By guest contributor Hannah Gray
The scale and I are not friends these days. Stepping onto it is just a reminder of how wrong things have gone, and what a very long way I have to go. It’s depressing and demoralizing and I hate it.
So I’m not doing it! Not for now, anyway. Instead I am choosing to focus on things that matter, because really, the number on the scale is only part of the story.
Every day of the week I talk to people who want to lose a certain amount of weight, or arrive at a speciﬁc weight. Once that happens, all of life’s chips will magically fall into place and everything will be easy. It’s kind of a nice idea, right?
But here’s the thing: we can’t actually control the number on the scale. Yep, you read that right! What we CAN control is how we behave (to some extent – the exceptions to that statement are for another post): how we eat, sleep, move…and think. Those are the things that matter, and when each of those four pieces are aligned it feels freakin’ amazing.
So of course eating is a big deal as far as weight management goes. Most people know what to do, in theory: emphasize veggies, protein, healthy fats, and save the processed stuff for once in a while. Exercise? Same sort of thing, although I’d be remiss in my duties as a trainer if I didn’t add here that really, working with a good trainer makes a crazy huge difference in the effectiveness of your workout programming (which is why all the best trainers I know, in spite of having all the tools they need to design a program, work with a trainer. It is that much better.) Sleep? Here’s where the water gets murky: most people just don’t get enough good sleep to maintain good health, let alone cultivate the physique they want. And without good quality rest, all the healthy eating and hard work in the gym is just not going to show. I could go on and on about that stuff, but what I really want to dig into here is the fourth pillar: THINKING.
Hands up, who has said, or has heard someone say, “If I could just get to my goal I’d have no trouble maintaining it!” There’s that nice magical idea again. But seriously? It’s a pipe dream for most people, because what I think is the MOST IMPORTANT PART of any weight loss journey, and the part that almost always gets overlooked, is the mental transformation that has to happen for it all to stick. You have to change how you deﬁne yourself, TO yourself. And that’s some heavy lifting.
Let me illustrate: I always thought I was fat. I think I started deﬁning myself as a fat person around age 11. I was always one of the tallest kids in my class, but when I look back at pictures from junior high and high school, I was not fat. Not by a long shot. Sure, I was big and uncoordinated and geeky, but FAT was the insult of choice among the adolescent girls in my generation (probably because it cut the deepest), so ‘fat’ became how I deﬁned myself. When you look at it from that angle, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that as soon as I ﬁnished high school and moved out on my own, fat was what I became in pretty short order. I didn’t really even notice; I’d see pictures of me and think, “Geez, my head looks really small in that picture. Weird.” I’d been seeing a fat girl in pictures and in the mirror forever.
Enter the bungee dieting. Various fad diets. Soup diets. Registered Dieticians. Veganism. Paleo. They all work over the short term. The problem lies in what happens when the diet is over, or becomes too restrictive to live life. If a pretty major brain overhaul hasn’t happened, you get to the end of the bungee and then you snap back, oftentimes sailing back past that starting point and going higher.
What ﬁnally did work was a coaching program that took the weight loss aspect almost painfully slowly; focussing instead on re-learning how to think about ourselves, and changing our behaviour one tiny habit at a time. No diets, no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, no changes that weren’t doable FOREVER. It was awesome. Just before I ﬁnished the year-long program, I also obtained a Nutrition Certiﬁcation so that I could apply what I had learned with my clients.
It was just an unfortunate coincidence that toward the end of that program my body started doing some
really funky things. I’ll spare you the grisly details, but I developed a severe hormone imbalance that took a long time to diagnose, and the treatment process is ongoing… and on went the pounds again! It was frustrating and depressing and I can’t even begin to explain how career-limiting it is to put on a whole pile of weight as a ﬁtness professional. And for about a year I let it get to me. Like, hard-core. I came so close to leaving this career that it freaks me out a little bit when I think about it…
…But I chose to stay. I also chose to stop beating myself up. Because here’s what matters: I eat right. I train hard (but only because picking up heavy things makes me happy, not with weight loss as the endgame). I try to make sure I get enough sleep (personal trainer hours are a little unforgiving that way but napping is the bomb). And although I don’t feel like my body is where I’d like it to be, I appreciate it for what it can do in spite of what it’s been through. I live my life in line with my values and I don’t deﬁne myself solely as a fat person. I am not tethered to the diet bungee anymore.
So what’s next? It’s time to set about changing some habits again. My body has to ﬁnd a new ‘normal’ – carrying this much extra weight doesn’t feel good so it has to go. And although I feel like the way I live right now is pretty good, there’s always room for improvement – you can’t expect things to change unless you’re willing to change!