Where were we? Oh yes, somewhere around here.
In high school I did all the diets. Funny, right? That I would worry about something like dieting when I was the most active, the thinnest that I will likely ever be. But I came from a dieting household. I did Atkins with my mom, looked into Weight Watchers, went on a “sugar fast” with my 14 year old sister and my mom the during my first semester of college. But I grew tired of dieting so I gave up. I gave up so completely that I gained around 50 lbs in 2 years.
Then I was given this book.
I remember staying up most of the night reading it. I remember nodding my head and saying “Yes! Yes!” out loud (good thing I didn’t have someone living in the same room with me at the time, she would have thought I was crazy). I remember going to the store the very next day and buying my own copy because I wanted my own; I just knew that this was a book I would want to keep.
I had actually been prepped for this book in the Beginning Nutrition class I took a few years previous. In the section on childhood nutrition we read an excerpt from a book that little children’s bodies don’t crave milkshakes and french fries. They ask for them and eat them because they know they taste good, and because they know they will feel comforted for the moment. But a little child’s mind can’t seem to grasp the idea that they will eat this sugary thing now, and feel sick because of it afterwards. Never before had I thought about nutrition in this way.
You will find many reviews online about how this book “encourages victimhood” and is full of psychobabble about loving yourself, but that is exactly what I needed. I had only heard one other train of thought “You can only like yourself if you change yourself”, but whatever I did, the change wasn’t happening. I was told by Atkins “Only eat meat”, I was told by Weight Watchers “Eat within the points”, and I was telling myself “Just ignore everything everyone else is saying, but don’t think to hard about what you actually feel.”
It’s been approximately 3 years since I read the book, but in many ways that is probably a good thing. Instead of spouting off ideas and principles from a quick read of the book, I can tell you the things I retained over time. These are the things that matter most.
The book is broken up into three sections.
Section 1: Reclaiming your body
Section 2: Reclaiming your appetite
Section 3: Reclaiming yourself
and there are three principles which I still live by to this day.
Stop with the “bad body thoughts”. Stop looking in the mirror and saying how much you hate the way you look. Stop worrying about how everyone else looks. Stop looking at your best friend and thinking “If I had her calves, I would feel better.” Think about when you started voicing these bad body thoughts and resolve to stop.
This is actually the principle I struggle with least, all thanks to a friend I had growing up who constantly complained about how fat she thought she was. This was when we were 13 years old! After being around that for a few years, I told myself I wouldn’t ever do that to anyone around me, and to my knowledge I haven’t. You know that scene in Mean Girls, where Cady goes to Regina’s house for the first time, and all three of the Plastics go stand in front of the mirror and point out the things they hate most about themselves?
I don’t do it now, and I’m not sure I ever have. If you stop, I guarantee it will make it easier for your friends to spend time with you. Isn’t it annoying when you are with someone and you constantly have to be saying “Oh no honey, your lips/hair/skin/things/butt/back/breasts/stomach/love handles/ankles/knees/neck/ears/nose/cheeks/cheekbones/fingernails/big toe, look fantastic!”
What I had to work on, was looking into my past a little bit. Pinpointing the experiences that made me feel so negatively about myself (because I realized that I didn’t feel wonderful about myself when I was skinny either, or else why would I have been dieting as a teenager, so the problem wasn’t completely rooted in the fact that I was fat. Therefore, a diet wasn’t the solution. Because if I lost the weight, those issues would likely still be there.)
Stop dieting. Diets don’t work. The majority of overweight people say “I’ve tried all the diets.” If diets worked then all the fat people would be thin. If their was a diet that worked, we would all know about it RIGHT? Because it would work for everyone and the person who wrote the book on it would have billions of dollars because all the people would read it.
This is where most of you will turn away from the book. You will stop reading because swimsuit season is coming up, or your brother’s wedding, or because you can’t bear to gain a single pound.
Stop putting restrictions on food. Legalize everything. Stop labeling things as “good” or “bad”. The book takes things so far as to encourage eating whatever you want all the time. Seriously, just eat cakes and cookies and lemon bars all day long. In fact, they encourage you to bring those treats in your purse with you, so whenever you want it, you can have it without delay.
The idea behind this principle is to take things off of the “forbidden” list. Don’t you sometimes find yourself eating a whole box of Oreos because you eat two and feel guilty and say “Well, I guess I might as well keep going.” But what if you didn’t feel guilty for eating those two? Would you keep eating?
You can bet that I really enjoyed doing this. It was so freeing to just eat all the junk I ever wanted without stressing about it! My mom did not like this stage, and it why she won’t read the book to this day. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t want the junk. I wanted to feel healthy and feel fit (tomorrow post will explain how I finally did that).
The other idea, and you won’t like this one either, is to go through your closet and throw out your “When I lose weight” clothes. I know you have them, we all do. Throw them out and say “I’ll work to accept who I am today.” We sometimes tell ourselves that we are hanging on to those things as a positive incentive to change, but doesn’t our frustration in our inability to fit into them often exacerbate the problem?
Here is where the information I learned in my nutrition class clicked together with the book. The last section is devoted to this concept of “mouth hunger”.In short, mouth hunger is different from the physical hunger signals our body sends to tell us it needs more fuel. Mouth hunger is about psychology.
Mouth hunger! What wonderful thing to learn. When I want an Oreo, it’s not because my body says “I want the nourishment of that creamy filling.” No, my body knows for past experience that eating too many Oreos can make me feel sick and gross. It’s my taste buds, my mouth, the pleasure receptors in my brain that want the Oreo.
And so now that I have legalized all food, I’m allowed to think about food. Before, food was in “good” and “bad” boxes. I wasn’t allowed to even think about eating the Oreo because it was a terrible thing and obviously I should not have it. But now, Oreos were on the green list, all food is on the green list. I realized if I can have anything in the world right now, why would I want to have an Oreo, are they really that good?
I hold the Oreo in my hand and I say “Why do I want to eat this cookie?” Do I want something sweet? Something crunchy? Something salty? Will one Oreo be enough? If not, how many do I want? Is what I am experiencing right now an example of “mouth hunger”. Then, if I want to eat the Oreo, I eat it. And I can because there are no good or bad foods. And I don’t feel guilty. So when I reach for the second cookie it’s because I actually want it, not because I say to myself “Oh, I’m not eating sugar for the rest of my life tomorrow, so I’ll just go ahead and indulge today.”
In fact, since I’ve read that book, I’ve never had any kind of a “Last Supper” ever again. You know the Last Supper? The day where you say you are going on the diet tomorrow so you better eat whatever you want today to fill the void that will be created. And how many times have you done that throughout your life (I did it lots of times before the book). If you are never going on a diet ever again, there is no need for a Last Supper. Just forget about that principles completely because it is a stupid thing to do.
At this point you are very confused. How could I have lost weight by eating whatever I want? If I ate whatever I wanted, I would get fatter. You are right, I didn’t lose weight because of some magical plan this book laid out. For the first few months, I think I gained weight because of this book, because I was eating what I wanted. But if you are reading this post because you are hoping to lose weight, haven’t you been dieting and still feeling like you are gaining/or staying the same? At least after reading this book I felt happy again, and I wasn’t on one of those miserable diets.
The picture at the top of this post was taken in the beginning of 2006. The picture below was taken in April of that year.
22nd birthday. I had to cut slits in the front and back of those boots to get them on. One month later I stepped on a scale for the first time in many months and saw I was the number 198 staring back at me. I was shocked to realize how close I was to tipping the 200 lb mark!
In Cabo with my favorite ladies, July 2006. I was trying to exercise more, focusing on what I was eating, but I hadn’t yet developed the system that would leave me 50 lbs lighter.
It was on October 20th 2006 that I finally made the change that would lead me to lose the weight for good. I was down 8 lbs since May. Hooray!
So what changed? How did I go from the photo above with my Andersen sisters, to the photo below (again with the Andersen sisters), in 2 years?
Well, you will have to wait one more day for that.