Before I get into this article, I want to make a disclaimer. I don’t recommend or encourage weight loss as something necessary in any way. I believe that it’s something everyone must decide for themselves. Just do what you need to do to be happy. If working out and eating better doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. And by all means, if it is something you want to do or are currently doing, do it in healthy ways. Inform yourself. Consult a healthcare professional if necessary. There’s no need for extremes. Don’t injure yourself. Love your body, don’t hurt it.

In my last article, I mentioned that I had started working out more and eating better. A year ago, I never worked out or did any significant physical exercise. Then I signed up for an aerobics class at work, one hour per week. At the beginning of summer this year, aerobics ended and I started going to the gym 1 to 3 times a week as a replacement. I had wanted to start going to the gym for years, but it always made me too anxious with all the new and unknown elements. To overcome that anxiety, I asked a friend if she would go once with me, on a free trial day. Going with someone made the whole thing a lot less stressful for me, and once I removed the anxiety of the unknown, I was able to start going on my own. And finally, at the beginning of September, aerobics started again at work, and I signed up for a weekly yoga class there too. To complement this, I added one hour of yoga at home per week, resulting in 6 days of varied workouts per week. At the beginning of September, I also started eating better and less, being more mindful of what I put in my body. My goal here, really, is to reach my healthy weight, which I haven’t been in probably 10 to 15 years. After that, I plan to keep all these habits, but to a lesser degree. Maybe 5 workouts a week, and more food “treats” (forget about “cheat” food, you should be allowed to eat what you want without feeling guilty).

When I started working out, it was solely to be more active, but with all my recent realisations, I thought I might want to lose weight too. I’m not really sure why I felt so strongly about my body. Society, years of feeling self-conscious about how I look, trying to fit in increasingly bigger jean sizes, beauty standards, I don’t know. But no matter the reason, it’s true that I’m overweight, it’s a scientific fact, and I started to think I might not want to be that anymore. This felt like a difficult thing for me to admit. I felt shame for being bigger than some, but I also felt shame for wanting to lose weight, when I should just learn to love my body instead. In my brain, losing weight was equal to not loving myself and not being confident enough, not being strong enough to accept myself just as I am. But when I think about it more rationally, wanting to lose weight isn’t bad if you do it in a healthy way. People do all kinds of things to love their bodies more. They dye their hair, choose clothes they like, get tattooed, get surgery… Losing weight is not so different from all those things. If you do it from a place of positivity, and you do it in a healthy way, it can be a good thing.

I believe that there is a certain negativity surrounding weight loss and weight in general. Some people will judge you for being too big, others for being too small, others for trying to gain weight and others for trying to lose it. I feel like when it comes to weight, everyone has an opinion to share. What I noticed the most though, is that when I told people around me that I wanted to lose weight, they were worried and shared their concerns and every time I had to reassure them that I wasn’t going into anything extreme, no crazy diet or insane workout regimen. Just good ol’ healthy habits.

But enough about weight. Let me share with you what I’ve learned since I started this weight loss process. From now on, let’s focus solely on the process and forget the weight loss. For me, I learned and experienced these things through weight loss, but it can be applied to almost any activity or process you’re currently going through, from trying to learn a new skill to healing from trauma or dealing with mental illness.

What I learned

  1. Progress isn’t linear. I can’t stress this enough. This is something I knew, but am confronted to now  more than ever. I track my weight with an app, and I can see this line going up and down. I love when it goes down, but I’ve learned to accept that it’s okay and normal that it goes back up too. It reminds me of a mountain, and I had this thought one morning: mountains would be boring if they only ever went down. So I’m happy that my weight fluctuation is drawing a pretty mountain instead of a strictly downward hill. At the end of the day, a lot of factors affect progress, and it doesn’t define me.
  2. As long as you don’t give up, you’re not failing. It’s important to keep in mind, because people often stop doing new activities when they don’t think they make enough progress, get discouraged and think they are failing. But if you are or have been in this situation before, I promise you, you’re making progress, you’re doing great and you’re not failing. Progress doesn’t have to be spectacular. Progress is progress, big or small, fast or slow. Just keep going.
  3. Celebrate every little victory. This really took its full meaning for me this past month. No matter how near or far your end goal is, don’t focus solely on that. Notice all the smaller milestones along the way too. Every step towards your goal is a victory. It’s a sign that you’re doing it, you’re making progress, and it should be celebrated because damn, you’re awesome! And don’t let others define your victories either. Celebrate everything you want. For example, for me, this meant celebrating 0.5 lb lost. It’s small. It’s far from being 30 lbs. But it’s half a pound. And a pound is a fifth of 5 lbs. And that’s a sixth of 30 lbs. So I’m happy. Even small progress can look big, when you adjust your perspective. Here’s another personal example, anxiety related this time. Talking to people makes me anxious and as a result, I often find it easier to not look directly at them when I talk. I find it too distracting. So for me, looking at people in the eyes when talking to them is a small victory. Making a phone call, on the other hand, is a bigger victory.
  4. Don’t belittle your accomplishments. Don’t let other people, and especially not yourself, tell you that you “only” did something. You didn’t “only” lose 0.5 lb, or “only” made a phone call, or “only” got out of bed today. Thinking like this is discouraging. Learn to notice when you include it in your thought process and to remove it, and to ignore or correct it when people say it to you. Because thinking you “only” did something implies that there is something more you should have accomplished by now or that you’re not doing. But throw all that right out the window. You don’t need it. You’re doing things your way, at your own pace. That’s ok and you’re doing great.
  5. Share your accomplishments with others. I believe I’m generally a humble person (even saying this feels braggy to me), so I’m not really one to go to other people and say “Look at this great thing I did!” I tend to keep this more to myself. But with this process, I allowed myself to reach for validation, compliments and encouragements more. I’ve learned to say “I went to the gym today!” and “I lost a pound!” almost every time, even if it’s repetitive and my brain says “It’s not that big a deal” and “No one cares.” I learned to say “Shut up brain” and be selfish and self-centered about this, because praise helps me keep going and helps keep me motivated and feeling good. I deserve this, and so do you. Be proud of your accomplishments. Be overly proud if you need to be. Share it with your friends or family or a community you’re involved in. Brag. Get those compliments and encouragements if you know it motivates you to keep going.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t compare your performance to theirs. I’m the first to be guilty of doing it. I often compare myself to people around me. “Are they doing better than I am? Am I not doing good enough? Why can’t I do what they’re doing?” For example, every time someone has to offer to make a phone call for me, I feel like I’ve failed somewhere. Why is it so easy for them and so difficult for me? It happens to me at the gym too, when I see other people working out like champions. But I have to consciously repeat to myself that it does not matter. We don’t have the same brain, the same body, the same story. I can’t compare my beginning to their middle. And it’s not a competition anyway. To quote one of my favorite books, “The Courage to Be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, “on the same level playing field, there are people who are moving forward, and there are people who are moving forward behind them. […] Though the distance covered and the speed of walking differ, everyone is walking equally in the same flat place. The pursuit of superiority is the mindset of taking a single step forward on one’s own feet, not the mindset of competition of the sort that necessitates to be greater than other people.” Imagine that life and progress happen on this infinite flat playing field. Only progress compared to where you were before matters, so there’s no use comparing yourself to others.

Since I started working out, I have felt a pride at my body and a well-being, confidence and satisfaction that I’ve never felt before. I’m slowly stopping being ashamed of my body and starting to be proud of it and see it with new eyes and love it for what it is. I’ve learned a great deal during this process, and I can truly say I love my body a little bit more now. Not completely yet, but it’s ok, I’ll get there. I hope you were able to get something out of me sharing it too. Whatever journey you’re on and the battles you’re fighting right now, keep going. Do what it takes for you to feel better, one step at a time.

Until next time,

Em

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