Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Mental Shift

I'm approaching the end of my fifth month on Weight Watchers, and not to sound like a heinous braggart or anything, but it hasn't gotten hard yet. I keep waiting for it to. I keep waiting for the shiny newness to wear off, I expected to get frustrated with tracking and limitations and planning. I thought by now I would have fallen off plan for a week or two and have to drag myself back to basics, I thought I'd miss pasta and pizza and butter, I thought I'd have more moments of doubt.

Not to say I haven't slipped up. Of course I have. There was a spoon/Nutella/peanut butter incident last week that was regrettable. But I've always righted myself, got back on track, and never once have felt like giving up. Talking with my mom this weekend about my progress, I think I've figured out why this time is so different than every time before.

For years, I just could not get over the concept of "fair". It wasn't fair that I was naturally bigger and had been since middle school, it wasn't fair that my thin friends could eat the same exact things as me and never gain a pound, it wasn't fair that even if I lost weight I would have to watch what I ate for the rest of my life. Every diet ended up crashing and burning under the weight of what was fair. I would get overwhelmed with the entirety of my life stretching out ahead of me, devoid of the freedom to eat what I wanted and live like I wanted. I would see my future as a prison with constant fear of being fat again, and I would crumble and give up. What I wanted was to be as lazy and self-indulgent as I wanted, with no consequences, and of course that was impossible. Unfuckingfair.

But, to put it in the simplest cliche I can, life isn't all that fair, is it? And dwelling on the unfair was getting me nowhere. Realizing that was the final part of the mental shift that has made it so much easier to lose weight.

The shift began about two years ago when I was in therapy for six months with a nutritionist and disordered eating specialist. I never went to any truly unhealthy extremes with restrictive eating or purging, but I was definitely not healthy mentally and teetered on the edge of some very self-destructive behaviors. I was very sad, very lonely, full of self-loathing, and I couldn't fix myself. I tried and tried and tried to diet, to eat well, and would always bounce between extremes, 700 calories one day and 4,000 the next, eating myself sick, a slight increase on the scale would break my heart, and I just couldn't figure out why I always ended up hiding in my car with a bag of fast food, crying.

My therapist and I did discuss healthy options, calorie intake, and working out. But our primary focus was the why. Why was it that I treated my body the way I did, why did I feel such terror and anxiety over exercise and food, why did I tie so much of my self-worth into my weight. I identified the thoughts and fears that constantly tripped me up, we unpacked the meaning behind my irrational feelings about family and friends, and she let me know that no matter the crazy things that go through my mind, I'm not the only one dealing with this struggle.

Working with my therapist did not instantly fix me. In fact, in the months after I stopped seeing her, I actually gained even more weight, getting up to my highest number ever, just ounces away from that dreaded 200. But the number was no longer the point. What I needed from her was the permission to be exactly who I was, and eat and do exactly what I wanted, and have that be okay. I heavily researched the concept of "fat acceptance", read the entirety of Kate Harding's Shapely Prose archives, and let go of "The Fantasy of Being Thin", the idea that weight loss will fix every disappointment in your life. I tried hard to believe I was beautiful no matter what my size. I broke up with a toxic boyfriend who contributed to my bad habits. I started to work on accepting myself for everything that I could or couldn't change, and reminded myself of all of things that make me awesome.

Allowing myself to be happy with who I am made all the difference. And after letting myself rest for a year, after eating whatever the hell I wanted every moment of the day and exercising not at all, a funny thing happened.

I started to want to change. Not to make anyone else happy. Not to make myself look better. Not to fill a hole in my heart. I just wanted to.

And I have.

This is what I've learned: until you truly accept and love yourself just as you are, you cannot and will not change. You cannot move forward from a place of self-hatred, only self-love will give you the motivation and inspiration you need to make the most of your life. People always say that taking care of your body and staying healthy is a gift you give to yourself, but that never made sense to me until recently. Treating myself and my body with love is not a prison sentence for the rest of my life. It's the only way I can be truly happy.


  1. Just discovered your blog a few weeks ago, & I love it. THIS POST...this concept hits home for me in so many relates to everything, not just weight. You're absolutely right, once we realize that things aren't going to be "fair", we can actually make progress, whether it be in our love lives, career, health.

    Thank you for being so open & candid! Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you SO much for the comment, Jess! I'm so glad this post spoke to you. I'm happy to know I have a reader, keep checking back!

  2. Thank you for putting in writing, and more eloquently expressing exactly how I feel. Now I just need to work on some of the action items :) Love ya, Tay!