Many women want to lose weight before their wedding day. Between all the photos, guests you haven't seen in a while, and all the pressure surrounding the day, it's easy to see why.
Problem is, if you're anything like me, you gain it all back. And then some. So, you beat yourself about your weight gain and vow to lose it again.
I've been repeating this cycle since college. My senior year, I decided to lose weight to fit into a sorority formal dress that I loved. It was a size 14.
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I was heavy from 4th or 5th grade on. In college, at 5'7", I weighed somewhere around 250 lbs and was a size 22. With only two days of classes each week and a part-time job, I had plenty of time to work out (and supportive friends who would go with me). Two years later, I weighed 138 lbs. To maintain that weight, I ate three Lean Cuisines a day and exercised for 45-60 minutes each morning.
It was unsustainable. Calorie-wise, I wasn't taking in nearly enough. I killed my metabolism. And, if I was honest with myself at the time, I would have admitted that all that weight didn't change the fact that I have a messed-up relationship with food.
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Now, ten years after I graduated, I weigh somewhere around 160 lbs. When I bought my wedding dress, I weighed 149. Six months before that, I went on Weight Watchers because I weighed 165 lbs. A year or so earlier, I had been back on the three Lean Cuisines a day kick and was down to 140. A year before THAT, I was at 169. I had gained a bunch of weight after trying Atkins, which had me at 142.
I bought the book, Women, Food and God a year or so ago, on the recommendation of my therapist. She said she read it and it made her think of me. I'd start reading it every month or so, only to give it up after a chapter or two.
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When I went for my physical in January of this year and saw the scale, I figured I had two choices. The first? Go back on another diet. The Paleo diet was the one I was reading the most about. The second choice? Take a few hours and read the damn book.
I read the book.
Basically – and I'm not doing it justice, by any means – the book says that you won't lose weight until you fix your relationship with food. No kidding, right? But, here's the kicker… it says diets are your way of always giving you something to fix in your life. Problem is, when you fix it, your problems don't go away. So you go back to food for a billion reasons, none of which involve you actually being hungry. You eat because you're stressed, or sad, or lonely. You eat to avoid feeling those feelings, because you can't BEAR to feel them.
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Those feelings will break you. And, let's face it – you're already broken. You spend lots of effort trying to keep down the parts of you that other people have told you are bad, or weird, or undesirable. You're too loud. People don't want to talk to you when they know how smart you are. You're too sensitive, or too emotional.
Thing is, those bad things? They're who you are. And when you can't change THEM, bad becomes worse, so you try to cope. Some people drink, some gamble, some take drugs.
If you're like me, you eat.
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Here's where the book comes in: you're not broken. That voice that tells you all the things that are bad about yourself? It's coming from someone that isn't you. Maybe it was a parent or a close friend. They could have been threatened by you, or stressed because your presence strained them financially, or mad that you got all the attention. So, they judged you. And, someone judged them. That person was judged by someone else.
These judgments are enough to break children, so they comfort themselves the best way they know how in order to survive. Chronic dieters eat to suppress the pain. As children, that's all you COULD do.
But, you're not a child. Bad feelings won't break you now.
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When you have the urge to eat, investigate. Are you actually hungry, or are you lonely, or uncomfortable, or upset? What's that internal voice saying? If you're not actually hungry, chances are, it's talking shit.
Shut up the voice and you'll stop trying to fix yourself. Let yourself feel bad emotions, because you're strong enough to know that they will, eventually, pass. When you don't need to be comforted by food, you will listen to what your body actually wants. Chances are, it probably doesn't REALLY want that whole bag of chips.
Stop trying to fix yourself, and you'll lose weight. At least, that's what the book says.
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So, I'm done dieting. And, you know what? It's harder work than it would be to restrict my eating. I have to trust that, with no food off limits, I won't just go buckwild and gain 200 lbs. I need to work hard to focus on listening to my body, not just beating myself up in between counting calories. I'm trying to exercise to become stronger and be able to do the things I want to do, like hike to Machu Picchu, not to fit into a pair of jeans.
I need forgive myself when I screw up and when I go back to my old habits, because old habits are hard to break. I want to stop letting other people define me.