On Making 2012 About Health, Not Weight

I am conflicted over the fact that getting healthier comes with a huge emphasis on the scale, so as many people look at their new years resolutions with aims to get healthier, I wanted to write something to hopefully get everyone thinking about where they want their goals to lie.

Last year, before LLH existed, I guest posted on my friend (and former babysitter’s!) blog, and now, since I’m in the re-committing to the blogging process and am still pretty busy getting my life in order/organizing post-move, I thought I’d plagarize from Past-Sarah, with some edits & added thoughts. Hopefully it’s not so jambled — honestly, this is me trying to put up a good Welcome 2012 Post without all of the work… baby steps to becoming a regular poster again! 

I’ve done this weight loss thing from two different angles, and am going to tell my story again, in hopes that it will help others get a healthy & maintainable mindset from the start of their New Year.

As I’ve written before, on January 8 of 2006, at 305+ pounds and 19 years old, I went for a 12 mile walk all around my town. I was sick of my fatness defining me, and I wanted to get rid of it as fast as I could. And I’m a determined person, once I decide to take action, so for 5 months, I hardly ate (except after weighing-in, when I would stuff my face in celebration) and I exercised like a madwoman. I hit my goal of losing 10 pounds a month for 5 consecutive months. I was hungry, I was tired, but I was happy to overlook that because the scale was going down as quickly as I thought it should.

I was successful in terms of weight loss, but I was not successful in terms of long term health. Instead of obsessing over food, I was obsessing over the scale. When I had a week where the scale didn’t go down, I felt like a failure, so didn’t eat for a while. I had always first defined myself by my weight, and I was continuing to do that. Shockingly, that didn’t last.

On October 8, 2009, I realized that I was unhappy and that I just felt miserable. And it wasn’t because of what the scale said—I had no idea what the scale said until I signed up for WeightWatchers again (it was 270). I was unhappy because my body felt tired, I couldn’t sleep, and, once again, I was using my size to make excuses for not doing things. The last time I had seen 270 on the scale, I was psyched about it and felt great and healthy.  270 Sarah in spring of 2006 verses 270 Sarah in fall of 2009 were totally different Sarahs: one was exercising 6 times a week and could do numerous push-ups and the other was eating far more meals than she needed and had a hard time walking up to her 3rd floor apartment. If weight dictated health, the health (and happiness!) of both of those Sarahs would have been the same. And it absolutely was not.

 A scale-focused weight loss journey is a difficult one. If decreasing scale numbers are what motivates you, what will you do when you have a week where you eat “perfectly” and get in a lot of exercise and the scale doesn’t budge? Then, once you’ve reached your ideal weight and no longer have the scale to say, “hey—good job this week!” how will you stay motivated?

Do you think that healthy, fit, people think “well I weight this, and therefore am healthy and fit”? I doubt it. They’re probably thinking something closer to, “my body feels awesome and therefore I am healthy and fit”. I actually have no idea what healthy and fit people think—I just find myself constantly trying to think like a healthy and fit person in order to try to become one.

And that’s what I recommend doing this year: trying to live like you think a healthy and fit person does, until you have tricked yourself into believing that you are a healthy and fit person. 99% of weight loss and healthy living is mental; if you’re thinking “oh, man, I am FIT and STRONG and HEALTHY!,” you’ll eat spinach, rice, and chicken for dinner, but if you think, “oh, man, I am trying hard to be healthy, but I’m fat right now and this is is a struggle,” it’s easier to have pop-tarts & ice cream for dinner.  Focus on deciding that you simply live a healthy lifestyle, and the number on the scale will become one of many nice reminders of your progress.

Weight is a number. It is one of many measurements of your body. It is not a measure of your health, your athletic abilities, or your success following a weight-loss plan. Weight-loss is more easily accomplished when it is not the ultimate goal. Looking 5, 10, or 50 years ahead, it won’t matter what you weigh or how quickly you got to that weight, but it will matter how healthfully you have lived your life. There’s no rush in weight loss — this is your life. Attempting to lose weight without changing your lifestyle into a maintainable and healthy one isn’t productive.

Healthy living is about setting ourselves up for the best and most enjoyable and productive lives possible, not fitting into a certain pair of pants. There’s plenty of stuff that we can’t control, but how we treat our bodies is completely in our control.  So I hope you join me in facing 2012 with goals of long term health and happiness, because, well, I can’t think of a better way to go through a year than by continually working to keep those things as important aspects of our lives!

And here is some gratuitous sunshine:

In other news, I recommend that you all immediately switch to french press coffee. It’s so so great.

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5 Comments to “On Making 2012 About Health, Not Weight”

  1. I love you real hard, as usual!

  2. Happy New Year!!! Thanks for the post. I’m getting some things in order myself and a big part of this process is my weight. I’m 43 and have a 9 1/2 year old son. As a single mom, it’s a tough balance between work, my son, maintaining my home, etc. . . I always put myself last. Plus, I’ve learned after a long day I get maybe an hour to myself around 9:30 p.m. What do I do? I eat. It’s my time and I think I’m rewarding myself by eating. I know it’s crazy. I’ve tried to redirect like WW tells you to find something else, but I’m just not there. I am trying to make healthier choices though. I always have peppers and hummus readily available. I love celery or apples with peanut butter. Of course, it’s all in moderation too. I’ll get there one day. I did spent 2 hours bagging 25 bags of leaves today. One day at a time. . . thanks for taking the time to blog. I love it!!!

    • Maybe think about it this way: If you finally get time to yourself at 9:30, what can you do to reward your body? Reward your health, etc. Like. You can REALLY reward yourself by stretching your mind a bit with a book (or losing yourself in a book), relaxing, feeding yourself some really nutritious food, or doing something to make your life tomorrow a bit smoother.

      Rewarding yourself is great after a long day — it’s just separating rewarding your wants (food, etc) which are short term rewards that don’t ultimately benefit your health, or rewarding your body’s in a long-term positive way.

      which is hard, because books don’t taste as good as chocolate ice cream. Usually.

  3. Hi. I love you. You’re awesome.

    And we should start planning my next “great escape” to Beantown 🙂

    xo and Happy New Year!

  4. I just teared up a little. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

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