The promise we rarely keep.
You made a promise to yourself, maybe more than one. Inches to lose, bad habits to break, and better ones to form. How’s it all going? Or, like many of us, did you give up?
I know we rarely stick to our resolve. We almost expect to fail; after all, we’re only human.
Why is that? Are we so weak? Didn’t want it badly enough?
Or is there something buried in our subconscious that refuses to let go? Did we say we couldn’t when on a deeper level, we meant we wouldn’t?
Getting fitter, leaner or healthier or just looking great in our jeans is often at the top of the goals we set ourselves at the beginning of each year. Right?
We do want it? It’s on our to-do list every year? And yet, it’s not too long before; we’re telling ourselves, just one more slither of cake. Why?
You’re in good company.
Oprah’s Network (OWN) has something called the SuperSoul Sessions. Live talks where Oprah invites notable and inspirational people to speak. Recently, Oprah herself talked about her life-long struggle with her weight.
Openly, as is her appeal, she discussed her battle and the ups and downs of the scales and an eventual turning point that changed everything.
Oprah sprained her ankle. Immobilised for a few weeks, it gave her an excuse to eat and eat. Mindlessly eat. That little voice in her head told her it was okay.
Seventeen pounds later and feeling defeated, like a message from above, Weight Watchers called.
Another diet? Another chance? Well, perhaps it was time for Oprah to level up with why she’s never managed to keep the weight at bay.
Oprah posed a question to herself.
What do you want? Who are you?
Her soul-searching answer? You’re not your hair, your thighs or the size of your jeans. Oprah knew her weight loss needed to start in her head, not how many calories or points she’d be allowed to consume daily. Her attitude to her weight and the mental struggle to be skinny had begun.
Oprah’s not fat, and neither are you.
Oprah is an amazing, talented woman who, at 68, is beautiful and ageless. But at the time, Oprah couldn’t see that. What did Oprah see? Only the excess weight or the size of her arms. Or what outfit would accentuate the positive?
Before embarking on her ambassadorship with Weight Watchers, Oprah amusingly but poignantly talked about being grateful for the body that had carried her through life, but she was now happy to let go of quite a few of the pounds that had carried her through her life.
Most of us can’t see how beautiful we are. We’re blind to it. Unable to be happy truly with how we look. None of us!
Do diets make us fat?
So today, I want to acknowledge a simple truth. How we think about our bodies and the diets, we embark upon can make us fat. Which of us at some point hasn’t been on a diet to lose weight? I certainly have. But, for many of us, like Oprah, the results are fleeting; no sooner have we reached our perfect size and bam, back come the cravings for the foods we shouldn’t eat. Why is that?
Some say no matter how successful your diet is; you’ll always regain the weight. Why is that? Why, why, why?
Of course, you and I know why. We relax our eating habits again; we make excuses for our indulgences. We reward ourselves with food for the victory of losing weight! Yep, that’s weird, right?
Sadly the dismissive self-talk goes on long after these indiscretions. Yep, not so good. We quietly berate ourselves. We look at our reflection and send an unwanted negative message to our subconscious mind about of body.
It goes something like this. “You can never lose weight”, or “See, I knew it would all come back”, or, ‘Why are you so weak?”
Or, we feel miserable at the glimpse of our rearview when trying on clothes in a fitting room.
We berate ourselves for what we did or didn’t do. Why did you eat that bowl of ice cream? Why didn’t you go to the gym this morning? We break promises we made to ourselves, making this situation even worse. None of this could ever be good for our self-esteem. Could it?
Our brain fights our weight loss!!
And so to the idea. The book by Sandra Aamodt: Why diets make us fat. A book that caught my attention. The premise is that our subconscious brain sends us back to the cookie jar, not our willpower or lack thereof.
Our body in an effort to fend off future starvation, demands the weight be returned. Or so says, Sandra Aamodt in her new book: Why diets make us fat.
Yep, our brain or subconscious mind fights to keep us at what Aamodt calls our defendable weight. Our body is comfortable with the weight we will eventually return to. The problem with your defendable weight range? It inches up slowly to match any new weight gain. In other words, If you stay long enough at a particular weight, it eventually becomes your defendable weight. The weight your body fights tooth and nail to keep you at. I know. Not fair!
We know this, at least subconsciously; we certainly know this, or if we don’t, let me ask you. Doesn’t it make you feel better knowing your weight gain is not because you’re merely weak? Doesn’t the thought you’re weak manifest in a self-fulfilling prophecy of future weight gain?
It starts in childhood.
I can relate to this idea on so many levels. Somewhere in my childhood, I began to believe I was fat. I wasn’t, not even slightly! But, as the only girl in the family, with three brothers, I was an easy target for their constant taunting, giving me a life-long belief that I was indeed fat! Not great, is it? Nope.
How does this nonsense get planted so firmly in our heads? Perhaps for you, it was being bullied at school or the stereotype propagated by an unrealistic ideal on Instagram.
When you’re eight, your mind is wide open and pliable, and for me growing up in the 1960s, the closest role model was Barbie; the skinny stereotype became the ideal.
What would I say to eight-year-old me?
You’re not fat. You’re perfect, exactly how you are.
If you have a child who might be overweight, let it go, their body will work it out, or if they’re being teased, make sure it stops. Because even if the body works off the fat, the mind, on the other hand, takes a lot longer to sort out once the seed is planted.
Aamodt goes on to say,
My strongest hope is that parents will read the book and realise that expressing anxiety about children’s bodies is not going to make them thinner, instead, it’s likely to lead to weight gain and increase the ris of eating disorders.
Sleepwalking through dinner?
So here’s the good news. You ARE NOT WEAK. It’s just your body protecting you from imminent starvation. Of course, you’re probably not starving, but your body can’t be sure.
It will slow down your metabolism until danger (your restrictive diet) has passed and will work steadfastly to return you to the weight range it is defending. So what to do? Well, Sandra Aamodt, in her book, suggests avoiding the idea of a diet for weight loss but rather finding a way of eating that promotes your health above all else but not just in the choices you make, but in how you eat.
Mindful eating takes up a large section of her book. As she likes to put it, don’t sleepwalk through dinner. Avoid situations that promote mindless eating, as eating mindlessly leads to eating past the point of fullness, leading to unnecessary weight gain.
After watching Oprah’s talk, I thought even though Oprah had made peace with her body shape, that she would probably always be the shape she is. Perhaps for Oprah, at this point in her life (and I hope this is true), losing weight is no longer as important as accepting herself.
She is beautiful. More beautiful now, at 68, than at 40 or even 30.
Is this what ageless beauty means? Looking better as the years pass? Perhaps, but even more so, an acceptance of herself; which is surprising given her significant talents. But, hey, she’s as human as the rest of us. Here’s Oprah’s talk.
And now you?
Have you had a life-long struggle with your weight that led you to question why? Do you agree that diets make us fat? You can email me if you’d like to share your thoughts.
See you next time,