For over 25 years, I searched for a quick fix to my weight problem. I chased so many different diet plans and pills that promised quick and effortless weight loss: the cabbage soup diet, appetite suppressants, herbal supplements, etc. My plan of choice for many of those years, Weight Watchers, trained me to expect predictable and steady weight loss with very few ups and downs (side note: A shout out to all Weight Watcher alums–remember the look you would get from the weigher lady when you would lose weight, as opposed to the look you would get when you either stayed the same or gained? I do. I would open my little weight tracking book with a pit in my stomach every time. Yuck!)
What did I get for the 25-year, quick-fix chase? An extra 110 pounds and a sense of hopelessness about the problem.
In my last post, I talk about Dr. Amr Barrada’s sage guidance around processing the emotions around weight loss. He taught me to be very wary of the quick fix. He also taught me a way to think about weight loss that, when paired with a great approach to nutrition, led to my losing 90 pounds. So, by choosing a slower more mindful approach, as opposed to the “lose 30 pounds by summer” approach, I lost 90 pounds in 2 1/2 years. That’s a much better result than the quick-fix chase I was on for 25 years.
Here are five of the items Dr. Barrada taught me about how to approach weight loss differently:
- Set out on a course to lose weight in a quiet, gentle way. Take an easy going approach and try to accept imperfection. As opposed to the high-effort, all-consuming plans that yield poor results (Slimgenics, Jenny Craig, etc.).
- Have low, reasonable expectations. Maybe you will only lose small amounts of weight, but over time those losses will add up.
- Try to accept your current weight and like yourself as you are. This will take time and practice.
- Try to be okay with uncertainty with your weight loss. Tell yourself to “see how it goes.”
- Listen to your body and try to accept the rhythm of slow weight loss. Losing weight slowing definitely has its own rhythm. It is not a straight line down, but more of a wavy line of small weight losses and gains with a downward trend.
I have more of these ideas and will continue to keep this conversation going. I hope this new way of thinking about weight loss helps you find your own way.
I just finished watching a special on 20/20 called “Gaining and losing Weight Means Big Paydays for Celebrities” The story confirmed what I have long believed about celebrity spokespeople for diet plans like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers: that they get paid gobs (about $30,000 per pound they lose) and they don’t really follow the plans they promote (personal chefs likely contribute more to their weight loss success).
With the success of Jennifer Hudson’s promotion for Weight Watchers, the trend of celebrities shilling for these plans is going to continue and grow. Jessica Simpson is going to be paid $3 million dollars to lose her considerable baby weight. Kirstie Ally, too, famously lost weight with Jenny Craig, only to put it all back on, and then lose it all again with her own company’s Organic Liaison diet (a pretty run of the mill, low-fat diet with a dependence on high-priced supplements).
I don’t begrudge these celebrities how great they look and say they feel now that they have “lost the weight.” I also don’t blame them for the money they make–these endorsements work on huge numbers of us, getting us to buy these tired old diet plans that fail 95% of the time. I myself followed Weight Watchers 13 times in 25 years, ending that journey with 100 extra pounds and a broken spirit.
I guess I just don’t find these loud, look-at-me commercials, filled with stunning before and after pictures, very inspiring anymore (the last time I was tricked by one of these endorsements, “Fergie, the Duchess of York” was the spokeswoman for Weight Watchers). They don’t reflect the reality that I have discovered about what it takes to lose weight for the long term. They don’t tell me that it will take time, or that my body needs to heal from years of metabolic damage (brought on by these same diets). They don’t tell me that I have to eat and nourish myself six times a day with protein, vegetable carbohydrates, and healthy fats in order to drop weight. They also don’t cause me to challenge a belief system–filled with messages like “lose 40 pounds by summer”–that promises a quick fix. I searched for a quick fix for most of my adult life. For this problem of weight, one does not exist.
So who does inspire me? I meet inspiring people every day who are taking risks by going against the grain and challenging the information sold by these tired, failing diet plans. Katherine from Andover, Minnesota who lost 100 pounds on Slimgenics, and has gained all but 10 pounds of it back. She is now looking for a better way to deal with this complex problem. Or, Mary from Cottage Grove who was a dieter her whole life and who expresses regret for modeling this behavior to her two daughters–one obese and one dangerously thin. She is now showing them there is a better way to lose weight and be healthy. These are real people with real, inspiring stories. I don’t know about you, but I’ve left the fantasy of easy, fabulous, quick-fix weight loss promises behind. For me, reality is inspiring.
Who inspires you? Leave a comment.