Ever stood in front of your clothes cupboard being at a loss for words, so too at a loss for clothes none of which are flattering? In an instant, you loathe the choices available but realize that not dressing is also NOT an option… Then you loathe yourself and realize you really need to figure out what is weighing you down?
Now CLEARLY, there is an internal [albeit silent] realization that what is weighing you down IS the extra weight sitting around your hips and all we can do is ask HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??? How DID this excess creep up so unnoticed over the years? Or did we notice it but decided to quietly look the other way? Now, of course, we are all grown-ass individuals and cannot possibly be naive enough to not realize the role we play in our choices and hence the outcome we were heading towards, but human nature prompts us to look for the reasoning behind the fat cells bloating EVERYWHERE else except within.
This numbing space in life is also fondly referred to as a ‘COMFORT ZONE’ problem with this is that it is exactly the opposite of the truth… There is no comfort in this haze of self-pity and contemplation, it quietly leads to the break down of self-love and self-esteem, day by day, kilogram by kilogram. We truly turn a blind eye to the facts and then face our clothes cupboard daily until we find the strength and courage to drop the excuses and ‘find ourselves’ again [beware the ‘self-help’ gurus, it does start with us and generally ends there too].
As we leave the question behind “How did this happen?”, we start facing the facts that SOMETHING needs to be done as soon as possible. Let us forget the questions and focus on the answer, right? Some people have the capacity to DO SOMETHING before it gets totally out of control. In my life as a wellness coach, I have crossed many paths with clients who WAIT… AND WAIT... until their deteriorating health starts ticking like a time bomb ready to bring their daily activities to a halt. Some wizened individuals pick up on the tick-tock timeously, preventing the bomb from exploding. This is a fact I have always pondered on, when is enough ENOUGH? Why is it that some people are SO AWARE of their expanding girth whilst others, me included, got to the point of feeling like a wounded buffalo before taking on the much-required change?
Reflecting on my childhood, I thought it would be good to start with blaming my parents, [after all, the blame game is something easily played when you cannot understand or get to grips with your personal journey]. Honestly, they struggled with THEIR weight [and health] throughout life, surely that means I should struggle too. Then, their UNCONDITIONAL LOVE of myself and my brother REGARDLESS of our expanding size made us blissfully unaware of our greater than average size. In my office, many conversations later, as one client after another crossed my threshold on to my scale, I started realizing that those children who were brought up in homes KNOWING their weight, being scale aware (but not obsessive) were the ones that arrived at my door with a maximum of 10kgs to drop. And at 10kgs overweight, they were horrified at their size, horrified that they could let themselves get out of control to such an extent. Then there were the others, again, me included, who got to 40kgs on the hefty side and then realized, “oh my shattered nerves, I need to DO SOMETHING!!“. The ones that waited and waited thinking their genes are to blame or their sedentary office job was the reason and nothing could or would change. These are the people, like me, who cannot tell you what they weighed in their teenage years, also the people that were not counseled about the dangers of weight gain, whose parents did not want them to feel body aware… So here is the better question? Being body aware [yes there is a fine line to being obsessive] and keeping a check on your weight to ensure you live a healthy lifestyle to a ripe old age even if here and there you need to pull back the reigns and partake in a regulated diet to drop a dress size, or, those individuals that are oblivious of their Heffalump status based on their parents [yes, parents, including mine did so ONLY lovingly] assuring them that it is not about what you look like but your heart, the individuals who continue to obliviously pack on the kilos until they are red-faced and huffing in front of the doctor who is writing out a prescription for cholesterol tablets. This is where it gets even more interesting, personally, feeling well-loved and accepted as I was, I NEVER saw my size, even years into my then marriage, I was oblivious of my waistline, only the honesty of my then-husband of: “rather NOT!” when I squeezed myself into a bikini made me stop and realize I had a weight issue. Now, NEVER having to deal with such a personal realization resulted in me not knowing how to deal with it AT ALL! Physically and emotionally I had taken a knock. I did not have the tools to deal with this ‘new space’ I found myself in, and like Eve when she bit into ‘that apple’ my world fell apart slowly but surely. That all-encompassing unconditional love I had felt from my parents now seemed a far cry away from facing the reality of what I was allowing my body to become. Now like Eve, I understood the wrongs and boy did I dig into myself emotionally. When I could not figure it out, it was after all the first time that I was facing such a dilemma, I started looking externally for the possible reasons for my weight gain in the first place, besides blaming the genes. I looked at my lack of physical activity, my poor food choices, my now ex-husband, my plate sizes, the fashion industry and their hand in poor self-esteem [I was far from the model size promoted in magazines and movies after all]. I attacked everything that could remotely have any hand to play in the game of life I was living. After going through diets, gaining weight back again, and starting diets over and over again [on a Monday of course], I shifted to the next stage of “what is weighing me down?-STILL“.
Clearly, if I was continuing to gain weight, drop weight and so on, clearly then I could not keep blaming my parents, blaming society, blaming the diets for I was now informed, enlightened and educated about better health and wellness? What WAS STILL weighing me down???? Why was this a continuous battle? I could not accept that being FAT and FEELING like a wounded buffalo in the process was my life journey, there had to be more to it. It seemed as if I was reliving the nightmare of the bulge over and over again. It was around this point in time that I read something written by Peter F. Drucker, he said,
“Courage, rather than analysis, dictates a truly important rule for identifying priorities. Pick the future against the past. Focus on opportunity rather than on problems, choose your own direction rather than climb on the band wagon and aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is safe and easy to do.“
Up until this point with regards to my weight, I had gone into analysis paralysis about my health and weight, never had I identified the priorities, never had I picked the future against the past, in fact, I kept replaying the past, dissecting it in the ‘hope’ of a better future, never had I aimed high, being so caught up in the vicious cycle I found myself in. I also realized I had made plenty of assumptions, based on my not so successful battle against the bulge and each assumption I had made was not conducive to righting the present or the future. I was in fact caught up in the past, it was eternally repeating itself like a stuck record. I had placed myself in a difficult situation. This was the honesty record I had to set straight. I had spent so much time trying to find out what made me tick [incorrectly] that I had lost the plot completely.
Maybe even with the fact that my parents never made me scale, weight and health aware, they did place emphasis on love, love of self and those around you. Slowly the light in my dim outlook came on. The foundation of love started to trump the shadows I kept chasing. I realized that if I had that as my foundation, I could and would get out of any difficulty [thank you Mom and Dad]. J. Sidlow Baxter wrote in Awake My Heart;
“What is the difference between an obstacle and adversity? Our attitude towards it. Every opportunity has a difficulty and every difficulty has an opportunity.“
I realized that I had seen everything as a difficulty, as an obstacle and with it came PLENTY of adversity. Needless to say, my attitude with regards to it was not the greatest. In fact, I really BELIEVED that I was dealt a shocking hand of cards and such was my fate. I made the decision to see no further difficulties, only opportunities, I realized what was weighing me down when it came to my weight was MYSELF, my thoughts, my belief system… Working with so many individuals on their individual journeys I also realized I was NOT THE ONLY ONE. We all seem to reach for the answers outside of ourselves. We look for what is weighing us down in our external environments, we dwell on it, we embrace it, never to put it down, never to draw that really important ‘line in the sand’ to start afresh and focus on your current day and thereby rebuild a better tomorrow. I am sure you have all heard about burning the dietary wagon, AKA giving up on getting rid of unwanted fat? After we realize we have gained an excessive amount of weight, we decide to do something about the weight and around that time, [of course!] our bestest friend decides to have a birthday slap bang in the middle of our journey to wellness. We promise ourselves we will be good until we are offered that first glass of red wine and then we completely forget that we are on diet. By the next morning, we have literally thrown the diet manual out the window and decided to GIVE UP. So doing, we perpetuate the downward spiral and find ourselves clawing our way out of it a couple of months later. This is atypical of NEVER drawing the line in the sand. Once you take control back and NOT allow life to bully you into submission, no friends birthday will be the cause of your weight gain, in fact NOTHING will drive you to that every again because for once you KNOW, that you KNOW that regardless of where you are with regards to your girth size, you are taking each day as it comes, having a better day seeing only opportunities, allowing today to flow into tomorrow, ANOTHER GOOD DAY until you have rewired the outcomes of your tomorrows in such a way that nothing of today could possibly negatively impact the outcome of tomorrow. This may seem a simple narrative, it may seem of no great consequence, trust me, IT IS.
Have you ever sat down for a cup of coffee with a friend only to find out that all and everything seems to be going wrong in their lives, that one ‘thing’ led to another and another? The entire conversation dwells in the space of doom and gloom, there seems no way out, ever heard the saying ‘history repeats itself’? As a doting friend we tend to empathetically give advise, solace to this dear friend and their struggles, sadly we add to the negative energy and sooner than later the stew of emotions weighs heavily to the negative side of the scale. Soon after the fateful cup of tea, a follow-up call opens new bad news and so it goes on. No line has been drawn. We have helped perpetuate the past into the future and our friend sharing has done the same.
So how do we change what is weighing us down? It is this simple. Make the decision to draw that line in the sand. The change may not happen immediately, or the next day, or the next month, but that line is a conscious awareness that becomes the anchor on every day. Sooner than later, the tide starts to turn, IF WE ALLOW IT if our focus is on the opportunities of change that DO EXIST. No matter the situation you find yourself in, delving into the past and massive amounts of self-reflection and introspection are NOT ENOUGH, pause there for a short while ONLY. It is all about that one decision daily as you wake up; that today, is a good day, that you are the grateful victor of this day and definitely the luckiest person alive. Get rid of the blame game and be knowledgeable of the fact that you set the pace, your acceptance of a positive day before it starts sets the pace for the day and the day to follow. The seemingly offensive chokehold life has over you slowly dissipates, doors open and the universe conspires to make EVERYTHING BETTER, LIGHTER, including the weight that is weighing you down.
My first question to anyone who is focused on weighing themselves is this, “When you walk into a room, do you carry the scale on your shoulder or your clothes?”.
Now generally, some people if not all people use the scale to gauge unhealthy weight removal, then the second thing done in my experience is the minute the scale does not edge towards what they require in goal weight, then the DIET they are on IS TO BLAME… In the years I have worked with people in coaching fat removal, the biggest block in the journey becomes the SCALE. For some, yes, it is beneficial in GETTING to a certain size as the journey becomes about chasing that ‘golden number’, the problem comes from our focus on that ‘golden number’, if we DO NOT get to it fast enough or not at all, it becomes the noose around our dietary journey.
Because these days most things in life are based on immediate gratification when that scale does not move, hell hath no fury… We also get this ‘immediate gratification’ from external sources, we have ‘out learned’ to let gratification come from internal, hence we blame the diet we are on, possibly forgetting the rights and wrongs we have done ON the diet.
Let us start with fat loss vs weight loss, a scale is never a good indicator of fat loss, considering fat mass is much lighter than muscle mass. The upside in this is that if you see your clothes fitting better but the scale seems to be moving slowly, chances are you are sending fat to the furnace whilst safeguarding your muscle. The more muscle you ‘save’ on a healthy diet the better as the more muscle, the more fat you will burn, it takes energy [aka FAT] to keep those muscles working!
In a world were obesity awareness is on the rise, unhealthy fat is topical in all circles. In the process diets get dissed due to ‘not working’, meanwhile, it is NOT a diet problem, I hear this all the time. The problem is firstly we use the scale to determine success and secondly we CHOOSE the INCORRECT diet… and finally, anyone looking at the low-quality nutritional value of a lot of the food ‘stuff’ out there not to mention lack of exercise and the stress we face daily? The argument could be that people ARE getting it right out there so there are no excuses, this to me is an oversimplification. True as pigs don’t fly, there were times and still are times where I wish I was born with a supergene of athletic ability, honed physique, and a drop-dead gorgeous smile, sometimes loving myself as is, trumps the wishes stated above by a mile and allows me to love my life a lot more. This then leads to my acknowledgment that the scale is not the key that unlocks my health but rather self-acceptance as a starting point to better health and wellness.
Weight loss and gain, good or bad? That is the question.
We touched on this topic above, but gaining weight could be as a result of many reasons just as losing weight could be.
Our body weight is made up of bone, tissue, muscle, blood, water, fat, and, that which we have eaten making its way downstream… We might have a day where we have high salt intake and all of a sudden that salt holds on to our water intake and whallla we are up 1 kilogram on the scale, devastated by our gain, we blame the diet and proceed to take our anger out on a muffin – oh dear. Or, we decide to go on some crash diet, now, here, your body is super intelligent, starve it and it will guard FAT like its best friend [maybe that is a good thing seeing that our brains are fat-based and needs safeguarding!?], so as we starve ourselves our body starts chewing on the fastest available energy, MUSCLE, 2 weeks into the ‘starvation plan’ [note I did not call it a diet now for a reason] we get on to a scale and again, whallla, we down 5kgs and ALL IS JUST DANDY… or is it? Chances are we have fried some muscle as our body protects our brain and hip fat storage to its utmost. Next time we find ourselves in a pickle, we resume starvation and slowly we start carving away at the muscle supply in our body, we leach our bodies [muscle, tissue, bone] of water and again loose that unwanted ‘weight’ on the SCALE. Problem is this cycle continues, we hit 40 and bemoan the fact that NO DIET WORKS FOR US meanwhile back at the ranch we look old and disheveled due to muscle loss and NOT fat loss, gaining weight happens in 2 ticks due to less muscle to burn the energy we supply and losing weight becomes TOUGH!
Let us add some CAKE to the mix…
Now, I do use cake as a substitute for sugar, but, sugar, when added, carries more than just glycogen, in fact, it acts like salt and its best friend’s name is water. We may bite down on a ‘healthy’ muffin but next day 100 grams of muffin turns into half a kilo to a kilo depending on the sugar content. Here again, we chose a diet, let us say a keto diet plan, carbs are cut and all seems to be going swimmingly well, a friend has a birthday and we decide one slice of cake will not make the difference, which in the greater scheme of things really won’t, but we get on the scale the next day guilt-ridden due to the delightfully decadent cake we wolfed down only to find we have ‘gained’ a kilogram, SHOCK, AND HORROR… now the keto diet does not work!?? Not true, our body just needs to process the sugar hit and it can only do that by transporting the purely white and deadly stuff in the water. Try not to be fooled… sometimes diets touting massive weight loss is, in fact, massive water loss and here comes the bigger problem, we are 70% water, and generally everything functions in some kind of watery liquid environment in our bodies, minus the water, we have health challenges knocking at our doors.
One meal at a time, one kilo at a time.
Now let us start with when we weigh in a day. We decided to take on a diet, let us use Sally as our example, she takes it on seriously, regimented weigh-ins are important, so every morning, she wakes up bright and early, gets ablutions done and before getting dressed, [basically naked] she gets on the scale. Right there and then she has handed over the power of the day to a number, ON A SCALE! This is the thing, mornings we are ALWAYS lighter than EVENINGS in scale weight, BUT, we may not be lighter than the day before based on the birthday cake we put down the pie hole. It becomes a game of Russian Rolette, Sally peaks at the scale, [this is after the 2nd or 3rd time she got on to it after not being convinced first time round of course] dreading the number that will face us or feeling optimistic. Either way, I will paint both pictures. The first being, the scale goes down… HALLELUJAH the cake did not do major damage – Sally thinks… [‘that’ diet must be working after all!!!] She faces the day with glee – as if it is HER BIRTHDAY, and off she goes to work, our friend, [the birthday girl of course] decides to bring cake to work AS WELL just to make sure nobody feels left out… and the lower scale weight is still resonating in Sally’s mind, she feels GOOOOOOODDD…. So she decides, intellectually and logically [seeing as she beat this mornings scale and she IS DOWN in weight – not] that she dodged the bullet once with her cake from last night, she may as well give it another go. Down it goes, then her regulated diet lunch goes in, so too the mid-afternoon snack. Come supper time she has what is required to complete the day – a healthy regulated diet meal… Now, Sally knows after her day that it was not the greatest 24 hours and now she is curious to see what the scale has to say [oh dear]. At bedtime, she gets on to the scale and she weighs 2kgs more than her morning weight. Right there she gives up, maybe not totally but a little bit. Dazed and confused she realizes that the diet sucks [not really but it makes her feel better] and she decides she would make her decision after an evening’s sleep.
Herewith the second scenario. Sally wakes up, now she has had 2 pieces of cake in the previous 24 hours and was down in weight after the first slice, note she is on a keto diet plan. Now Sally goes through the same process as the previous morning, ablutions done, on the scale, before clothes of course. Now the scale is not friendly, certain parts of her evening meal, especially protein, is still making its way through her digestive system, now Sally is 2kgs heavier as well as with her limited carbohydrates on the keto plan, her body has celebrated by holding on to the carbohydrates she kindly supplied, and the water going with the purely white and deadly sugar on TOP OF THAT… Once again, Sally’s emotions and day ahead has been regulated by a NUMBER!!! Now she feels AWFUL!!!! And wants to burn the proverbial keto wagon after chopping it into tiny little pieces, “I am fat for life, bugger these “#@$&* diets!“. Off she stomps to work, most likely not kissing Tom [her partner who is patiently waiting for her to stop complaining about her weight], gets to work and mopes about for at least half the morning until someone brings another cake for Sally’s friend which they especially baked for her but decided they would wait especially for Fridays tea… What does Sally do??? Quite easily, she has said “#@$&* diets!” if you may recall, with her mood being set by the scale she now not only has a sliver of cake, she has 2 pieces for old times sake…
And so the SCALE has set the tone. So it has determined the direction of our waistline, be it on the increase or decrease.
The clock ticks… month by month
The last and certainly not the least, speaking one lady to another [men, please sit out on this discussion if needs be], when it is that time of the month, chances are you will feel bloated like a Sumi wrestler and retain water. I have seen it change scale weight from half a kilogram to 2 kilograms. Yes, it can be that much, and when you get on the scale feeling like a wounded buffalo, chances are emotional too, you may just want to end all thought of regulated dieting forever…. do be KIND to YOURSELF.
So here is the thing, by knowing these truths with regards to the scale you can, in essence, understand what is happening a lot easier when you get on the scale. If you use a scale to weigh, understand what you are weighing. Let us say you decide to have a cup of tea before weighing yourself, or a glass of water, the measurement of a liter of water to a kilogram is basically the same, lets us say you are REALLY thirsty and you have half a liter of water. Get on the scale and see the difference. It will be half a kilo and THAT IS NOT FAT, YOU ARE NOT GAINING WEIGHT!!!
Be kind, be logical, be honest with yourself. Then standing on a scale is beneficial. Besides using measurements and how your clothes fit, I find photographs work an absolute charm. Try to get full length, side profile, and face pictures as before and afters. These are the gems in seeing, understanding and accepting your weight loss journey emotionally.
If you have got the kahunas for a scale, great. Use them. Scales are good, they are not ALL bad. But understand your body and its cycles whether it is a short term diet or over a long period of time. Our bodies are like pendulums when it comes to your base weight and being up 2 down 2 is quite normal, don’t get shocked and starve yourself, or happy and overfeed yourself.
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