If you were to go Google something along the lines of “how to lose weight” or “diet tips”, I could probably already tell you the kinds of things you would find. We read them time and time again in magazines, hear them on the radio, and see them on TV. The “how” of weight loss is already ingrained in most of us at this point, the basic tenants of which being something along the lines of:
“Calories in – calories out = weight loss.”
If you dig a little deeper, you might find more specific tips that are supposed to help you shed the pounds:
“Drink a full glass of water right before every meal!”
“When at a restaurant, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of your meal, then automatically put half of your plate in the box right away.”
“Eat off of smaller sized plates.”
“Make yourself wait at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds.”
Now, I’m not saying these tips wouldn’t work for someone who were to actually employ them, but the more I think about it, the less helpful I think they actually are. They assume that all that stands between you and your goal weight is a handful of actions you have been failing to take. They come at you from the perspective of “If you do this, then you will lose weight.” They have a modicum of truth to it — if you fill up on water, you may be inclined to eat less, and if you have the willpower to restrain yourself from partaking in seconds you may consume fewer calories — but they simplify a process that is much more complex. If weight loss were really about simply following a set of rules laid out for you, surely we would all be at a healthy weight, wouldn’t we? Weight loss is about so much more than the “how”.
I’ve known how to lose weight for years. I’m pretty sure we all do. We’re not idiots, we understand the basic relationship between food, calories, and our bodies, and we know that there are certain things that we should be doing in order to change that. So why is it that despite dozens of weight loss attempts, I was never actually successful in any real way until now? I always knew what to do. I knew that I should be eating a diet that emphasized vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. I knew that I should be incorporating some sort of physical activity 3 to 5 times a week. I knew that I should stop eating when satiated before before I was stuffed, that restaurant portions are always entirely too huge, that skipping meals makes me want to eat more, and that I should never snack out of boredom.
But knowing really is only half the battle, and translating that knowledge into action is always the hardest part. Nobody will ever tell you that losing weight is easy. It’s not. Food is an integral part of our lives, not only the basis of our physical survival. It is the core of many of our social interactions. It is something that many people derive great pleasure from. It is on our televisions and in our books (hello, Hunger Games much?) and is a pervasive part of our everyday living. We are taught that food elicits comfort, that it inspires joy, nostalgia, and any number of pleasant emotions. Cooking can be therapeutic, and eating even more so. We are set up to be socially, personally, physically, mentally, and emotionally dependent on food.
So we throw around cleverly worded, pseudo-inspirational sayings that we will pin to Pinterest and put up on our refrigerators and we will tell ourselves that we just need to try again, to try harder.
“Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”
“The first cookie tastes great. Does the sixth really taste any better?”
“Eat less. Exercise more.”
And so on, and so forth. But as much as we may think that these phrases will inspire us to finally translate everything we know about weight loss and turn them into action, they still fail to get us to truly address the “why” behind our food dependency. I finally stepped back on the scale this morning after over a month-long hiatus. I was both elated and disappointed to see that I have neither gained nor lost a single pound since my last weigh-in. Elated, of course, because without a scale to keep me accountable and a LOT of traveling, I feared gaining back an additional 10 pounds. Disappointed, of course, because a small part of me was hoping that I would have been able to lose just a little bit of weight without really trying all that hard. (I know, sometimes I think crazy things. So sue me.)
It’s not easy. Losing weight isn’t easy. It’s not as hard as those who are too scared or too stubborn or too lazy to try might have you think, but it’s not easy. It’s a fight. It’s a battle. It’s a war where you sometimes you win but more often it feels like losing. And sometimes have a perfect week of eating, and you’ve still gained half a pound, and sometimes you cave and you have corn dogs for dinner and you lose two. It doesn’t always make sense. It’s frustrating, and it’s wearying, and it’s hard work. But it’s worth it.
I hope it’s worth it.