This is written by a YBC reader (bio below), who pitched us during our summer writer call out to help us out while I'm traveling this summer for workshops and retreats. We'll be doing another one next season, so stay tuned. Thanks for supporting your fellow YBCers - please leave a comment for her and let her know your thoughts! XO Candace
1,200 calories a day. 5 mile runs, first thing in the morning. Weigh-ins three times a day. Weigh your food and count out serving sizes. List calories for everything you eat in a notebook.
Sounds like a limiting way to live life, right? It is. But it’s also how I lived for an entire summer, thinking if I somehow managed to lose 5 pounds I’d suddenly love myself, appreciate my body, and feel more confident. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Losing 10, 12, and 15 pounds didn’t, either.)
I realized I wasn’t doing anything but hurting myself when I ran into an old friend and she asked “You look sick, are you okay?” My hands shook, I napped all the time, I looked pale, none of my clothes fit properly, I was constantly grouchy – and I knew it would only get worse if I continued what I was doing. The number on the scale would never be low enough for me to be happy, but I physically couldn’t lose weight forever. I realized that I couldn’t keep hoping I’d someday be the “right” weight to love my body; it had to happen now.
So, I ditched my rules in favor of the changes below:
I stopped dieting and counting calories.
Meticulously weighing and counting out portions didn’t allow me to enjoy my food; I was far too concerned with how many calories I was ingesting than how delicious it tasted. That’s why the first (and hardest) thing I did was throw out my notebook and stop checking calories. Instead, I started focusing more on whole, natural ingredients and nutritional value than calorie counting. For example, that 150-calorie apple is a lot better for you than the 50-calorie low-fat cheese stick that has more chemicals in it than a chemistry class. You can find a ton of guidance on clean eating around the web, but this, this, and this are good starting points.
I threw out my scale.
Checking my weight multiple times a day only gave me anxiety – if I only ate half a serving of grapes for lunch, could I lose those 4 ounces I put on since this morning? So I threw my scale in the dumpster (seriously). I started to think about happiness in tangible terms instead of some arbitrary number. How were my clothes fitting? Was I enjoying what I was eating? How did I feel physically after eating? What was my energy level like? You aren’t a number, you’re a person who deserves to eat and feel good. Favoring how what you’re eating makes you feel instead of the number on the scale allows you to enjoy it without guilt.
I adopted an 80/20 mindset.
Sometimes I really wanted that brownie, that wine, or those French fries… so I ate them. You can’t deny yourself the treats you like for the rest of your life, and avoiding your cravings only leads to binging later. Treats taste better when you’re not eating them all the time and you’ll find you only need a few bites to feel satisfied. Life is too short to deny yourself that cupcake – if you’re eating clean and healthy 80% of the time, an occasional treat isn’t going to throw off your entire plan.
I ditched workouts.
I became far too competitive with myself doing typical workouts: if I did 20 crunches and ran an 8-minute mile yesterday, I had to do 25 crunches and run a 7:30 mile today. But progress isn’t linear; you’ll have good and “bad” days along the way. My solution to reaping the benefits of physical exercise without the mental anguish was workouts that didn’t feel like workouts – long walks on nature trails, hiking, yoga, rowing. Do whatever workout feels the most fun for you and makes you happy, not the one you think you “should” be doing to burn the most calories. You’ll still do great things for your heart and muscles, but you’ll have more fun doing it.
As much as regimented rules make you feel like you’re in control, sustainable lifestyle changes are the only way to make real progress and keep it. Once you start focusing on the way food and exercise make you feel mentally as well as physically, you’ll stress less about whatever shape your body takes. You’ll start to accept your body for what it is because you know you’re fueling it right and you’re healthy.
Because you know what? If you wait to love your body until you’re the perfect weight, or the right size jeans, or look a certain way in that dress, you’ll be waiting forever. Start right now – be grateful for what your body does for you where it’s at, and everything it is in this moment. That’s the secret to peace.
Bio: Megan Doerr is a marketing consultant who lives in Boston, MA. You can catch her at the yoga studio, binging on Netflix with her kitten, or adding to her Lilly collection. Find her on Instagram!