I saw an inspirational saying a few weeks back that made me smile. It said “You’re a ghost riding in a meat-coated skeleton made of stardust. What do you have to be afraid of?” I loved it because it points to the fact that our bodies are miraculous. Your human body - no matter what it looks like - is an amazing piece of machinery and it’s well worth taking care of!
Unfortunately, when our amazing body weighs more than we think it should, or more than is healthy for its optimal functioning, we feel bad about it. Thoughts like “I’m too fat” and “I hate my thighs” can easily overcome any positive feelings we have about it.
And how do most of us treat something we don’t like? Not very well. If we don’t believe in the beauty and overall “awesomeness” of our bodies, we won’t be as compelled to practice good self-care.
Research backs up this approach. In a Spanish study, people who held a better body image were better able to self-regulate their eating and lose weight. Researchers believe it may be due to a reduction in comfort eating and anxiety.
From my personal experience, I can tell you that when I feel better about my body, I eat cleaner, take more walks, drink more water, sleep more and practice better self-care in several other ways.
On the other hand, when I stand in front of the mirror berating myself when I’m getting dressed on a Monday morning, I’m more likely to feel upset, anxious and depressed. And that donut on the counter when I get into the office seems comforting.
That’s probably why I’ve lost weight and gained it back so many times over the years. I’ve gone on diets, though I’ve never given up the time I spend shaming myself for my weight.
Since I’m ready to get off the roller coaster, I’m taking a different approach this time. I’m not “dieting,” I’m creating a healthy new lifestyle. I’m not going to feel bad about my body as it is now. It’s an amazing machine that I get to ride around in and the better I care for it, the better I feel. Here are the three questions I’m asking myself (repeatedly on some days) to take me through a more healthy, longterm approach to weight management:
Over the last six months, I’ve spent time studying body image with Laura Fenamore, founder of One Pinky, a program focused on longterm weight loss through “Body Image Mastery.” Laura teaches that changing your relationship with your body is the best way to drop what she calls your “destructive” relationship with food. I learned why I use food to soothe my emotions, why I neglect myself and what I can do to feel more comfortable in the skin I’m currently in.
Many of us who carry extra pounds are driven by something that’s not related to food. Seeing a counselor, taking a course like Laura’s or reading a book like “Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence” can help you figure out how to improve your eating habits by finding alternate ways to soothe yourself.
If you’re looking at “dieting” with a deadline, you’re more likely to drop some pounds, then gain them back when you go back to your usual lifestyle. If, instead, you’re looking at creating a healthy lifestyle that continues well into the future, you’re on a better track. The only problem with this approach is that so many of us “cheat” on our healthy eating plan, after which throw up our hands, give up and go back to our old way of eating.
To truly get and stay healthy, you need to take a “stay the course” approach. Consistency - in clean eating and exercise - is what wins. It’s a commitment, though it’s the only thing that really works when it comes to weight loss.
Tory Johnson’s story of the results she got with ongoing effort over a long period of time really inspires me. Tory’s the host of “Steals and Deals” on ABC’s morning show, “Good Morning America.” She lost 72 pounds over a year and wrote a book about her process, called “Shift.” Her simple advice, captured in the slogan “Think Eat Move,” is spot-on, though I would add “KEEP AT IT,” which is what Tory obviously did.
Most likely, if you were really being truthful, you can take responsibility for the shape that your body’s in. Unless you have a contributing medical condition, odds are you have eaten more than you should and moved less than you need to. Why is that? Because it’s easy. Consider this:
Neglecting your body is easy. Taking good care of it? Not so much. You have to put in effort and know that it will pay off over time.
Eating out is easy. Grabbing a bag of chips from the vending machine is easy. Planning a healthy menu (including snacks), getting the right groceries, and cooking every day can be a challenge, though they can be very pleasant if you have the right mindset. With the myriad of “foodie” blogs and websites, it’s easier than ever to find healthy recipes.
Dealing with our emotions with donuts and cookies is easy. Having challenging conversations to shore up relationships that may be teetering? Or simply allowing yourself to feel sad, without soothing your psyche with chocolate? Not so much.
And finally, adding exercise to your day will take effort. You may have to get up an hour earlier in the morning to make that spin class you like. You may find yourself doing a DVD workout at 10pm after a busy day. Not so easy.
The upside? While there will be moments that may be hard when you’re first getting settled into a healthy lifestyle, making the effort - over time - is worth it.
Lori Jo Vest is an author, a social media copywriter, spouse to the love of her life, and mom to an uber-smart teenage son. When she turned 50, she experienced the typical angst about the milestone, so she started a blog to explore losing 40 pounds and leaving her 40s behind at www.dropping40.com.