I only dieted (I mean seriously dieted to lose weight) once in my life, and it was such a negative experience. I was starving all the time! I felt deprived and miserable and to make things worse, I regained the few pounds I lost.
I look back on it now and wonder, “What was I thinking?” That was the problem; I wasn’t thinking. I felt stressed, overwhelmed, tired, and unhappy about the way I looked. I mindlessly reacted to my feelings and put myself on a diet. This happened about 30 years ago right after the birth of my first son. I was trying to adjust to my new life situation. I was learning how to nurse my newborn which didn’t come easy for me, dealing with the fact that I had a C-section, functioning on very little sleep, and I had to say goodbye to my old life (and body).
When I finally got a few hours (in a row) of sleep, I realized that I wasn’t helping myself by dieting. So, I stopped counting calories and overly restricting food and stepped back to reassess. I could see that I had been overeating in general to comfort myself and I was consuming way too much sugar and half-and-half in my (many) cups of decaf tea.
I decided to make a few mindful changes. I cut back on the tea and drank more water; I was mindful to eat when I was hungry and stop when I felt satisfied; and I started taking regular walks outside for exercise, sunshine, fresh air, and to comfort myself – rather than eating. Eventually, my baby and I settled into a new routine, and I was able to get back to my usual healthy way of eating. I began to feel better and very slowly lost most of the baby weight. It took much more time than I wanted and required a consistent commitment to my health. There were bumps in the road along the way, but I stayed with it.
Even though I lost weight, my body had changed in ways that most women’s bodies change after childbirth. I had stretch marks, scars, saggy skin, and more wrinkles than before. It was hard for me to accept the way I looked. Fast forward 30 years, my body continues to change as I age, but most of the time I’m much more focused on my health and well-being than how I look in the mirror. Thank goodness!
I learned 3 important lessons back then that continue to hold true today.
First lesson – weight loss diets don’t work!
Second lesson – achieving and staying at my personal best weight requires consistent effort and commitment to my emotional, mental, and physical health.
Third (and most important) lesson – feeling well and being at peace with my body is so much more important than the number on the scale.
Living healthily in our fast-paced world – with all its unhealthy temptations – is quite challenging. Creating a skill set of healthy habits can help. Think of this as SKILL POWER rather than will power. Use this check list to track your progress along the way. Take charge of your health with better nutrition and lifestyle habits. You’ll be amazed at just how good you can feel.
Lorraine Matthews-Antosiewicz, MS, RD
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmoms, stepmoms, dog moms, aunts, sisters, and other women in our lives that care for us.