Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When's This Gonna Get Easy?

I have been thinking today about this thing we call a "weight loss journey" or "losing weight." I have always tended to look at it like a contained *thing* or maybe a certain chunk of time. Something I could mentally pick up and put into a box. It is a thing composed of a lot of components, such as exercise, eating healthy, buying more vegetables, lifting weights, that kind of thing. And although I have ALWAYS tried to look at this journey as a "lifestyle change" rather than a "diet," there was, in my mind, a defined beginning and end to the experience.

You start your lifestyle change with a start weight. You work, over time, to reach a goal. Maybe it is a goal *weight* or a certain BMI or a particular clothing size you want to wear. Maybe it's just to get out of the "obese" or "overweight" category and feel like a normal person. But we always have some kind of goal in sight. Right? I want to lose at least 110 pounds, total. Maybe more. But see, in our heads, we imagine being in *that place* where we won't have to work so hard to lose weight anymore.

But you know what? I don't think it's gonna happen. Oh, I do think I will reach my goal, and you certainly can reach yours too. But I realized, today, that there is not going to be an end. This is more than understanding that I am not on a *diet* that I can "go off of" eventually. This is more like, "hey, I had better get used to paying serious attention to my weight, my body, my food and my activity level, because the only time this is gonna end is when I die." It's like I was going along today, fixing my healthy meals, riding my bike, lifting weights, and BOOM. It dawned on me. This has to BE MY LIFE if I do not want to get fat again. When I hit my goal I cannot just say, "YAY! I DID IT! I lose the weight, I am done, I don't have to lift weights and ride that stupid bike anymore. I don't have to count calories anymore. Now I am normal." Because if I do that, I am going to gain the weight right back.

I've watched it happen to so many bloggers (and other people who lose weight). Get to goal, their guard down, and *poof* they are gaining weight. Ya know what? That will be me. Or any of us, if we do not embrace and incorporate our changes into our psyche and our life.

It is essential that I not only lift weights, but that I *become* a Person Who Lifts Weights. It has to be who I am. Not that I am going into professional body-building, but that it has to be part of who I am, just as much as I am a Mom Who Loves Her Kids and a Lady Who Cooks. We all have many facets, but there is a huge difference between having a task you do for a time, and hate it... and being a person who does something because it is part of who you are. If I hate my bike and always think, "ugh, I have to exercise, this SUCKS but I have to get the weight off," I am going to QUIT biking when I get the weight off, and I am going to gain it back. Period. So I have to either a) embrace the biking and be a Woman Who Bikes, or b) give it up and find a difference form of exercise that I can truly embrace.

Similarly, I have to be a Woman Who Eats Vegetables, and not just a fat woman who is eating a salad to lose weight but really wants to binge on candy bars. Some people say it's "thinking like a thin person" which may be true. If I *am* a thin person someday, I cannot keep thinking like a fat person or I will gain back the weight.

So instead of dreading the weight lifting, I am working on my mindset and embracing it. Instead of grumbling about how I don't feel like eating those stupid green beans and I really just want some ice cream bars, I tell myself, "I really enjoy vegetables. I am glad I am eating healthy. I don't even like that nasty junk food."

When I was 18 and in college, my best friend and I decided we were really fat chubbers. We both were 5'7ish and 140-145 pounds. We both had a real major addiction to sweets. We were poor students, so we didn't get them very often. But I remember many a time when we would scrape our change together and if we could come up with 50 cents, we would race down to the vending machines in the apartment lobby and buy ourselves a pack of Reece's Peanut Butter Cups. We were practically drooling and shaking as we would unwrap the orange paper, and each of us would delicately take our Cup and bite into it. We would roll our eyes in ecstasy, mmmm-ing and ahhh-ing at the wonderful taste. Well, we really thought it was bad that we were so drawn to sweets. When we were home on break we would whip up tons of cookies or sweets and eat them. So, seeing how we were both in psychology classes, we decided to do aversion therapy on ourselves. We sat down and thought. What do we both HATE? What is the most vile, nasty food we can imagine? We settled on cottage cheese. Our roommate had a tub of that in the fridge, so we could sneak some from there. Now, what about the sweets? Another roommate had some honey. Honey was sweet. So my friend and I each took a heaping spoonful of cottage cheese and drizzled it with honey. The idea was to make us had an averse reaction to anything sweet by associating it with something vile. Well, on the count of three we each shoved our spoonfuls in our mouths, chewed and gagged and went racing for the bathrooms, retching. My friend was seriously hurling. It was a nasty, vile experience, but guess what. It didn't make us hate sweets. ;)

In reality, we can't make ourselves hate sweets or chips or other junk we crave by dipping it in cottage cheese, but we CAN change our mindset and even convince ourselves to no longer want those foods. In my 20's there was a time when I decided not to eat chocolate anymore because it was a trigger food for me. I made it easy to refuse offers of chocolate from friends by saying, "No thanks, I don't like chocolate." Of course, I got lots of weird looks, but after awhile, it was true. I didn't like chocolate BECAUSE of what it did to me. I didn't like chocolate because it made me break out in fat. It made me crazy, it made me binge. I went a long time without chocolate. And I was fine with it, because I had embraced... internalized... the change.

So my answer is, this is never gonna get easy, Lyn. It will get easiER, for sure, because as good habits are formed they become more automatic. As I change who I am on the inside, the outside will change. But I will always have to be on top of it. I will always need to exercise, always need to eat healthy foods. The hardest part is the mindset, and once that changes, the rest gets easier.


Anne said...

I've relaised that I'm succeeding this time as I realised that this had to be forever! LOL there has been few detours along the way and there will be a few more.

Past "diets" didn't work as it was for me just a means to get slimmer so I could go back to old habits (and then gain it all back again).

I don't think it ever gets easy, but new habits do kick in and stay with us.

Hillary said...

So how did you let chocolate back into your life? Is it still a trigger for you now?

I like hearing your insights, but am also curious how you've been doing with your healthy lifestyle recently...will you be continuing to post your eating and exercise to keep you accountable (and inspire us)? Hope things are going okay. said...

I so totally agree that it has to be a change in identity, self-perception, not just something we do for now. I used to identify as a Person Who Hates Exercise, but now I am an Athlete and I love it! said...

I should add that I'm working on changing my identity around food so I'm not a Forever Fat Person any longer. That one's been trickier for me.

Marshmallow said...

I think this is the reason why I gave up on weight loss altogether, and started practising HAES (Health At Every Size) - I realised that there IS no end to it, and instead of a numeric goal to 'end it all', took the end goal away altogether.

And you need to find a way to make it enjoyable. If you don't like biking, then don't waste your time doing it - you only live once. I'd much rather do Body Jam or RPM or go swimming than go for a hike.

It takes time, and sadly, time is the one commodity that everyone doesn't seem to have enough of, in a convenience driven world.

As for the 'thinking like a thin person' thing, I think its more to do with finding a way to enjoy being healthy - which encompasses physical, emotional and mental health. That, I think is the key to going from 'dieting' to 'lifestyle change-ing'.

new*me said...

Healthy exercise and healthy eating habits are there for everyone, not just us overweight folks ;) Overeating and being sedentary is just not good for anyone. Fat or thin. I think in order to do this for the long haul, you have to have that clicking moment when you figure out you want to LIVE and LOVE your body with all of the good things it needs and even the not-so-good in moderation.

I am learning to love exercise. I have to say I am getting a little addicted ;) I know I will continue with it when at goal because I LOVE it! I also LOVE the way I feel when I am eating clean. I hate the way I feel when I eat otherwise.

You can do this Lyn. Never give up ;)

Pubsgal said...

The idea of identifying myself with the change has definitely made a difference to me this time around, especially with regard to exercise. It seemed to be a common theme in a lot of the maintenance blogs that I read when I was just starting out. So like Alexia, I used to be "Person Who Hates Exercise" and am now becoming an "Athlete."

I think the HEAL perspective that marshmallow mentioned has also made a difference for me. While I'm enjoying the weight loss from my new habits of exercise and eating properly, it would be a moot point if I was also unable to meet my main goal, which is keeping my blood glucose and cardiovascular health in check as part of managing my diabetes.

What I find to give me a panic moment every now & then are the how-the-bleep-am-I-going-to-do-this-every-day-for-the-rest-of-my-life moments. That's when I find it helpful to focus on the present moment. Lesley of "A Woman's Right to Lose" describes this nicely in her FAQ under the question, "How long does it take?" (

Pubsgal said...

Whoops, that was "how the bleep am I going to do this for the rest of my life."

Excellent main post, as always!

Lora said...

What an excellent post! You raise so many valid points. It IS a mindset we have to adopt.

Thanks for the reminder!

LissaLee said...

What a lovely post! The funny thing about what you write is that over and over I have failed at maintaining a weight loss because I don't internalize your ideas. I want to eat peanut butter cups all day, dammit. Somehow, I deserve to. Because I work hard. Because I deserve delicious things. How can a peanut butter cup be so bad? Well for me, it leads to a binge. Even just one. Is avoiding peanut butter cups the answer? Would a "thin" person do that? I become very confused when I think about how to think. I know going with your primal urges for sugar leads to weight gain but can I really spend the rest of my life pretending to be another person?

Weight Loss Journey said...

Lyn - you are right on target again. I feel like your posts are written to me, about me. It's like you know what's going on in my head.

I'm struggling with changing that mindset. I eat healthy, I lift weights, I do cardio, but sometimes I think, this isn't me and I can't do this forever. When will it ever end? You're right, there isn't an end. I knew that in my heart, but wrapping my mind around it is a difficult task.

Thanks again for a great post.

Heather said...

soooo true! I came to that realization as well...that this is my life and it wont be easy. even when I make my goal and can maintain my weightloss, I will still have to work hard at this.

ptg said...

Is it bad that as I read your post I went - "yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup."

Great post.

But I'd like to ask if you could please get out of my head. It's too crowded in here already and if you keep exposing all my thoughts, I don't know what I'm going to do. Ok? Thanks. :o)

MizFit said...

and I really like your emphasis on the ER.

so true.
it is never easy (at least for me) but Ive grown more accustomed to the path Im on.

definitely easiER. smoothER. more a habit.

xo xo,


Karyn said...

you are absolutely right! In all the years of trying to lose weight, I was missing something that I have this time - a change of mind. I am truly enjoying eating healthy and paying attention to what I am eating.

Now I need to apply the same principle to exercise......

Sheri said...

Hey Lyn,

I think we are again on that same brain wave. You've written about the needs and I've written about the frustration around them today. Your post is good, because I am not on the right path, and it's helped a bit.

Ceres said...

You're onto something here, this is an excellent post :-) The goal weight is just a number, a benchmark, and I've heard many people say that getting there is the easier part, staying there is the harder part... It really shouldn't all be about the weight. It should be about transforming yourself and your relationship with food (and exercise) in such a way that weight loss almost comes as a welcome by-product. That's why it's so hard, and that's why most people give up or regain the weight they lost; because even though the numbers changed, the attitudes didn't. It's hard because you have to fight against your own instincts. You have to reinvent the way you respond to pretty much every situation. You have to challenge your old way of thinking and you own habits, which have probably formed over a loooong period of time. I think we should make this journey with our goal in sight, but mostly take the opportunity to change ourselves in the process. Otherwise, I just don't see how your new, lower weight can be sustainable in the long-run.

Hanlie said...

Lyn, I love this post! You are so right... We have to lose the weight between our ears in order to lose the weight on our bodies... and that means that we have to change our identities...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely correct. Becoming and staying thin is a lifetime commitment to dedication and hard work...forever.