Sunday night, as I was getting ready for bed, I stepped into the bedroom for a minute while brushing my teeth.
Through a mouthful of toothpaste, I asked, “What is that!?”
I knew what it was – my husband was standing there, holding up a pair of jeans. They were his own, from about a year and a half ago and they looked huge.
For the record my husband has never been huge (at most we were both just a smidge overweight and to be fair, my husband admits that even then, these pants were baggy on him because he liked them to fit that way). But either way, I guess I never realized how much weight he has lost over the past year.
Or how much weight I have lost over the past year.
I continue to assert that I didn’t diet and still don’t. I may slim down portion sizes after say, uhhh, the HOLIDAYS, but I don’t cut any food group from my diet and I insist on having dessert each day, which includes a glass of wine – the only resolution I made this year was to drink a glass of wine a day – at which I’ve already failed, sadly enough. You’d think that wouldn’t be a hard one to keep…
I love the feeling of being skinny/slender/thin. There is no avoiding that. But for someone whose body weight has remained in the slightly overweight category their whole adult life, staying “thin” is no easy task. I have lots of friends who can eat more or less whatever they want (at least, they appear to be more at liberty to do so than me) and they don’t gain weight. On my end, I go out an enjoy just a drink for a night, and the scale reads a few pounds heavier the next day.
Psychologically, it is difficult. I don’t think of myself as skinny. Recently, I was speaking to a friend of my father’s about food and exercise and I went off about a “skinny girl”, not thinking about it much. The woman kind of coughed and said, “Look who’s talking.” It’s true, I am thin, but I don’t *feel* that way, because I never have been before, at least in my own eyes when comparing myself to others. And when I think about food and exercise, I imagine that “thin people” don’t have the same thoughts or the same struggles that I do.
When you start losing weight, there is a lot of joy in seeing the number on the scale go down and feeling your jeans get looser on your hips.
That all starts to go away when you start looking for what your body’s natural weight should be. You think you’re at the right weight, it feels good on you, looks good on you, but you have an extra slice of cake and your body decides to throw on an extra two to five pounds (repeat after me: water weight, water weight, water weight…) and you work all week to shed them.
I’m not sure I know anyone else with the same mental dilemma. As I noted, most my friends are people who have not struggled with their weight for their whole adult lives. This is a lonely place to be for me. I have people I admire from college – people who lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off. They are my role models and they are healthy, balanced women. But they aren’t people who I am close to and I don’t maintain a conversational relationship with them. So it is hard for me to think of going to them for support in such a personal topic like this.
To be honest, I am unbalanced. And I am a perfectionist. As I have told myself many times, when trying to figure out what my ideal weight is, I have to let the pendulum swing both ways. Over the holidays, I gained some weight back – when I tell people how much I gained, they look at me with genuine disbelief. Which is both reassuring but also incredibly frustrating, because it tends to bypass any recognition of the internal struggle that I’m trying to work through. Nobody likes gaining weight, but I remind myself that I need to explore how I feel in the various states of my body, to decide what the pros and cons are, and to let myself settle in a little bit more.
Finding balance is one of the most difficult things for me. I overdo just about everything – I want to do everything and I want to perfect it, to do it right, and to its fullest realization. I am very focused on being disciplined and I do not like letting go. Being disciplined can go too far, though. I’ve been reading “The Golden Cage” recently and I was surprised to find a bit of myself in the girls that Hilde Bruch describes. I am in no danger of becoming anorexic – I love food and eating food way too much – but I did grimace a little bit when I read about these girls’ need for perfectionism, the superiority complex, and even the obsession with cooking…
I am working more with being flexible.
While losing weight and keeping it off for at least a year has been empowering, I’ve switched gears now to a new phase of working on my body image and being less rigid with myself.
I’m using the Tight Jeans Rule instead of the scale to keep tabs on myself. When my jeans start getting snug, it is time to lay off eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. At my request, my husband has hidden the scale. I truly had a bad relationship with it and weighed myself several times a day. When the holidays hit, I got tired of all the self guilt and asked him to put it away. I have weighed myself once or twice in the past two months at the gym or at work, but other than that, I don’t know how much I weigh right now. And I don’t miss that scale one. little. bit.
Several months ago, I was speaking to a mentor of mine about struggling mentally with my weight loss. We talked about it for a bit and from our conversation, I gleaned the 80/20 rule, which is helping me be less obsessed with being disciplined. 80% of the time you do what’s right. You eat healthy, you work out healthy. 20% of the time, you let go. Which doesn’t mean binge eat, but it means – have another piece of chocolate or two. Don’t go to the gym tonight – you worked out three days in a row, it’s time to be a couch potato for an evening.
It is working out well. I’m more focused on what I like about my new lifestyle instead of working myself up about all the little things that go wrong. I love cooking and making delicious healthy meals. The quality of the ingredients and produce I use has risen substantially since last year and I’m now cooking and eating vegan the vast majority of the time. I’ve explored an outdoor-focused active lifestyle more. In the past year, I hiked six fourteeners, biked to Castlewood Canyon (42 mile round-trip), snowshoed in Wild Basin in negative temps, learned to play racquetball, skied with my dad for the first time in 10 years and helped my husband get on the slopes for the first time, and will soon run my first half marathon.
In terms of weight, the feeling of being smaller is wonderful, but for me it came with some psychological setbacks. Looking back on everything that came with it, I wish it had been all for the “extras” I’ve gained in the end, and just let the weight do what it naturally does when you go exploring.