Okay, so I am often saying that diets suck, we shouldn’t diet or attempt to lose weight through traditional means, and we need to embrace our bodies as they are. But I realise this isn’t as easy as it sounds, and sometimes we get some really intense thoughts that we need to lose weight. See, I get them too, but I’ve just taught myself to ignore them or to dig a little deeper and find out what it is that I really want. So, with the beginning of sunny season here in the Southern Hemisphere meaning more bikinis, shorts and other diet-triggering clothes, I thought I’d share with you how I do it.
Just the other day I was going to the beach with my man and none of my bikinis fit. I’d bought them all 3 years ago at my lowest weight, and then last Summer we were selling our house so I didn’t have time for the beach. Anyway, I got a little nervous, before realising that I had bought them when I was a lot smaller, and starving, and grumpy and unhappy so I grabbed one that did fit and headed to the sandy shore. But then I caught my reflection in his sunnies, and thought ‘shit, my stomach is looking a bit flabby’. So this is what I did:
- I looked up. I was sitting on a glorious beach on a Tuesday afternoon when most people were in an office at work. The waves were slowly lapping the shore, the water was crystal clear and a really beautiful turquoise colour and the sky was a perfect blue, with not a cloud in sight. It was stunning. Shifting your focus to your surroundings and becoming mindful in that moment is key to getting your thoughts away from your body. And you don’t have to be in a stunning setting to do so, even now I sit on the train and I close my eyes and just pay attention to the sounds of the wheels click-clacking on the tracks, feel the sun come in through the window and notice my breath coming in gently through my nose. It has an immediate calming effect and you realise you’re just a body on a beach, more beautiful than any body is the ocean and the sand.
- Earlier when I was trying on the bikinis and none of them fit I took a deep breath and reminded myself they are just smaller items of clothing. Clothing comes in many sizes, and these ones are smaller than my body. There are also clothes that are bigger than my body, but I don’t worry about not fitting into them. Sure, it means I’ve put on weight, but that’s because when I bought those bikinis I had counted every gram of food that had entered my lips for months, I’d trained 6+ x per week for nearly 2h a day, I wasn’t sleeping, I had called off my wedding 12 days before the date, I felt like I’d lost half my friends and I hadn’t eaten properly in months .. so I was going crazy. So I was smaller, but it wasn’t at all better. Now I’m bigger than then, but I’m happy and I eat food I enjoy, I don’t binge eat or binge drink, I go out for meals all the time, I am absolutely, positively joyful the majority of the time, I have an amazing relationship with movement and I appreciate my body for all it can do. So yes, I am bigger, but I’m happier so really, isn’t that better? (So, maybe you’re not happier. Maybe you’re at the start of your journey, and like I was at that point, you’re depressed and anxious and feel rotten, so you feel like you have nothing to lose if you diet, and a lot to gain. But I’ll tell you from someone standing 2 years on the other side: dieting and weight loss will not bring you the sort of happiness that comes from celebrating and loving your body for all it can do. Dieting will not bring you the happiness that comes from eating normally and letting go of restriction. Dieting will not bring you the happiness that you’re looking for, I can promise you that).
- Sometimes I get a thought I should lose weight because I’ve just eaten too much and feel really full. This isn’t a sign I should lose weight, it’s a sign I feel uncomfortable when I eat too much. That’s it. Even thin people eat too much occasionally. When I’ve been consistently eating too much, I remind myself to sit at the table when I eat, get off my phone, eat before I get starving and chew my food slowly. When I do that I eat til I’m comfortably full, and then I don’t feel gross after eating.
- Sometimes I think I should lose weight when I catch my reflection in the mirror, and then stare too long. I try not to look in mirrors unless it’s to fix my clothing or make sure I’m not covered in yogurt or coffee (story of my life). But sometimes I do, and I get caught doing the twirl and then think, ‘I’m a personal trainer I should have leaner legs, or more visible abs’. But then I question why? Why are those things indicators of my fitness, or my ability to motivate others during a workout, or my capacity to write programs and take people through a good workout? How would having abs and being leaner impact my ability to help my clients, other than sending them a message that they should look like that too (when I’m constantly telling people to embrace their bodies). How would being smaller make me a better person? A better friend? A better fiancée? Would it really help me feel more confident in situations where I question my abilities? No. The way to get more confident is by being better at something, and having a particular body shape is not being better at anything and confidence is NOT influenced by my weight or body fat %.
- The other day I spoke to a client about wanting to diet because dieting itself feels good, working towards a goal. So we decided to set other goals, non-diet goals, that she could focus on for the next few months. I get that feeling, I know it can seem enticing to follow a plan, and get weekly feedback from the scale, to wake up fresh and excited because today you’re working on something you want… and denying diets doesn’t mean you’re denying yourself that feeling, just get it from somewhere else. In my opinion, goals should be behaviourally based, or if they’re outcome based (like do 10 pull ups) you should set process (behaviour) goals in the shorter term – like practice pull ups 3 times per week at the gym.
- Sometimes I feel the urge to diet because someone close to me is dieting, and losing weight, and they’re in that joyful, ‘this diet is the best thing on earth’ phase and you can’t help believe them. But then I think about it, about what I’d have to eat if I was dieting, and how I’d have to ignore my hunger, and how I’d never feel satisfied, and how my weight loss would slow and I’d feel so disappointed, and how I’d get in those shitty moods because I still wasn’t at my goal weight and I wasn’t eating enough carbs and I wasn’t eating enough calories and I was constantly wondering if I’d eaten the wrong thing or annoyed because there was nothing on the menu that both suited my taste preference and my diet, and how when I diet I constantly feel ‘not enough’ because the message I am sending to myself is ‘you’re not enough’ and I think of all of that and I hear a big, fat, resounding F*@K THAT!!! And I realise that whilst my friend may be loving it, I didn’t love it, and I’m me not her and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
- I remember that dieting causes weight gain, and that they don’t work, and that they’ve never worked for me, and that I’ve always ended up heavier than when I started, and although I get little voices that say ‘but this time would be different, you wouldn’t diet you’d just eat healthier’ I know it’s a lie and I know it doesn’t work and I realise I just have to accept that fact. (I’ve written a whole post about this here.
- I use mantras. Sometimes when I’m feeling inadequate, for any reason, I just repeat out loud over and over ‘I am enough, I am enough, I am enough, I am enough’ Sometimes it makes me cry, because by saying it I realise how often I think I’m not, and I’m sorry to myself and I just am so sad for ever thinking I’m not enough, for any reason, and then I feel better and I feel empowered.
- I come home to myself. I just sit, and close my eyes, and just come back to my body. It’s a glorious body. It does some cool things (I’ll never get over the way my body can fight bugs or heal my skin when I hurt it or the way my brain can learn new things). It allows me to experience SO MUCH in this life, and I am just so grateful for everything I have experienced and that each day I can experience new things and old things, and things like seeing and hearing and feeling and touching and tasting (most of all tasting :P) and that I can get sparks when I feel my partner’s hands on my body, or feel warm when my mum gives me a hug, or laugh uncontrollably when my brother says something funny, or still feel a flood of love when I think of holding my dad’s hand, even though I haven’t done so for 7 years. I’m so grateful that I can walk up stairs, and swim in the ocean, and read cool stuff, and do handstands in the grass and run through the garden with my puppy. If I can do all these things now, why would I change anything? Maybe you can’t do these things because of your body size, but that’s not an indication you need to shrink, it’s an indication you need to practice more of what you want to do – like practice running, or walking upstairs, or do downdogs until you can handstand. If your current body restricts your movement, then change how much you move, but certainly don’t diet.
- I remember it’s just a body. This one is possibly the hardest, considering the diet-culture sodden society we live in. Our bodies mean so much to us, they’re status symbols and high school popularity passes. But you know, they’re just bodies. It’s just a vehicle that allows you to do things. The real you, who you are, you’re inside that body. That won’t change no matter what you do to the outside. Work on that instead, and you will feel 100 times better than any amount of weight loss. Buddhists say we should let go of attachment to all things, and I think this is especially the case when it comes to our bodies. There are so many reasons our bodies will change – like pregnancy and illness and injury and weight gain and age and accidents – in fact, they’re constantly changing and in 7 years not one cell in your body will be the same as it is today. You will be a totally different body. Every day our bodies change and if we hold on to our attachment to our body, we will never be happy. Let go. Just let go and let be and just be.
Breathe in. And out. And say with me “I am enough”.