We’ve all seen those diet commercials where a beautiful, happy, slender woman is talking about her weight loss as she stands beside a life-sized photo of herself “before” she started her diet. In the photo, she looks sad and miserable. Then at some point, she looks at her “before” photo with such disgust and disdain and pushes it away, out of sight, showing that she has no feeling or connection to that picture. Can you relate to that?
My Experience of Wasting 33 + Years Waiting for Perfect
I sure can. Despite feeling that way in the past about myself, having wasted years hating and resenting my fat thighs and curvy body, now when I see those commercials it just makes me want to cry. Like most women, I was raised to believe that my value was connected to my looks and my ability to be attractive.That’s why I was so hell-fire bent on getting thinner.
For years, from the time that I was 11 until just a few years ago at 43, I pinned all my hopes on the belief that losing weight would make me happy. So I procrastinated and put off and avoided so much. I cancelled vacations because I didn’t want to be seen wearing a bathing suit. I avoided parties, weddings, dancing, social occasions, because I thought I was too fat. I never had anything nice to wear, because I wouldn’t go shopping until I was down to my ideal weight. I kept on waiting and saying, “If only…”
During those 30 odd years I wasted so much precious time thinking about what I weighed, how I looked, what size I was, how much I was eating, if I could eat, and when. All the things that had nothing to do with what was my real problem, a painfully low self image.
Being Fat is Just a Symptom, It’s Not the Real Problem
For most of my adult life, I was completely fooled into thinking that I was miserable because I had fat thighs. I never considered the possibility that I had fat thighs because I was miserable. How ’bout you? If you’re struggling with being overweight and you’re unhappy, do you know why you’re so miserable? Well I’ll tell you one thing. Depriving yourself of foods you love, won’t help, it will only hurt you. Here’s proof:
Why Diets Don’t Work For Most People
According to the latest results of a composite study done at UCLA, Traci Mann, Associate Professor of Psychology at UCLA and lead author of the study said, “We found that the majority of people regained the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.”The reason stated for this is that diets don’t address the emotions that push you to eat when you’re not hungry.
Over the past several years that I’ve stopped dieting and committed myself to focusing on controlling my emotional eating, and changing my life from the inside out, I’ve learned several truths that have successfully freed me from my body-hating/food-fueling beliefs that I’d like to share with you. Here they are:
It’s Not What You’re Eating; It’s What’s Eating You! In her book, Breaking the Link Between Abuse, Stress and Overeating, Doreen Virtue, Ph.D, says, “Every extra pound you carry on your body equals a pound of emotional pain you’re carrying in your heart.” If you consider the excess weight, those extra pounds and inches that you carry on your body, as a measure of emotional pain that you hold in your heart, it’s more likely that you will find your way to being more compassionate with yourself.
Food Isn’t What You Really Want: Your cravings are really unmet emotional needs in disguise. When your brain gets triggered with the urge to eat, it is not because you lack will power or discipline, it is an instinctual survival-based response to dealing with your stress. Your desire is not really to eat the food, but to recreate the happy emotions that you have associated with the foods you enjoy. As an emotional eater, your brain is wired to recognize that eating those foods will ease your stress. During those times when you overeat, forgive yourself, let it go and move on, being willing to begin again, and again, and again.
It’s a process: Unfortunately there is no magic bullet or quick fix that will get you down to your ideal weight in a flash, short of sustained torturous deprivation. And 9 times out of 10 your weight will soar right back up after a long period of being deprived. Getting thinner is going to take time. In order to do it successfully, your body has to reorganize itself to think and feel differently about food. Since it is a learning process like riding a bike or dancing, you’re going to have to fall many times before you get it right. Diets keep you focused on thinking like a dieter which only perpetuates the deprivation response, the feelings of scarcity and the focus on food. Dieting reinforces dieting. They do not encourage self mastery around food.
No More Dieting: As long as you continue to diet, you’ll remain fearful of certain foods, thinking of them as fattening. Trying desperately to avoid them, you’ll only want them more. Diets focus on depriving you and that only feeds the compulsion to get more of what you don’t think you can have. I recommend learning how to feel safe around real food and eating in response to your body’s natural hunger. Eat the foods you crave, guilt free to break out of diet prison. Legalize all foods.
Make Peace with Your Hunger: Unlike what dieting has probably taught you, your hunger is nothing to fear. It is completely natural. It’s a physiological response indicating that your body’s energy reserves are running low. It’s not dangerous and if you don’t get something to eat instantly, you won’t suffer. And there is no benefit to trying to avoid it by constantly snacking and eating all the time. Doing this will only dull your senses and make it more difficult for you to tune into your body when it actually is hungry. In order to get thinner without dieting, it’s important to eat when your body is really hungry. Generally speaking the three squares a day + snacks rule is far too much food for the average person. It’s important to remember that our bodies only require refueling every 6-9 hours. This is the amount of time that food remains in your stomach after a meal. If you feel the urge to eat more often than that, your hunger is not physical. It’s emotional.
Be willing to dig deeper – In order to break the emotional food = comfort link, you must begin to become aware of when you are eating to soothe your emotions. Unless you deal with why your body has a need to unconsciously hold onto your weight, your voracious hunger and tendency to eat mindlessly will remain a problem. That means that even if you lose weight like the 98% of people who participated in the study, your body will find it’s way back to regaining it. You must be willing to dig deeper to find out what’s really behind your emotional eating. To get to the bottom of why you’re eating, be curious, not critical.
Really stop to consider what side benefit you’re getting by being overweight. For me, as a woman who was sexually abused, being fat created a barrier of protection and made it possible for me to feel safely invisible and avoid all the attention that I didn’t want from men. In terms of my relationship with my husband, because I felt so uncomfortable simply refusing and saying, “No” to sex, I used food to set the boundaries for me. At one time, I had gotten into a habit of eating a pint of ice cream each night. By smiling and saying, “Not tonight, Honey, I have a stomach ache,” It was my way of distancing myself and feeling safe without having to risk rejection. And as a businesswoman, being overweight enabled me to create the illusion of being strong enough to deal with the big boys by ‘throwing my weight around’. Consider there’s more to your thighs than what meets your eyes.
Put the emphasis on how you feel: To break the connection of eating for comfort, you need to reset your focus and become mindful of what emotions you are experiencing. Many people like to journal to become more aware of what is going on in their head. This can be helpful as long as it’s done without judgment. Your goal is to look for patterns and notice when your eating goes out of control and what events in your life preceded the binge.
Cope with Your Stress: No matter how you slice it, it still comes down to dealing with your emotions rather than stuffing them. Rather than journaling, I prefer to use a process called Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. It’s a simple tapping process derived from the ancient healing art of acupuncture. It works on the basis of breaking up the energy blocks in your body that are the cause of all your negative emotion that push you to eat when you’re not hungry.
The bottom line is that in our pluck and tuck, thin is in, beauty in a bottle culture, we’ve come to devalue the person in favor of the packaging. Please remember that you are so much more than just a number on the scale and there is so much life to be lived between the spaces of where you are now and where you want to be. Please don’t waste a moment of it waiting for perfect.
The truth is none of us are perfect; we all have our flaws, and to accept them means we have the power to rise above them. As I continue to learn myself and teach my clients every day, by opening your heart and accepting the ‘before’ gal you are right now, you’ll be ready to love the ‘after’ gal you’ll be. I urge you to take my advice and use the tips I’ve shared. They will help you melt away your resistance and fear of losing weight by giving you the time and space you need to get thinner slowly and effortlessly without dieting once and for all.