Weight gain. It can be positively daunting when you step on a scale one morning after months of eating out of control and realize that you’ve gained an enormous amount of weight. You know it didn’t happen overnight, but somehow you just couldn’t keep up with doing all the big and little steps associated with getting healthy. You’re so not alone.
I know what that’s like. That happened to me earlier this year when I ate my way through a depression and re-gained 28 pounds, that I had worked so hard to release over the prior 18 month period. My feelings ran the gamut from being mortified, shocked and ashamed to anger, and indignation followed by waves of sadness and disappointment. My advice to you is to forgive yourself and move on. That’s what I’m doing and I’ll be happy to share my health renewal process with you.
So let me share several tips that have worked for me to lose weight which I’m now using again.
Mindset – Getting healthy is a process that will take time. There will be ups and downs. Guaranteed. The best way to recover from those down times, is to forgive yourself and move on. I learned that a little bit of self-compassion goes a long way. Perhaps in the past, you learned to bootstrap your way forward, and take the drill sargent approach which made every effort seem so much more difficult and painful than it needed to be. Maybe you’re bringing emotional baggage with you from childhood where others shamed you for being fat. The good news is that you don’t have to accept that kind of treatment anymore. You’re in control now. Nobody is pushing you to do anything. You can choose to be gentle with yourself and find a pace that feels natural to you.
Add, don’t subtract. – Back in 2013, I first met and interviewed Health At Every Size author, Linda Bacon, Ph.D. She was on my Lovin’ the Skin You’re In radio show. She shared the advice that it was easier to add a new habit, rather than focusing on depriving yourself of anything. She suggested doing something small like adding a salad to a meal, or committing to try a new vegetable. That’s exactly what I did before and where I’ll be starting again now.
Don’t fear fat. Perhaps you’ve become used to naked salads and rubbery vegetables. Fat has long been maligned by the diet industry, leading people to avoid it. When you add butter, salad dressings, nuts and oils to your meals, you will add great flavor that will keep you satisfied longer.
Visualize what you want. Your daily habits are part of the engrained programming in your subconscious mind which controls all aspects of your life. You can have the best of intentions, but if your goal is pushing you too far out of your comfort zone, you will find yourself continually self-sabotaging your progress. It’s a waste of time to fight yourself when you notice this. You can win the war by giving up the battle. Learn how to work with your body, rather than against it. Our brain thinks in pictures. If you want to change anything in your life, change the way you think about it. If you have a habit of drinking a lot of soda and you want to switch to drinking more water, or eating more fruit, put an enticing picture in front of you that you will see several times a day. Your unconscious mind will pick up your desires and reorganize your body and push your buttons making you crave what you want until you get it. That’s the power of your brain’s reticular activating system and the reason why you get more of what you focus on.
A Piece of Quiet – Whether you choose to lose weight on a diet or not, you’ll increase your chances of success by taking time each day to nurture your body by slowing yourself down. We get emotional and overwhelmed when our lives become unmanageable. With so much negative news coming from everywhere, if we don’t have a way of filtering it out, we’ll get caught up in anxiety, worry and fear. Set aside time to silence the busyness of your daily life by doing something to clear your thoughts and get started on the right foot. I swear by meditation. Some people just like to sit in silence, pray, go for a walk, do yoga, have a cup of tea or do any other activity that quiets their mind. My daughter, Cara loves to knit. Whatever works for you to create more space in your life will also work to tame your inner critic.
Stress-relief – Life is hard and stress is real. Your body has two natural inborn responses; a stress response and a relaxation response. You can calm yourself down or work yourself up into a lather. The amygdala is an almond-shaped, survival part of your lizard brain that gets triggered every time you feel stressed out. It can’t tell the difference between a real and imagined threat so if you’re under chronic stress, you could be experiencing emotional overwhelm, causing panic, anxiety and worry up to 50-100 times a day. When you think of all the things that are bugging you, add up unresolved issues from your past, relationship problems and health issues, you can see how stressed out you can get.
It’s no wonder we overeat. Food is associated with dopamine release which activates our brain’s feel good feelings, fooling us into believing that we will always feel better after eating. Eating for many is the quickest way to calm our brains down and silence the panic alarms. When the stress chemicals in your brain are released, they flood your body with toxins that make you sick, cause weight gain, lead to depression. I swear by a stress-relief technique called tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. Studies done on people with depression have shown that tapping can reduce their stress hormone levels by as much as 24%, an astonishing rate reduction. Tapping is one of the things you can do to activate your body’s relaxation response.
See your body with self-compassion – Realize that the extra weight on your body is there for a good reason. Sometimes life hits you with curve balls that smack you right off your feet. And there will be other times like holidays when you get so caught up in being reunited with friends and family, that you don’t realize how much you’re eating. No matter where your body is in terms of your health and wellness journey, just accept that as your new starting place, because by doing that you make it possible to move forward.
Cradle and appreciate your body – I learned that as long as you hate your body, you will feel pressured to eat for comfort. If you’re like most women who struggle with excess weight, perhaps you have been dismissive of your body. It may feel like a temporary solution to avoid mirrors or only look at the body parts you like, but science has proven that our bodies and our thoughts are like two sides of the same coin. Your thoughts affect your body and your body affects your thoughts. It doesn’t feel good when you dismiss a part of you. It’s heartbreaking to dismiss yourself and it feels like you’ve given a piece of your soul away. Each day whenever I’m in the bathroom alone, I stand looking at the mirror, focusing on my body with the intention of sending loving thoughts. I place my hands on my stomach in the same way I used to cradle my belly when I was pregnant. Stand each day, facing your mirror, looking into your eyes and speak honestly about how you feel. Vent, get angry, and be willing to look at your emotions, knowing that they are just waves and chemical storms passing over you. Consider changing your goal from wanting to lose weight to learning how to love yourself as you are. By doing that, you melt away the resistance your body feels to letting go of it’s barrier of protection.
Get support – Groups like Weight Watchers and other member based organizations keep on drawing people back because the benefit of having people understand you is so enticing. The challenge is many times they are based on talking about food and not feelings. Join FB groups or live Meet Ups that discuss issues that are meaningful to you where you will feel supported and appreciated.
All in all, coming back full circle–getting healthier is a process that takes time. And if you’re facing the consequences of weight gain from depression or anxiety, I’m here to help. Two years ago I was successful in releasing 28 pounds using a non-diet method called intuitive eating combined with tapping to confront the many unresolved issues in my life. I thought I had this weight thing licked but then depression completely took me off my feet. For awhile, I just stopped caring about taking care of myself.
I have had experience in watching loved ones around me struggle with depression. When my mother was in her 40’s, she was diagnosed with bipolar. As much as I love her, I never really understood how her illness affected her until recently. This past summer I spent some time with her. Seeing the reality of her struggle and her sense of helplessness to manage her moods, elevated my incentive to care for myself to a new level of intensity. My temporary dip into depression was enough to make me realize that nothing is more important to me than being healthy and happy. And that made it clear to me that releasing my excess weight is the kindest thing that I can do for my body to avoid the looming threat of Diabetes. But I refuse to go the route of diets or deprivation. And from past experience I know it’s not necessary. I will have to re-train my body to crave healthier foods again and to fall back in love with being active.
Over the past several months I’ve learned to see a new connection of thinking that I never recognized before; the marriage of self-acceptance with self-preservation. It takes the idea of self-compassion and moves it into taking action. I’ve been working toward this idea for years but it’s only become really clear to me as I have decided that my biggest benefit to getting more active is the rush of seratonin and other happy chemicals that is a natural prevention against depression.