Monday, May 17, 2010

Mailbag Day 2

Today's question comes once again from Maureen Allen (Thanks so much Mo for all the questions!).  She asks:

What have you done this time around that is different from diets in the past that has motivated you to keep going? I have a friend who desperately wants to lose weight, but gets frustrated by the slow pace and gives up. It seems that she feels defeated by her weight. Do you have any advice for people going through the same thing?

This is the question that made me decide to split things up into multiple days   It is not an easy one to answer briefly.  I know exactly how Mo's friend feels.  I have never been thin.  I was a chunky kid and by the time I was in middle school I was fat and I have been fat ever since.  I played sports as a kid, I ate some junk, but I also ate what was on my plate.  I do not want to sound like I am blaming my family.  I always ate too much of the wrong things and my parents did the best they could to make me at least try the right ones.  My mom at times was working 4 jobs and still made time to cook when possible.  My dad was a bachelor for most of my childhood, so cooking at his place was something that had to be kind of easy.  I was a very picky eater and I was always willing to take an extra helping of the stuff I should have been moderate with.  I am predisposed to weight gain and obesity, so I needed to exercise restraint and self control, things I haven't had the maturity or willpower to do until now.

I hadn't really tried too many diets before.  The one real go at it I had in the past went well until I gave up because of the time and expense required to cook frequently and make sure I was eating the right things.  Add to that the fact that for some reason I really did not want to lose the weight yet.  I wanted to be thinner, but I was afraid of the process and of the change.  Having never been thin I felt that, in a way, my size was my identity.  I was the funny fat guy.  I was Chase, the big teddy bear.  I was also terrified of failing.  I hate failure, but rarely am I willing to put in the effort to guarantee success, so I never start.  It wasn't until I was able to successfully quit smoking that I could see past all of that and feel that I had the tools I needed to get the job done.

The biggest single difference from anything I have ever tried before is that I am not trying to lose weight.  I am tracking my weight loss in this blog, and I get a bit obsessed at times with my goals, but ultimately what I am doing is not "trying to lose weight".  I am trying to be healthy.  I am trying to learn to make the best of all available choices.  I am trying to build good habits, and when I have good habits, to use Polonius' phrase "and it must follow, as the night the day", will lose weight.  I am also trying to have fun with it.  It is not about dieting.  I have given some things up forever.  I have decided that some things I will only have every once in a while. But I am cooking and learning about new foods and flavors.  I am relishing the challenge of finding something I can be happy with at every restaurant I go to, and I usually do.  I am finding the right balance of structure and spontaneity to give me the best shot at succeeding.

My best advice is manifold.  Do not think about it as a diet, as a sacrifice, as punishment for bad choices.  Think about it as a lifestyle change, as an opportunity, a chance to explore new things.  Make sure you are ready and really want to be healthy.  I know everybody wants health, but you have to be ready to do the things to get it, and want that change.  The hardest advice I can give is to love yourself as you are.  You cannot start if you are not willing to fail, and the fear of failure will cripple you completely if you don't accept and love who you are at that moment.  I don't mean to be satisfied with yourself.  I want so many things for myself.  I don't want to ever be satisfied with myself, because then I stop trying to be better, be it as a person, an actor, or as a friend.  It sounds cheesy, but know that the outside does not reflect the inside and that being overweight is no reflection of the kind of person you are.  I wish that last part didn't need saying, but it seems that many folks think that being fat means you are weak or stupid or greedy.  Many overweight people privately feel that way about themselves.  You cannot do something this hard feeling that way.

It is going to be slow and difficult.  There is not much you can do about that.  At least once a week I want to punch a hole in a wall because it feels like I will never get to where I want to be.  I try to think about the real goals I have, to be healthy and happy, and it really helps.

I hope that answers the question and helps anybody who wants to start along a similar path.  I can only say what has worked for me, so take it all with a grain of salt.  See you again tomorrow.

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