Recently, I read an article about a woman who had lost a great deal of weight and become fit. My first thought was “Good for her!”—Until I read the article in full. She had kept her weight off for several years, but emotionally, she was pretty miserable. She described both binge eating and purges, along with constant anxiety about her weight and fitness regime. At one point, she noted, “Some people might call this an eating disorder.” Hmmm. It seems pretty hard to call it anything else. What bothered me wasn’t that she was vacillating between bingeing and purging; it was that she was so unhappy and anxious.
Imagine if someone told you that you could have the body you always wanted, but you would have to put your emotional well being on the chopping block for the rest of your life. That sounds like a prison sentence to me, and in that dichotomy, my choice would likely be to remain fat. My choice was different because my too-big size made me miserable physically and emotionally.
For a while, I tried to just give up on losing weight; I tried to adjust to being fat. At first, it was really freeing, but in that point in my life, I only had an “on or off” switch for food intake. With that newfound freedom of not worrying about what I was eating, I gained even more weight.
I had to find a different way to approach my nutrition, so I decided that instead of being rigid about what I ate, I would eat what I was feeding the rest of my family. I ate small portion sizes, avoided a lot of carbohydrates, and refrained from eating in between meals. From time to time, I indulged, but those indulgences were deliberate and also small. This approach really worked for me: I had created a balance between that extreme dieting and extreme bingeing. I found that when I enjoyed what I was eating, I left the table much more satisfied.
I am balancing my food intake using that same approach now that I have reached my goal weight. Losing my weight slowly, over more than two years, helped this balancing act become a deeply ingrained habit. I don’t question what I need and want to do. Why would I? It is an extremely pleasant way to live!
So if my long-winded explanation comes out sounding like “moderation in all things,” I guess that’s right. When I first started working out, I had to force myself to do it. I hated exercise. It took me about three months to temper that hatred down to active dislike, and much longer to appreciate it. I exercise because it’s good for me, yes, but also because it’s enjoyable now. If I need to skip a day from time to time, or opt to do another activity that might not burn as many calories—say a brisk walk on a beautiful Spring day (projecting here!) —well, that’s just part of the balance.
I still need to think about my choices, but the operative word there is “choice;” I am not locked in a struggle between my desire to look and feel better and my happiness. Finding my balance has been empowering and a very good way to live!