Well it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. I’ve been busy. Sometimes, that’s the way life goes. As many of you know, I’ve been losing weight. When I reached 200 pounds I decided I needed to do something about it. 200 pounds may not seem like a lot to some people, but it was a lot for me. I was too heavy, I felt uncomfortable, and it wasn’t healthy. I did a lot of research into eating and food and then got started. So far I’ve lost 31 pounds and I’m still on the downward trend. I want to talk about weight loss today, the science of it, and the problems involved.
Weight loss is easy. All you have to do is take in less calories and carbs than your body needs, and you’ll lose weight. It’s just that simple. What then, makes it so damn hard? Why do so many people fail to lose weight? There are a number of contributing factors, and I’d like to explore a few of them.
Our culture is a contributing factor. Eating is huge in American culture. Look at our holiday celebrations. Today is December 12th, right in the middle of the biggest holiday season in the U.S.. All of our holidays, from Easter to the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas have one thing in common, food. We get together with family and friends, and we eat. We have pot luck’s, we have church socials. We grill on the 4th of July. We have big meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s what we do. Eating is a huge part of holiday celebrations. And the advertising is insane. Pictures in magazines and TV commercials depicting huge, scrumptious meals are everywhere. Families sharing meals with a warm fire in the fireplace, Grandma and Grandpa with the Grandchildren wearing festive clothes and stuffing their faces. It is so normal that almost no one questions it and if these thing weren’t there, it would seem odd.
How about weddings and funerals? Every wedding and funeral I’ve ever attended have featured a big meal afterward. Every one. Backyard parties, tailgating at sporting events, or virtually any gathering you can think of, will feature lots of food. It’s normal. Experts say that family time, which is important for raising children, should always consist of a family meal. Sitting at the table with your children, discussing the days events while consuming dinner is very important to a close knit family. We eat big, and we eat often. This is our culture. And another thing that goes hand in hand with eating is alcohol consumption. Alcohol, beer, wine, and hard liquor, is fattening. And Americans do a lot of drinking.
Peer pressure is a big factor in weight loss. I was going out to eat two to three times a week. When I started my diet, I quit doing that. My friends kept wanting me to go out to dinner. They missed that social time, and so did I. “What, no dessert? C’mon, you’ve just gotta try the pie!” With our culture so tied to eating, virtually everything you do is a challenge if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s really hard to have a Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends, watching them eating while you hold back. Peer pressure, even unintended, is huge.
One of the biggest factors in weight loss however is change. People don’t like change. We like things how they are, we don’t want to change them. Especially, if you’re the only one making the change. You go to a party, everyone is eating and drinking, and you’re not. You feel singled out, you feel odd. And staying home is worse. Now you can’t see your friends, because you don’t want to join in, you’re on a diet. When you tell people you’re on a diet they react like you just told them you have cancer. They suddenly feel conspicuous standing there with a plate full of food while you have a piece of celery. You start to feel like a pariah. No one wants to feel that way. You want to be one of the crowd, like you’ve always done, one of the gang. Suddenly, because you’re on a diet, everything has changed. That can be really hard.
When I first started my diet, hunger pains were something new. I realized that when I was eating a lot, I never felt hungry. It seemed really strange to think about it, but I was never hungry. So when I got hungry I thought, “I have to do something about this.” And then I remembered I was on a diet, and if I wanted to lose weight, I couldn’t do anything about it. I just had to be hungry. It took a while to get over the desire to eat when I felt hungry. Drinking water helps a lot with hunger, but it was that change that was hard to get used to. Another big change that’s hard to deal with is when you have a family, and you’re the only one on a diet. Your family is going to continue to eat like they normally do, but you can’t. That makes it hard for meal prep. How do you cook for your family and then not join in the eating. When I went on my diet I cut out bread, pasta, and most processed foods. If I lived with my family, that would have been really hard to do when no one else was doing it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers for you. Basically I wanted to lose weight and so I made the changes necessary to do it. It changed my social life, that’s for sure. But it was more important to me to get healthy than to worry about all the other stuff. Having control over my thinking and emotions helped a great deal. I’ve studied Buddhist thought over the years and that helped a lot. Practicing mindfulness, keeping my thoughts on the here and now, rather than daydreaming about food, has been a big help. Instead of eating when I feel hungry I drink water and just experience the hunger instead of trying to get rid of it, not seeing it as something bad, but just something that is. I’m not suggesting you become a Buddhist, but an understanding of mindfulness sure helps.
If you want to lose weight, change has to happen. A change of thought, and habits is essential. Making weight loss a priority over your social life will help as much as reducing your calorie intake and it’s something you will have to continue with for the rest of your life if you don’t want to gain the weight back. It’s a new way to live, a new way to be.