So you want to lose weight? And you hear that I know a bit about the subject? Just to let you know, that if you ever decide to ask ME about how to do so, looking for tips and advice, I will probably tell you that I'm probably not the best person to ask. Yes, I did major in exercise science. Yes, I have taken countless classes on health, nutrition, exercise physiology, and personal training. And yes, I do have my own experience with losing weight. I am well educated about how to go about introducing healthy lifestyle choices and losing weight the correct way, in order to maintain positive progress and improving your overall health.
But I also know how to do it the wrong way. The path that leads to countless hours of counting calories, thinking about food 24/7, spending all of your free time at the gym, having absolutely no life, social or otherwise, outside of dedicating your mind and compromising your sanity, all for the sake of making that number on the scale go down. Yes, I know, it's not all about the food or the weight, and there are mental aspects of it all (which I will address in a bit), but when it comes down to it, many of us with eating disorders really get the most satisfaction out of finding that we lost even the tiniest bit of weight.
This path is hell. I would not wish it upon my worst enemy, much less someone asking for sincere advice about how to lose weight. Instinctively, when proposed this question by a coworker, I was planning on just not saying anything, simply because I know that I'm not in a great place ED-wise and because the information is so accessible with the internet. But then thinking about the experience that I DO have, I decided to go ahead and give her an answer. Not a clinical, move more and eat less answer, but one that came from my heart and was honest and from a caring place. I don't want anyone else going through this crap. Also, after having heard her say something about eating a whole half of a cake, I realized that maybe we weren't so different... We all have our issues with food. I didn't want to have any influence on her developing any more unhealthy habits, which could lead to swinging to the other side of the pendulum of disordered eating...
So instead, when met with the question of how to drop some pounds, I have now decided that my answer will proceed something like this:
Don't diet. Don't count calories, don't "exercise", don't deprive yourself, and PLEASE don't take any diet pills or make yourself sick. Don't take anything to the extreme.
Eat because food is fuel for your body, and because it tastes good. Move because it is enjoyable and because when you are properly fueled, you have energy to use up.Change your goal from "I want to lose weight" to "I want to be happy and healthy". Examine what else in your life is upsetting you, or where else in your life you are feeling unfulfilled or unhappy. Eating well and exercising CAN greatly influence your overall health, but unless you address the other things that are leading you to misdirect your unhappiness into a poor self image, you are still going to be unhappy, and you probably won't be as apt to sticking with healthy self-care habits.
Eat what you want, when you want. Don't cut out entire food groups and don't ignore your hunger cues. Eat mindfully and stop when you feel full. Pay attention to whether you are actually hungry or if you are "hungry" i.e. bored, sad, angry, depressed, lonely, etc... Consult your Dr... Make sure that you are healthy enough for activity and to make changes to your daily intake, and continue to monitor how you are feeling throughout your journey. If you don't feel well, something's not right. Please, listen to your body. It is an amazing vessel and treat it with care.
As a last suggestion/little tidbit to implant into your self reflection here--- Do you think you may have an eating disorder? Spend some time thinking about whether the issue is really about just being overweight, or if your relationship with food is something bigger that needs to be tackled. Binge eating and compulsive over-eating are REAL problems, and need to be addressed as such. Even if you have neither, and are somewhere in that continuum between eating disordered and a healthy eater, I am 99% sure that some type of professional help would benefit you, whether it be a therapis, dietician, both, or some other qualified person to help you address your issues surrounding health, food, body image, and mental health. Using these resources can help you to become more satisfied with yourself, your life, your body, and your mood. Weight loss may come with this, but in the end, what good is losing weight if you still hate yourself and are not happy?
A concerned friend/coworker/stranger who knows all too well.