Monday, August 17, 2009

The Lack of Diet Tips

If you're stumbled across this blog, you'll note that I don't give diet tips. There are several reasons for this. One is that I don't think there is a magic formula for losing weight which can be administered to anyone with a high chance of success. Another is that I don't need to duplicate the efforts of literally thousands of sites in this regard. And finally, I believe that losing weight is not about following tips so much as a large number of slow changes and adjustments to lifestyle which will build up your capacity to live more healthily and maintain that lifestyle.

I know that all sounds really ambiguous, but the truth is that this is my second go at losing weight. A long time ago, about a year and a half before I graduated from college, I had great success with precisely that sort of change in my habits. I stopped eating anything with fat, exercised one and a half hours a day 4-5 days a week, ate only whole grains and lean meats, and completely gave up anything with sugar. At that time, I lost almost certainly over 100 lbs. Through the years, I've gained that back and more.

That transition in lifestyle was not instant, but it was a lot faster than my current one has been. Part of the reason for that is that I'm older now and cannot do the sort of exercise I once did. Another part is that working life interferes with a lot of the freedom I once had in terms of food preparation and exercising. It was easy to exercise on my college schedule.

A former alcoholic who I worked with once told me that she felt I couldn't sustain my weight loss in the fashion that I had been because there was no way I could lose weight and eat as I did then without keeping up the exercise schedule, and that schedule would surely be broken in the future by other responsibilities. She was partially correct, though the fact of the matter was that my destruction was linked more to changing back to bad habits and integrating even worse ones when my life got stressful. The truth was that the psychological changes that needed to take place to help me maintain my good habits hadn't even started. I had the energy and drive, and that propelled me, but I had no understanding of why I ate or had a weight problem. I did not have complete control over my eating by any stretch of the imagination.

When I say "even worse ones," I mean that I started to eat the sort of things that I never ate growing up like candy, ice cream, cakes, etc. Because I grew up poor, cheap food, not sweets, got me fat for the most part. After college, I maintained and kept losing for about two years, then stress related to various changes in my circumstances (including marriage and a disastrous relationship with my new in-laws) drove me to sugar for comfort. It didn't help that my relatively thin husband ate such things with almost no negative consequences. I started to think of myself as "normal" instead of a big fat person and normal people can eat such things, right?

The longer I stayed in my bad habits, the further I got away from who I was during about 4 or so years of successful healthy living and losing weight. After awhile, I couldn't find the place in me where I was able to muster up the right place psychologically to even start such a change. I completely lost touch with the young woman who almost effortlessly made that transition. I'm guessing she had it easier than me because she hadn't been gobbling down sweets for years as a stress release valve, not to mention the fact that she had less stress.

At any rate, the road back to that place in my life where I made better choices and was better for it has only just begun, and the early journey was quite difficult. The path is getting a lot less bumpy now, but it's an incredibly long road ahead.