Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Key to Losing Weight (for me)

This would be my advice to anyone who is overweight and wants to lose pounds: fix everything in your life that makes you unhappy. I've dragged extra pounds around, worked hard to lose them, failed, tried a new approach, failed, tried a new approach, failed, etc. I have struggled to increase exercise, change exercise routines, curb calories, adjust how I eat, re-adjust how I eat, etc. I have worked hard to stop using food to deal with stress, fight boredom, lift depression or self-medicate. I have worked and worked and worked to get my weight down and keep it there.

In the past couple of years I've noticed that it's much easier for me to lose weight in the spring/summer than in the winter. Maybe it's in our biology to hold onto extra fat when the weather is cold, but either way I've stopped trying to start a weightloss attempt during the chilly months (in Chicago that's October through April). May has become my annual month to start losing the winter fat and this year I stuck to the schedule, carefully logging everything I eat, maintaining calorie limits and getting to the gym at least four or five times a week.

But I'm noticing a difference: this time losing the extra pounds isn't as much of a struggle. Putting my cake-bingeing habit on hold hasn't taken the usual (big) effort. Desserts don't have the same power over me. It's easier to pass up food when I'm not hungry. It's even easier to pass up food when I am hungry, if it's junk food. And the pounds have come off faster and more easily and I'm keeping them off with much less effort than before.

I think this is the reason: I'm happier now than I've been in decades. I love this man who's in my life and he loves me and living together is going stunningly well (I can tell because I'm stunned). My job as a baby music teacher feels like an important turning point for me and I'm happy about working as a musican again. The music job makes my waitressing shifts easier because they no longer feel entrapping and demeaning (okay, they still feel a bit demeaning, but it's not nearly as bad as it was). I can feel momentum of increasing contentment. Maybe it gets better from here?

I believe it's because I'm not miserable about my life that putting down the sugar and losing weight has become easier (my struggles with weight are almost exclusively about the sweet stuff). I no longer need the sugar rush, the chocolate high or the (year-round) "birthday cake" binge to balance feelings of failure, inadequacy and self-loathing. Yes, for the past decade (or two) that's what I was dealing with: self-hatred and layer cake.

I imagine all the crappy feelings and experiences will be back eventually, but for right now I think everything's all right. So as you adjust your diet, make an exercise plan and commit to getting in shape, spend at least as much energy on changing all the things in your life that are making you unhappy. You don't have to tell me how hard that is or how long it takes, but in my opinion it makes the weightloss go much more smoothly.

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