Weight loss isn’t really about weight loss. If it was as simple as calories in, calories out, the majority of us wouldn’t struggle with dieting.
Innately, we all know what’s healthy and what’s not. We know vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are chock full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. And we also know that ice cream, donuts, and cookies are filled with empty calories and processed ingredients.
Yet, despite the fact that we know so much about nutrition, we relentlessly struggle with our weight and end up frantically battling the same 10, 15, 20 pounds our whole lives.
I studied holistic nutrition in graduate school, read countless books on health, and could recite the ingredients in half the foods at the store, yet I was sitting on my couch every night battling the urge to dive into a gallon of ice cream.
It was an incessant battle. I lost and gained the same 60 pounds over and over again as I attempted diet after cleanse after detox. And none of them lasted.
Between the ages of 16-27, I went on 10-11 diets every year. That’s a whopping 116 diets. I was an expert, serial dieter. And it wasn’t until after I stopped dieting that I actually lost any weight and kept it off for good. Here’s how I shed my weight without dieting:
1. I stopped counting calories and started listening to my body.
Having spent almost a third of my life dieting, adhering to food rules, and punishing myself to be thinner, listening to my body was a terrifying notion. I had no idea how to listen to my body and not a clue as to what it was saying. But I was fed up with dieting and being caught in the never-ending struggle to be thin. So I resolved to try anyway.
I promised myself to get in touch with my body, listen to its needs, and follow its cues. Even if it meant eating donuts for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and a cheeseburger for dinner. I couldn’t spend one more minute of my time cutting out foods, restricting calories, and trying to whittle myself down to smaller size.
The results amazed me. Yes, I did want many of my “forbidden” foods at first. And I gave myself permission to eat them. But after a while, my body got tired of junk food. It wanted fresh grilled chicken, garden-ripe tomatoes, and a crisp salad. My tastes and preferences began to shift.
A spinach and onion omelet sounded better than a muffin. A salad with carrots, cucumbers, and feta cheese was more appealing than onion rings. It took some time, but when I refused to count calories and began tuning into my body’s needs, I was amazed at what it was telling me.
2. I tuned into my emotions.
It’s never really about the food. Sure, making good food choices is important. But at the end of the day, if I didn’t know WHY I was binging on the tub of icing and graham crackers, I would never “solve” my food problem.
Instead of hating myself into failure and despair every time I overate, I started being curious about what I was doing. Why did I want to binge? Why was I obsessing over being smaller? What emotions was I avoiding? Where was I wanting to escape? What was I running from?
When I began looking at what was behind my patterns and behaviors, things began to shift. Beating yourself up and punishing yourself into losing weight will never give you lasting results. But when you can shift into being curious about what you’re doing, big changes can happen.
3. I realized there was more to life than the number on the scale.
When I didn’t spend every waking moment of my day thinking about what I was going to eat, what I could work off at the gym, or where I could “cheat,” my life opened up.
I began to care about other things besides being locked in my own prison of food. I explored the things that excited me. I toured museums and the historic culture of Philadelphia. I tried a hip hop and dance class. I took ceramics and knitting with my mom. I traveled abroad. I began actually LIVING my life instead of obsessing over how thin or fat I was 24/7.
And when I got excited about my life, my interest in using food as my sole source of pleasure began to fall away.
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Photo courtesy of the author