To give you a brief background: I gained so much weight during late high school and early college, and upon finding out how much I weighed during one PE class, I nearly fainted out of shock at the number I saw. At first, I dieted like a normal person and probably lost 10 pounds on the first two weeks or so. Still sane. Until it got out of hand and I did diet pills, starvation, and also occasional bingeing and purging. Already insane.
The truth is, this battle for me was more of a mind thing than it was a body thing. It consumed me more than anything at that time. It robbed me of peace and joy, and for a time, may have gotten me depressed. I cried once after eating a lot of peanuts. And one summer, I didn’t want to go out of the house because I gained a little weight. One to two pounds maybe. Looking back, though, it was probably the thinnest I had ever been!
Anyway, my point of writing this post isn’t really about what happened before anymore. It’s more of how I have found my happy weight quite recently, and how I’ve achieved a ‘healthy’ relationship with food, perhaps for the first time in years. And nope, this post isn’t for those aiming to lose weight, but more for those who have an exhausting love/hate relationship with food and who want to quit it, for those who want to maintain their weight while eating the food they love. And I’m writing this now (in the car) because for the first time in a while, I actually feel like something needs to be said and so here I am, with the things I’ve learned over the years about food, fitness, and body image:
1. If you’re terribly obsessed with your weight and it’s gone overboard, stop weighing! I know it’s easier said than done, but you will have to stop—at least for a short while. This is the first step. Take a break. Let the scales stop dictating your happiness.
For me, there were periods as long as a year or two when I didn’t step on the scales at all. There were times when the avoidance felt like cowardice, but looking back, I realize it was just about choosing your battles. And life is so much more than how skinny or fit you are, so if you have better battles to fight, it won’t hurt so bad to avoid it for a while. After all, you’ll know when you’re ready to step on it again. And you will. And it won’t be so bad, trust me.
2. When you’re not weighing, the least you can do for your body is to be conscious of how your flesh feels on you. I think most often, this can be a good enough guide to how well you’re doing body-wise. You can easily tell by how your jeans fit, or by how you feel when you wear tight-fitting tops.
3. The only way to be able to do #2, though, is to have a more realistic body goal. It’s actually really great that strong has become the new skinny. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older or if the society nowadays indeed promotes healthier body pegs.
Personally, I now like girl crushing on well-rounded women who have strong-looking physique. Example: Kaley Cuoco from Big Bang Theory.
4. Stop labeling food as good and bad. Paleo and other healthy eaters might kill me for saying that. But for me, doing that will prevent you from overeating in general. Because sometimes, you think something is good so you eat excessive amounts of it. Other times, the more you try to avoid the “bad,” the more you crave for it and when self-control fails, uh ohhh, red alert!
You’ll see that once you’ve stopped being so strict with labels, you will find that your body and tastebuds will be the first ones to reject “bad foods” because they make you feel gross afterwards. Take note, gross; not guilty. Guilty is more of a mind thing, and like I said, I suggest you focus more on how your body feels.
5. This is one that I practice the most: Eat what you really want to eat when it’s mealtime, and make sure to have protein there. If you want fried chicken, go have fried chicken. With rice even. And gravy. Try not to eat all the skin but if you do, don’t kill yourself for it.
I say eat whatever you want during mealtime, so you get full (hopefully not way too full) and also satisfied. Because usually when I settle for something I don’t really want (like salad, when what I really want is a big, juicy burger), I end up snacking on junk food later on. And that’s where people gain weight, I think. On empty calories, that even cause you to crave one thing after another. A vicious cycle!!!
6. And may I repeat, protein is a must! As much as possible, I never eat my meals without protein, in fear that it will cause a spike in my blood sugar and make my hormones go wild, which could easily result to eating and eating and eating. And so far, it has worked. Ever since I ate full meals with protein almost all the time, I rarely crave for sweets. Or if ever I do, I only eat very small portions of it, usually just to take out the remaining taste of what I just ate. Not because I’m trying to control my intake, really. But because I really can’t have more or else I’ll feel sick of it.
7. Walk around. After meals. When you’re bored at work. Fidget. Pretend you have ADHD and be unable to sit still. Dance along to good music in your bedroom. Clean. Help do house chores. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Window shop!
These are the least you can do if you don’t want to exercise regularly. Try “feeling” active. Somehow feeling like it will make you want to do more of it. And then there goes your cardio somehow. Hehe!
8. When you have really limited time and want to do a workout, do strength training instead of cardio. Disclaimer: I’m not sure if fitness gods support this but I have my reasons for it. Such as: Working out your muscles have a more lasting effect on your metabolic spike, so even with a short workout time, you can have an much extended calorie burn somehow. Also, when you build muscles, you get to burn more even when you’re not doing anything active. Lastly, and this may sound silly, the sore feeling after core workouts, let’s say, can be addictive that you’d want more of it. The sore feeling also makes you feel good, and reminds you you did something good, and it’ll continue to remind you even days after you did your exercise.
I don’t know about you, but for me, affirmation makes me want to do good and even inspire me to be better than good. :)
10. Don’t reject that beach invite! Haha. This is one I used to be guilty of. Because I literally stopped being mindful of what I ate for a time, and may have gained more weight than I could tolerate, I didn’t like the idea of being almost naked in front of people. Most especially with my slim friends around!
But, sometimes booking that out-of-town trip helps you reconnect with your physique. Sometimes, just fitting swimsuits and getting surprised at the fact that you don’t look half as bad as you feared makes you want to do your body good. And sometimes, without you even realizing it, your eating habits change and become a little better than before because of it. :)
11. Drink lots of water! Teas, coffee and other drinks that either have little to no sugar or have natural sugars are okay, too. Why? Because liquids help prevent bloating! Ironic as it may sound, the more water you drink, the more liquids you flush away. So drink up to beat the bloat! And as a bonus, these liquids help you stay full, and also prevents overeating.
12. As you can see, one of the recurring points in this post is to avoid overeating as much as possible. Because overeating tends to be a habit. If it’s a one-time thing, then who cares? But when you’re always doing it—because overeating today usually makes you overeat the next day (promise, this is also backed by science),—you’ll end up feeling fat and bad. And the next thing you know, fat is no longer a feeling but an actual reality. And by ‘fat,’ I don’t mean the world’s standard definition of it. “Fat’ is when you’re past the size you’re happy and comfortable with.
In summary: Think good, feel good, do good, and then look good. In that specific order. :D