Free your mind and the rest will follow
~ En Vogue
After a couple of days of soul searching - and trying to stop saying, "I don't want" and saying "I do want" I realized that my vision was to have freedom from dieting forever - and everything that goes around a formal diet: the scale, food tracking, food obsession, exercise obsession, mental craziness about it all. I wanted freedom from the "dieting" lifestyle I've been living for years.
I had been thinking along those lines for some time as I had been feeling pretty exhausted by it all, with the exhausted feeling peaking as my mother, who is well into her 70s announced to me that she was going on yet another diet. Yes, she's still dieting. Whenever she mentions a new diet, it makes me sad and I also noticed that I would immediately tense with stress. That is not the life I want to live. So when I think of what I don't want, I think, "I don't want to be on a diet at 75!" What do I want? Complete and total freedom from dieting forever.
In order to do that I had to do some honest assessment. I've dieted off and on since I was in my late 20's. I did a lot of I need to lose 5 or 10 pounds for such and such an event type diets. In general, I had good success with that and even maintained a happy weight for many years, other than a few pound blips here and there. That was all good and well until 2005 when my thyroid derailed. Since then, I've had only temporary losses and wild swings up and down which would cause me also to swing from being super restrictive to saying "forget it!" diving into abandonment of healthy living. Some time over this past spring I realized that this July was going to be 9 years since my diagnoses and 7 1/2 years of dieting crazily. (It took my doctor 1 1/2 years to regulate my meds and she had asked me not to diet during that time.)
Shortly before we went off on our St. Martin vacation, I decided I had to stop the madness - this could not go on - that I was going to have to learn to love myself and accept my weight and my fate, no matter what. When I had that realization, I also realized I no longer wanted to get on the scale - not because I was afraid of the number but because I don't want 3 numbers to define who I am - or, more importantly - I didn't want the scale to tell me if it was okay/acceptable to eat or drink something, or not. I am very much a person who can get on the scale and see the number dip down and think, "Now I'll eat a piece of cake." Or see the number go up when I'd been eating "perfectly" and think "Now I'll eat all the cake, and the chips and the cheese and everything!" It had become a very mentally unhealthy place for me to be. Deep in my thoughts I kept wondering why can't I just have a food when I want it because it sounds good and I'm hungry? Moderation in everything without depending on my weight to tell me if it was the right thing.
Honestly, I wasn't even sure how I could go about getting to freedom (I'd tried "mindful" eating in the past with disastrous results) and then along came this workshop. If you read previous posts you know I was quite resistant to attending. Truthfully part of my resistance was just how it was named - I'm glad I got past the name and agreed to go to the first session. Because once I went to the very first session, I felt like it might be the path to my promised land as nary a calorie count or exercise plan was discussed, and it seemed we were going to be given practical steps to lead us.
Over the 12 weeks I learned to keep my vision front and center. I'm not saying I did it perfectly and in fact, I think I may have gained some weight as I allowed myself to eat things I'd never eat if on a diet. However, as the weeks went on, it became easier for me to ask one simple question whenever confronted with the desire to eat/drink emotionally: Will this get me closer to my vision?
To keep the vision front and center, it had to be fleshed out and that's where our vision boards came in. I found it harder than I thought to put things on there, because what does freedom from dieting forever really look like to me? It's interesting that I did not choose to put any full body skinny photos of myself on my vision board. Instead there is only 1 photo and it's a headshot. The caption under it says, "pre-thyroid." I put it there because I look at it and see that I was really happy. I knew I would have that glow and that happiness again when I felt free of dieting tactics. And still, throughout this process, I have never been able to envision what my body is going to look like. That's OK.
I also used the Hunger Scale a lot, especially in the beginning - which often led me to use the Emotional Rating. If I came in from work (or any other time) and started to reach for a piece of cheese or a handful of crackers, I would stop and think, "Am I actually hungry?" If the answer was no, I would then ask, "Why do you want to eat this?" I would say 99% of the time there was some sort of stressor present that needed working though. Eating, or drinking a caloric beverage, would only temporarily relieve that and most definitely would not get me closer to my vision. Most often the end result was that I would pour myself a nice glass of sparkling water or seltzer and I'd go outside and deadhead the flowers in my patio pots or I'd sit down in front of dumb TV (i.e. one of my junk shows that has no redeeming value - junk TV instead of junk food!) and let myself completely destress.
Positive affirmations became very important for me. While I didn't like tapping, the sort of positive dialogue that goes along with tapping was exactly what I needed. I've had years of negativity surrounding my body that needed to be countered. Some were simple: I like myself - some were deeper: The past does not get to have a hold on me anymore... I am beautiful and smart and athletic and that is how others see me - or even deeper (harder to believe and required more work): I accept myself and my body as perfect, exactly as it is RIGHT NOW.
If you say those types of things enough, they become the recording in your head. True story.
When I began to be positive, my outlook changed. When my thoughts were positive, my emotional rating was higher and the irrational food cravings started to disappear. I no longer felt like food had a hold on me but in the same breath, I could enjoy it with no fear. Especially, in the last 3 weeks or so of the program, I found myself naturally choosing foods that would get me to my vision. I never, ever felt deprived. I had cake and I had cocktails and I had cheese and I had anything and everything I wanted - on the other hand, I no longer wanted those things all the time. My saying "no thank you" to something no longer had to do with I 'can't' have that I'm on a diet - it was because I really didn't want it.
As for my results. Well, after talking with the instructor, and explaining my vision, I told her that honestly after nearly 8 years of dieting non-stop, I really wanted to see if I could let go of dieting tactics and maintain my weight as I'd never been able to do that. I'd spent 8 years dieting to maintain and I wanted to stop tracking food, obsession over the scale, worrying about protein and carbs and fiber. She agreed that would be a good goal for me, as in her opinion with my years of dieting abuse my process was going to be like an onion, with many layers to peel away to get to my vision. She felt maintenance, i.e., proof that I didn't have to diet anymore would be my first layer gone (and maybe a metabolism reset?). Of course that meant I had to get on a scale, so I agreed to get on the scale at the beginning and again at the end. She wouldn't tell me my 3-digit number, she would just tell me maintain, gain, or lose.
When I stepped on the scale last Thursday, my heart was really pounding. I was feeling so much better but my clothing size hadn't changed, which is as good an indication as the scale about weight, right? As I looked straight ahead so I wouldn't see the number, she calmly said, "Maintain" and I literally started crying, but it was tears of relief. She grabbed me and said, "I'm so proud of you and the progress you've made, I need to give you a hug." Then she measured me and informed me that even with maintenance, I had managed to lose about 1/4 inch off my waist and 1/2 inch off my hips. In her opinion it might have to do with stress release which led to cortisol reduction which allows that area of the body to shrink. I don't care how that happened really, it's just nice that it did.
We had a small potluck celebration to end the workshop and prizes were given to those who did lose weight (based on percentage). Then she turned and took a pot of flowers that were on the table and said, "Helen, these go to you because you literally have blossomed like a flower. The woman who walked into this room today looked lighter to me and it had nothing to do with weight. You are positively glowing."
Ultimately, my biggest takeaway from it all is the power of the mind. And that's why this is on my vision board and has stayed on my refrigerator and on my bedside table since the minute I found it.
I'm winning - and I'm looking forward to seeing where I am a year from now. One thing I know for sure is that I won't be 70+ and dieting. I'm done. Keeping my eye on the prize of my vision being fulfilled I am making great choices for both my physical and mental health. Doing that means the changes I've wanted are within reach.
I'll leave you with this - another thing our leader told us and something I said to myself many times over the course of the last 3 months. I love it because it's true no matter what you might be dealing with: health, weight, finances, a relationship, etc...