Saturday, April 27, 2013

Diet is my new four letter word

When I was in grad school, I gained a bunch of weight.  It was way too much-- long days, lots of Jack in the Box, driving 5 hours back and forth from College Station-- all of those things added up to me being rather pudgy.  And unhappy with that. So I went on a diet, lost 40ish pounds.  Got certified as an aerobics instructor.  Was muscled, bellydancing, and pretty fit.  It was kind of easy... calories in less than calories out-- lose 2 pounds a week.

Then I got pregnant.

It wasn't the pregnancy's fault-- I simply stopped exercising. Yes, I was asked to consume 3000 calories a day to help the twins grow well, since twins are often expected to be preemies. I did that partly by eating a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's every day (oh Heavenly Host that was fun!)

But, after the babies were born, I lost a bit, but have been up and down with that "extra 20 pounds" ever since. Last year, I decided to take it really seriously and diet and finally lose that last little bit.

I started working out every day.  I counted calories like a maniac. I lost 20 pounds. Yay!  Only ten more to go!  (It's always "just ten more pounds," though, isn't it?) Then summer hit, and I felt it was just too challenging to hit the gym while the kiddos were home.  So I gained some of that 20 back.  Lost some of it again in the Fall when they went back to school.  Had been trying, again, off and on, to focus on the calorie counting and really take that last few pounds off.  But, this time, in spite of really working hard and doing all the things I did the last time I easily lost those 40 pounds, it was NOT easy.  Those pounds kept coming back again!!

But recently I realized:  dieting makes me into a person who is not my best self.  I can be rather petty, sometimes even mean, about other people's weight (and weight loss) when I am overly focused on calories. I've said things that I really shouldn't have simply because I'm jealous that someone else finally did it, finally got themselves through hard work down to that goal weight. I'm a bit ashamed, but you can't take that level of "mean dieting girl" back, so I own it. I have a competitive streak that comes out occasionally in places like this, sometimes unexpectedly. I may try to hide it with it being a joke, but honestly, it really is just being jealous. I wish I could apologize to one person who I actually did say something too snarky to but an apology still doesn't fix it.

And seriously, it's not like I'm sticking to it enough for me to really have any grounds for being jealous.  It's my own "fault" if I keep a few extra pounds around my middle.  I like food, and I like wine, and I don't stick to going to the gym or running the way someone who likes caloric intake as much as I do ought to in order to be lean and fit.

But what I've realized is this:  I have a bad relationship with my body, with dieting, with food & calories.  I used to not-- but then, it's easy to have a good relationship when you're skinny and can eat at Burger King every day because you're 21 and work at a high calorie burning job and walk everywhere.  It's a lot harder when you have to make deliberate decisions.  I LIKED eating Whoppers and I like potato chips.  I like food!

I DON'T like counting calories, and (here's one of the biggest things) teaching my 8 year old daughter that "women count calories and worry about what they eat."  

My new resolution to stop punishing myself every time I eat a bag of chips has a lot to do with that daughter. She was asking me how many calories were in something, and I visualized the way, even at 18 when I was seriously skinny I thought I was fat and wore baggy clothes.  My mother never, as far as I remember, dieted, so I don't know exactly where my own obsessions with weight came from back then.

Anyway.  So now, I'm trying to re-educate myself. I'm eating food, without constantly trying to count calories. I'm trying to exercise deliberately, and with a goal towards long-term health, not weight loss.  I figure if I lose some weight, I'll be able to tell. But weight loss is not my goal.  And, while I plan to be aware that something has high or low calories, and make conscious choices because of that, I am NOT going to not eat something that I really want, when I'm hungry, because "it has too many calories".  Eat the damn bag of chips. Don't beat yourself up about it. Go running later or not, but stop thinking about food all the damn time!

And I'm trying to forgive myself for sometimes being petty or jealous of other people who have done a better job at their balancing act than me. I'm trying to genuinely love myself, for myself.  Not my skinniest self but me, the way I am, right this second-- messy hair, PJs, a little heavier than ideal, but able to run and catch up with my kids and strong as heck from all that weight lifting.

Why is that so hard to do?