Nearly six months ago, I set down a path to lose weight and feel better. While my goals soon began to shift and led me to where I am today (veganism), I learned a lot about how challenging and frustrating weight loss can be. It was humbling.
I learned that the most difficult aspect of weight loss is the psychological. Self-judgment, disappointment, and frustration are key players in the struggle, but the team captain, the tyrant driving all the others, is expectation. Expectations over how much and how fast will drive you crazy…if you let them.
A while back, I said that “weight loss looks more like a craggy, downward-sloping mountain range than a slide.” I wasn’t just crafting similes. It’s true.
This is a snapshot of 4 weeks of my own weight loss.
It doesn’t even look that much like a loss, does it? But that right there is about 4 pounds.
Imagine, with your current expectations, stepping on the scale every day and seeing all those ups and downs, the plateaus. Ick, right? Now try imagining that it doesn’t bother you because your expectations are that this is what weight loss is supposed to look like, that it’s okay that your weight spiked today, because it will drop off again. Because that’s what is normal.
Besides, when you zoom out, this is what three months looks like.
Up close, on a daily scale (no pun intended), things don’t look so hot. On a larger scale, the most important scale (pun slightly intended), it looks a whole lot more like our ill-conceived expectations. Please note that this is also the reason that it seems as though, when people we don’t see day-to-day drop weight, it happened overnight. It didn’t. They have these same ups and downs too.
So, for those of you who are struggling or feeling overwhelmed by expectations, know that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be right now. The small choices you make throughout each day will affect the bigger picture. Be as kind to yourself as you can possibly be, let the expectations go, and the rest will follow.
Now, I also feel like it’s important that I take a moment to share with you that I have stopped trying to lose weight. I stopped months ago, actually. It turns out that my whole foods, plant-based diet (with the occasional vegan treat like Daiya or coconut ice cream) has been more than enough on its own. I’ve now lost more than thirty pounds, and it keeps coming off.
I’ve said before that plant-based foods are more filling and less calorie-dense than animal-based ones (not to mention low in unhealthy fats and 100% cholesterol free). I’m certain this has played a role. Plus, there is recent research to suggest that a vegan diet may promote a faster metabolism. I also believe that I’m reaching a better state of health simply because I’m putting foods into my body that are anti-inflammatory, alkalizing (which means that my body doesn’t have to strip minerals from its own tissues to balance out), and nutrient-dense, without those things having to compete with substances that have the exact opposite properties. It’s like, after two and a half decades, my body is finally being permitted to move toward its natural and optimal equilibrium. It feels good.
I posted this video on the GFitC Facebook page a while back, but I thought it was relevant to this post and worth sharing again here. It’s an hour-long talk from Dr. Doug Lisle, who was featured in Forks Over Knives and is the author of The Pleasure Trap, on “How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind.” In it, he explains how our satiety mechanism works—and doesn’t work with the majority of modern diets—and why humans (and dogs and cats) are basically the only animals struggling with this issue of obesity. It’s quite interesting and, in my opinion, worth a watch.