My whole life I have battled weight gain. I’ve been dieting since I was in junior high. In grade 12 I joined a gym and learned what it meant to workout 5 days a week, hard. The lessons that I learned from personal trainers back in 1998 still linger with me today. When I was 16, I remember I got down to 147 lbs, which I consider to be the lowest weight I ever achieved at my modest height of 5’6″. And you know what? I looked in the mirror and thought “I can’t believe I’m still fat.” Body dysmorphia. I was a bloody size 6!
Since then I’ve tried every diet and exercise plan. Weight Watchers. LA Weight Loss. Beachbody supplements. Nutrition shakes. Detoxes. Fad diets that work for a little while, but crush your soul and destroy your social life. Restricting food groups. Cut this, eliminate that. Low-fat everything. The struggles that I’ve endured for over 20 years in this have completely destroyed my metabolism for sure.
What I didn’t tell you about that 16 year old lifestyle is that I ate literally nothing to get down to that weight. I remember I used to take a one cup of salad and maybe some Wasa rye crackers and cheese to school. That’s what I ate for lunch with maybe a Quaker Chocolate Chip granola bar as a snack. No dietician would ever stand for that sort of nonsense. But at that time I never really knew to cook and I didn’t care much about nutrition because I was seeing results (unsustainable and unrealistic).
I’ve gained and lost weight maybe a dozen times in the last 20 years. Why wasn’t anything working? Why am I always in the 95% of people who fail even when we follow all the rules?
In the last few years, I started going to the Calgary Weight Management Clinic where health professionals focus on obesity research and providing tools to people to work towards sustainable weight loss. I would meet with a doctor, psychologist, dietician and athletic therapist for 1.5 years to learn everything I could about how to be healthy. They taught me that the fitness magazines were all trash and I should never read them again. No fad diets were ever provided. No new fitness trends were forced down my throat. I was provided an opportunity to sit with a support group and understand the struggles women of all ages, income levels, and sizes underwent and for the first time I felt normal. Each professional sought to teach me what they actually learned from their degree programs and cutting edge research in obesity medicine. Wow! As a follower of all instructions to a T, I was their star student. They discussed my “success” at their team meetings and were all rooting for me! But I still felt like a failure because I wasn’t dropping the weight fast enough and I was dissatisfied with my diet. I felt hungry all the time. I was eating low calorie high density foods, but it still meant I was starving. This wasn’t a long-term solution for me.
So what the hell? I knew weight loss was a journey but this was taking literally YEARS. I was obsessed with nutrition and health. Honestly I could have opened my own clinic with the amount of articles I read and the professionals I had spoken to. But I was not looking like a fitness model. Is it possible I never would? Everything inside me fought off the advice to lower the calories and exercise harder.
I love food. I love tasting new things and going out to eat. Suddenly I decided to listen to myself. While the experts are important and I should pay attention, I decided I wanted to hear from my body what it wanted while telling it what I wanted to see if we could come up with some sort of arrangement that worked for the two parts of me. Here’s what I came up with:
- Eat whatever I want, as long as most of it is clean and whole food.
- Give up low-fat or no-fat food. It sucks. Full fat all the way!
- Work out as long as my body wants or walk most of the week. Dance. Ski. Yoga. Scuba dive. Join a recreational sports team with work. I hate routines and I absolutely refuse to get into them as part of my exercise strategy. Get this: I exercise more because I don’t allow myself to build a routine. Fucked up? Sure is! But it works.
- Eat cookies, cake, and chocolate. The more I allow myself to do this, the less I want to eat any of this. What a concept! And if I want to eat cheesecake 5 days a week, that’s my call. I’ve done it and gotten it out of my system to never touch the stuff for months.
- Drink beer and wine and scotch. Basically, this is a requirement so I don’t go postal!
Last summer, I lost 14 lbs with Nadine Dumas’ coaching over 3 months. She was very realistic and understanding. She taught me discipline when it came to food and her no-nonsense approach was something I really needed. Unfortunately, my social life was a bit compromised because I was tracking my macros and couldn’t just eat whatever I wanted.
Also, what is the deal with results? You achieve your result of losing 20lbs. Then what happens? You quit exercising and dieting and you gain it all back because the maintenance phase sucks almost as much as the losing part did. It’s a never-ending battle with yourself for success and failure. When did this cycle of violence against our own bodies become OK?
However, following the above rules I came up with myself, I kept the weight off (and the same dress size) with almost no struggle at all. I didn’t give up my social life. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.
By no means is my strategy a recipe for success for others. You kinda need to figure this stuff out on your own. Go see an expert with a bunch of letters after their name when you are ready to make a solid commitment. Not a GP because they aren’t trained on dealing with weight issues at all and they’ll look at you and check your BMI and tell you everything is wrong with you. BS! Go to a dietician, hit up a psychologist to get to the bottom of your emotional eating, or go to a specialist trained with obesity research in mind so they don’t send you down the accursed blind path of generic diet and exercise (which don’t work in my very lengthy experience with the matter). Everyone and their dog apparently needs to lose weight in our culture. Do it properly and do not rely on those useless fitness mags or an untrained GP to get your advice.
I follow other rules too that I learned from CWMC:
- No eating after 7pm.
- Big breakfast, healthy snacks, fibrous homemade lunch, lighter dinner.
- Exercising means doing anything physical. Exercise is not meant for me to lose weight. It’s meant for me to live long and keep diseases away as long as possible. Basically, exercise is a prescription that I have written up for myself. Just making any effort means I am successful and I have to stop beating myself up if I don’t hit the gym.
- There’s no such thing as cheating. If I want a pizza, I’ll eat a pizza. Not the whole thing, just a couple slices to get my craving satisfied.
- Counting calories is a waste of time. Calories are not built the same and calories in do not equal calories out.
- Looking like a fitness model is not for me. I’m ok with that.
- I love my curves! I don’t want to lose them. Boys and girls think I’m hot! RAWR!
- I don’t drink diet pop, juice, or coffee/tea with sugar. If I’m going to eat sugar, it had better be in a cake or cookie format. LOL
Another thing I learned literally in the last couple weeks that I’ve always overlooked about myself is that I put on muscle really fast! It takes almost no effort to put on muscle. I’ve always struggled with weight loss, but maybe my body wasn’t meant to lose weight. It could possibly lose weight as a side effect of gaining more muscle. Damn! I’m exploring this idea now of building muscle tone to be able to participate in any physical activities my friends invite me to because my body finally got through to my thick skull when I finally started paying attention.
The idea of losing weight for vanity purposes can go straight to hell! I just want to live my life as fully as I can but on my own terms. I can’t believe how much time and energy I wasted on an idea that society told me should be part of my life.
And if you are interested in cutting edge bariatric and obesity research from legit experts in the field who are Canadian, check out Dr. Arya Sharma at the University of Alberta and founder of the Canadian Obesity Network, and Dr. Yoni Freedhoff at the University of Ottawa. I follow the two of them regularly on social media because they are teaching me there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me and my decades of toying with my metabolism is a surefire recipe for a health disaster.
My takeaway from all this is that I will never diet again unless I have some sort of disease or allergy that doesn’t allow me to eat a certain food.
Let me know if you have found yourself struggling with this weight loss crap in your life. Tell me your story. Let me know your successes and “failures”. I put the word failures in quotes because I don’t believe we fail at anything. Failure is a state of mind and that’s a state of mind I choose not to accept.