From October 2018 till October 2019, I videotaped myself at 4 different points to track my transformation.
Watch what happens.
The Important Stuff For Weight Loss
I am not without vanity and have no yearning to ascend a moral high ground.
If live as a female I must. Then the banks of my path are clearly marked.
Let it be a sturdy march. I shake the ground with impressive rumbles.
I declare myself a woman of substance.
And yet it had befuddled me for ages. How could a woman with seismic grade discipline have no control over what she chews between her teeth. I sat on the mountain top of judgement, gazed into the shiny surface of my soul and relaxed into a tsunami of failure of comprehension as it washed over me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I wrote the novel Spoonful Chronicles as an attempt to answer that question. My subconscious tricked me into thinking I was writing a light hearted story about food. The answer arrived after publication. A shocking yet overwhelming flood. A realization as obvious as the sun. So bright I couldn’t look directly at it. I needed the aid of a viser.
I broke up with femininity in my early twenties. Believed that side of me was weak, silly, superficial and worst of all unnecessary. In my experience the super girly women were concerned with looks. Women like that were relegated to trophy wifehood. I was going to be a serious woman. Intelligent woman. I was determined to take up space in a world that wants to shrink women. I was going to take my life into my own hands and be the captain of my ship. I embraced a life of serious hard work. “It’s what is on the inside that matters” I told myself.
Does my appearance have to be an act of defiance? Do I want to be a beautiful floozy or a serious professional? Now I understand. The extra weight served a function. It was protecting me. A type of western appropriate hijab. A magical trick to hide in plain sight. An epiphany resided on the other shore. I don’t need to choose. I can be both. I had to broker a peace treaty between the two sides. To lure my neglected portion back on dry land, I created a list of things that bring me joy. I made it over the knee high boots long. Then I sailed with methodical execution. With age comes carelessness. When you are a woman, it doesn’t matter what you do, doesn’t matter how you dress, or how hard you work, a certain percentage of men and women won’t take you seriously. Worst of all, you won’t take yourself seriously. And so why try. Let the frilly bits out to play.
I had to create a new mental image for myself. One in which I embraced a bigger chunk of my inner geography. The weight melted away. It no longer served a purpose.
This isn’t about a diet, exercise or lifestyle change. This isn’t about discipline or determination.
“Watch what you eat and exercise to lose weight” is like telling somebody that is smoking “cigarettes causes cancer”. At this point everybody knows. Everybody. You sound like an idiot by thinking that you are the only one with that discovery.
Sometimes you need to write a novel about a fictional struggle to gain an accidental insight into your own.
Before I could change my shape, I figured out the emotional and mental blocks that were preventing me from success. The rest I have detailed on below.
The Practical Stuff For Weight Loss
I want to start this blog post by saying that I am not a doctor, dietitian or a health care professional. Essentially, I have no clue what is best for you. The following is what I did that worked for me. I wrote it down because many people wanted to know what I did to lose weight. Will it work for your weight loss? …. I don’t know. I am happy to share what I did. Take what resonates for you and disregard what doesn’t.
Setting The Guidelines For My Weight Loss
I started by setting some goals and principles for myself. I sat down with a notebook and wrote down a set of guidelines for the days and months ahead.
1- My goal is to lose weight. I will not confuse that with healthy eating. Yes healthy food is important. Organic, whole grain, unprocessed, home cooked and fancy shmancy labels aside. I don’t want to eat more healthy. I don’t want to be more wholesome. I don’t want to be a better cook. I don’t want to save the planet with how I eat. I am not interested in spiritual awakening. I will call a spade a spade. I want to be thin. Plain and simple. My focus over the next few months is on how to lose weight. Period.
2- I read in an online article that you need to do something for 66 days before it becomes a habit. I am not interested in a quick or drastic fix. I want to develop a habit that allows me to lose weight and stay thin for the rest of my life. That means that following any regiment that I can’t stick to in the long run are out. I want to develop an eating habit that, after a while, I will follow without thinking about it. It just happens automatically. The same way brushing my teeth in the morning happens on auto-pilot.
3- I am willing to invest time and energy on this weight loss project for the next few months. Paying attention to what I eat seems frivolous and self indulgent. A certain part of me thinks: “this is a waste of time”. I scheduled to start this goal in between projects. I had just handed over a draft of Take The Highway over to the editor. I was waiting for the edits to come back and so I had a window of free time to focus on something else.
4- Eliminate self hatred from the process. I have gained the weight due to years and years of certain habits. Changing them is going to be hard. I will mess up. Nobody gains weight because they ate one donut and nobody got slim because they ate a single salad. My focus during this weight loss project will be on self care. Whenever, I catch myself reverting to the old habits, I will simply acknowledge it. Say “Oh Well!” and move on. No need for self flagellation.
Tools that helped me:
I installed MyFitnessPal on my cell phone. A handy dandy tool to record every single calorie that I consumed. This app has a massive database of common foods that you can lookup the calories for. The bar code scanner is especially useful to quickly enter information into my food dairy. I proceeded to record every morsel of food that I ate. Every teaspoon of oil. Every drip of milk into a coffee cup. I purchased a simple kitchen scale so that I could weigh exact portions of food such as cereal. Rice and pasta I measured by the cup. This forced me to become aware of everything I consumed. I have a tendency towards unconscious eating. Where I grab something on the go and eat it while doing something else. Recording everything placed a filter in between. I would place something on a plate, look at it and then think: “Is this what I want to eat for lunch today?”
Was it annoying to record everything I ate? Yes it was. It was time consuming. A pain even. After a while I found myself obsessing over the calorie count of everything. I would go to the super market and flip to the back of every product to see the calories before placing anything into my shopping cart. After two months of this weight loss exercise, I developed a general routine of eating breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner that allows me to lose weight. I no longer record everything I eat. I simply follow a general system that I developed during the time that I did record everything.
Here is a random entry from my weight loss food diary for reference.
Every morning I get on a scale and weigh in. This sets the intention of the day to care for myself. At times the number on the scale went up instead of down. At other times I plateaued for weeks. I simply continued to follow the system. Slow but steady is what this is about for me. A few steps back are natural.
As soon as I started changing how I ate, I discovered that I had a sugar addiction that I wasn’t even aware of. I used to eat something sweet nearly every day. Cake, cookies, ice cream, candy and chocolates. I reduced all this type of food to once in a while. I got withdrawal symptoms for weeks. I imagine that what I felt is a milder version of what a drug addict feels when they stop taking cocaine. To help me get over the hump I found a bunch of snacks to help me get over the sugar cravings. More about this later. Today I am convinced that sugar is basically poison. I will have a piece of cake when there is a special occasion, but otherwise avoid all sweets and desserts.
One of the changes I had to make is training myself to eat breakfast. For most of my adult life I skipped breakfast because I didn’t feel hungry when I woke up. Now I realize that was a mistake because it meant I would get super hungry later in the day and overeat. In the beginning I ate a piece of toast with a teaspoon of either jam or peanut butter. After a few weeks that got boring, I had to search for some variety in my breakfasts. Now I alternate between a list of options: cereal, instant oatmeal, toast, a boiled egg, granola bar or a calorie appropriate pastry. Nowadays, I am a huge fan of breakfast. I realize by skipping this meal in the past I was setting myself to overeat later in the day.
To help me with sugar craving I stocked my pantry with snacks that worked within my calorie count. Options included
5 calorie jello
35 calorie single serving yogurt in a variety of fruit flavors
0 calorie can of diet coke
0 calorie fruit flavored herbal teas. My favorite is cinnamon apple.
50 calorie chocolate flavored jello (for desperate days).
I tried flavored coffee and didn’t enjoy it.
Now I can hear you say: “but most of these are not healthy.” I wish to remind you of my set of guidelines at the beginning of this blog post. My goal is not to be healthy. My goal is to lose weight. My sugar cravings were a mighty powerful force that I had to do something to get rid of. Having a handy snack helped me out. These days I mostly snack on fruit.
I am an emotional eater. I eat because I am stressed, bored or have difficult feelings. Let’s face it. Food is comforting. Luckily other things are comforting as well. Before I started losing weight I wrote down a list of things that I find enjoyable. Making changes is difficult. Painful even. I knew I had to find other ways to deal with difficult feelings as they came up. I started to apply makeup in the morning just for the fun of it. Placed some attention to what I wore. Spent time on pampering myself before going to bed at night. Went for walks. These are example activities that helped me in that regard. One time I felt so terrible, I had to lie on the ground in my living room, placed my hands around myself as if I was giving myself a hug until the feeling passed.
I know that exercise is an important part of losing weight. But whenever I tried to exercise during this time, I found it too overwhelming. Changing how I eat was difficult enough for me, introducing exercise into the mix was simply too much. After several tries, I decided to let go of exercise and focus on changing how I eat first. I am fully aware that I need to incorporate exercise into my daily life somehow. It is on my todo list next. But I lost all the weight by changing how I ate alone with no exercise added into the mix. Is this the ideal way? …. Probably not. It is the way that worked for me.
I don’t know about other people, but being around food or seeing food, makes me want to eat even if I am not hungry. To help me lose weight I decided to minimize the time I was spending in the kitchen. For example, there is a couch in my kitchen area. Most evenings you would find me sitting there either reading or watching something on Netflix. With an easy access to the fridge, I would get up and get myself a snack just because it was there. I moved my sitting to read area upstairs to a spare bedroom. That way if I want to get a snack I have to go downstairs to get it. Most evenings I am too lazy. Simply sitting somewhere else helps me eat less. Also I try to prepare simple meals that don’t require hours of work. These days, I enter the kitchen to prepare a meal, I eat, then cleanup and get out of there. Out of sight out of mind.
Eating in restaurants offered a bit of challenge during this time. Some restaurants have calories listed for their menu items online, most don’t. I tried to keep eating in restaurants to a minimum. I found it helpful to look up the menu ahead of time and decide what I would order before going there. With regards to calorie counting, I guessed to the best of my abilities.
Messing up is a part of process. Did I catch myself reverting back to old habits during this whole year? Yes I did. Several times. I didn’t make it into a big deal. This isn’t about discipline or having a strong will for me. Discipline is important, but in this one area of my life, it has proven useless. Living with constant discipline can get exhausting. It’s a matter of finding new ways of self care. Learning to be patient with myself was a fantastic experience. I approached each mess up with curiosity rather than judgement. I asked myself “What am I feeling?” “What do I need right now?” “How can I meet those needs?”
When you start to lose weight, sooner or later, people will mention the keto diet to you. I have read about keto diet and It doesn’t sound like something that I can stick to in the long run. I enjoy eating rice, bread and pasta too much. I have never tried the keto diet and I made the decision that it is not for me.
Many weight loss methods mention drinking more water. I tried drinking more water for a couple of weeks. Ended up needing to go to the washroom frequently as a result. This felt annoying and so I went back to drinking water whenever I felt thirsty.
Change is difficult in the personal level, but it can also be difficult for people around us. Family made fun of me as I measured, weighed and recorded everything I ate in the first two months. Some friends seemed to be personally offended by my weight loss. A few would insist that I had to eat a cake or a chocolate even after I explained that I didn’t want it. One person insists that I had a surgical procedure done and refuses to believe that I accomplished the weight loss by changing what I eat. Change triggers strange reaction in others. Some of it negative. I don’t claim to understand it. I just think that you need to prepare and shield yourself from these reactions.
Today I feel great. I have more energy. I am happy with how I look. My favorite part of this weight loss story is that I did things my way. It was a positive process of self discovery. I am planning to lose a few more pounds. The only negative side effect is that because I am eating less food I have to eat at regular intervals. If I happen to skip a meal I become hungry and grumpy.
A goal can seem impossible. But you take one small step towards it. Then another and another. Suddenly you find yourself standing in a spot wondering why it ever seemed out of reach.