February 09, 2011

Part Three: Giving Up

I'm talking weight loss this week.  If you missed The Prologue, Part One, or Part Two check them out first. If you are not into this kind of stuff, here is your warning:  Go ahead and skip this one.

So my first adult foray with Weight Watchers went well, for a while, but as I mentioned it felt like a huge life sacrifice.  I realize that not everyone is like this, but I can become a bit obsessive when it comes to data tracking and food logging was no different. It became the thing I thought about most, and began to affect how I felt in all aspects of my life. There were weeks when I did everything right and lost no weight. Then there were weeks when I did nothing right and lost tons of weight -- and the lack of rhyme or reason felt frustrating to me. It just didn’t compute for me that if points were the only variable, how come I could never count on success at the scale?  There had to be other factors involved.  The one size fits all approach, and its emphasis on calories in/calories out, which is a giant oversimplification of how weight loss works, made Weight Watchers feel like a temporary solution to me that felt unreasonable for the long run.  I wanted to find a lifestyle I could maintain.

(Sidebar: I know things have changed about the program these days and there is more of an emphasis on whole foods, and I don’t mean for this to be an all out assault on Weight Watchers; however, it obviously did not work for me.)

So I gave up.
From where I sit today, having lost a significant amount of weight easily and without sacrificing my life or sanity makes this a convenient literary turning point.  But at the time giving up was a leap of faith and my success certainly did not happen overnight. What I realized was that I wanted to lose weight, but I wasn’t willing to do something that didn’t feel right to get there. I decided I would rather be fat and happy, than miserable all the time worrying about it. And it was the best decision I ever made. I want to shout from the rooftops that if you are not experiencing success with losing weight, or if you are beating yourself up about your lack of “self control”, or if you are “doing everything right” but giving up other parts of your life that bring you joy: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.  THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS FOR YOU.

But I didn’t know all that in the moment that I gave it all up.

And as you might have guessed, I gained most of that weight back and then some over time; probably 6 or 7 years. And in the meantime I did feel varying levels of guilt and went running back to Weight Watchers here and there, but it still didn’t feel right and I never had long term success again. There were times when I would feel like an absolute loser that this was something I could not get under control. But there were also so many times that I would feel really at peace with my decision not to obsess. Sure there were days I struggled with the idea that I wasn’t a person who wasn’t skinny, but I had great friends, understanding family, a loving boyfriend, and I just wasn’t going to feel bad about this one thing for the rest of my life.

And then the strangest thing happened.

When I really decided to give up on trying to lose weight – or rather, when I gave up my drive to pursue the physical ideal, I started eating more intuitively. I started to think about food as something nourishing, not something I was at war with. I began to think about what I put in my mouth, researching the benefits of a whole food diet vs. eating processed foods or eating "everything in moderation”.  I also began to learn about where my food came from and made the decision that Factory Farmed meat was not for me. During that time period I tried many diets that my body didn’t thrive on -- and it wouldn't be until later that I would discover why some of them didn’t specifically work for me -- but I was open and it was all because I had given up on Being on a Diet.

One of the most important things I did along the way was learn to cook. I challenged myself to learn different techniques and different cuisines. I discovered a passion that had been dormant in me, and that alone ended up being one of the healthiest things I have ever done for myself. I can honestly say I don’t think I would have spent years exploring my culinary side had I not let go of measuring every single thing I ate, or more importantly the guilt I felt when I didn’t.

Giving up was one of the many secrets to the success of my journey. But at the end of the day, I still had weight to lose. And that weight had its consequences.

In Part Four I will tell you about the turning point that made me seek out professional help and realize it was time to get back on the horse. This time I approached things in a completely different way and gained new knowledge that has ultimately helped me lose 70 lbs so far.


Youth In Europe said...

love love love your story Holly! You say things so well.

I have to constantly pull the brakes on my drive to obsess. I think often about the phrase 'fat and happy' and look back at how often that has seemed true for me.

Cheers to a transforming and freeing approach! looking forward to part 4!

L said...

I'm enjoying this series Holly. AND ever since you mentioned loving being efficient at work (over at Bodies methinks) I've been thinking about that topic as well and lamenting that no one talks about work on the inet for obvs reasons but STILL.


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