One thing I’ve heard time and again from clients, friends, family, and even strangers on the Internet is that they relate to my story of struggling with my weight. Whatever emotion it is they’re feeling, chances are I’ve been where they are. I remember what it was like to go into a store and try on clothes and not feel good in anything. I didn’t wear shorts for years because of chafing and chub rub. If I wore a dress or a skirt, I knew my inner thighs would be rubbed raw by the end of the day or night (especially in the middle of summer, woof!). I remember avoiding tank tops in order to hide “bra fat” and the back of my arms. I remember doing anything to disguise my discomfort with my body. My favorite trick was to wear long shirts and pull them down over my butt to hide my ass and hips. Newsflash to old me: that wasn’t a trick, and in hindsight, probably drew more attention to those areas. Now, I tuck shirts into jeans to show off my hard-earned muscles and much smaller waist. The old Amy would have cringed thinking about doing that.
Whatever your goals are, I ultimately just want every woman to feel strong, beautiful, and empowered when they look in the mirror. I challenge friends and clients to immediately counter any negative body thought with a positive one in order to build some momentum and shake the habit of cutting ourselves down to size. The current body positivity movement is fabulous and empowering, but I do have some major problems with it. Namely, it forces women come to an agreement with their body that “Oh well, this is just what I look like. I’m going to love it!” And while body love and acceptance are wonderful and much-needed in today’s cultural environment, they miss the forest for the trees. Being overweight or obese any way you measure it contributes to an innate lack of wellness. Your biomarkers (resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides to name a few) will improve as you lose weight, as will your energy, your sleep, your sex life, your confidence…all of these will improve drastically.
I firmly believe that every woman (or man for that matter) can ultimately get to the point of loving their body when they look in the mirror because of positive lifestyle changes. How do I know this? Because I’ve been where you are right now and I’m telling you it’s possible. Did it happen overnight? No. Was it always easy, and sunshine, and rainbows? No. But it was a concerted effort of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, making gradual lifestyle changes that supported my goals, and embracing the process. It doesn’t involve starving yourself, being miserable, slogging through workouts you hate, eating like a bunny, and being hungry all the time. What does it involve? Glad you asked.
When you are actively trying to lose weight and even when you’re at maintenance, it’s typically a good idea to eat until 80% satisfied, never stuffed, because your body can naturally regulate your hunger hormones and satiety cues that way. Getting ok with being a little hungry before meals is good. That is what happens in nature. Animals eat when they’re hungry — you don’t see lions or deer or elephants going on diets. Because their food is not hyper palatable.
Accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, there are foods that you cannot simply have in the house because they are trigger foods for you. Once you’ve struggled with your weight in any capacity, I think it always predisposes you to have small issues moving forward that might never resolve themselves. For instance, I would never buy Goldfish, Doritos, E.L. Fudge cookies, Sour Patch Kids, and tons of other old vices to keep in our house because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would overeat them. I’ve tried moderation and portion control and those are just some foods that I’ve accepted that I just cannot have in the house because they directly go against my body composition and happiness goals.
A couple times a year I’ll have some of the above foods, but if there is something you KNOW you have no control over, don’t make that a staple in your house. Just don’t. You know what those foods are. YES YOU! 🙂
Is your vice is hitting the drive-thru on your way home? That’s what one of mine used to be — Wendy’s or Burger King were my BFFs for years. If this sounds like you…try, just TRY, to string a few days together where you actively don’t do that. Instead of stopping a habit, it’s been proven effective to replace that habit. Instead of the drive-thru, maybe you take a different route home and grab a decaf coffee from somewhere. Maybe you stop at Barnes and Noble and read a book. Take an exercise class after work. Anything to help yourself break that timing habit.
Then, you piece together days of not doing some former bad habit and all of a sudden, there’s a profound mindset shift. And THAT is the start of something beautiful. You shift from shame spiraling where you start a new healthy habit, “fail” at it one day, feel like crap about yourself, maybe overeat to self-sooth or throw in the towel. Now, you have a positive feedback loop that breeds confidence. “Wow, I’ve never done that before! That wasn’t so bad. I can probably go another week without doing it.” Then, you’ll string enough good days together that if and when you slip up, which you will do because you are human, you’ll remember how much better you felt about your choices when you were avoiding said behavior. You escape the dreaded shame spiral and instead are off on a new trajectory. One in which you are in charge of your choices and make the most of every meal, every snack, every workout, and every day.
I want every woman to feel confident, vibrant, empowered, and strong. I want you looking in the mirror and loving what you see. I want you eating and exercising in ways that support your mental and physical health. Society today makes this an uphill battle, but it’s a battle worth fighting because the rewards are incredible.