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.