Losing weight is hard. I have made this handy graph as a visual representation of why I am no authority on advice for losing weight.
In case that wasn’t compelling enough, look at how much my body has changed:
I follow some great sites for workouts and healthy inspiration. Frequently they will run a story with the headline, “5 Steps to finally lose the last 10 pounds” or “5 Ways to finally change your body”. Sometimes I think “Click bait!!!”
Everybody knows what they have to do. What I’m interested in is why we don’t always do it. Yes, you may be able to organize a list, but unless “FIGURE OUT YOUR SHIT” is on that list, it’s not gonna work for you.
When you lose a good portion of your body weight people ask you, “What did you do?” The answer for me has always been, exercise and eat right. It feels good to hear their admiration—as if I’m someone who figured out a secret they don’t know yet.
About a year and a half ago I decided I needed to lose weight in order to have enough energy to be a good mom. I got up every morning at 5:00 am to ride on my recumbent bike and watch reality tv or read. I had a calendar for the month and I had a pack of gold stars. My goal was to create a streak of 30 days where I had a star on each day. I had to prove to myself I could do it. Once again, I lost 30 lbs.
I DO know how to lose weight, but I’m also pretty good at gaining it too.
Every time I’ve gained weight, I’ve been going through some difficult stuff. I use food to cope and I spend all my free time in the company of my husband and my books. Nothing about that is so bad. It’s just imperfect.
This year I’ve been AMAZED by the progress I’ve made with running. I set goals and I accomplish them. My body can DO great things, so why do I still care so much about what it looks like?
Last weekend I was on a #runcation with my husband. We were going to run a 10k, a goal I had set that terrified me. You have to understand that when you’ve never been able to push past 3 miles in your workouts, doubling that distance sounds like a feat that will require morning, noon and night workouts and rock hard abs.
It didn’t take quite that much work (although I could’ve been better if I had accomplished those things too). I knew I had what it takes to run 6.2 miles. In training I had run 9 miles. This weekend was supposed to be my celebration. “You did it Sarah! You worked towards this and now it’s here.”
But I look at the pictures we took and I criticize my body. I say “You look so thin in the starting line picture and so swollen and whale-like in this one.” I say “Look at the spare tire around your waist! No one is going to even be looking at the cool boat you’re sitting on.”
I know these are horrible things to say to and about myself. I want to do what I know I SHOULD do, which is focus on what my body can do more than how it looks. I think the main reason I can’t is because I’m terrified that if I’m not vigilant—if I don’t watch the scale for any little uptick, if I don’t worry about losing more and lowering my body fat percentage—then I will gain it all back again and then what is all this work for?
Even the memories I’m creating of someone who is strong and determined… I would be too ashamed to reflect back on them because I’m ashamed to be fat again.
The truth is: I love myself even when I’m fat.
Being overweight is what I am, not who I am. The difference is, now I know that if I stay curious about how I’m processing my emotions and dealing with my struggles then I know I can try each day to be better.
This means that even if I have a lot of days strung together in which I don’t do so well at working towards that goal and I gain weight back again, the things I’m learning by PAYING ATTENTION and trying to be an impartial observer of my own life, those things will help me string together good days again.
You may be thinking (and you wouldn’t be wrong), “Yeah, but you’re not super fit, so the distance to fat isn’t that far off and you should be vigilant.” Guys, even super fit runners like Amanda Brooks (@runtothefinish) admit they are critical about their body after losing weight. Maybe she feels the same way.
Here’s the tough spot I’m in. I know my weight gain is related to me handling my life imperfectly. I also know that I will never be perfect. I could react by becoming a neurotic perfectionist and continue to strive for perfection. That’s not what my plan’s gonna be.
My plan is to be kind to myself because I’m trying to do my best. I’ll ask myself “Could you have been better today?” and if the answer is yes, I’ll try again tomorrow.
If we all try to do this maybe we will have a community of women who freaking love themselves instead of obsessing about what they would change to be perfect.
(Shout out to Pink!)
P.S. This pic is from a special episode of Billy on the Street called Billy in the Air. It’s amazing.