I have been struggling with my back for about 2 years now, even though I have been exercising lots. There could be a few reasons for this, one of them being my weight. I have lost about 20 lbs this year, but am still over 200 lbs and still at the heavier end of my normal weight. I would like to lose some more weight (hopefully at a quicker rate than 20lbs over 9 months) to alleviate the pain in my back but I am scared to get sucked into a diet mentality. Do you have any suggestions?
This is a great question and it’s very exciting that you’re asking it because it implies so much about how far along you are in your healing. Any of us who have gained weight as a result of our use of food to cope need to ask this question at some point in our recovery. We naturally want to lose weight and we know that some change to our intake of food needs to happen in order for that weight loss to occur. We also know that it was dieting and restriction around food that led to things getting so out of hand in the first place, so we’re understandably petrified, stuck, procrastinating on doing anything. The key is to be clear in yourself that you’re wanting to make these changes to your food intake (quantity and quality) because you care about yourself from a health and overall wellness perspective first and an appearance perspective second.
Historically we’ve approached this backwards – being more attached to receiving external approval through looking a certain way than we were to being healthy, energetic, alive and vital. To make changes that will be honoring, life-enhancing and lasting you have to be clear that your motivation is health first, looks second. Looks / Size / Weight can and will still be a factor – we are human after all – and as long as your primary motivation is health and wellness and not the desired pant size or # on the scale, then you will be able to freely choose not to have certain kinds of foods and certain quantities and feel happy about those choices rather than restricted.
As you start to weed certain things out of your diet , if you notice that you are starting to feel restricted or starting to want to binge it’s likely because your primary motivation for eating well has switched from health to looks. All you need to do then is just remind yourself that you can always have whatever you really want and your ultimate goal is health and wellness. And ask yourself: “Is this choice going to support me to be the best that I can be?” You can always then ask yourself if there is any emotional stress that might be leading you to want to use food to cope and use the list of stressors or your favorite tool to attend to that. I think that often just identifying that we were caught up in the external focus rather than health and the internal focus is enough for us to freely and easily choose to eat well.
The easiest place to start in terms of what to do food wise is to go for a big grocery shop and buy as many /much of your favorite fruits, veg, nuts, seeds and lean protein as you want – stock up – have lots of choice around you at all times and encourage yourself to have as much as you want of any of those things anytime. At the same time buy less of any processed/refined carb product or sugar product.
Having more of the fruit/veg/nuts stuff around in great quantity will make the processed stuff almost a non issue and when you run into it at the coffee shop/restaurant you can decide then whether that’s what you’d like and go for it or not depending on your assessment from a health first, looks second perspective. And if your among the throngs of people who feel that energy dip in the mid afternoon and are drawn to sugary snacks at this time, consider buying some dried fruit and having that on hand.
It is very sweet, has a high sugar content too (so it will meet the sweet need) but is healthier for you than a chocolate bar or other more processed, refined foods. You’ll feel better and hear much less from the Drill Sgt. just from making this choice alone. Also, it is much easier to make honoring choices when you’re out and about in the world by making sure you carry with you some snacks that you truly enjoy and that you feel good about having.
Have fun with your exploring and remember that it’s all a learning process. You really are learning a new way to be in the world with food and that takes some conscious effort and some time but it is also quite natural and once you’ve explored it a bit you’ll be off and running!