For the past thirty years, I have been cognizant of my weight as it creeped up year after year. Gone were the blissful days of youth when both nutrition and activity were second nature, garnering nary a thought. Gone was my sturdy but lithe figure, which I also gave little thought.
Enter years of reading books about the subject, trying various weight loss methods and focusing on moving my body in predictable fitness activities.
Despite my resistance to dieting, I realize now just how many paths I’ve trodden on, including attempts at low-fat, low-carb, no sugar, primal and paleo, plans provided by gyms or nutritionists, shake nutrition and even forays into self-hypnosis and tapping techniques.
I’ve had my body fat assessed, parts measured, climbed into body analysis pods and gone to battle with my scale.
I’ve read about diets, lifestyles, overeating, mindful eating, the obesity crisis and sugar addiction ad nauseam, and also how food industries helped us get fat and sugar addicted, sticking us with a health debacle.
I’ve tracked food, kept diaries about mood, attempted to understand macronutrients and wrap my head around all the rules. So. Many. Rules.
No wonder most of it hasn’t worked. It’s a dizzying, mind-numbing and challenging proposition. If you were to search right now, not only could you find ten programs all saying something contradictory, but most of it would be daunting.
A few years ago, I found myself in a pretty good groove, a balance between healthy eating and exercise and the rest of life. It all screeched to a halt when menopause hit. None of my tricks worked any longer, and between whatever hormonal metabolic scenario occurred and the pity party I responded with (which included copious amounts of ice cream), weight loss became impossible.
Despite my successes or failures along this continuum, my weight doesn’t typically bother me. I’ve discovered significant insights about my health from food intolerances to internal self-loathing chatter. I’ve solved many riddles and evolved beyond it. I’ve learned to love myself at any size because my weight doesn’t relate to my substance as a person. I don’t care about weight for vanity’s sake but I do as it relates to my health.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve let go of dogma and judgment on the subject. What’s good for me might not be good for you and vice versa. What you do with your health is your business. I’ve seen low-carb work for some but not others. Some folks enjoy eating a caveman diet while others find it restricting. Some of my friends love those shake diets while for others, it’s nonsensical.
When the menopause stall happened, I dug out some old books and tried to reboot using the tools in my mental toolbox but resistance surged forth. Not about bettering my situation, but of heading down any already traveled paths that felt wrong now. I’m not willing to count calories, decipher macronutrients, weigh portions, suffer harsh restrictions or do anything too difficult to understand and maintain. Because if we’ve all learned anything from the rhetoric, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” then whatever we do has to be easy and sustainable.
I kept recalling the effortlessness of my youth and asking myself why can’t I go back to that, the logic being whatever I was doing at age 10, I should be able to do again. Somewhere after my youth I lost the ability to intuitively eat the right amount of the right kinds of foods. Like a fish on a hook, I supersized along with the food industry and went face-first down its path to eat more fat and sugar.
This was on my mind when I came across a tool that’s helping return the understanding I’ve lost. These guidelines bring freedom but clarity and it’s been easy. Coupled with the veritable avalanche of information I possess about healthy eating and what my body needs (or can’t tolerate), weight loss is happening slowly but surely. My hunch was correct. I’m circling back and eating more akin to how I did in my youth. I’m not starving. I’m not deprived. I’m not white-knuckling it. I’m empowered, relieved and at peace.
It turns out, I don’t have to buy into the multitude of doomsday prophecies I carry around from this lifetime education I’ve accumulated (some of which never jived but penned me in). Any weight loss will help stave off heart attacks and make moving around the planet easier, which has long been my goal. Perhaps I’ll fit back into the cute clothes waiting patiently in my closet. And honestly, it feels amazing to step off the not-so-merry-go-round. Let’s hope I stay off it.
This column originally appeared in The Journal on Sunday, August 13, 2017.
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