How did I lose weight and keep it off?
I struggled with my weight for what seemed like an eternity.
And now as I stand on the other side - happy, healthy and slim - and experiencing a king of food freedom I didn't even know was possible, I'm still trying to piece together how it finally came together for me.
How did this sad chubby girl....
And unhappy, frumpy 28 year old...
Finally arrive at happy, healthy and slim?
Well, it certainly didn't happen overnight!
The process is similar to what I experienced with my chronic low back pain and sciatica more than a decade ago.
For what seemed like forever I was in misery, slithering out of bed onto a heating pad to begin my day, limping around and attending yoga classes regularly in search of relief.
And then one day, after months and months, I woke up and realized my back no longer hurt. I'm not sure how long the pain was gone before I became aware of it.
More on How Did I Lose Weight and Keep it Off
The same thing happened with my weight...
After decades of struggle, I woke up one day and realized I was slipping into clothes smaller that I had ever worn and seeing a number on the scale I had never thought possible.
I was finally free of the food anxiety that had been my constant companion for decades.
And truthfully I am still trying to piece together exactly what happened, so bear with me as I try to make sense of it all.
I remember reading a famous yoga teacher's comment that if you just kept doing your yoga practice what needed to come into your life would and what needed to leave would, without struggle and strife, but I'm not sure I ever really believed it.
And it's not as though my road to food freedom was without effort. I could fill a book with all the things I've tried:
- Subsisting on salad, fruit and cottage cheese
- Hours of step aerobics and cardio equipment
- Personal trainers
- Gym memberships
- Weight Watchers
- Diets and more diets (South Beach, Atkins, Sommersize, Fat-Flush, Flat Belly, Sugar Busters, etc.)
- "Slimming" herb teas
- "Fat burning" supplements
- Nutritional counseling
- Healthy cooking classes in conjunction with The Natural Gourmet Institute
- A year of nutrition school at IIN
- A 20-week Psychology of Eating tele-course
- Reading countless books on emotional eating, intuitive eating, mindful eating
How Did I Lose Weight and Keep it Off - The Ingredients
I cobbled together my own customized weight loss approach. The major components include:
1. Yoga. I credit yoga for making everything in my life better. Change begins with awareness and yoga helped me wake up and pay attention to my body and my mind in a whole new way, both on and off the mat.
My yoga practice helped me reconnect with my body's hunger and satisfied signals allowing me to be a much more conscious eater.
I learned to stop fearing my hunger and befriend it instead, which was a huge step for someone who ate all the time to prevent feeling hungry. I let myself get hungry and learned that it wasn't life threatening. Now I like to feel hungry before I eat. Food tastes so much better when you are hungry.
By learning what hunger felt like I was able to learn what it felt to be satisfied and not stuffed. I rarely eat past full any more. In the past, I almost always ate too much which left me feeling bloated and miserable for hours.
Yoga also helped me develop self compassion, patience and persistence, qualities that are integral to making lasting changes. I've let go of the need to be perfect and have instead focused on doing my best. And I've learned how to move that little voice in my head with her constant negative chatter way into the background, where she can do very little harm.
Thanks to yoga I move more. I do yoga regularly. I teach yoga. And because I realize how much my body enjoys movement, I walk nearly everyday.
2. Weight Watchers. I credit Weight Watchers with opening my eyes to the importance of portion control, setting goals and becoming accountable. I needed structure before I could find freedom, if that makes sense. I needed a program to bring order to my very disordered way of eating. I remember a yoga teacher saying once, "From strength and structure comes flexibility." I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but I've come to believe that true freedom is a byproduct of discipline, true flexibility a byproduct of strength.
Keeping a food journal, becoming aware of my patterns, learning what a reasonable portion looked like and trading in my highly processed, refined carb heavy diet for a healthy balanced one were necessary steps for me. It helped me connect with how different foods made me feel after eating them.
I'm glad I did Weight Watchers back when it was a selection-based program because I learned about the number of servings of starch, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables that were reasonable for me.
Through it I learned that my body responds extremely well to small amounts of starch - 3 to 5 servings a day. I'm not sure this balanced approach to healthy eating is so clear with the Points approach.
But for Weight Watchers to really work for me, I had to change the way I worked with it. In the beginning, I believe it contributed to my food compulsions and obsessions. Or maybe it's just the part of the process of learning a new way of being. Having my food limited made me extremely uncomfortable, so I learned to tell myself that I could have anything and everything I wanted. With nothing "off limits" I was able to calm down and relax.
3. French Women Don't Get Fat. My relationship with food changed forever the first time I went to France. Reading about the eating philosophy espoused in this popular book helped me embrace the concepts of slowing down and savoring my food and choosing "real" food over "diet" food that I was introduced to in Paris. The more I have weaned myself from low-fat, low-sugar, low taste, low-satisfaction, processed food, the more my cravings have subsided.
I love to celebrate with food, but in a happy, healthy, balanced way. Food used to be my primary source of joy. I was out of balance. Now I have lots of sources of pleasure and joy in my life, and food, while wonderful, is no longer primary.
4. Mindless Eating. This book changed the way I look at food forever and may have had the biggest impact of all.
I'm not sure that it would have been as strong an influencer decades ago. And since there is no going back, I'll never know for sure.
The book helped me see that I'm not broken, I'm merely human. Being around food will cue our desire to eat.
By following it's suggestions, I've found easy ways to manage my "mindless eating habits" with dozens of strategies including using smaller plates and bowls and keeping trigger foods out of sight.
By embracing the belief that, "The best diet is the one you don't know you are on," I have been able to lose those last few pounds in a way that has felt easy and effortless, and dare I say, fun?
What Makes My Weight Loss Different This Time?
I've lost weight and gained it back dozens of times before, but this time feels very different. I've already kept the weight off through life-challenges that would have derailed me previously, including the death of my dad that was preceded by nearly a month spent in his hospice room which was situated just across from the kitchen where goodies were always available and volunteers made regular rounds offering freshly baked cookies.
I finally feel like a normal eater. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am not. I rarely eat past full. My cravings have disappeared. I am comfortable throwing food away. I can co-exist with chocolate, cookies and ice cream. A pint of ice cream can last in the freezer for weeks and sometimes forms ice crystals before it is finished! (This still astonishes me when it happens.)
I am still facing menopause, something that I was really worried about several years ago. Now I believe that millions of women all over the world make this transition easily and naturally. I hope to be among them. And if not, I'm cautiously optimistic that I have the tools to cope with whatever life has in store.
I'm far from perfect. I still get tripped up at times, but never for long. Food has lost its power over me. I am free at last. And what is most exciting, is realizing that if I figured it out, YOU CAN TOO!
You can make peace with food while finding your naturally slim weight and living a happy, healthy life. The key is to be persistent and incredibly patient with yourself.
Watch Martha Tell Her Own Weight Watchers Success Story
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