Diet free living: it’s not NOT about the weight

I haven’t weighted myself in many many months, but I know I’ve been gaining weight, slowly but surely. I can tell this because I keep outgrowing my clothes. Remember my closet clearing exercise? Even some of those items are becoming too snug to bear and my newly acquired pants I fear will have the same fate if I don’t stop this madness.

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I believe it was Geneen Roth (love her!!) that said: “It’s not about the weight, but it’s also not not about the weight.” The message was basically that you can be happy at any weight once you deal with what’s really bothering you instead of focusing on the weight. But at some point weight can make things physically uncomfortable, like when you can’t walk a block without being winded or when you can’t comfortably sit in a chair, and in that case, it’s important to deal with the physical weight. I am not that overweight. I know this. But the weight gain is causing me discomfort when I continuously grow out of my clothes. It makes getting dressed a painful exercise daily (we’ve heard this before, huh?). I can’t continue buying larger and larger clothes. I need to do something!

Here is the deal… I want to be very clear about this: I am not gaining weight because intuitive eating doesn’t work. I’m gaining weight because I haven’t been listening to my body. I’ve been ignoring its signals – eating things my mind wants vs. what my body needs. Eating things in amounts that at times cause me physical discomfort.

I know better. It’s time to get serious because I’m done sounding like a broken record. Here are the things I will focus on:

1. I will eat what I want but I will ask myself if I am physically hungry before anything goes into my mouth (tuning in to your body is very important here!). A little bite here and there may seem innocent but it’s habit forming and little things add up. “It’s so good, I can’t stop even though I’m stuffed.” Sounds familiar? You and I CAN stop. We need to choose to stop. Here is why it’s better to stop. You can definitely have something very delicious again, possibly the exact thing you “can’t stop” eating right now. You can make it again. You can go to that restaurant again. If it’s a one-time thing, you can make something similar… or you can make something different that can bring you the exact same level of pleasure (maybe more!!). You can stop. You should stop. This is important. It’s the difference between guilt, discomfort, crying over not fitting into your clothes and not worrying about your weight. This is how you lose weight without dieting!

2. Declutter. I’m not just talking about physical clutter (although I really should fold that load of laundry I did a few days ago!). As Steven Pressfield said in the The War of Art(which by the way I didn’t love, but this one message really stuck with me) – you need to make a distinction between what’s urgent and what’s important. Choose what’s important. I have a constant sense of urgency that’s cluttering up my mind with an unnecessarily long (and unimportant in the big scheme of things!) to-do list. It’s causing stress, often panic, misguided prioritization and a less-than-optimal life. Guess what else all of this leads to? Yup, eating. Eating food that my body doesn’t want or need. Why clutter up my mind with this non-sense? Identify each morning a few things that are important and do them!! No watching tv (while munching on cookies) instead of doing something that’s important. It’s time to take care of myself like I know I deserve (btw, I deserve tv too and it can be on my important items list for the day Smile ).

3. Work out. I’ve been feeling very sluggish lately which leads to general sense of “blah.” <—yes, that’s a technical term Winking smile Working out, for me, should be a top priority – not because it burns calories but because it makes me feel strong, energized and balanced. It’s like taking my medicine. Sometimes I’m too lazy to get up and get a glass of water, etc. but it’s important (here is that word again) in order to feel better. Don’t underestimate it when you feel overwhelmed by other little things you feel like you “need to” to do (as per (2) above.).

I wrote this list in my journal yesterday morning and had one of my the best days in recent memory. My list of “important items” for the day actually changed. For example, getting a manicure seemed important in the morning but coming home and making a healthy dinner for Adam (who is trying to lose weight) was more important. Today a manicure is getting back on the important list. Smile (I have chipped nail polish that is just driving me insane. I don’t care if some people think it’s silly and non-important. This is my list and I put whatever I want on it!)

So here we go. Sorry for writing a novel. I hope it’s helpful to some of you. It’s time to end this cycle for good!!

Any thoughts on the subject from my dear readers?

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35 comments to Diet free living: it’s not NOT about the weight

  • I love this and you x10000. I used to be a hardcore calorie counter. (And over calorie counter.. you know, where you overestimate calories for every food and drink you encounter? which led to seeeevere weight loss). Now, I enjoy my life, calorie counting free. There really is more to life than weight and calories.. and even food! By engaging in other activities (traveling, writing, etc) I’ve stopped thinking about food 24/7, and I’m at the healthiest place I’ve ever been. Not overweight, not underweight, just active, social, and happy with my life! I think the more we focus on food/calories, we obsess about our physical appearance which may make it harder for some to lose weight in the end. Eat food, preferably packed with nutrients, in moderation. That’s my version of Michael Pollan ;)

  • I definitely agree with the idea of thinking about what is important for you, today – the list can be totally different each day! My big challenge is allowing myself to rest when I’m tired because I always feel like I need to be more productive and stop being “lazy”

    • Elina

      Yup, definitely one of the things I most feel guilty about. Resting is not the same as being lazy. We need rest. The important thing is to make the most of it so you’re truly rested by the end, not more stressed out because of stuff neglected.

  • You can take control! Having your husband with the same goal is helpful, too. Maybe spent some active time together? I know you have a stressful job, and that naturally makes it so hard to be in charge of other aspects of life, but I think you can do it.

    • Elina

      We started playing tennis together this summer which has been awesome but the we’re at the mercy of weather gods… and busy schedules. :) I do feel more responsibility to cook healthy things when Adam is trying to lose weight so in that sense his goals are helping mine too.

  • I love lists and I could have written this one too. What it comes down to is listening to yourself and prioritizing. It is hard, but it isn’t impossible. You can do it, I can do it…it is hard to imagine people do these things without a second thought, but I have hope that it is possible and that it gets easier. Good luck!

  • Such an amazing post! I love how you distinguish still being intuitive but also helping your body be its fittest/healthiest/etc. You have just the right perspective. :)

  • I think it’s okay to feel like a broken record sometimes. This is a tough nut to crack and I think it’s tricky to get it perfectly right away. Hang in there.

  • I really relate to that constant sense of urgency! Anxiety might honestly be the most destructive emotion in my life. I really love your idea of simply identifying which items are most important to accomplish during any one day, and… you know, doing them! I find that when I simply jump into life in the morning after waking up, and accomplish even one or two simple things that are important to me, I gain confidence in myself and my abilities, which often lasts for the rest of the day! And eases anxiety. :-)

    • Elina

      Yup, getting stuff done right away in the morning definitely makes such a difference in the rest of the day. I’m working hard at becoming an early riser so I can have more flexibility in the evenings. Easier said that done though…

  • Ali

    I can associate with this so much Elina. I think sometimes in the moment it is so hard to just stop picking- that last little bite. I think what sometimes helps is lowering the overall level of anxiety- I am a really anxious person but by doing things NOT in the moment of emotional eating (yoga, breathing, baths, naps, etc.) it helps the general overall anxiety so in the actual kitchen moment, you are not feeling that worked up frenzied munching feeling.

    • Elina

      Right on, Ali. Reducing stress in our lives is so key and is much easier when you’re not in the moment. This way we set ourselves up for success rather than constantly being on edge, ready to snap.

  • Kristine

    Great post! Nobody said intuitive eating was easy. It’s hard to break the habit of self-medicating with food when you’re overwhelmed (at least it is for me). Keep your head up! :)

  • Great post! And thank you for being so candid! This is something that I’ve been struggling with for years now. I’ve healthily lost around 95 lbs but now that I’m nearing a comfortable weight I am constantly struggling with intuitive eating, the fear that the weight will come back and the fear of stopping losing weight. I’ve stopped calorie counting but still jot down what I eat… but the first thing I go back to when I start to lose it on the intuitive eating front is the counting (which always leads to the obsessing).

    I’ve always struggled with bored eating / tv eating. One thing I find is to grab a project (right now I’m knitting a baby blanket for a friend) if my hands are busy with knitting needles they’re not shovelling cookies :P

    You’re an inspiration! I know you can do it! And I’m so inspired by your ability to share it with us!

    • Elina

      I just (and by just, I mean literally today!) started keeping a food journal. I jot down my hunger level before eating and what I choose. I hope that will bring more awareness to my eating and reduce mindless/emotional eating. Counting though, that needed to be completely eliminated from my life to reduce obsession. Sounds like you may need to get behind that as well. :)
      Love the knitting trick. Hopefully that gives you time and space to examine why you’d like to shovel cookies in the first place! Thanks for your awesome comment.

  • Awesome post! I love this! It’s exactly what I’m doing. I am not on a “diet” per say, but I am making sure I a. eat healthier and b. cut down my portions from I must eat it all to I can stop right now. I do count my calories only because I really needed help with portion control and choosing wisely what I eat regularly.

    I also love your important list. I too struggle with every little mundane detail in my life being urgent and stressing when it doesn’t get done. I think I’m going to follow your advice and start evaluating what’s really important for my day.

    I know you’ll do amazing with this and like you said, feel better in the end.

    • Elina

      I just read an awesome comment from Christie Inge that said “your hunger signals are your built-in portion control.” Love that!! I think we are so used to relying on external cues (like calorie counts) that we forget to listen to our own bodies. Just some food for thought! :) PS – This is a reminder to myself too, I’m not trying to preach ;)

      • This is a great point as well. I was unfortunately at a point where I couldn’t trust my instinct when it came to eating about a month ago. Now, I stuggle to work in the calories I need each day. By that I mean, I get full a lot faster so I’m constantly grazing and finding healthy choices to make sure I don’t end up starving myself calorie wise. My eating habits before were terrible and I using the calorie counting as my tool, I was able to get myself under control and now can once again trust my hunger cues! Definitely an excellent point though! Thanks for sharing it with me.

  • You know, I was thinking very similar thoughts this morning. Some of my clothes are a little bit tighter. I haven’t worked out at all the past week because I was sick and exhausted from work. This morning, I got up and rode the bike for an hour. It was all I needed to stop feeling sluggish, eat a healthy breakfast and then head to work. For me, it is just about getting back into a healthy pattern. When I work out, I eat healthier. When I don’t, I snack a lot. In the long run, I’m just trying to find a groove that works for me.

    • Elina

      Yup, I have a very strong link between working out and eating as well. Somehow I am more mindful and less hungry when I exercise. It suits me. Thankfully since I do love it :) Good luck with finding your new routine. You’re going through an adjustment period so allow yourself the space to explore what works and doesn’t without judgement.

  • Thanks for the inspiration. Now I just need to somehow keep this in mind, amidst food and friends and family! That’s been rough for me lately, amidst Rosh Hashanah and a few birthday parties yesterday… I do weigh myself, as you know, and that number was rather scary today!

    • Elina

      Honey, it’s just a number. You look fabulous! Enjoy this time with food, friends and family. That number doesn’t define you. You KNOW that, right?!!

  • I feel blah when I don’t work out too so I definitely relate to that. Such a great post – you can do it!

  • I can completely agree with your sentiment – over the last 4-6 months I have been slowly but surely putting on weight, mostly bc of similar things you mentioned such as not listening to your body or not working out. For me the not working out is killer bc it makes me feel good too and destress! I am just getting back in the swing of things but I know it will be hard to discipline myself. Good luck, you can definitely do it and be good to your body! :)

  • Agreed on all counts! I’ve never been truly overweight, but when I’m pushing my limits (i.e., my seams), I’m not just physically uncomfortable…I’m emotionally and mentally uncomfortable. Eating right, exercising, and ditching the guilt puts me in the healthiest state in more ways than one.

    Just started following…am loving your space so far. =)

  • Another great post. It’s hard to listen to your body regularly and easy to forget how little things like exercise, can make you feel so much better!

  • Elina,

    Excellent post. You are strong. Learning to eat intuitively is one of the hardest journeys anyone can undertake. It is so hard to return to listening to our bodies after years of dieting, restricting, and number-watching. It is so interesting, too, given that it comes so easily when we are children.

    You are on the right track and in time you will be intuitively eating all the time, I am sure of that. Good luck with your journey and keep writing. Take care of yourself always. You are a true inspiration.

  • I’ve been trying to declutter with the move, too. Unfortunately I’ve got about 4 boxes in the middle of my bedroom to go through and I haven’t had it in me lately… but I did just start reading that book! (the gwenyth one you lent me)

  • well, first of all *GASP* you didn’t like the war of art….

    second of all — the idea of important vs urgent can be taken even further, but i totally agree with the whole ” put whatever you want on your own list” thing.
    i read a post by danielle la porte the other day, and she says” that pebble in your shoe is bigger than you think”. if something is bugging you, you can keep telling yourself how UN-important it is. but it’s there, and it’s getting on your nerves. spending time and energy –> pushing it out of the foreground is NOT more productive than getting it out of the way.
    that goes for drinking water, exercise, eating, shopping, LIFE. get that clutter out of your way and make sober decisions.
    <3 this post :)

  • Hi there! Yes, I’m a month late to this comment stream! I hope that this month has been successful for you.

    I went to a CE course on addiction and forming new (healthier) habits. The prof included overeating in the long list of ‘reward based habits that are bad for you. The main point of the whole lecture was that will-power doesn’t work b/c you always have to be working on it constantly- it works as long as it’s at the forefront of your mind. But what pushes it out of the forefront is stress and sleep deprivation. I agree with you that clutter leads to stress. My whole world improves when I take the time to declutter the house!

    Hope that you’re doing well! <3

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