Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dear Frustrated: Part 1

At least once a week I receive a private message from one of my many girlfriends on Facebook.  Most generally, in the body of the letter, I find hints of where I used to be.  I can feel the desperation and the frustration in the words on my screen.  The words I read are ones that many of us have thought or spoken, and the letters could easily be signed "Sincerely, 'Frustrated.'"  Over and over, I read comments such as:

... "my weight hasn't budged" ... "I'm at an all-time high and am so ashamed" ... "I HAVE to get my weight under control or I'll die of embarrassment" ... "I've tried and failed twice at Weight Watchers and once with Atkins because I feel so limited" ... "I feel like you felt, the biggest girl in the room that will never lose weight" ... "HELP!!!!" ... "What is your secret?" ... "I have let myself go and in the worse possible way" ... "I need someone to poke me in the butt and make me do it" ... "I tried to cut out carbs, but that lasted about four hours; everything has carbs in it" ... "Can you help me with my struggle?" ... "Portion control is a battle" ... "What did you do to kick start your workout routine?" ... "If you have any secrets or anything that would be helpful please let me know" ... "I am ashamed of how I look" ... "I start to count my calories ... but then I feel like I mess up and I quit" ... "I am trying to lose weight, but it is so hard to stay motivated" ... 

I most generally am able to reply to each individual in a timely manner, often beginning with "There is no secret, just a lot of hard work and healthy eating...", but I got to thinking about all of the other women who are struggling, who are beating themselves up on a daily basis, and haven't had the courage to ask for help.  So what I want to offer you now, is some advice, some encouragement, and a few tips that I have found helpful along my journey.  I am hoping that this particular set of posts will be a tool that I can use to reach several of you at once, though I still welcome any questions or personal requests for encouragement from each and every one of you.

*Just in case any of you decide to take my advice: Please remember that you should always consult your doctor before embarking on your healthy living journey.  I am not, and do not claim to be, a dietitian or personal trainer.  I do, however, know what has worked for me, and have had ample experience with the methods that don't work.*

Dear 'Frustrated': Part 1

- First and foremost, do not be ashamed of how you look.  Believe me, I know what it is like to feel ashamed of your body.  I get it.  But, with everything you have inside, try to change your mind about yourself.  Instead of hating your body, try to view it as a gift -- a beautiful vessel in which you were given to live in during your time on this green planet we call home.  I read a quote somewhere that said something to the effect of, "Love and respect your body.  You cannot, and will not, love and care for something you hate."

- Stop it with the "thinspiration" crap.  Do you hear me?  NOW (you better believe that I pulled my mommy voice out for that one)!  Staring at digitally edited images of malnourished models will not help you.  Because, real life doesn't look at all like Photoshop land.  Your body will always look like your body; only in smaller or larger versions.  Can you create muscle definition and a smaller waistline?  Absolutely.  However, if you were born with the genetics to have strong meaty thighs (like myself), your thighs will always be a larger than your best friend with the chicken-legs.  Sometimes it sucks, but it's genetics.  Your body was designed purposefully for you, from your hairline, to your nose, all the way down to your hips and ankles.  The sooner you understand and accept this, the sooner you will be able to more aptly care for your body.  Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Thanks, Teddy, I couldn't have said it better myself.

- Stop dieting.  The reason that people fail at diets over and over and over and over again is because diets don't work.  They might produce results for a short amount of time, but, most generally, diets are not maintainable.  And, most of the time, they aren't healthy.  It is unhealthy to cut out all of your carbs.  It is ridiculous to stop eating fruit.  It is horrible (in every sense of the word) to starve yourself.  It is mentally unhealthy (in my opinion) to have to obsess over calculating points all day every day.

- Forget about diet pills, weight loss pills, magic serums, wonder wraps, or super sprinkles.  I hate weight loss products more fiercely than I hate the HCG diet (and that's an awful lot).  They aren't good for you.  When you rev up your metabolism for a short period of time, you are only setting yourself up for a serious crash as soon as you cease taking whatever product you have chosen.  The weight will come back, tenfold.  I promise you.  But more than that, most weight loss products are highly dangerous.  Most are not regulated by the FDA, and many of them contain unsafe ingredients in dangerous amounts.  Even the all natural varieties can have severe side-effects.  For example, my Aunt Caroline suffered from a stroke, followed by an early death, due to a diet pill that was deemed safe and effective.  I cannot understand how these weight loss supplements are being legally distributed.

- Get off that stupid scale.  Throw it out the window.  Your weight does not define you!  All of us, from time to time, can get bullied by the numbers that we see on the scale.  Remember that the number on the scale does not accurately reflect what is happening on the inside of your body (we'll dive deeper into this later), especially if you are working hard to build muscle.  If you must insist on continuing to weigh in, then limit it to once a week (shoot for the same day of the week, at the same time each time -- ie: every Monday morning after breakfast but before your workout).  My heart broke recently when a close family member told me that she weighs herself three times -- daily.  There is no reason at all to even go near your scale that often.

- Stop waiting for next month, New Years, Lent, Monday, the lunar eclipse, after this sports season, your birthday, vacation, etc. to start your journey to healthy living.  You can start right now -- right at this very moment.  If you keep putting off your health, one of two things will happen.  You will either A) binge and be lazy until your start day and then fail, or B) continue to push off your start day until you stop even considering a healthier lifestyle.  I know that I sound like an overly enthusiastic motivational speaker when I say this, but now is the time.  I really believe this.  Today is your day.
Stay tuned for Dear Frustrated: Part 2; where we will discuss the specifics of healthy eating.  In the meantime...
Be healthy.  Love yourself.  And thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

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