How to give yourself a break

We all would love to be able to easily understand our health via simple metrics. For most of us, our encounters with medicine/healthcare have included the most basic measurement: how much do we weigh? And that sticks in our heads, and perhaps in our doctors’ heads, and we all become a little too fixated on that single number. As I’ve said in the past, on Facebook/Instagram, I can look back at my life and compare my weight to my health & there is almost no positive correlation there at all. My weight was lower because I had IBS, felt crappy most of the time, and didn’t have enough muscle mass to support my body’s movements. It’s not because of willpower, diligence, anything else.

But we women in particular have internalized a potent message about weight & as a result, many of us are unhappy, uncomfortable, afraid —about gaining weight.

So, if you’ve gotten yourself into the unfortunate situation of consuming too few calories for long enough that your weight loss has stalled or is reversing, what do you do? For one thing, you stop consuming too few calories as soon as you can. It’s not going to work itself out.

Let me back up a minute. When you work with a personal trainer, you will be expected to have goals. But if your goals are unrealistic or actually unhealthy, don’t be surprised if a trainer asks you to reconsider/revise them. Weight loss happens from hard work, sure, and is one of the main reasons people work with trainers. But weight loss also happens from serious illness, addiction, and other negative influencers. Weight loss is not an automatic good thing, in other words.

The goal in healthy weight loss is to consume enough calories to build muscle & still burn a little fat, day after day. This is not where most women tend to set their calorie limits – the standard after decades of bad information is generally around 1,200 calories – and that’s too low for the average American adult to sustain for long.
An option to help bring your body out of strict dieting mode is to vary your calorie levels by 200-300 on some days, opting for a slight deficit overall at the end of any 7-day period.

I like to eat more (good quality) carbohydrates on Saturdays & Sundays, and then plan extra physical activities to enjoy the boost of energy from them. For me, this means fruit & vegetables like potatoes, and some rice, and not much in terms of simple carbs. I eat less of these during the week.
I track everything I eat. I also plan my meals around a serving of protein first, a serving of a vegetable which adds to my daily fiber needs, and then fill in the rest once I’ve gotten those figured out. That’s actually a lot easier than picking randomly, even if that does sound hard to believe. Currently, I don’t always track calories on Saturday or Sunday, but always Monday – Friday. (I track Saturday & Sunday about 75% of the time, just so I have some data about what I was doing, if I want to look at it a year or so from now.)

This may sound so simple that it almost seems boring. I don’t think weight loss, sensible weight loss that lasts, can be exciting – it should happen slowly. It comes down to learning to improve yourself without constant daily feedback, and that’s become a lot harder for everyone. So, talk to a trainer – one who knows how to motivate you about the stuff you don’t even realize you’re getting better at, so that you don’t get discouraged. Nothing durable about our health or bodies happens quickly. Weight loss is no different. If you’re bad at being patient with yourself, find someone – a group, a spouse, friend, partner, child, who will help you find that patience. Remember, once you reach your goal weight, you want to stay there – if you’ve raced to that weight using crash diet means, you won’t be at your goal weight for long.