Well, hello again! I have not written a blog here since 2015, but I decided to start writing again as things have changed so much for me especially because of the pause that the pandemic has given me.
I have written some blogs over the past 6 years on a website called SparkPeople. I have been a member there since 2008. SparkPeople is a website that provided a free calorie counter and fitness tracker. Members were encouraged to have a SparkPage that allowed them a space in which to develop friendships with other members, and get and give support through the weight loss process by blogging. SparkPeople is closing down in mid-August. My blogs were always extremely well received by the Spark community, so I decided to blog here again with the intention of satisfying my readers.
As it turns out, most of my blogs on Spark were not weight loss related. For the past several years my blogs read like journal entries and included a lot about my pottery work and family life. The majority of my weight loss was within the first two years of using Spark and then my weight loss stopped and I maintained for a few years, so I started writing different content because I had nothing new to report in regard to my weight.
When Spark shuts down and I will no longer have access to a calorie counter or fitness tracker. Instead of finding a replacement for Spark, like many who rely on these tools to guide them through the process, I feel this utter joy and freedom in stopping the hyper focus on my weight.
When I think back, I have lost weight with tools and gadgets but mostly without the help of those things. It’s not rocket science, although I’m sure the diet industry makes most people feel like it is. Move more, eat less. That is the formula.
One of my friends on Spark posted an update a few months ago that was a post from a nutritionist calling out “diet culture” and it’s toxicity. I didn’t even KNOW that DIET CULTURE was a “thing.” And when I dug a bit further I started wondering if focusing with laser-like precision on my weight was a good thing for me. It felt good at one time, but now I feel like it isn’t a good thing to focus so intensely and I also feel it is a time and energy suck to track food and all of my activities, steps, and glasses of water consumed.
When I first began counting calories on Spark 13 years ago, I discovered that I actually was eating too much, but honestly didn’t think I was eating any more than anyone else. While that may have been true, not everyone’s body is the same. When I counted the calories I had consumed on Day 1, I saw that I was eating what I thought was an astounding amount of calories – more than 3000 a day. It was definitely enough for my weight to have increased gradually and steadily over time. I have lost a total of 135 pounds from my highest weight, but if I counted all the pounds lost over and over again all throughout my life…different story.
In my mid 30’s I was around 300 lbs which put me into the morbidly obese category. I decided “why not try more activity?” So I joined fitness classes and I began to lose weight. Just with increased activity I shrank several dress sizes (from 26 – 18) in a couple of years then plateaued.
I moved from Manitoba to Quebec and I gained some weight because my lifestyle changed. By the time I was 48 I was feeling really unhappy with my weight and then I discovered Spark. With calorie restriction I lost several more dress sizes (from a size 22 – size 10) by the age of 50. But when does it stop? Do I really want to be weighing my chicken breast and serving my rice with a half cup measure the day I croak? Or do I want more freedom? I have a friend who is 80 and she is dieting and keeping very active, and she is very angry with herself when a week of pretty hard core calorie restriction only produces a one pound loss.
“You are so free you can choose bondage.”
My weight has been a subject of focus for me since the age of 5 when my tummy was poked at by my mother and then the doctor, and I was pronounced fat. I was put on a diet.
In my late 20’s and early 30’s I rejected all diets and I’d say “If you don’t like the way I look, then look the other way.” I subscribed to a magazine called FAT!SO? and wore a button that said, “How dare you assume I’d rather be skinny.”
My weight loss “journey” has been lifelong, y’all. I’ve been called “fat cow” in the schoolyard and I have been called “skinny bitch” when I lost weight.
“People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.”
“Diet culture” refers to a set of beliefs that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health & well-being. Additionally, the concept places importance on restricting calories, normalizes negative self-talk, and labels certain foods as “good” and “bad.”
“Toxic diet culture has a way of making us feel guilty for eating certain things or for not exercising a certain amount. Food and exercise are meant to be celebrated; they are a form of self-love. Fuel your body out of love, move your body out of love, and stop restricting yourself out of love.”
“Diet culture feeds body shame, fuels body discrimination, and fosters disordered eating. It instills the false belief that eating certain foods and living in a thinner body increases one’s value.”
After researching diet culture, I realized that having that laser-like focus on my weight isn’t the healthiest way to live. It was the statement from The Nutrition Tea on Instagram that made me stop in my tracks and reconsider what I was doing. The statement was “This is a reminder that you don’t have to earn your food with exercise.”
Another statement produced an “AH-HA!” moment and it went something like: when someone comments on your weight they have disordered eating.
Well, that is just about everyone I ever met! I recall my father taking food right off my plate saying “I’m saving you from yourself.” One of my best friends said I was always looking at men who were “out of my league” and followed that up with, “Maybe you don’t have a boyfriend because you’re fat.” I nearly threw her out of my apartment and ended our friendship. But instead I said, “I can not believe that you just said that!” And she said, “I can’t either! It just came out. If you want to end our friendship over this I completely understand.” She was nearly in tears and truly embarrassed. I forgave her and later realized that her eating was disordered. This friend grew up watching her mother weigh and track everything she ate, every day for years, and I think she kind of resented the whole act of restricting calories, which is something that I have done on Spark every day for 13 years.
Today I began to wonder if I actually have an eating disorder as a result of being on diets, being told at a young age that fat is bad, being called names no matter what size I was, and even being asked, “Please don’t lose too much weight because if you do, I won’t feel good about myself.” Seriously? Seriously!
I have been restricting calories for the entire time I have been using SparkPeople with greatly varying results. I did lose a significant amount of weight. I do feel better having done so. I feel it is so much easier to move and I have better balance and stamina, so truly I have no regrets. I also regained some weight and have been down on myself for it for the past 5 years. And ya’ll, it’s only been maybe 20 pounds that has me feeling so down on myself. Recently I decided to give up on being down on myself. It’s a practise, and one that I am getting better and better at doing.
These insights, coupled with the closure of SparkPeople have given me the opportunity to free myself from tracking everything I eat and every calorie I burn and balancing it all like a chequebook at the end of each day. Instead I have been listening to my body in all respects, and nurturing myself to where I really want to be, which is super happy and healthy right up until the day I croak.
There is so much more to life than focusing on what I eat and how many calories I burn and getting in 10,000 steps a day and making sure I drink my 8 – 10 cups of water. For a while it worked and it felt great to use guidelines. Now it feels great to have this inner knowing that I don’t need the hyper focus on this subject any more.
I read this blog last week, LM, but didn’t get a chance to comment.
What a thought-provoking blog.
Pretty sure I have disordered eating too as I have dieted pretty much every day since I was 16, 50+ years ago.
Really it’s only been the last 10 years or so that I have valued my health more than the goal of the thinness.
Right now I am trying to eat healthy move as much as I’m happy moving keep my stress level down meditate sleep well enjoy life and dress to flatter my overweight figure.
Wisdom does come with age doesn’t it, my friend?
Thank you Elizabeth!
HAES is for you! HAES is short for Health At Every Size. One can be healthy at any size and I feel that I sure was healthy even when I was 300 lbs. I was uncomfortable with how people treated me at that size and that comment from my friend about the heart attack made me stop and think about my longevity being morbidly obese and then I took action because it felt like it was the right time to do so.
There’s something about “chasing skinny” though that just…I don’t know…makes one crazy. After losing those first 50 lbs, I was still feeling it wasn’t good enough, and it wouldn’t be good enough until I reached my goal. If we accept ourselves as good enough right now, no matter what size we are, and make peace with who we are in this moment, then let it all go and allow our happiness in this moment to rise, that is the success we are really seeking. Feeling good trumps looking good, but feeling good can lead to looking good, n’est pas? I mean when we are laughing and having a great time, we glow. That to me is what’s important.
I’m pretty sure we didn’t come into this world thinking “Ooh, I want to be a size zero!” I think it’s more like “Ooh I want to be joyful, grow and have the freedom to choose whatever pleases me most.”
It’s bogus beliefs like “bread is bad” or “eating after 7 pm will make me gain weight” that bog us down. Whose beliefs are those anyway? Someone said it and you believed it and then the belief became so strong that it became part of your story that you repeated over and over again, proving it to be true. Change your beliefs and watch your life change.
You have said so clearly what I have been thinking since I turned 60. There had to be more to life than just this world of dieting (no matter what one calls it) It is very hard to do to let go and yet just do what is best for oneself – we live in such an either/or society. Either you are dieting and hyper-focused or you are binging and there seemed to be no, well, just enjoying life.
I find it interesting that you put society into two categories – dieters and people who binge eat. While it may be true that many people are dieting (the % of people dieting in North America rose in 2020 and now stands at 36%) and there are certainly those with eating disorders such as binge eating disorder (BED), there are more facets to society than that. There are people all over the world who eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied.
I strongly suggest that diet culture is to blame for what we are experiencing as a society world wide. It is extraordinarily toxic and IMO we need to change our beliefs around food, and stop caring what other people think of us. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight, but the truth is that we do not, and have never, had control over what other people think of us.
“People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it has anything to do with you.”
That is the perfect statement because it is true. Anything anyone thinks at any time is always about their relationship with themselves. There is a lot of self-loathing out there. Often when we look in a mirror we immediately judge ourselves harshly and then compare ourselves to another person or who we were in the past, or worry what one might think when they next see us. “Will they see I have lost 10 lbs?” “Will they notice I have gained weight?”
Truthfully your weight, your health, your size, your body shape or type is none of their business. You really have to make peace with where you are and remember when the negative talk starts to catch yourself doing it and then change the subject because no matter how dissatisfied you are with the present, nothing changes in an instant just because you’re unhappy about it.
Interesting facts: Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It affects individuals of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities; an estimated 60% of cases occur among women. Binge eating disorder affects 3.5% of women, 2% of men and 1.6% of adolescents in the United States. Japan has the highest rate of prevalence, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea.
Bulimia: Surveys show a rate of approximately 1.5 percent of the US female population and 0.5 percent of the male population has experienced bulimia in their lifetimes. These percentages translate to 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males.
Great blog and I agree. Life ain’t all about dieting. I have found I do need to watch what I eat but not obsess about i.
Brilliant blog! It must feel like such a relief to be able to throw off the shackles and trust in your ability to continue more or less maintaining without (like I do) going off the rails! I’m so proud of your journey and where it has led you xx
Thanks for your support Karen! Since I know a bit of your history I think it’s safe to say that your life’s circumstances showed you what you don’t want and that made it clear what you DO want, and you are not letting any drama derail you this time. I’m proud of you too!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wise words!
I must admit I am moving in the same direction, as far as the tracking and calories restriction goes …now I need to work more on self-acceptance.
I really do love myself and need to love my strong and healthy body.
Found you, yay!
I found you, yay!
Excellent blog.mic only we were all more intuitive and allowed our children to be…
You know what? That really is the “secret” to having a better life – following your intuition or you guts instincts. Also what you believe is important too. A lot of people believed that eating only grapefruit would help one lose weight. The diet industry has been demonizing groups of foods since anyone had a soap box to stand on and people believed what they were being told. When I was a kid bread and potatoes were to be avoided. Then in the 90’s carbs were glorified while fat was seen as the “real problem.” Veganism is the new cure all. Some think that all vegetarians are thin. That’s hilarious! I was a fat vegetarian. Now fat is where it’s at and zero net carbs are seen as good. I absolutely refuse to take whole food groups out of my diet, or follow fads or trends, because it all brings me back to the same thing – focusing on my weight (or the end result) when focusing on what my instincts are telling me is always the way to go.