I want to tell you a little background about me, my history with health and fitness, and the biggest lesson I learned through it all: my health is much more important than my weight. I am a real person with real strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else. We all have cellulite-free dreams of frolicking in a bikini all summer, but how we get there is another story. Losing weight does not necessarily mean that you are utilizing healthy habits.
I think it is important to distinguish that “skinny” and “healthy” are not automatically synonymous terms.
In my case, I would say my past approach with weight loss was less than ideal, although not as harmful as others. Everyone starts somewhere, and for me, that place was average, out of shape, and entirely unhealthy.
I used to count my calories like a mad woman and adhere myself to a firm calorie-constricted diet. I would consume no more than 1200 calories a day, yet often would consume less with a sense of accomplishment and pride. It didn’t matter to me what these calories consisted of. It could have been Skinny Cow ice-cream or 100-calorie snack packs, as long as I met and did not exceed my goal of a maximum of 1200 calories that day, I was successful in my mind. “Eat Less, Move More” was my motto. I would drop weight like it was no big deal. “Oh, Spring Formal is in a month? No problem, let me just drop 10 pounds real quick.”
Yeah, the idea of losing a lot of weight really quickly sounds pretty great, but in reality, it was completely and totally unhealthy in so many ways. I was obsessed with counting calories, and it affected my social life. I would have rather saved the calories than hang out with my friends and possibly “binge.” If I ever went over 1200 calories, it was followed by feelings of defeat and guilt. Even if I exceeded my limit by eating something that was actually nutritious, like a piece of fruit or a handful of carrots, I felt like a failure. One should never feel guilty for nutritious foods. This kind of lifestyle was completely unsustainable; I couldn’t abstain from my friends and the finer things in life for the rest of my life just to be skinny!
In the end, when I couldn’t stick to it anymore for a number of reasons and would go back to living a normal life, I would gain all the weight back and then some. It was like a yo-yo weight-loss roller coaster that never ended, and it was incredibly disappointing, discouraging, and damaging to my self-esteem.
I decided I needed a lifestyle change, and it needed to be long-term and sustainable. Counting calories every day and only consuming enough to not be considered “starving” was not only impractical and unsustainable, but harmful to my health in the long-term. The short-term satisfaction of being skinny for a few weeks was not worth the long-term health hazards of living this way.
As soon as I recognized that what I was doing was unhealthy and came to terms with it, I immediately stopped counting calories and instead started acknowledging the nutritional value of what I was eating. I read labels, learned about the ingredients, and focused on health benefits instead of weight loss. The most important change that I had to make was my mindset.
Viewing your health as a lifestyle and not a diet is, in my opinion, the most important aspect to this change. As I worked on improving my mindset, I noticed incredible changes in my energy levels, clarity, and (of course) my body. The changes to my body became secondary concerns behind the multitude of health benefits that I was providing my body with! When I began to take care of my health by fueling my body with nutritious foods, the rest took care of itself, including my weight. I became increasingly more aware of what an incredible machine the human body is, and it really is quite amazing what it can do for us if we treat it right.
The lesson I learned through this process is that in order for it to be a lifestyle that you can maintain for the rest of your life, you have to have realistic expectations and goals. You don’t need to adhere to impractical restrictions like “no carbs after 3 PM” or put yourself on some liquids-only detox for days on end. It’s about creating healthy, sustainable habits that you can live with. You can start by making healthy substitutions for things you like to eat, making conscious decisions about what you are feeding your body, or quitting the calorie-counting.
Try something new, experiment, venture outside your comfort zone. Find what works for you, and make it a lifestyle that you can be proud of!
There is so much more to life than just being skinny for skinny’s sake. There is no need to sacrifice your happiness just to look great. Feed yourself healthy, nutrient dense foods, and enough of it, and the rest will take care of itself. You don’t necessarily have to “eat less,” you just have to eat right!