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Mindset: I Shouldn't Say This, But...
Why weight loss for women has become so f*ing challenging.
As a dietitian, I hear a lot of confessions. Everything from a slight indulgence:
“Steph, I ate eight Oreoes yesterday”
“Steph, I full-out binged last night and feel awful this morning.” (This is much different than simply overeating — more on that later).”
Because I’m equally open with them about my flaws and fears, my clients feel safe to share their secrets with me, and I’m grateful for that.
One “secret” I consistently hear from clients that makes them feel alone, stuck, and confused sounds like this:
“I know I should love my body how it is, BUT… I want to lose weight.”
Sometimes it’s hidden in their words:
“I’m looking for help with meal planning so I can eat healthier…. and it would be a nice perk to lose some weight (wink, wink).”
And lately, it’s only gotten worse.
With social movements promoting “healthy at every size (HAES)” and the push to “love your body exactly as it is,” some women (especially moms) are afraid to admit they have a weight loss goal. The ones who are vocal about it often share ways to lose weight that aren’t the most realistic long-term.
Before the hate mail rolls in, telling me I’m promoting “diet culture,” let me explain.
There are facets of HAES that are incredibly important, and nobody should experience hate, blame, finger-pointing, or ridicule for how their body looks. How a body looks does not dictate worth or value.
Loving your body in all its changing shapes and forms (especially during transitions like pregnancy/postpartum/perimenopause) is essential and something I 100% believe to be true. As the saying goes, “You can’t heal a body you hate.”
However, many women interpret this in a way that makes them feel disempowered, guilty for wanting to change, and stuck in a body that doesn’t feel good.
If you are in a place where your body could benefit from losing weight and you’re mentally in a place where you can shift your focus on behaviors towards that goal, this is your permission to go for it!
It’s time we have honest conversations about how to approach nutrition and body composition in a way that considers the nuances.
It’s time to share more conversations around the science of weight loss, behavior change, bio-individuality, radical responsibility, and barriers that block us from seeing the results we’re looking for.
Change is hard for all of us. It’s even harder when we feel like our efforts need to be kept secret, are “wrong”, or we feel conflicted with what to do next because of all the diet noise that is out there.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory is a psychological concept that highlights the discomfort people feel when two beliefs/values/behaviors don’t match up. Wanting to lose weight, but not taking action is creating unnecessary tension. When your desire to lose weight and your actions match, you are in alignment. It feels lighter and easier!
Signs you may be experiencing cognitive dissonance include:
Decision fatigue - feeling overwhelmed with information and saying “F*** it” and not starting, even though you want to start.
Guilt - feeling guilty for wanting to lose weight or fearing judgment from others, so you don’t try.
Rationalizing - finding ways to prove why you’re justified in not starting, even when you have a goal.
Let’s release that guilt so we can release the weight we’re holding (physically and mentally).
So where do we start?
We need to:
Admitting that you are interested in pursuing body composition change is a huge first step. If you want change to happen, you must declare it, believe it, and see yourself achieving it.
OWN the habits and identity of the person you want to be, even if you don’t feel there…yet.
What does HER new lifestyle look like?
What does SHE do to overcome barriers?
What does SHE eat to feel vibrant?
What habits does SHE have that help her be consistent?
Instead of thinking about what your best friend does to lose weight or what the weight loss “guru” tells you to do, picture what this change would look like for YOU. With your context. With your schedule. With your food preferences.
Allow yourself to take on the identity as someone with healthy habits. Believe that you are or that you can be.
You can’t drive to a destination if you don’t know where you’re going. Having a flexible nutrition structure makes all the difference. Strict rules aren’t necessary for success.
What you did in your teens and twenties to stay in shape probably isn’t the same as what you can or will do now. With kids, jobs, and adulting, you likely have much less “free time”. The junk food you used to eat and “get away with,” even in large amounts, may not work in your favor anymore. Because we’re typically more sedentary as we age, we need to be more mindful of portions.
What are 1-3 things you can be consistent with? Don’t try to do too much at once.
For my clients, that’s usually:
Aiming for 30-40 grams of protein at breakfast.
Taking a short walk every day.
Drinking lots of water.
Those things make a HUGE difference. If you’re not already doing those things, start there!
You can hire a coach and/or coach yourself. Self-coaching is an underutilized tool when it comes to behavior change. It requires you to step away from your ego and thoughts on what you “should” be doing.
At the end of each day, ask yourself:
What went well?
What did I learn?
What will tomorrow look like?
What went well: Instead of dwelling on what DIDN’T go right, focus on 1% movements in the positive direction. Those 1%s add up and help you see progress even when other variables like scale weight and clothing size take longer to budge.
Remember - on average, a healthy rate of weight loss is 0.5-1 lb/week. Some weeks you’ll see no changes, others you may gain. This is normal. In the second half of your cycle, you may notice a temporary weight increase due to hormonal/fluid shifts.
What did I learn? Doesn’t that feel A LOT better than “I f*ed up?” You can’t f this up. Every time you go off course or don’t take action, train yourself to ask questions about why it happened and how you could do things differently the next time. Get curious.
What will tomorrow look like? Winging it doesn’t work quite as well when you have a laundry list of things to do, including laundry. Find ways to automate your day by planning ahead. Think about what you’ll make for breakfast, when you’ll fit in a movement, and any other non-negotiables that are important to you.
Your goals are valid. It's okay to want to lose weight.
I hope you’re starting to see that your weight loss-related goals aren’t wrong, and that there’s a much kinder way to approach that goal.
If you’re excited to learn from this FREE content, I’d love your help spreading the word. It encourages me to continue writing and offering tools to support amazing women like you!
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