I don’t mean to be flip…well, ok, maybe I do. I’ll cop. But that’s the million dollar question, ‘eh? Maybe it’s the billion dollar question, what with the diet industry being what it is. How do we get to be fatbutts, and what does one do about it?
And don’t even start babbling to the Goddess about calories! You’re liable to get slapped where you stand. I get flat-out angry when I hear the old calories-in-versus-calories-out-routine:
“It’s a simple matter of calories in versus calories out. You eat less and exercise more, and you will lose weight.”
Implied argument: Stop being such a stupid, lazy, greedy pig, and you’ll cease to be fat.
Wow. That’s harsh, man. Yeah. Thanks for the newsflash, huh? Without that amazing insight, it never would have occurred to us to eat less and exercise more, huh?
[Aside: Extremely low-calorie diets and lots of strenuous exercise-in other words, the purportedly magic "calories-in-vs.-calories-out formula" taken too seriously- will cause your body to cannibalize your muscles for the protein it needs to survive. Ummm...well, this is NOT exactly healthy. Bonus penalty: Muscle is approximately 8 times as dense as fat, and it burns more of those hated calories than fat does, even at a resting state. This is also why new exercisers don't always immediately see the results on the scale, even while their pants are falling off. Love your muscles and they will love you. Treat your muscles as well as you'd treat your dog: Feed them, water them, and take them for regular walks. They will thank you for it with smaller sizes and more energy. But if you're overweight, you probably already know most of this. Stop living and dying by that evil little machine, and listen to your body, ‘K Sparky?]
That goes to show you how little most people get it. Have you ever met an overweight person past puberty who hasn’t tried dozens upon dozens of diets? I mean anything and everything…fasting, living on grapefruit, cabbage soup, the rice diet (and those little Styrofoam rice cakes taste as nasty as they look, by the way), countless supplements, prescription drugs, nothing but salad for weeks on end, chugging SlimFast, popping Dexatrim like candy, or worse yet, actually drinking TAB?
Here’s the scoop: Ask any random fattie, and s/he will be able to tell you almost anything you want to know about dieting. A fat person’s knowledge of dieting would put most professionals to shame! They will know calories, carbs or fat counts of half the contents of your neighborhood grocery store without blinking. They know the name of the various weight-loss drugs and supplements and how they work. They can tell you who is a candidate for gastric bypass, who is not, and why. They’ve read and studied and pondered every morsel of weight loss information known to mankind, usually more than once.
Fact is, I have never met an overweight person who was not already an expert dieter. So why are so many of us still fat?
Diets. Don’t. Work. Are you listening, Sparky? DIETS DON’T WORK! Period.
Dieting as a concept reminds me of what Mark Twain said about smoking: “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” He’s right. In this case, the problem is not losing the weight. Not even close.
Here’s what happens: Fat person feels it’s time to “suck it up and deal with the weight.” This often is prompted by something like an unflattering photograph, or maybe a trip to the doctor, or aches and pains or whatever other issue it is. Doesn’t matter. Something starts the weight-loss process in motion by creating pain in fat person’s life.
Fat person starts to feel guilty for being fat to begin with. “I’m so lazy. I have no willpower. I’m such a pig. Why do I eat all this anyway?” Fat person feels like crap. Fat person either beings to drown sorrows in a vat of Ben & Jerry’s or, at least for a while, begins to punish his or her fat self by existing on a few blades of grass each day and exercising like a squirrel on meth.
And like every effort born out of self-loathing, it is doomed to fail. We have this annoying little function built into our brains called “a survival instinct.” So unlike alcoholics who decide to leave the booze behind, we can’t stop eating. (And unlike those around recovering Alcoholics, who usually support their efforts, we often have coworkers, friends or family elbowing us in the ribs and insisting, “Just one won’t hurt you; don’t be a party pooper!”)
And while we’re at it…we are not enjoying the exercise frenzy-it’s hard work to exercise when you’re overweight! Particularly when you first start, it can be exhausting and difficult. You may feel embarrassed you “let yourself go” so much, frustrated at how much energy it all takes, disturbed you don’t already have more stamina, and angry at yourself for being there in the first place. And God help you if you’ve ate some cake that you’re punishing yourself for on the stair climber. Whew!
Am I hitting pay dirt here? Been there more times than I can count, man.
Hmmmm. Doesn’t exactly sound like the perfect setup for success, huh? Even those of us who are overweight usually want to like ourselves. We get sick of obsessing and worse, feeling guilty for every little bite of food that passes our lips, “legal” or not. That’s what it’s like, you know. Sooner or later, most fat people start to hate themselves with every single bite.
We get sick of feeling crummy about ourselves. We’re tired, we’re hungry, and we’re sore from that &*&^$ elliptical trainer. Work sucked and those cookies look mighty comforting. So we say, “Screw it.” Either we declare ourselves hopeless and unable to make the changes we need to make, or we try to convince ourselves we don’t care, although we still do, because not caring is much less painful that hating yourself. And you might even feel better, for a few minutes. Except there you are, right where you started, except your already battered self-esteem has taken a few more blows. And your knees still hurt, too.
Overweight people do NOT need to learn to lose weight, since almost all of us already know that subject intimately. We cuss and cajole ourselves for not being strong enough, and condemn ourselves because our efforts don’t pay off quickly enough. It must be that we’re still too lazy to exercise “enough,” or still too weak to cut down those stupid calories “enough” or still lacking willpower because we are hungry and tired on those 1000 calories a day or yada yada yada. The underlying theme here is repeatedly telling ourselves we are not good enough.
We need to feel good about ourselves. Feeling bad is fattening. And being in a big, fat hurry to lose the big, fat belly isn’t helping.
“So what the answer?” you wonder to yourself. Goddess hears your internal query, being psychic and all.
See, the problem isn’t losing the weight. Overweight people do NOT need to learn how to lose weight! They are already bloody experts on the topic, ok? It’s keeping the weight off that’s the real issue here. It’s not about cutting down the girth as quickly as possible. While fast losses are more fun and exciting than a more measured approach, crash dieting it off doesn’t teach you what you have to learn to be free from this albatross forever. Keeping the *$(%* weight off is hard part!
Can I get an “Amen!” my brothers and sisters?
Yeah. I thought so.
Love thyself. That’s what it all boils down to. I keep hammering on this, but there are still a few folks who haven’t seen the light, so let me explain:
Losing weight is an act of self-love. It may have been the pain that got your attention, but working on your weight is protecting your health and well-being and therefore, by definition is taking care of yourself. (Perk: You have more energy to care for others and you set a good example for your kids and loved ones. Double-perk: It will drive the ex insane!)
There are many ways of taking care of yourself. But one thing I can say without reservation: While specific changes may sometimes be challenging at first, taking care of yourself does not involve being mean to yourself! So forget self-denigration, excessive deprival, or crazed exercise frenzies leave you frustrated and depressed. I mean, c’mon. That’s never worked before has it?
So how do you do it without pushing yourself so hard? How are you successful without all the pain? Here’s the trick, Sparky. Stop focusing on losing the weight, and start focusing on improving your habits. Don’t think that you won’t lose the weight that way, because you will. Take care of today’s choices, and tomorrow will automatically materialize you as better off than you were yesterday. You get what I mean here?
Overweight people need easy, comfortable ways to fit their weight-loss goals into their everyday lives. We have to learn ways to lose weight that don’t make us feel frustrated, deprived, and less of a person for having weight to lose in the first place. We need to find exercise that is enjoyable and helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery, not like ungraceful cows, you know?
So how do you do that? To no one’s surprise, Goddess has some tips for you. Bonus: they’re easy and they’ll make you feel good, too!
Tips on Eliminating the FatButt Syndrome:
Take the Pollyanna Challenge. Eliminate all negative self-talk right out of the chute. This step alone will help you start feeling better and more optimistic. It won’t happen unless you at least concede it as a possibility, man and that negative self-talk will kick your butt if you let it. If you have trouble with this step, whenever you start to rag on yourself, imagine you are talking to a friend instead-someone you care for deeply. We would never talk to friends in the crummy ways we talk to ourselves!
Make a change. What? You thought Goddess would excuse you from the work? Fat chance, Sparky. Snort! But here’s the trick: Make this a small, relatively painless change. Now, I am not going to insult your intelligence by telling you to park further from the grocery store or put your fork down between bites of food. This is not a sidebar in a women’s magazine or a 30-second New Year’s spot on the local 10-o’clock news, dude. And that crap makes me want to slap people, man. But maybe you can cut down on sugar intake (or cut it out, if you’re already moving in that direction), up your water or dance after dinner. Whatever seems helpful and is the easiest and most pleasant for you, do that.
Focus on habits, not individual events. In the grand scheme, one event doesn’t matter either way. It’s the habits, the choices you make most consistently day in and day out that will determine your level of success.
Feel good and celebrate your successes. Another pointer: no fattening, sugar-encrusted, chocolate-covered celebrations, Sparkster. It is counter-productive. But do celebrate and acknowledge your progress, even if it’s nothing more than just taking a minute to feel good about what you’ve done. This is vital. Success is the most motivating feeling in existence.
Don’t say you’ve been “good” or “bad” based on your food choices. That’s all hogwash, okay? Eating is not a moral issue. It’s that kind of judgmental attitude that had you feeling crummy to begin with. You can tell me you feel good about the choices you’ve been making, and that’s great. But you’re not a two-year old getting a behavior report from daycare already. For the better days, congratulate yourself and move on. For the rougher days, ask yourself what you might change next time, and move on. Either way, you’re not a good person if you’re having a skinny day, nor a bad person if you’re having a fat day. You have inherent worth for being you. So lighten up already!
Incorporate exercise, but reasonably. What does that mean? Well, if the most exercise you’ve gotten in the last decade is running to the bathroom when you get home after being stuck in traffic, take it slow, Sparky. And for goodness sakes, don’t pick your exercise based on what’s the most intense or burns the most calories. Do what you like! If you hate it, you’ll be miserable doing it. If it’s fun for you, then after the initial resistance to any exercise, you will find yourself doing it because you like to do it, and you like the feeling it gives you. People who keep that weight off exercise, and you want to be in the group, don’t ya? Do a little at first, and then a little more, and then a little more. Take your time. If you like trees, walk in the park. If you like music, dance. If you like scenery, take up biking. But whatever you do, just do something!
Rinse and repeat. Build on each step, and move on to the next. I’m not saying not to push your comfort zone here. You have to! Change can be challenging, and we’re talking about deeply ingrained behaviors, I know. But poke on that envelope gradually, gently, in a way that leaves you feeling strong and powerful. In other words, yes, you can challenge yourself so long as it feels good, but make sure the challenges are moderate and ongoing.
Pat yourself on the back some more and enjoy your progress. And progress not just a number on the evil little scale, either. Progress is feeling better. Progress is having more energy. Progess is your tight jeans feeling more comfortable. Progress is making healthy choices and feeling good about it. Progress is leaving the obsession behind you, and feeling in control of your weight and your life.
Finally, NEVER surrender. There is only one true way to fail the Goddess’s weight-lost plan: give up! If you’re still here, you’re still in the game. So keep putting one foot in front of the other. Take care of today, now, right this minute and the future will be there for you, all pretty like, without any special intervention on your part. Funny how that works.
There is no rush. There is no fire to be put out. You go back to your old habits, you go back to your old arse size, plain and simple. So understand this is for life. And since it is for life, it needs to be a life you can be happy with and live comfortably in, long-term.
Yes, you have to make changes to lose weight. Duh. But make them manageable and consistent changes, and you will progress without all the pain. Be the tortoise, and let the hare burn himself out by January 8th. You? You’re just out taking a walk after dinner, and you feel great doing it.
I will put my money on the people that consistently make small, helpful changes they feel good about over the master dieter who knows how to crack that whip on himself any day. Feed your head with positive energy and it will pay off. It’s not as hard as it looks. And you will be so glad you did. That’s a promise.
Peace out, and be good to yourselves out there!