Friday, September 27, 2013

Do you really know?

I often hear the complaint from significantly overweight women, especially those middle age and older, that they know exactly what to do when it comes to losing weight but they just can’t make themselves do it. Or if they can lose weight, they can’t keep it off. The temptations of fattening foods like cake, cookies or chips and their desire to avoid exercise are just too great. I’ve been there myself.  I remember feeling just the way they feel.

Food is often the nice person’s guilty pleasure. It’s actually quite similar to the more frowned-upon compulsions of drinking, drugging or gambling too much. It just doesn’t sound as bad or appear to be as harmful … at least until one develops heart disease, diabetes and/or joint problems. Oh yeah, don’t forget having to deal with the daily fatigue, feelings of disempowerment and self-loathing as well as social repercussions of carrying around excess poundage.

But I would challenge these ladies’ assumption that they do really know what to do when it comes to weight management. Otherwise I think they’d be doing it. They are all smart, accomplished, capable women. Like them I thought I knew what to do, but at the age of 50 I actually didn’t. It took finding out about what I personally needed to do to lose weight. In the process, which covered many months, I lost 55 lbs. and now am maintaining my weight loss.

Knowing the caloric counts of various foods and how many calories various forms of exercise burn is important, but is just part of the equation. The most important knowledge is what it takes for to become motivated and empowered to lose weight and keep it off based on your psychology, age and lifestyle. That’s especially true at midlife and beyond as it becomes more challenging to lose weight because of a slower metabolism.

My first best step was calling on my higher power. I had come to a point several years ago that I was going through menopause and didn’t seem able to lose a pound. My blood pressure was on the rise and I feared I would have to go on medication. I was totally overwhelmed, luckily, because it was only then that I remembered to call on God to help me solve my weighty problem. The challenge was just bigger than I was, and I cried out to him for help.

Soon came a big part of the answer to my prayer:  I ran across the book “A Course in Weight Loss” by Marianne Williamson, one of several good books that have come out in recent years that address the spiritual and psychological components of carrying excess weight. Such books alert us that the biggest barrier to weight loss and weight loss maintenance can be our relationship with food.

Do we see food as fuel for our activities, a means of rebuilding our bodies and a healing gift from God? Or do we see it as a way to reward, comfort, sedate, or punish ourselves? Do we overuse it as an avenue for social bonding and acceptance? When we come to rely on food to fill us emotionally and/or spiritually, we develop an unhealthy relationship with food. And an unhealthy relationship can easily lead to dependence or addiction to highly caloric foods that burden us with excess weight.

That was the path I was on. I had come to rely on food as a source of comfort. After my weight had crept up to a certain level, and my life situation had become extra stressful, it was a natural road to take. After all what more harm could a little extra cheddar popcorn, chips, dip, pizza and/or beer most days of the week do? Those things had become my refuge.

For someone else, using food as a refuge could mean indulging in too many dishes at church potluck socials, eating everything on their restaurant-portion-size plate, or binging on cookies or ice cream. It really is like alcohol dependence when you think about it. When I faced my own dependence on food for comfort and that fact that some foods especially (salty, crisp snacks) had an addictive hold on me, it was another step to creating a healthier relationship with food. I resolved to completely avoid foods that were addictive to me and to severely limit my alcohol consumption, including not keeping any at home. I asked God to give me strength to do those things. Such strategies were critical in my successful weight loss journey.

For the person suffering from an unhealthy relationship with food that is too severe for self-help measures, psychological counseling can be helpful and part of the journey to spiritual healing. When thoughts of food and/or weight loss become obsessive and/or when the urge to partake in unhealthy food or even healthy foods in unhealthy amounts becomes compulsive, it’s critical to bring in professional help. It can save years of wasted time and immediately start the psychological healing.

Misusing food is a major stumbling block to losing weight, but it isn’t the only stumbling block. Please take time to examine what’s really keeping you from losing weight and learn how to overcome the obstacles - whatever they are. There are many effective strategies for healthy weight loss, you’ve just got to find out what works for you. Keep seeking the answers and you will find them! Being the size you truly feel fit and are most comfortable with is so worth the effort!!