- Are your choices extreme?
- Do you get lost in the details?
- Does the word natural help you make decisions?
After 10 years of losing a few pounds and then gaining them back, again and again, I opened up about my preoccupation with weight. I was so lost and frustrated. I just wanted my life to be normal again. For the first time being healthy was more important than being thin. To my surprise, that’s when I lost weight.
When I look back at that difficult time and think of my major turning points, all the advice I received was actually about being healthy.
When I focused on being healthy instead of being thin I lost weight.
Is being healthy your top priority? Here’s 3 questions that help you find out.
Being Healthy Test #1:
Are your choices extreme?
When I was trying to lose weight my eating and exercise choices were extreme. If I read you should eat low-fat, I went one better and aimed to eat no-fat foods. In hindsight restricting what I ate always lead to being so hungry that I’d end up eating too much. Then I’d try to compensate by overexercising or skipping a meal. I was always jerking my body around with wild fluctuations.
When I look back, everything I did was inconsistent. But our bodies thrive on dependable routines. All living things function best when they have predictable patterns.
When you put your body through extremes it’s a shock to your system. It confuses your metabolism and slows it down. A slow metabolism means your body can hold onto extra energy longer in case you don’t eat for a while. Putting your body through extremes makes it easy to gain weight.
Being Healthy Test #2:
Are you getting lost in the details?
I thought losing weight was about counting calories. I heard you shouldn’t eat after 8pm. Somewhere I read you need to chew your food 10 times before swallowing. Someone told me to only eat boiled chicken. And I was advised to eat no more than half a banana. I also weighed myself all the time. And I’d cover a frying pan with low-fat spray rather than using butter.
Every food I ate had some kind of rule.
Eating was incredibly complicated.
Pretty soon after I started dieting (and in the process gaining more weight), I worried about every choice I made. And I over-analyzed each decision before, during and after I ate. Soon I became completely preoccupied by trying to lose weight.
By the time I asked for help I was so confused about what, when and how much to eat that I was willing to take instructions. That’s when I went back to the basics and started eating 3 balanced meals a day. I picked something from every food group and put it on my plate. I just eye-balled the amount so it looked roughly like the Eatwell Guide.
Eating 3 balanced meals a day, instead of trying to follow diet rules, tips and tricks, had unexpected results. I lost weight and eating became easy. Being flexible about my food choices and eating more consistently normalized my relationship with food. I learned that eating isn’t so exact. Rough estimates will do. Stop overthinking your choices. Keep eating simple!
Being Healthy Test #3:
Are your choices natural?
I liked eating food that came in a package. It made it easy to count calories because they’d be written right there in front of me. Opening a crinkly bag that had fat-free splashed all over the wrapping made me feel good about my decisions.
Now I know processed foods usually have all the fiber stripped out and sugar and salt is added. Our bodies operate the best when we eat whole foods. Whole foods are foods found in their most natural state.
Being healthy is all about eating natural food instead of factory food. For example, try frying a fish in some butter and herbs, then squeezing on some lemon… rather than sprinkling it with artificial seasoning that’s low fat. Or put oil and vinegar on your salad instead of low-calorie, store-bought salad dressing that’s full of preservatives. And don’t be afraid of fat. Just make sure it’s from a natural source.
Keep in mind, if you eat lots of processed foods don’t take extremes by suddenly eating all natural foods. Make small changes to what you’re already doing. Then you can get used to eating balanced meals made of whole foods.
Losing weight is simply about being healthy
Once I understood I needed to have a consistent routine, eat roughly balanced meals and choose natural food, it was easy to make healthy decisions and lose weight.
Next time you find yourself at a crossroads, ask yourself “Which choice is more about being healthy?”
Stop blaming yourself. Blame your weight-loss method. Focus on being healthy!
This song feeds into the myth that trying to lose weight requires extremes, sacrifice and willpower rather than being healthy.
Diet Song, by Bobby Bare
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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
What choices do you make that are more about being thin than being healthy?
I can identify with all three of these areas. I think I have the tried every diet method! And it has gotten me NO WHERE. The latest fad I have tried was intermittent fasting and it did lead to some weight loss. But the hunger and deprivation I felt on this led to bingeing so I know it is not for me.
I have felt better in the past week just by focusing on 3 healthy meals and moving during the day.
When I feel hungry between meals I have worked on healthy snacks. I am focusing on health. This is really simple.
I love your message. It makes my heart sing!
What you describe is literally my experience and just going back to the basics and being kind to myself improved my physical and mental health.
The diet industry conditions us to believe that we have to do these crazy things to lose weight. When in reality our bodies WANT to be a healthy weight because not carrying extra weight is so much easier on our hearts, lungs, etc.
So working WITH our bodies instead of against them… allows us to naturally reach a healthy weight.
Diets work against our bodies and minds (I always, always want what I can’t have! It’s human nature to think about what you can’t have, etc.)
So meeting your bodies needs by eating a variety of natural food at breakfast, lunch and dinner (and balanced snacks made of mostly natural food between meals when you’re hungry) helps you reach a healthy weight naturally, feel great and focus on the rest of your life.
I’m so happy you’re trying this approach Connie.
It can be difficult to try something new. But you’re doing it!
I’ve been through all of these ‘phases’…the one remaining is the attention to details…I use it as a focus point – it seems otherwise I tend to get distracted and forget to focus on the changes I am working on…
I will use the elastic approach today! My self care today is having lunch with a good rarely-seen friend and a later day workout with fun peeps…
Thanks again Kelly !
I always got lost in the details because I wanted to follow my (super-restrictive) diet perfectly. And I’d worry about how many calories I ate or if I took one bite too many. When I was relying on outside indicators to dictate what I ate (like food labels) I got hung up on tiny things that don’t matter. Next I’d over-eat to officially ruin everything (build bad habits between diets) and then I’d restart my diet again.
But when I think about eating rationally, the weight I gained over the 10 years I struggled wasn’t from an extra bite or having white bread instead of brown (or any other detail). I gained weight because I was either starving or bingeing or purging… all these extremes messed up my metabolism.
But when you’re in a healthy eating and exercise routine, getting good sleeps and drinking water your body is running at it’s best and then you can listen to your body. Now I just eat ROUGHLY balanced meals made MOSTLY of whole foods until I’m full. When I’m simply listening to my body, there’s no details to get lost in!
Love that you’re meeting a few friends today (over lunch and later to exercise)!
I don’t know what to comment because I just don’t really agree with this. I think you can eat healthy and still have cravings to overeat etc if the body is out of balance from dieting. I think that different things work for different people and I definitely think this theory works for some people.
I love your comment because you’re saying what you honestly feel. Until people can be brave and say “This is my experience” they will not get healthy. I sugar-coated my experience whenever I met with my eating disorder doctor because I was ashamed. I thought I lacked willpower. I was completely confused about what was going on in my life. Fortunately, he had enough experience to give me good eating and exercise information and that helped me move in the right direction.
Had I disagreed with him or said, can you explain more about that…? He would have had the chance to help me understand the information I was resisting.
I agree 100% with your statement:
“I think you can eat healthy and still have cravings to overeat etc if the body is out of balance from dieting.”
When your body is out of balance from dieting you crave all sorts of things.
This was me “out of balance from dieting”:
I drank 24 diet cokes a day (and wanted more) and thought a donut looked delish and wanted to eat all 6 muffins in a pack… when my body was out of balance from dieting.
As soon as I got my body balanced via a healthy eating and exercise routine, I had no interest in overeating and stopped thinking about food all the time. And when I understood how whole foods work in your body (compared to processed foods that have added ingredients that:
-are more addictive than cocaine
-confuse your body
-trigger fat-storage because your blood sugar spikes with all the immediate energy that’s void of the nutrients your body craves) and started eating more and more whole foods I stopped wanting sweet-tasting food—whether it has added sugar or artificial sugar.
That’s why the first step in my book is to get your body into a healthy routine.
Stop dieting. Focus on being healthy by meeting your body’s needs (eating ROUGHLY balanced meals made MOSTLY of whole foods UNTIL you feel full – and ROUGHLY balanced snacks made MOSTLY of whole foods when you’re hungry between meals) and make these behaviors HABITS (my book tells you how to do all that).
Then… you’ll reach a healthy weight naturally and STOP craving unhealthy foods that confuses your body and causes you to overeat.
I hope this information helps you see this blog post in a new light.
If not, let’s keep the conversation going!
Again, the first step to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight naturally is to WORK WITH YOUR BODY by not dieting and instead, getting your body into a healthy eating and exercise routine. Then the cravings and overeating goes away. And this is coming from someone who had crazy cravings and the desire to overeat constantly for 10 years while I was dieting.
Thanks so much for your comment Sara!
I have definitely made extreme choices in the past but they’re usually fleeting (intermittent fasting, counting fat grams, etc.). Getting lost in details is a big one. I’m always working on the next plan. As soon as I mess up something in my diet or feel like it’s stalled I’ll give up my current diet then eat whatever I want while devising a new plan. It’s really hard to break this cycle since it’s kind of a relief to give up the diet for a while, and then kind of a rush to come up with something new that I’m sure will work this time. I struggle with thinking this way even about healthy choices. I’m either making healthy choices or I’m “off plan” and not worrying about them, and if I’m “off plan” then I’m allowed to eat what I really want. How do you keep making healthy choices when you really want something you know is processed and less healthy? I feel like I’ll never actually prefer healthy food. I actually love french fries and chocolate and don’t like to eat them in very small quantities.
When I read your comment I felt like it’s a diary entry I could have written over the 10 years I was trying to lose weight. I was ALWAYS feast or famine. One mistake and my diet was over. Then I’d feel relieved to eat and then I’d relish in the idea of dramatic change and planning a new diet. (Haven’t used the word relish before but it pretty much captures what I mean!) But those extreme behaviors PRIME your body for weight gain and make it super difficult to lose weight.
Here’s how I made food a non-issue and reached a healthy weight:
1. Visualize yourself stepping backwards, away from your goals every time you restart a new diet
Every time you stop and restart a diet you’re ingraining the starve-binge habit. You can call it being “on” or “off” a diet or anything else but the reality is it’s either being restrictive or overeating. So it’s important to stop seeing that behavior as dieting or not dieting. It’s days of your life adding up while you ingrain an unhealthy cycle of behavior. I did that for 10 years! One day when I was near the end of teacher’s college and worried my life would never change (I thought I’d stop dieting by the end of high school, then university, then the end of teacher’s college… and there I was still having a complicated relationship with food with only a few weeks left of teacher’s college) and I realized that every time I stopped and started a new diet I was getting more used to bingeing and that I needed to focus on IMPROVEMENT over every day of the year RATHER than focus on following a diet perfectly over a set block of time. So I started to visualize myself getting further away from having freedom from food obsession every time I gave myself the go-ahead to eat what I wanted because I was “off my diet”. I was starting to see that the more I was on and off diets the more I’d WANT to overeat. The good news? Just like you can get in the habit of starving and bingeing, you can also get out of the habit of starving and bingeing. Something that helped me was one night (on the eve of my 24th birthday – the same day I spoke of a few sentences earlier when I was near the end of teacher’s college) I bought a cookie from a store that only had JUMBO cookies. So I bought one deciding to only have a few bites. But I probably had like 7 bites instead of 5 and immediately thought I ruined everything. But… rather than say ok… go buy more cookies and restart your diet tomorrow I decided to just stop there and try to improve next time. And even in the middle of the night I thought I was “lazy” for not planning a new diet and it felt so wrong not to do what I always did… But the next morning I felt so amazing that I didn’t put my body through all those extremes. And that one experience of “moving forward after a mistake” (rather than planning a new diet) was SO POWERFUL for me. It helped me not be so stuck on my OCD thinking of being ALL or NOTHING. Instead I started focusing on being KIND to myself and kind to my body [rather than sticking to a (random) diet PERFECTLY]!
2. Slowly break habits
And… just like you can get in the habit of starving and bingeing you can also get in the habit of LOVING natural food over fast food and food with few nutrients (empty calories). For one, once you stop restricting and start adding healthy fats into your diet you feel less deprived. Like I eat french fries but now I prefer/am in the habit of eating the homemade kind (slicing potato wedges, tossing them in virgin olive oil and then cooking at 350 degrees until desired crispiness – and flip them about 20 minutes in. I also keep the skin on because it’s packed with nutrients & fiber). Here’s a blog post that helps you break unhealthy habits and build healthy habits slowly. The idea is to do what you normally do and just do it a little less until you create your NEW normal. For instance, you could keep track of how often you start a new diet. Then try to start a new diet one less time a day, week or month depending on how often you do it. Be kind to yourself and recognize it will take time to get out of the habit of bingeing and restricting. But you will start to crave and desire healthier foods. As I said to Sara in her comment (further down this page) I loved diet coke, craved donuts, wanted to eat a whole tray of muffins all the time when I was restricting. But that desire went away when I started “feeding” my body the nutrients it craves.
When you learn that touching a hot stove burns you have NO DESIRE to touch the hot stove. When I started to understand the role fiber and whole foods have in my life compared to processed foods that have added sugar and chemicals that confuse our bodies it was SO MUCH easier for me to not desire pretzels, sugary food, etc. (that have limited nutrients and therefore keep you hungry), etc. Understanding what healthy eating and exercise looks like and having a STRATEGY to slowly build healthy habits makes all your decisions easier.
I think that building in accountability would help a lot. It did for me! Think of a friend or family member who you can check in with each day or week to report back on the habits you’re breaking. Just pick ONE habit at a time (like not restarting a diet) and try to not restart a diet one less time each week. Your healthy choices will make you feel great and build momentum and you’ll be surprised by all the improvement you make.
THANK YOU for your awesome question Madeline! You really sound exactly like me except I purged too. So I know you CAN get healthy and enjoy your french fries too. Eating fast-food french fries once in a while if you want them is no big deal! It’s not the french fries that are the issue… it’s the food you eat *after* the french fries because you’re in the habit of thinking that eating them is ruining your diet.
Focus on improving your day-to-day lifestyle – making the most of each day even when you make choices you regret. MAKE TODAY COUNT! Soon you’ll be in the habit of making more moderate decisions and your body will thank you!
My comment above didn’t mention the scrunchie wrist swap. I found it interesting but not always easy to remember. I guess it takes practice. I did have one moment where I asked myself what was the healthy choice, but I didn’t want to take that choice. Sometimes even making healthy choices feels like a form of restriction since I’m “not allowed” to choose the less healthy one. I understand that isn’t really true, I can have it if I want it, but then what is the point of asking the question? Maybe I shouldn’t ask, but should just try to build small healthy habits, like you’ve mentioned before. Sorry if I ramble when I answer these questions! When you mentioned you had OCD symptoms, I immediately wondered if I do too. Or maybe all of my years of dieting has contributed to this disordered thinking.
You’re not rambling at all Madeline! Thanks for the great feedback.
The main purpose of switching the scrunchie or elastic from wrist to wrist, is to become aware of how often we make choices based on diet rules, tips and tricks vs. based on what’s the healthy choice.
*Keep in mind: The healthiest choice helps you lose weight naturally
When you build healthy habits not only do you reach a healthy weight, you also PREFER healthy food to diet food and prefer healthy food to processed food that confuses your body, keeps you wanting to eat and gaining weight.
So… I think you hit the nail on the head when you said:
“Maybe I shouldn’t ask, but should just try to build small healthy habits.”
When you make changes S-L-O-W-L-Y it’s easier to get used to the change and make it lasting.
…And don’t feel daunted!
I used to drink a case of diet coke a day because I thought that was a good diet choice (I was wrong!) and I also thought that a donut looked delicious! Now that I’m in the habit of eating ROUGHLY balanced meals and snacks made mostly of WHOLE foods I don’t crave or desire either!
Re: OCD –
Click here to read about OCD.
And here’s my experience of getting help for OCD.
OCD is often when you get caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions that make you feel anxious until you act on them. For instance, I’d become obsessed with thinking I ate one bite too many and feel anxious until I did something to “fix” that “mistake”. Like exercise to make up for it or binge to officially ruin my diet so I could start again tomorrow and have another chance to follow my diet perfectly. (Reality: that’s me totally lost in the details – eating isn’t so exact! And bingeing and or purging pushes your body to extremes and confuses your metabolism which makes it hard to lose weight and easy to gain it.)
The common OCD-thinking example is:
not being sure if you locked the door so you feel anxious until you go back and check it. OCD can manifest in a variety of activities. Food is just one of them.
And you’re right—years of dieting can condition you to think about food (often only) in terms of dieting.
I love this statement “When I’m simply listening to my body, there’s no details to get lost in!”
Thank you Elaine!
I LOVE hearing what resonates with people.
External cues (like weighing ourselves, measuring food and food labels with %DV and calorie count) get us to fixate on numbers. Then we can easily get lost in the details and forget to listen to our bodies. The healthier our routine, the easier it is to get clear signals. Processed foods with added ingredients confuse our bodies and make it more difficult to know what we need. Thanks again for your feedback! 🙂