Can we be real? I’m pretty sure everyone has days when they wake up and feel like they have more inches somewhere than they want to. I’m also pretty sure it’s not about size, but about women (and men) and how we think. It’s also about the fact that weight really does fluctuate, and sometimes we will find ourselves carrying a pound or two more, or less. I for one definitely have those days when my jeans feel a little bit tighter, or I just feel frumpy, or like I’ve been overeating. And I don’t like them.
Over the years, that feeling has provoked different responses from me from ‘Ok I’ll just juice tomorrow’, to ‘Ok, it’s a two hour workout’, to ‘Meh, I don’t care I’m going to keep treating myself, I’ll put on a big hoodie.’ As I turn the corner towards 30, I finally feel like I’m landing on a go-to response when I find those feelings cropping up – so I wanted to let you into my head and in on what I do!
Number 1: I recognize what I’m feeling and own it.
I call it what it is, and I have a conversation with myself! I don’t want the thoughts to linger in the back of my head, and to stay affected by them as an undertone to my day, week, month. I want to deal with them in whatever way I need to and move forward. So I stop myself and actually voice how I’m feeling. I might not say it actually outloud, but I make myself form a sentence from the feeling, articulating what’s happening inside of me. This weekend while Jared was out I became the cookie monster. I’d had a long mum day and just kept eating without stopping to voice how I felt, I ate out of that underlying emotion until I made myself stop, snapped myself out of a funk, and had a conversation. Ignoring is sometimes easier in the short term (no one likes to admit things even to themselves) but in the long run, it’s the only route to change! So, talk.
Number 2: I tell my husband.
Not to have a rant, or to make him tell me, ‘No babe, you look great’ so I can move on, but so that I’m being honest and sharing the journey with someone! Often fears get smaller, or at least easier to conquer just by me voicing them out loud. It also means I’m accountable for not carrying that feeling around like a cloud, and equally, not ignoring it – I have to do something to move past it, cos I’ve let someone in! This is also a great protection against unhealthy feelings and self image. So, let someone in.
Number 3: I work out what the problem is.
Isn’t the problem that I’m feeling fat? Nope, not really. For me there’s always a problem behind that which is the one I need to solve. You could say it’s the cause of the feeling, and I can’t solve the feeling if I don’t solve the cause. I review the last days or weeks, and ask myself: Do I feel this way because I’ve been eating too much and I know it? Or because I went on vacation and actively chose to relax and gain pounds if it happened? Is it because I forgot self control and I’ve been snacking? Because I got tired and started eating more sugar? Because I haven’t been able to get to the gym? Those are all likely options for me, and identifying the problem let’s me find the solution. I can’t just tell myself to ‘feel different’ – I have to do something different, but first I need to know what needs to change! I find this really encouraging and empowering in the journey going forward because I then know exactly what I have to do to bring things back on track. If I can look back and say, ‘oh yeah I’ve been mindlessly munching while I make every meal’ then it gives me extra determination in that moment not to do that, because I know it’s the moment I can actively bring change. If I don’t have this knowledge of the problem, I’m striving for something 24/7 without knowing what’s going to change anything. And that’s tiring.
Pause. There’s a big split in the road of dealing with the feelings here – I have to honestly ask myself: Is it only a feeling, or is it something that’s healthy for me to change?
Take this last month for me. I know I’ve got sloppy about eating meals and started snacking. So when I finished Sunday night and didn’t feel good about it – I knew that I’d been doing something I wanted to change. That’s fine and healthy. However, almost a year ago, when I was just 2 months recovered from giving birth – I had a tummy, and I was carrying pounds I didn’t want, but there was a different solution. I needed to let my body rest, the pounds were not there because I’d stopped paying attention, they were from carrying a baby. That time I needed to embrace the slow recovery from growing and birthing a human and the new lifestyle it brought. So I’m not saying if you feel fat, lose weight. That’s not always the healthy option, I’m saying if you feel that way, do something. But the something might be a mindset adjustment rather than a tweet in meal habits – and that’s why my step 2 is to bring my husband into the process. If it’s not your husband, pick a friend. While a lifestyle change to bring your body back in line might not be what’s needed, or what’s healthy, what’s also not healthy is having lingering negative self talk about who you are and the way you look. So next, I change my self talk, and my plan for life.
Number 4: Moving forward, Self talk.
My words are probably the number one thing responsible for controlling my emotions, and my emotions play a big role in how I walk out each day – maybe not in what I do but for certainly in how I do it.
So having discovered the problem, I start to counter it with my words. When I was recovering from pregnancy I would spend time telling myself about the wonder of growing a child, and how my body was built for that, and how it was built to (slowly) recover. I began to remember how to feel like a BOSS about the way my tummy looked! I also start to remind myself that I’m a determined person, and I can achieve any goal I set, that I’m someone who enjoys meals so much more when I’m actually hungry for them rather than snacking. You get the picture. Once I remember to tune into what I’m saying to myself, I start hear all the thousands of lines a day that I say in my mind – and sometimes it’s shocking! But tuning in lets me change them.
Number 5: Moving forward, making changes.
So I’ve identified the problem, and what I’m thinking and believing about it, and myself but now I actually get to make a practical change – if that’s what’s needed. This is different for everyone. For me it’s usually reminding myself (as though I’m five!) what healthy eating looks like – just to put it in the front of my brain! For me that starts at a huge breakfast. Counter intuitive? Not any more. I know I big breakfast sets me up to make it to lunch and not make any dubious choices, and then be happily hungry for lunch, so I eat a really good nutritious meal. It looks like stopping myself to pause before I eat and finding the vision. I don’t mean the skinny vision so I don’t eat, I mean the vision of health and balanced eating of really nutritious foods. It just keeps my eating intentional, rather than passive. When I eat passively, I only get half the enjoyment, and so I always eat more. It also looks like stopping. Stopping for a good meal. Even if life is hectic. Life is too hectic to feel badly about my body, so it’s never too hectic to take care of it. Stop, sit down, and eat a good meal.
Then lastly it looks like balancing the indulgences. Not removing them, that just makes me crave them! But choosing them intentionally. So if we hop out for breakfast and I eat a huge slice of toast with almond butter and honey and drink a capp, I might not drink whisky that night, or have a large slice of raw dessert. Or if I want to indulge in a really good bar of chocolate and eat the whole thing (cos oh yes I do that) I’ll eat really well sized plant based meals the next day and drink my coffee black, with no extra meal time treats. When someone offers me chocolate at the office, I might just pass it by. Or if we’re tasting beer, I might just taste one, and have one sip. Not to reduce my calorie intake and compensate, but just to know how much extra indulgence I’m having, and choose the amount I know works for me, wisely, over the course of a week.
Having detailed it all out it might seem that all my brain does is think about food (I mean, some days…!) but really most of this is momentary and sometimes mostly subconscious, but I wanted to take you through the way I think, because it actually keeps me free from thinking about it all the time. Sometimes when we learn to do something we have to overly think about it (when I first learned to drive I couldn’t imagine how my dad used to tell us stories and drive at the same time!) but then it becomes a subconscious rhythm of life. I want to see the world unaffected by body image, or the way that we eat and my hope for you if it’s something you think about is that you can find a way to know yourself, and take yourself on a journey of self talk and action that means you free up that place in your mind and heart to do what you love to do, unaffected by this struggle that can rob us so often! You are alive for so much more!