When it comes to weight, there seem to be two groups of people: people who stress about weight (loss or gain) and people who don’t. I was born into the first group and thought that the only way out was through access to better genes…but I was wrong.
There are ways for the average person to genuinely move into a different class in terms of health.
Earlier this year I finally understood how much energy I was spending worrying, planning, reading, dreading, and judging just because I wanted to lose weight. It hit me that I was at best able to access only 70% of my ability in school, work, life and love. I looked over the rising obesity rates and gym popularities and wondered what could be accomplished if we were all able to check weight management off of our lists and spend our lives focusing on something else (unless your chosen career or hobby is fitness etc).
I am living proof
I grew up with a Dad who wanted to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (and was closer than most to achieving that), and a Mom who received dieting advice from her Grandfather since adolescence.
My father was from the lucky group who did not have to worry about weight and he prized being strong as one of the most important characteristics. My mother hates exercising alone and has focused a large portion of her life on different diets. It would be fair to say that she has tried at least 80% of the total diets out there.
So physical appearance has always been extremely important to me. I can remember dieting since I was 12, and always wishing I could be stronger. I was unlucky in that I grew hips very early on – so much so that I was known for the shape of my body throughout high school. With stretch marks at age 13.
When I was 16 I began living on my own – which was my first real experience cooking. I put on 30lb in two months and was horrified and depressed. I can remember desperately wanting to avoid going to prom with my boyfriend out of embarrassment. This was around the time that my family became Paleo. I was slow to adopt the process, but after spending some time with my family again, it sunk in. I was paleo for two years – not very strictly, and then for the first two years of University, I was very strictly paleo. I never really saw any weight loss, so I would try other diets as well (ie. just soup and smoothies, fasting and I even went ketogenic for three weeks). As you could assume, this didn’t really work, and my stress levels were ever increasing.
I spent a whole Christmas break furiously dieting – even on Christmas day. I have weighed myself a million times, and have five full journals of food intake, exercise plans, and rants of self loathing.
I spent a summer working as hard as I could physically – in order to try to exercise it off. To my dismay I put on muscle and fat (because of my exhausted eating) – and got even bigger than ever!
I read many books about personalities, habits, and of course nutrition and exercise. And this knowledge made me constantly judge myself and others – especially when I was hardcore paleo. I spent a lot of time arguing with people about nutrition or just being genuinely mean when I felt jealous of someone else’s appearance.
All the while, there were many deeply exciting, engaging, and important events happening. I needed to be able to get to a new threshold of living so that I could be in the group of people who managed their weight effortlessly.
About a year ago I passed the threshold and didn’t even realize it. I was dating a man who healed my wounded high school self by utterly convincing me of my personal form of beauty. Due to outside circumstances I found a balance of exercising and healthy eating that finally began to slide me down the direction I wanted.
Since then, I have reached a happy equilibrium with my body. I am calm knowing that my way of living keeps me holistically healthy.
It was more simple than I first thought. There are three parts of the body involved in your weight: gut, muscle (and bones etc), and brain. Here I have distilled what works and what doesn’t. I sincerely hope that this helps raise the standard of health to a point where you can escape the group of people experiencing the intense agony of trying to lose weight, and get to the point where you no longer have to worry about it.
Food is probably the most important part of weight management, but your goal shouldn’t be to “cheat the system” and exclude the other parts – you are not in a game or a battle with anyone, this is just between you.
What doesn’t work:
Period. Get rid of that term and that habit. The stress it causes on your body is enormous – and only the lucky few will be able to follow a strict diet and maintain their weight loss. Some of my family members had signs of malnourishment during our extreme paleo days and our health declined and our stress dramatically increased. We believe that it may have played a roll in my Mother having a TIA stroke at the age of 42.
-Conventional North American Diet aka The Food Guide
It’s amazing how much misinformation is taught about nutrition. This is why I am still so glad that my family went paleo in spite of the problems. You need to throw out almost all of the generally accepted knowledge about nutrition and re learn it. Here are some examples:
– You should eat as little wheat/grains as possible, also whole wheat doesn’t make you healthy. Unfortunately, bread, rice, granola etc are very difficult for your body to digest (some people more than others), and are primarily carbs with almost zero available nutrition. However, for a happy balanced life I suggest you keep them in your diet, just eat much less than the norm.
– Your body doesn’t need dairy (milk is produced by the cow in order to fatten up its baby to insulate it against danger until it is an adult – why would this be a good thing for you to eat unless you were the baby of this animal?). Your bones do not need the calcium, and you will be drinking many added vitamins and hormones. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are good for increasing breast size and mucus in your nose – they are not a necessary part of you or your children’s diet. Especially with the increasing cases of lactose intolerance. That being said, cheesecake is a creamy heaven that I still indulge in on my birthday.
– Meat is vital to your body! If you have to take supplements and vitamins with your diet, than that means that you are not giving your body the food that it requires. Soy is full of estrogen – and if your calories are primarily coming from grain than you are almost in a constant state of allergic reaction.
– Fat is the most important thing you can eat. This is what your body craves when you reach for pizza etc. The good news is that you can fill this craving completely with healthy food. Animal fats (from grass-fed animals), coconut oil, ghee (or butter) are the best. Toxic, unhealthy, unsatisfying oils are the ones most people use: canola, vegetable oil and margarine. Your brain runs on fat, and your energy and level of fullness all depend on the amount of fat you eat. When I am craving anything or am hungrier than usual, then I know that I need to get fat in my body in any form possible (some people even do this by putting butter in their coffee).
– Be wary of fruit, they’re untrustworthy sugar bombs. I don’t really like eating fruit that much – except for bananas. I used to eat five a day (as you can tell I live life by researching the extremes). A banana has 30 grams of carbs and lots of sugar. It is researched that to maintain weight a normal person should be between 100 -150 grams of carbs a day. So just in bananas alone I was reaching my limit! This is why I don’t trust them. Don’t treat them as a synonym for vegetables. They are a desert.
– You don’t need that much fiber! Vegetables offer all the fiber you need, unless you are constipated all the time (if so, probably stop eating dairy), then veggies will give you all the fiber you need. Don’t buy into the cereals or the vitamins. Pooping so much everyday is not a sign of good health! It is a sign that your body is producing a lot of waste – which means the food that you eat is considered by your body to be waste. As you begin to eat healthier do not be surprised if it is a few days between and if you generally poop less. This is a sign that you are not over eating, and that your body is absorbing and using what you do eat. Luckily if you stop pooping for unhealthy reasons, it will be really obvious to you due to the associated pain.
– If you are craving salt – eat it. Cholesterol is not what we thought it was.
Please remember that our food is being sold to us. It benefits many companies for us to believe the food guide. Their goal is not primarily to keep you healthy. You have to take care of that on your own.
The key is getting out of a state of addiction to food. That is almost impossible to overcome, and if you struggle with dieting it is probably because you are either refusing your body the stuff that it needs (like fat and protein), or you are addicted to sugar and carbs. It is a really tough thing getting out of a sugar or carb addiction. But once you are out it is much easier to hear the nutrition that your body is asking for, and get to a state of balanced eating.
It feels SO empowering to be able to say no to food that would normally rule you.
So get out of the addiction and common food mistakes by learning a bit about nutrition, or just by taking my advice, and then go and learn from your own body. You have the ability to be healthy – your body will tell you everything you need to know (either with acne, indigestion, craving or health issues).
Currently, I eat 2 -3 meals a day and don’t have an inclination to snack. My most common meal is a bunch of grass-fed ground beef (so much healthier and way more delicious) cooked in lard or avocado oil, stir fried with onions, garlic, kale, herbs, beet tops, spinach, tomatoes and some form of carb – either potatoes or rice. MMMMMMMM good! I feel full and happy.
Exercising is absolutely key for happiness and health – regardless of what it does to weight loss. It cannot be ignored.
What doesn’t work:
If you genuinely hate exercising, how do you plan on convincing yourself to get up in the morning and go to the gym?
Having a strong emotional aversion to exercising is definitely not going to make it easy for you, but even that can be overcome when you realize that you don’t (and shouldn’t) exercise the common way. Avoid:
– “Chronic cardio”. This is a low impact constant stress activity. It does nothing but increase your risk for injury.
– Over exercising in general. If you want to be a body builder, then go ahead because that’s awesome. I don’t really have that goal so I aim to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible. This means that I don’t feel exhausted and in pain, causing the rest of my day to be affected by my intense gym experience.
The most important form of exercise is your daily lifestyle. Walking/biking as a form of commute. Standing at your desk, and socializing by walking, hiking or climbing. Also include lots of sex if that is available to you.
Since our lives are made so physically easy (we no longer have to chase an animal to eat), we need to add a little extra exercise to maintain our bone densities, health and confidence. Find something that you like! Dancing, mountain climbing, martial arts, chopping wood-whatever!
I enjoy grooving in my room as a form of exercise – there are no performance goals or classes associated so it is a silly and fun activity for me. I am no dance expert! You don’t have to be either!
I also have acquired a deep love for going to the gym because my gym has a sauna. I only go once or twice a week (except during exams), but it is the most relaxing part of my day. I even chose to go there as a treat to myself on my birthday. I typically do some sprinting intervals in my toe shoes – because I love seeing how fast I can run, an then I go to the weight room for shoulder presses, bench press and some squats. Then I relax in the sauna and leave! Short and fun yet highly effective. Weight lifting is key to weight loss and health. It is also so important for each of us to feel strong and capable – and I have found that this is one of the straightest paths to confidence!
Willpower, happiness and your beliefs about your abilities are limited by your brain.
What doesn’t work:
Guilt. Motivational pep talks. Shame. Judgment. I’ve tried all the force I could throw at myself to stick with a diet or an exercise plan. It didn’t result in a single pound lost.
Is self bullying really the method you want to use to achieve an ideal state of health? Does it have to be a vicious stressful battle?
Loving-kindness meditation and compassion are the most important mental strengtheners. You can not make many great changes when your past wounds are still screaming for attention. Turn and give yourself love and healing so that you can move on with a lighter mind and more energy.
Be skeptical of advice (including mine) and research to make an informed goal.
Identify your bodies true purpose and decide your goals based on that. I want a body that is really good at turning food into energy, and regulating my temperature. I want a body that is strong enough to move furniture and to feel safe walking alone. These goals inform my eating and exercising in a much better way than the goal of simply wanting to look better…though of course I want that too!
The most important is to release the sense of urgency. Imagine if the bears stressed out each time they gained weight for the winter? I like to think that we all have a degree of “tide” – a weight range that we pull in and out of. Minimizing the gap in that weight range is where we find equilibrium. Any sort of changes that happen in our life are almost always reflected in our bodies. Realize that our life stresses affect our bodies, and give yourself some time and space to adjust to the new state without immediately attacking your body.
Good luck, I genuinely wish you well!
(Please note that I do not yet have experience with obesity, childbearing or the changes that come with age, so I cannot give advice to that effect.)
Paleo nutrition and exercise: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/#axzz3tIRmrrv5
Ketogenic Diet: https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/infographics/ketogenic-diet-101-detailed-beginners-guide-infographic/
Detailed nutrition (specifically with regards to health problems) and food guides: http://balancedbites.com/practicalpaleo/
If you have trouble with the ethics of eating meat: http://sheldonfrith.com/2015/12/01/letter-to-a-vegetarian-nation-or-we-should-eat-meat/
Understanding sugar addiction: