The morning after Thanksgiving I trained a few clients, one at a park and two at indoor gyms. Broadcasters sung of the infamous "Black Friday" happening at malls all over the country as I drove from place to place. But once I entered the workout zone I had a different idea of what the daunting post-holiday term might stand for -- women weighing themselves and/or complaining about how much they ate the day prior.
I get it -- we eat a lot on holidays, Thanksgiving in particular. But on a day based on gratitude it's unfortunate that our focus lingers on our waist lines. So... I have a challenge for those of you with Weight Loss on your New Year's Resolutions lists. (And if you partake in it, you may end up at a healthier weight anyhow....listen up.)
A consistency I've found amongst those at all places on the weight and food-related spectrum is this -- people who are battling a supposed or legitimate "bulge" are lacking something else in their lives. From the extremely anorexic woman to the remarkably obese gentlemen...and every person, shape and size in between, watchers of weight often lack passion, purpose and joy.
We've heard it before: It's not about the weight. We feel helpless toward managing work or personal life stresses, so we eat...or we try to avoid eating. We feel stagnant in our jobs or lonely for companionship...We wish he/she understood me, loved me, held me more. We find we don't enjoy the work or career we worked so hard to make our way into. Somehow starting a diet seems like an appropriate quick fix.
Media tells us that thinness equals success and happiness and convinces us that we can't manage our weight on our own. We're told to buy into this or that diet philosophy, cut carbs, reduce fat, eat foods of only certain colors, separate this food from the others, drink shakes instead of meals, pop magic pills. Our negative self talk tells us we'll get our______ (perfect job, perfect boyfriend, perfect life....) once we get our eating habits under control. In fact, it's often the precise opposite.
A few facts:
Stress can lead to weight gain.
The stress hormone, Cortisol, is released when we're stressed, which can create weight gain. So, ironically, stressing over one's weight can lead to weight gain (Journal of Adolescent Health).
Diets don't work.
You've heard it again, but it's worth repeating. Those who obsess over their weight or heavily restrict their food intake consistently are more likely to experience slowed metabolism, brittle bones and even obesity than those who eat moderately and are generally active (University of S. CA, School of Pharmacy). Diets more often lead to disordered eating and depression than they do to long-term, healthy weight loss. So please, when it comes to diets, just say no.
Happiness can lead to healthy a healthy weight.
I hear it all the time. People fall in love and suddenly don't care so much about calories and fat grams. So giddy on romance, they eat -- even dessert -- and "woah" didn't gain weight. I have a client who had struggled with weight, dieting and binging for years. She also had troubled relationships with men. Once she began pursuing her passion -- which happened to be literature -- she became excited about her life. She put dating and dieting on hold and wouldn't you know...She's about to attain her Ph.D., she lost some weight without trying and she'll be married to a fabulous guy in a couple of months. Best of all, her face radiates with a vibrancy no human being would not find beautiful. I'm telling you -- it all goes together!
So now New Year's is coming and the gyms and weight loss centers will be saturated come January 1. There is nothing wrong with working out or wishing to eat more healthily. (Obviously, I recommend both.) But here is what I suggest to you: Set goals that fill your heart with greater joy. Does dieting make you happy? I'd gather to suspect, no. If you'd like to improve your physical health, do so. But don't make it your top, all consuming goal.
This New Year's I challenge you to the following. Rather than keeping a food journal that tracks calories, carbs or fat grams, keep a Gratitude and Joy Journal. Track your DREAM STEPS on every page, meaning a step you take each and every day toward goals that fulfil you.
You have a secret dream of creating your own line of artwork, though you've scarcely done much of anything artistic since the 7th grade.
Today I bought paint brushes and a palate.
I'm grateful for my family...the sun that's shining...the big sale at the art shop!
If you aren't sure where your passion lies, make that your goal. The saddest scenarios I encounter with patients or clients who struggle with severe eating disorders is the blankness on their faces when they are asked "What are you passionate about?" or "What are your dreams? Your goals? Anything you're excited about? Looking forward to?" Sadly, those whose entire lives and self-value have been swallowed by self-deprecating illnesses such as these can no longer access their inner drive or passions. But I've seen many of them turn it all around. If their eyes can sparkle with ambition and zest for life again, yours can, too.
Thank you for reading and considering all of this. It would mean the world to me and to those who care about you if you put your own self at the top of your Resolutions list. And as the cliche states, "You have to take care of YOU first" in order to give and care for others. It's really true. If you commit yourself to happiness, fulfilment and joy, everyone around you will benefit. Imagine if Mother Teresa was more concerned about weight management than she was for helping people....Or if Picasso would rather workout than spend time painting. Get the gist?
Wishing you all the joy, health and happiness you deserve now and throughout the coming year. Thanks again for "listening!"