I recently posted a before and after photo collage of myself on Facebook. Though I was excited to show off my thin photo, I was also a little worried about that one question I knew I couldn’t easily answer: How’d you do it?
For 20 years, real weight loss seemed like a magic trick that I couldn’t do. Years of dieting and working out never got me any closer to “thin.” Even running marathons didn’t seem to do the trick. So when I saw someone else lose weight after a long struggle, it always seemed like magic. I couldn’t wait to ask or read about how they did it. I couldn’t wait to find that single simple trick.
The problem with my weight loss is that there isn’t any magic. There isn’t one simple trick that has lead to some pounds staying off long enough for me to lose even more pounds. For me, it is always a struggle.
I have two voices inside my head. I start every day on the scale. Whether up or down, the positive voice tells me I can make that number smaller tomorrow. I have a whole day ahead of me to stay within my calorie budget and accomplish the goal I have set for myself. I get dressed for the gym, knowing I will feel empowered by the strength I see in the mirrors there.
I have two visions inside my head. When the numbers on the scale are low, the vision I see is one of progress. I see the size medium body, where once there was an extra large. I see the muscle tone, the smaller waist line, and the smaller numbers on the tags of my jeans. I look in the mirror and see the hard work, more emotional than physical, that I have put in over the last year and a half.
I have two thoughts inside my head. One thought is that working on my body is not selfish at all. Or that it is exactly the right kind of selfish. Instead of ignoring extra weight that felt uncomfortable under my skin, I have made changes that have made me healthier. Instead of looking jealously at the muscles and strength of other women, I have taken steps to gain those muscles and that strength. This thought is one of pride that my “girl” push-ups are no longer from my knees.
About half way through my day, a second voice creeps into my head. This voice tells me one quick cookie or piece of chocolate won’t really matter. Maybe I’ll just have a nibble of last night’s dinner, or a slice of challah. Someone needs to finish the challah, says the voice. It doesn’t take much for the spiral of a binge to take over. Once I feel the day is shot, the voice tells me I might as well make it a “cheat day.”
My positive voice often chimes in mid-binge. It points out how well my morning started off and tries to remind me of the goals I have set. This voice acknowledges the binge, but tells me a binge doesn’t have to ruin the day. Unfortunately, this voice usually sounds like a whisper that I can hardly hear. The louder voice, the voice I hear as my own, tells me to enjoy these foods today because tomorrow will be a new day of dieting.
By evening, I am surprised by the vision I see in the mirror. Suddenly, I can’t believe how large I look. My belly seems to be as big as ever. I search and search for evidence that this is the same body I loved just hours before. My mind tries to make sense of these two visions. How can one pair of eyes see two completely different visions of myself? Which vision is the truth?
The second thought in my head is a very feminist one. As Glennon Doyle Melton said on Momastery.com, “Your body is not your masterpiece. It is the paintbrush you use to create your masterpiece each day.” There are so many things in this world that deserve my attention, why does my weight have to be one of them? What am I teaching my daughters by focusing so much attention on counting every calorie and making the gym such a priority? Am I practicing what I preach? Do I like my body enough as it is? Is this diet ruining the way I see myself?
These conflicting voices, and visions, and thoughts about my diet and my body have been a constant on this journey. Instead of magic, I have found keeping a journal to be the only way to recognize and understand these inconsistencies and to lose weight despite them.
Writing has helped me really hear the two voices in my head and to quiet the negative one. It has helped me understand that my vision of myself is affected by my emotions and can’t always be trusted. Reflecting on my thoughts about my body image has helped me figure out and focus on what really matters to me.
Trying to love my body as it is while also trying to lose unwanted weight is really, really hard, and I have done it incredibly slowly. It is NOT my main priority, but it is a goal I plan to reach.