When I was 23 years old I weighed 263 pounds (119.5 kg). It was the heaviest I had ever been in my life; however, I was never a thin child or young woman. My eating habits were such in my household growing up that by the time I was 19, I had my gallbladder removed due to gallstones (fatty build-up). My diet consisted of whatever my emotions told me I needed in the moment, usually from some sort of take-out. I was, without a doubt, a very emotional eater, and to a degree, an undiagnosed binge eater as well. Over time I developed rituals that are very much in line with the behavior of binge eaters or many people who have disordered eating. I ate in secret or in isolation, I craved very specific foods in a particular order (i.e. a Chinese plate combo, with a bag of potato chips, sour straw candies, a chocolate bar, and something to drink—usually an Arizona tea). And most importantly, these foods had to be consumed under specific conditions: in my comfort zone (usually my dorm room/ bedroom), while watching a show (usually on Netflix). Usually it was dark; the blinds were closed. And I completely faded into a blissful, shameful, comforting, guilt-laden experience. This was something I did regularly, the only change being the main entree that day.
Clearly I was dealing with issues, which will be discussed in a later post. However, I share this experience with you so that you can understand exactly how much I sympathize with being unable to defeat poor eating habits. My eating ritual had (and to a degree today, still have) a very firm grip on me and how I cope with stress, boredom and difficult emotions. It is my default. I don’t think that part of me will ever disappear completely.
Since the age of 23, when I decided to lose the weight and change my habits, it has been an upward battle of trial and error. A series of short-lived successes and complete failures are what I have to show for my experiences with weight loss. I made some very big changes that have enabled me to keep some of the weight off (I am currently around 205-210 pounds. In the past few years, I have fluctuated between 195-220 pounds never quite able to move beyond my lowest weight (a short-lived 184 pounds).
I would wager that if you’re reading this you’re dealing with or know someone who is dealing with this struggle of the dieter’s cycle as well: thinking something sounds interesting, giving it a try “starting Monday,” and depending on the plan itself, you either barely last a week or you get along fine for a few months before those old nasty habits slowly creep back in and began to dominate your behaviors once again.
You’re also probably thinking that it’s all you—you’re the failure that couldn’t hack the sacrifices necessary to meet your goals. Well to a certain degree that’s true; you couldn’t hack it. Who can? Diets are not meant to be long-term solutions. They are short-cuts (sometimes ineffective ones) that give short-term weight loss, without a well thought-out exit plan, that is. Long-term weight loss is the result of small sustainable changes implemented over time that 1) enable the individual (you) to feel more in control, capable and relaxed in his/ her eating habits, and 2) allow the body to adjust to the changes being made without shocking it to such an extent that you inflict metabolic damage (mostly in extreme cases, i.e. contestants on The Biggest Loser).
Our biggest challenge is the desire of so many people to achieve a quick fix—lose the 20 or 30 pounds for the wedding/ vacation. Or, “I have a wave of motivation now. I don’t know how long I can maintain it. So let’s lose this weight as quickly as I can!”. Well, I have some very liberating frustrating beautiful terrifying news for you.
Relying on the feeling of motivation alone will likely lead to failure or stagnation in the long-term.
This may seem counter-intuitive; however, motivation is so fluid and unreliable, you cannot depend upon it to get you through those times when you literally have no motivation to push through. I’ve been stuck in a mindset where no matter how badly I wanted that dream physique, I just could not bring myself to care that week what I ate, how much I ate or if I exercised. Motivation, like will-power can fluctuate within a single day. You cannot expect to consistently run on a tank that suddenly flashes from full to empty mid-journey.
That’s what we’re up against. That’s reality.
“Well, Crystalkay,” (you might be asking), “if I don’t utilize motivation, which is the only source of fuel I have, how can I achieve my goals?”
That is the billion dollar question and honey, I don’t have a good answer because the answer is it depends.
It depends on your food preferences, your exercise/ activity preferences, your lifestyle, the level of stress in your life/ occupation, your personality, your self-discipline (or lack thereof), your goals, and ironically, your motivation. I don’t mean the fleeting motivation that convinces you to head to the gym after a long day’s work. I mean the factor that drove you to initially seek out a change in lifestyle in the first place.
Trial and error. I’m executing it as we speak. And if you want long-term health and fitness, you’re going to have to do it too.
To read more on how to even get started with the concept of trial and error in fitness and health, stay tuned as my next post will address some tips on other fuel that may help you in your fitness journey as well as useful tips that could help give your moody motivation a boost.
Stay inspired. Don’t give up. Adjust. Adapt.