First, thank you very much for your comments on my post about feeling fat. I responded to some of them, and found that maybe I should write a bit more because so many questions had come up. So, this post is about the things that worked for me in the past when attempting to change my eating habits and lose weight.
As for the question of the bathing suit I have to confess that I exaggerated for dramatic reasons, I actually own a bathing suit that fits me, and has done so through weight loss and gain for years. When I bought it in 1998 or so I weighed about 67 kilos and it fit me even in the first stages of pregnancy until I reached a weight of about 85 kilos. Right now, of course, I hope to be able to fit into my new bikini again though it will certainly be a bit tight this summer.
I have, as probably most women in the first world, a long history of weight gain and loss. I also am still suffering from an eating disorder, namely compulsive overeating, though I’m much better now and still haven’t given up on healing. In fact, that’s my word of the year for this year: healing.
I still believe that it is possible to just eat, and maintain a nice and healthy weight. I don’t believe in diets. They don’t work. I also don’t believe in any diet foods, in avoiding anything; now it’s carbs again, some years ago it was fat, and I’m just now too lazy to figure out which diet craze will have a comeback after the return of the Atkins diet (I know, it’s totally different nowadays, and it’s called low carb. Whatever.)
What I aspire is a life where food, and my looks, and the question of whether I still fit into my jeans aren’t that important. And I know that it can be done. My great role-model in this is Geneen Roth who spent deacdes on the diet-carousel, was anorexic at one point, and nowdays just eats and stays the same size.
Sadly, I’m not one of those people who read a book, get the idea, and then are changed forever. For me, everything I change has to be a practice. I stumble, I fall, I start over, I stumble, I do great, I fall,…
So, without making this into a mega-post, I just give you a list of the things I changed in the past, a list of things that worked.
- I learned to love exercise and to do it regularly. I don’t do much, about 15 to 30 minutes every other day. And I do something I like doing. Something that’s easy to fit into my life. Going for walks, doing yoga with a DVD, things like that.
- I slept more. In fact that was the change that gave me the most benefit of all. By only changing my bedtime so I got enough sleep, I lost weight. I swear. So now I only have to do that again, ahem.
- I ate more real food. I found that there were three main reasons for my binges: a) I was tired, b) I really was hungry but didn’t allow myself to eat something real, and so I ate snacks upon snacks, c) I craved nutrition that I wasn’t getting, like when I’m eating only cookies they will never make me feel satisfied.
- I sometimes stayed hungry for a bit. I was eating something like five meals a day before but then I decided that if I get hungry at 11 am, and I’m having lunch at 12, I maybe don’t need a midmorning snack.
- I don’t graze. Either I eat or I don’t. No shoving of tiny little things into my mouth.
- No food after dinner. Apart from that one piece of chocolate (it’s a big piece of chocolate, don’t worry). I might, occaasionally eat crackers in front of TV but only very occasionally, and not the whole carton.
- In the evening I can have either a beer or a piece of chocolate, not both. I altered this rule later so that I’m not allowed alcohol during the week because I became worried about alcoholism in my family, and also about my son seeing me drink beer or wine with every meal, every day. And yes, it does count if you do it after they sleep. I try to model the behaviors I want my son to develop. Not only becausee it’s good for him, it’s good for me too.
- I think about my mid-afternoon snack in advance, and buy groceries accordingly. It’s no use to think I’ll skip it, especially on teaching days. I need it, and so there has to be something for me to eat. Mostly I go with a handful or two of nuts and raisins.
- Drink enough water. Apart from a cup of black tea in the morning, and those weekend beers, I drink water and unsweetened herbal tea. Somebody asked me about switching to alcohol-free beer. While I occasionally drink that it a) doesn’t taste that good, b) still has much more calories than water or tea, and c) is a very un-natural thing and I try to avoid these as much as possible in food.
- I also stopped eating sugar last year, well, mostly and when I do I prefer brown sugar over white. But that had nothing to do with losing weight, I did it because I felt addicted to it. It messes with my feeling of whether I’m hungry or not, it makes me hyper, and I feel better when I don’t eat it. (I feel like a hypocrite typing this since I just had a lovely piece of cake, I’m sitting in a café right now. So, I have cake about once or twice a month. I do better without absolutes. I also savour every bite when I eat something like that. Last year we went out and had ice cream for my birthday. It was a very pleasant experience made more special by being the only ice cream I had all summer.)
To show you how much of a difference these tiny things make, and also the fact that I’m using my bike more often instead of the car and such, I have lost two kilos since the beginning of June. Without suffering, without battle, just like that. I know that you can’t do that always, I’m living proof for that, I’m the one who gained and gained over months despite knowing what to do.
What also helps me is realizing that ultimately it isn’t that important. I could just stay this size forever, and there’d be no harm in this. But also, my life doesn’t end because I don’t eat potato chips every day. There are more important things in life, much more important things, and that’s something I want my son to know not only because I say so but because he sees me living it.