Facing fears and finding me part two…

So, I did it! It’s been about a little over a month now since stepping foot on a scale for the first time in nearly a decade. I sucked it up and stepped on and boy, was I surprised. I weighed 40 pounds more than I thought–30 pounds more than the ‘worst case scenario’ number I had in my head! I got on and off the scale three times just to make sure.

Crazy I know. I am an intelligent human being. How could my judgment be so far off? How could I weigh that much and not have a freaking clue? I suppose there’s a thousand reasons why but none of them would have changed the number flashing before my eyes. Did I freak out? Incredibly, no. In fact, the first thing I did was say, out loud, to myself,  WTF?  Then I chuckled, because, in all reality, that’s about all I could do. Boy, years of denial and unaccountability sure don’t get a person very far.

Nonetheless, I accepted it for what it was, a number on the scale- nothing more, nothing less. The number didn’t change me as a person, it didn’t change my goals (other than I had an extra 40 pounds to lose on top of the 40 I thought I needed to), and it surely did not define my worth as a person.

As I began contemplating what to do about my weight and how obviously out of control it was, I began to think about all of my rides on the weight loss roller coaster over the years. I thought about what has worked, what didn’t, where I’ve gone wrong, and where I’ve excelled when it comes to my weight, health, and fitness. When I looked at the big picture– when I took everything I knew and put it into perspective– things became pretty clear. I didn’t need a miracle weight loss drug, prepackaged expensive meals, or a stock pile of diet shakes in a can. I just needed to take what I already knew and apply it, with no excuses, denial, or unrealistic expectations.

First of all, I know that true change takes time. So often when we “go on diet” we take drastic steps. We try to make too many big changes all at once. Although it may work temporarily, this approach is rarely sustainable. To truly achieve lasting change, slow and steady always wins the race. My ultimate goal is to be a marathon running, mountain climbing, vegan but if I woke up tomorrow and decided to do all three, I would fail miserably. I first need to be able to run a mile, climb the stairs without getting winded, and make it a week without meat before I can take another step forward. It’s much easier to change one thing and make it permanent, then to change several things at once and fail at them all.

Secondly, take the word “diet” out of your vocabulary. Instead, commit to making positive healthy lifestyle changes. For instance, the change I made after hopping on the scale was to not to eliminate 1000 calories a day from my diet but to commit to increasing my fruit and vegetable intake– a positive healthy change. Getting my fruit and veggie allotment daily has led to me increasing my water intake which in turn has led me to increase my exercise time which leads to me making better food choices. You get the picture.

Thirdly, be accountable! Record your calorie intake, step on the scale, let others know your goals, write about it, join a weight loss support group, whatever it takes to be accountable for what goes into your body. I have been using an app on my phone called My Fitness Pal. You can track every morsel that goes into your body, record exercise time, take notes etc. It’s a wonderful tool that I have used faithfully for the last month, even when I have gone over my calorie limit and haven’t wanted to admit it. There are countless other tools and apps online and for your phone. Being accountable to yourself can be difficult but the rewards are worth it. If you aren’t accountable, your weight can easily get out of hand (see above).

Next, get educated! Learn about the foods you are putting into your body and what those foods do to it. You might find that you no longer find fast food or sweets so enjoyable. I learned a lot about food several years ago when, following my sister-in-law’s example, we started eating all-natural and organic foods whenever possible. We now cook most of our meals. Frozen, processed foods are a thing of the past (the one exception is frozen pizza.) Around that same time I took a research paper writing class that was about the food industry in the United States. Because of what I learned, fast food became a rarity in our household. The more I learn, the better choices I make.

Another thing I have learned over the years is that a change in the way you think about food is essential! We Midwesterners are fabulous at rewarding ourselves with food. We indulge because “we deserve it.” We indulge because we love food. We indulge, because… well, for any reason we can think of. Have you ever said this to yourself? “I was so good this week on my diet that I deserve a cupcake (or cookie or chips…).”  No you don’t! You don’t “deserve” to feed your body trash because you “were good.” Thinking like that sets yourself up for failure. Instead, if you really need the cupcake, have the cupcake but do it because you are making a responsible choice to eat that cupcake, not because you “deserve it.” Do it because you allowed yourself the calories or spent an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill. Make the cupcake a choice and not a reward. It’s a little attitude change that can have big effects on what you ultimately choose to put into your body. You wouldn’t give an alcoholic a shot of whiskey to reward sobriety so why do we think it’s okay to reward ourselves with food when we are “good?”

Lastly, be patient. I know that I didn’t become overweight overnight, so I’m sure not going to lose it over night. This unfortunately is much easier said than done– patience can be SO hard to practice! When we lose patience, we make unhealthy choices. Maybe you’ll succumb to a harsh crash diet to drop pounds faster or maybe you’ll just give up because it’s taking too long to lose the weight. I’ve done both, to no avail. There inevitably will be days when you make good choices and days when you don’t. There will be days that running for a hour will seem like a walk in the park and other days when 10 minutes on the treadmill will seem like a lifetime. Know that it’s okay to have those hard days. Take days like that one minute at a time if you have to. With patience, those days will be fewer and farther between.

I have to consciously think of these things every single day to keep myself on track. Some days are SO hard and others, not so much. So far, I’ve lost 11 pounds in one month! It feels good to be without that extra weight. Soon I’m going to be rewarding myself, not with a cupcake, but with new pants. I can’t wait!.

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