust. If you were low in protein and now have increased your protein amount to a healthy level, gaining increased muscle quickly, (before losing body fat), is not unusual. This is actually a great thing as our muscle is a calorie-burning tissue. Initially though, the muscle will show as weight gain. Bottom line: Get your progress information from your body and how you’re feeling instead of from a mechanical, traditional scale.
2) Let go of your “time table” for weight loss. Frequently, it’s this approach to life in general that helped create our excess weight in the first place. Don’t bully yourself, force yourself, or be furious at yourself when you don’t get exactly what you want, exactly when you want it. Relax into your life journey and understand that what you weigh is but 1 piece of fascinating, beautiful, and multi-faceted you!
3) Many people with weight issues don't trust their body. We look upon the body with suspicion. We fear and are disconnected from our body. We want to control it, but know we can't. It's important to learn to trust the body and learn to derive some excitement and energy from the relationship with the body. Much more to the healthy and loving point is learning to slow down, relaxing into life, listening to your body, respecting and trusting it, and letting go of perfectionism, and control. Whatever problems you think your body has aren’t really problems at all. Instead they're symptoms of things that go much deeper. It’s important to learn to listen to our body’s symptoms that offer so much undigested information and wisdom. Slow down and listen.
4) Around the corner of perfectionism frequently lies self-abuse. This all or nothing mentality, we’re either on a diet doing it perfectly or completely off; eating perfectly all the time or trashing ourselves; doing healthy things for our body or the opposite - punishing it; is by itself a major contributor to the problem of low self-esteem, anger, and weight challenges. This perfectionistic mentality is absolutely ruining our body, our relationship with food, and it keeps us stuck. Therefore, it's critical to work on skewering and eliminating the pattern of perfectionism. It's time to learn how to relax, trust, and find answers within life’s grey hues.
5) It's vital for our overall health and body size to make peace with and achieve a higher level in our relationships, emotional expression, authenticity, creativity, sensuality, sexuality, opening our heart, career, communication with significant others, forgiveness, etc. All of these powerfully, positively, and literally impact our metabolism.
So many of us put so much time, effort, and money into losing weight. But, we’ve been working from the outside in rather than from our inside out. What would it be like if we stopped fighting our body fat, insulting ourselves, and started loving instead? What might we be able to discover and do for ourselves with all that extra, freed-up energy?
Tune in next time for the answers to these questions and much more in, “Nourishment for the Soul, Heart, and Body" – Part 2 of 2”.
M. David, The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, & Weight Loss (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2005)
M. David, Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind, Body Approach to Nutrition and Well-Being (New York: Random House, 1991)
M. David, Institute for the Psychology of Eating – Professional Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training, 2014, Mod. 2 – Weight Loss Clients