I thought about writing this post a few months ago. However, every time I have tried to document my many (many) weight loss attempts, I have ended up failing and then having to go back and delete a bunch of embarrassing, self-congratulatory posts. Which is a hassle.
Now, 29 pounds lighter than I was on my last birthday, I decided I could finally tackle the issue with some kind of actual authority. Or at least, with the knowledge that even though I might be full of shit, I'm a much healthier bag of shit than ever I was.
It's a bit too late to document my harrowing, ever so interesting weight loss journey of self-fucking-discovery from the beginning, and I find that to be a bit presumptive anyway. Like anyone wants to read shit like, "Day One! I don't eat anything! Feel awesome! Day Two! I exercised a whole bunch and wanted to die! But I will persevere! Day Twenty! Fell off the wagon, but am attacking with RENEWED VIGOR!"
Gag me. I don't want to read a blog full of that crap, so I'm not going to write one. Instead, I will distill my experience down to the most important bits: the lessons I've learned about weight loss.
Lesson One: It Sucks
Seriously. Losing weight sucks. Invariably. Because it involves hard work, and hard work sucks. Also, you have to wait at least a few weeks for any kind tangible results, and waiting sucks. Walking to work in the snow before sunrise sucks. As a matter of fact, walking anywhere at which there is not ice cream waiting for you sucks. Saying "no" to the popcorn vendor at the movie theater fucking sucks. Splitting entrees on the rare occasions you can trust yourself to go out sucks, and it annoys the waitstaff. Being hungry every moment of every day for the first month sucks. Having to explain to people why you're suddenly passing up dessert and eating salad sucks; having to listen to their half-hearted exclamations of, "Oh, but you look fine!" sucks the hardest; lady, we both know you're not fooling anyone. Besides, I know I look fine (even though you obviously had to smother a grin while spitting the words out); that's not why I'm doing it. GET OFF MY BACK. Working hard and not getting any immediate gratification other than a glowing sense of misplaced superiority because you managed to go a whole day without eating enough calories for three: sucks.
There will be moments of perspective, of course, when you realize that compared to 99% of the world's population, you have it pretty damn good. Watch a video about starving Somalian orphans on YouTube, then try and bitch because you really, really, really want a Whopper. That'll fix you! Take a moment to think about the sheer luxury of food choice: you, as a first-worlder, have so many food choices that you have to restrict yourself just to remain healthy, whereas a lot of your planet-mates barely have enough to eat, and you better believe they wouldn't turn their nose up at a latte because it's the wrong flavor. To us, eating is a pastime and an addiction; for most people, it's survival.
Thoughts like these are depressing, but they were sometimes the only way I could drive past the Dunkin' Donuts, fingers clenched tight around the steering wheel, mouth watering, but not stopping.* Using the world's suffering to further your own vain needs because it's the only thing that works? Sucks.
Lesson Two: Failure. Deal With It.
Dieting is hard. So is exercise, but it's a different kind of hard. Exercise is hard for twenty minutes at a time, maybe an hour. Dieting is watching yourself and checking your bullshit behavior all day, every day. And if you're dieting properly (as a lifestyle change rather than a coffee-and-cigarette-fueled pre-high-school-reunion blowout), you have to do this with the knowledge that you will be doing it every miserable day of the rest of your life.
With that kind of pressure hanging over your head, you're bound to have a few false starts. I personally have dieted more times in my life than I can count on two hands. This recent bout has been my only successful venture, and it's at least the dozenth attempt. Every time before, I have let a minor slip-up lead to my ultimate destruction.
What feels to you like a full-blown-food-junkie relapse is actually just a natural part of retraining your body and altering your lifestyle. There are going to be false starts. If you want to succeed, you have to react to your small setbacks with the right attitude.
RIGHT ATTITUDE: Okay. I messed up. I don't feel good about it. These things happen. I will do better tomorrow.
WRONG ATTITUDE: FUCKEVERYTHINGISRUINEDFOREVER!!! I am a fucktard. Might as well just eat this entire chocolate cake now! I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO THIS, SO WHY BOTHER? Bring on the scampi, bitches, cuz I have resigned myself to lifelong status as a failure. Do they make a 'Jabba' dress size?**
Lesson Three: Enjoy What You Can
Weight loss, obviously, is not all bad news and suffering. I, like every decent pessimist in the world, just prefer to dwell on the eight-thousand negative aspects of a situation first. Helps you savor the good stuff; only us real good cynical misanthropes know that.
In the midst of sore exercise muscles and junk-food withdrawal,***** try to find things to celebrate. Some of my favorites:
-The taste of ice cream when it's become a treat rather than a daily occurence. OMG. Ice cream as it's meant to be enjoyed (in moderation) is beyond your wildest dreams. Even the shitty flavors are awesome on a Pikachu-like level.
-Having to supplement my wardrobe with pieces from the 'Keep Dreaming' pile in the back of my closet. Note: if you're serious about losing weight, fuck the Salvation Army, and fuck everyone who says you'll never fit into that Thundercats t-shirt again. Hold onto that stuff. You're going to need it.
-Hugging Rob now is weirdly awesome. Hugs without two big ol' guts in the way are pretty cool. Kissing, snuggling, tickling, and sex are all similarly improved.
-If you start off as the sort of person whose child-bearin' hips are just a little too large for certain things (e.g. rollercoaster seats, walking between cars in a crowded parking lot, your apartment's too tiny bathroom), climbing out of the tub without your ass suctioning you into the narrow end is pretty much the greatest thing that will ever happen to you.
-Realizing that two months have passed and you have actually stuck to something. My healthy eating plan has outlasted my commitment to a new crafting hobby, a new blog, my plan to watch every single episode of 'Supernatural', and three attempts to write a novel. My fickle nature makes it difficult to stick to anything, but I've stuck to this and that makes me feel awesome.
Lesson Four: Your Self-Image
This should probably be standing as a disclaimer at the very beginning of this essay, but I felt like it would be obvious to anyone who knew me: I don't feel that my worth as a person is proportional in any way to the size of my body, and neither should you.
I have a friend who delights in reminding me of this, as well she should. Every time I mention****** my recent success to her, she says something like, "You're awesome no matter what size you are and this is not a reflection of your personal worth! But good for you!"
I shouldn't have to even tell you this, but for all my bitchy inner monologues and jokes about ass-fat, I like my body. It gets me where I need to go, everything works (except my lazy eye and missing teeth), and it looks good in a tank top, always has. Since I graduated high school, I have never once in my life felt I was unable of being sexy at my size. My biggest reasons for wanting to lose weight are thus:
-It's easier to carry around less extraneous tissue. Forcing my body to drag around 80 pounds more than what it can handle was making me tired, sad, and cranky.
-I hate shopping in plus-size stores. They're over-priced, the shit falls apart after a month, and they're hard to find without traveling to a mall. I hate malls. More than hating plus-size stores, I hate the plus-size section of regular stores, if one even exists. Department stores often have a woefully understocked plus-size section whose buyers seem to operate under one rule when ordering clothing: everyone over 200 pounds wants to dress like a Grandma. Fuck you, JC Penney, I am young and free, and I WILL NOT dress like Martha Stewart before my time!
-All the My Chemical Romance merch that I like doesn't come in my measurements.
-I was in high-school when I was at my current goal weight, and I didn't get to enjoy it because, duh, I was in high school and I thought I looked ugly. I look at pictures of myself at that weight now, and I'm annoyed that I didn't revel in my health.
-I'm vain and I want to look as hot as possible for as long as I can. Anyone who denies vanity as a partial reason for weight loss is a liar, and liars burn.
Am I surrounded by media and social messages that tell me what I should look like? Yes. Have I been hounded my whole life by the idea that skinnier is better? Yes. Is that why I did it? No. It's for me. I don't think there's a correct shape or an ideal weight or a formula to determine either. All I know is I made a change and I feel better now. End of story.
Say it with Mr. Tyler Durden, class: "You're not your fucking khakis." Whenever you catch yourself in a cycle of toxic thought, tell yourself that. Feel free to imagine Brad Pitt's naked chest while you do so. Remember why you're losing weight, and why you're not. I know that dropping weight won't bring me lifelong happiness and fulfillment. Smaller clothes don't equal happiness.
But you know what does equal happiness? Reaching a goal. Working hard and seeing results, even though, as we have established, working hard sucks and results are slow in coming. Most importantly, honoring a commitment to yourself.
A week before my birthday, three months ago, I made a commitment to myself. I pledged to treat my body with respect, to fill it with fuel that makes it feel good, to listen to it and adjust my behavior based on what it needed, instead of what my brain thought it wanted. I pledged to be able to go up a flight of stairs without getting winded, to cut my risk for disease, to chase my niece around the playground. I pledged to finally make the most of this one chance I have on this planet, and to enjoy every single year I get to spend with the people I love, to not wish I'd done things differently, to have no regrets about the care I invested in my health. To not go quietly into the night. To not vanish without a fight! To live on! To survive! To celebrate my Independence Day!
Or some such nonsense.
Point is, I did it, and I'm happy. Peace.
*That told me a lot about what a spoiled white American I am, but knowing you're a bad person is half the battle, right?
**Seriously, this is what the evil voice in my head sounds like. If you think I'm mean to other people, damn, they have it easy. I am a master of self-abuse.***
***Not that kind of self-abuse.****
****Okay, yes, fine, that kind too.
*****And it is withdrawal. That's why changing your diet permanently is so damn difficult: your body is hard-wired to crave sugars, fats, and salts, and to eat as much of them as possible when they are available. It's literally an addiction. Rather than use, "I'm addicted to food!" as an excuse to mistreat your body and fill it with nonsense, I find it helps to know that I'm up against a chemical dependency. Knowing that I am fighting not just habits, but outdated biological imperatives, makes it easier to stick to my plan.
******And admittedly, it's fairly often. I'm still in the honeymoon of weight loss, the "look at me, look at me" phase that irritates the piss out of everyone. No one more so than me, but I can't seem to stop. Don't my tits look great?