My mother had this sweater machine – a big electronic knitting loom thing that helped her make sweaters and blankets way faster than she could knit them by hand – because she loved to sell baby sweaters at Church fairs. In order to create a new row of stitches she had to move this white plastic handled part of the loom from left to right, right to left over the machine, and each time it went over the rows of yarn, it made a loud click-clack sound for a few seconds. I remember timing my trips to the kitchen by that sound after school. I’d wait in the kitchen with my hand on the cookie jar lid and when I heard the click-clack start, I’d lift the lid carefully and reach in and grab some cookies. My mom probably would have said yes, had I asked for a cookie. If she heard the cookie jar opening, she probably would have commented “hey, don’t ruin your dinner!” but nothing more. She wouldn’t have shamed me but I somehow knew I didn’t want to have a conversation about it and I knew that if I did it quietly I could go back and get more cookies. Just have to wait for that click-clack of the knitting machine to start so she couldn’t hear me.
“More” food was something I always craved and yet I wanted to push away all accountability for my choices all at the same time. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. If I wasn’t sneaking food, I was trying to find ways to burn more calories so that I could lose weight. I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I remember laying in bed as a child saying my nightly prayers and asking the Virgin Mary to make it so that for every calorie I ate, I would actually burn 2! I obviously hadn’t worked out how that math would work long term had she been able to fulfill my wish and I may have misunderstood the types of things that prayer was useful for, but you have to admire the shameless way I tried to elicit the Virgin Mary’s assistance on my #bodygoals.
I don’t remember when specifically I learned that I was overweight or when I learned that that was something I needed to change. I just feel as though I always knew it was something “wrong” about me. Other people with food/weight stories like mine usually have one or two defining moments that stick out in their minds. I have tons of small moments that just add up to a life of feeling completely controlled by or out of control around food.
I’ve spent the last decade plus a few years working on my eating and weight issues in some manner (some things more successfully than others). The most progress in my journey has definitely come in the last 3 years – when I decided to train to be a coach and when I started taking on clients of my own. Watching other women make connections about their own stories and be empowered to change their story going forward has made my own stuff become so much clearer.
During this journey, I am constantly unlearning and relearning things that I took for granted. Things that I once took for certain, like “fat is bad”, I now can’t fathom that I ever believed that. I wish I had known that fat was a crucial and necessary macronutrient a lot earlier in this process. I think my relationship with food might have been less tempestuous had I been able to eat foods that were more satiating due to their fat content. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?
If I was starting at the beginning of my food and weight story again, there are a lot of things I know now that I wish I knew then. I am going to share some of those below in case you are just beginning (or well on your way) and one or two of these could help you get to where you are going a lot sooner.
Things I wish I knew sooner:
- that what you eat affects how you feel physically and emotionally.
- that can’t outrun a bad diet.
- that just being skinny wasn’t going to solve my problems.
- that the things I didn’t like about my body when I was heavy would still be the things I didn’t like about my body when I was thinner.
- that I don’t need to eat to comfort myself.
- also that there are better ways to comfort yourself, that last longer and don’t have negative effects.
- that there’s no quick fix, fast diet, pills or powders that will solve what got us into this mess in the first place.
- not to compare my body and my progress to someone else’s. We’re all on different journeys.
- that feelings won’t break me and I can feel anything without resorting to food.
- that the number on the scale can go up and down throughout the week or month and not be an indicator of actual weight gain.
- that foam rolling existed!
- how to prepare healthy food so that it tastes good. I used to think it had to be bland and flavorless to be good for me.
- that this is the only body I have and I need to appreciate it for all that it does for me.
- that fat wasn’t going to make me fat and that eating it would actually help prevent me from overeating! (Could have saved myself a decade of being hungry here!)
- that being strong and capable feels way better than weighing a certain amount.
- that you can enjoy eating without it being your primary source of joy.
- that liking myself was more important than liking how I looked.
- that the amount of calories I burned during exercise doesn’t give me a license to eat as much junk as I wanted.
- that having cute and well fitting clothes to wear makes exercising way more fun.
- that motivation isn’t a secret energy that only some have, it’s just another word for being disciplined. When you say you lack motivation, what you really mean is that you lack discipline. We can train ourselves to become more disciplined – and it will stay with us a lot longer than any motivation, inspiration or will power.
- that saying you are “trying” to do something is usually a hint that you are expecting to fail or preparing to never even get off the ground. Remove “try” from your vocabulary and just “do” (not “try” to do) the things you want to do.
- that being so overweight wasn’t just a given because of my “genes”, or being born “big boned”. In my case, it was the direct result of many, many actions (and inactions) I took over many years (calculated hand in the cookie jar!). Had I recognized earlier that I had a huge hand in getting to such a high weight . . .I would have also been able to recognize that I had a hand in getting myself out of it.
- that being attractive is not directly tied to the size of the dress I’m wearing. You can be thin and unattractive and you can be fat and attractive. Attractiveness is something so much broader than our size or shape.
- that the more I worried about how much I ate, the more how much I ate would be a constant concern.
- that taking rest days when my body needs them actually helps me make more progress, not less!
- that lifting heavy weights wouldn’t make me big or bulky. (Getting big or bulky from weights requires major herculean effort – you aren’t going to get there accidentally).
- that for every restrictive diet there will be an equal or greater binge (that idea is goes to Geneen Roth). The more I tried to dial back and eat less, the more I felt compelled to eat more the second I thought I could get away with it.
- that physical hunger doesn’t cause panic (emotional hunger does). I didn’t really know what hunger felt like for a long time and instead had taught myself to feel “hungry” when I was bored, tired, overwhelmed, stressed, confused etc. I have relearned what hungry feels like in my body and it’s a lot easier to manage now.
- that taking care of my body feels much better than retaliating against it.
- that finding exercise you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.
- that having a proper sports bra makes exercise less painful and makes you feel good (check out Enell, Moving Comfort or Panache if pulling an elastic tube top over your chest that smashes you down isn’t working for you).
- that keeping weight off after you’ve lost it can be harder than losing it in the first place. If you lose it in a fast or unsustainable way, how will you keep it off forever? Something to think about.
- that love, success, friendship, admiration, creativity, self-worth and confidence isn’t something reserved only for the thin or fit.
What are some things you’ve learned during your health, weight and fitness journey that you wish you knew sooner? What would you tell someone just starting out?
If you’re not ready for a consult with Andrea but you like what she has to say, then please download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldn‘t Be a Workout: Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).