Do you think that anyone can lose weight if they try hard enough? We have been taught that intentional weight loss is possible, that it can happen for anyone, and that it is the golden ticket to living your best life. That makes it hard to stop attempting to lose weight. To make it harder, everyone has heard about someone who has lost weight and kept it off, which makes everyone think that it's their fault if they can't do it too.
I'd like to remind you, there is a lot you don't know when you hear the "success" story. Let’s make sure we aren't looking at these stories with rose colored glasses.
(I would also like to remind you that the fact that anyone even tries to lose weight intentionally is inherently fucked up and comes from our thin obsessed society where everyone thinks they will be better or healthier when they are thinner. It’s ok that you want to lose weight, I honestly don't blame you. It’s understandable in our culture, and it’s not your fault, but this is a message you’ve been told and a bill of goods you’ve been sold and it’s not actually the key to happiness. )
Back to our “success” stories. If the weight loss was intentional, please keep in mind that often people who have kept weight off have adopted disordered eating behaviors which are using up valuable mental and physical energy and eroding emotional well being. The body is likely stressed and undernourished and the person may be constantly preoccupied with food. Energy and mood may be lagging. Sex drive may be low. Fear of regain may be high.
A person’s social life may be compromised because they can’t do things where food will be involved. Body image is in the toilet because it’s based on something that changes from day to day. Joy and pleasure may be seriously lacking. Or maybe someone's weight loss is new and in the honeymoon phase with rebound waiting right around the corner, with extra friends to bring to the party. Does this sound like success to you?
How come we think it is so easy for other people? The truth is, weight loss is so hard to maintain that they can't even do studies to see if weight loss improves health because there are not enough people who lose it and keep it off long enough to do the study. Do you still feel like it's just you that is a failure?
I mention this to help women unhook and detach from the stories of "success" that we hear. Thinking that we are the only ones who struggle to keep weight off can keep us stuck indefinitely in diet mentality. There is a reason that 80% of Weight Watchers business is made up of repeat customers.
So forget about everyone else. No matter how it appears or what you heard, you will never know what is going on with someone else. Everyone has different body stories. You have no idea what has led to their "success".
Instead, you do you. Eat what makes you feel good. Explore and experiment if you don't know what feels good. Move in ways that feel good. Again, explore and experiment if you don't know what feels good. Make self care and self compassion essential ingredients for daily living. Prioritize reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, learning how to handle your emotions and finding creative outlets where you can express yourself.
It’s your choice. Do you want to be consumed by daily thoughts of what you are going to eat today? Do you want to constantly be placing your power in the hands of others - letting what they think of your body rule your every move? Do you want to base your self worth on your appearance which will inevitably change with age among other things? This is what "successful" intentional weight loss is asking of you.
To heal from disordered eating, fear of food, and poor body image, the pursuit of intentional weight loss needs to be tabled and put away high on a shelf where hopefully it will remain dusty and forgotten for the rest of your days.
All bodies are good bodies. Work on accepting your body. Be grateful for your body. And let go of what anyone else is doing with their body.
January is coming and the dieting is unfortunately going to be inevitable and diet talk will be unavoidable which is why I wanted to write this post. You are going to hear about so and so and so and so and what they are doing and how it's "working". When that happens, pause. Define "working" for yourself. Define what you want your mental and emotional health to look like. (You can also make a mental note to check in with them in 6 months and see how it's all going.)
Review your dieting history realistically, recognizing that the reason you have had to do start over and over is because diets don’t work, not because you have failed or done it wrong. Define how you want to live your life and what feels good to you and sustainable and what brings you comfort and pleasure and allows you to live in your own skin and have your own back.
If you still choose the path of intentional weight loss, I understand, and I wish you luck. I’ll still be here when you change your mind.