Okay, let’s be real folks. Losing weight isn’t all that interesting. I mean, it’s exciting and new when you first begin out on a new regime, fuelled by all the promises of what the end result will be, and it’s cool to see the progress pics and update videos by other people trying to lose weight, but the everyday process itself? Yeah it’s pretty bloody dull. But you know what? That’s exactly what you should be aiming for. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but lemme explain.
Everyone starts out on their weigh-loss mission pretty psyched – and that’s completely normal. We prep ourselves by reading as much as we can about our chosen plan, immerse ourselves in weight-loss communities where we can share stories, pick up tips and get support, and it’s so cool because it’s new and different and exciting. We’ve gotten to a point where we’re able to accept that we have a problem and then realise that fixing that problem is completely within our grasp. We feel empowered with all this new knowledge and as we start making the necessary dietary changes, we feel amazing because we’re getting results. We’re fricking doing this, y’all!
And it’s great. As long as we’re sticking to our plan and doing all the things we’re supposed to, the weight continues to come off, albeit a little more slowly than it did in the first few weeks. But the scale is still moving down and everything’s working and yet…suddenly it doesn’t feel that exciting any more. We’re no longer feeling the newfound excitement we felt right at the beginning, and the end is still quite a way off. So it’s only natural when some of us start looking for other ways to get that feeling of excitement back. Maybe we’ll add in a fitness challenge – those always seem really popular – or maybe we’ll consider changing up our plan – eating challenges are also all over YouTube. What we’re looking for is a return to that high we felt way back when we first started out on our weight-loss regimes…but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
The phrase “This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” has become a bit of a cliché, with many people repeating it verbatim, without really living by it. But the reality is, that for weight loss to not only be successful but sustainable, this really does have to be a complete lifestyle adjustment – not just a quick fix to get us to our goal weight. And like it or not, for this to BE a lifestyle change and not just a fad, we’re really going to have to expect the whole thing to become a bit boring. Is cleaning your teeth every day a blog-worthy event? I doubt it. Do you get ripples of adrenaline coursing through your veins every time you wash the dishes? I hope not. (I mean, you do you boo, but if that’s what really gets you going every day, you might want to look into trying a new hobby…just saying.)
What I’m trying to say is that whilst eating can be a part of how we celebrate or socialise, it really shouldn’t be the focal point of our entire day. I’ve mentioned this before, but my other half is a tall, athletic guy who has never really had to worry about his weight (except for one time when a course of medication for an injury caused him to lose his appetite a drop a little too much weight – but that was soon remedied by reducing his meds). He turned to me earlier while we were watching ‘My 600lb Life’ and said:
“You know, I’ll never really understand what all this is about.”
And thinking that he meant the severely super-morbidly obese people on the show, I told him that I didn’t fully understand their mindset either; that their pathological relationship with food is far more dangerous and damaged than mine has ever been. But he shook his head:
“No…I mean, I’ll never understand ANY of this weight-loss stuff. I can’t imagine having to think about everything I eat, all the time, every day. It’s completely alien to me.”
And he truly meant it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s incredibly supportive and frequently reminds me that if there’s anything he can do to help me with this, then just say the word; but it’s a whole other country to him, this world of weight-loss, fitness and food-plans. Which is exactly how it should be for someone with a totally normal relationship with food. Sure, it pays to be at least somewhat informed with regards to nutrition and activity levels, but for those who have never experienced any weight issues or food allergies / intolerances, food really isn’t that big of a deal. They enjoy a nice meal out, or a special celebratory dinner, but for the most part, food is a fuel that they need to consume in order to not die. If it tastes nice, that’s great, but they don’t feel the need to make every morsel some hyper-palatable gourmet offering that Heston Blumenthal would be proud of. And that’s one of the huge differences between those of us who have good relationships with food, and those of us who don’t.
A lot has been said recently about the notion of ‘Intuitive Eating’ and the twisted way that the ‘Fat Acceptance’ have chosen to bastardise it for their own ends. But the ideas at the core of ‘Intuitive Eating’ do make sense…for those don’t have a screwed-up relationship with food. It’s exactly how my other half eats every day. Sometimes he wakes up wanting a fried breakfast; other days he gets up and doesn’t want anything to eat for a few hours. Some days he’s happy to have a few smaller snack-like meals throughout the day, and on others he prefers a big roast dinner with all the trimmings. Aside from my obsession with wanting him to up his protein intake a bit, he normally gets enough of a wide range of food in his diet to keep him strong, lean and healthy – and he doesn’t ever stop to second-guess any of the food choices he makes.
(Yeah, I know…I really should hate the dude for that, but he’s pretty to look at and I can’t reach up to change the lightbulbs, so I like to keep him around, lol.) My point is that his relationship with food is the kind that we all should aspire to having ourselves. And part of that relationship will involve our having to find a way to stop food from having such an intense hold on us that we think about it from dawn ’til dusk. I hate to piss on everyone’s Cheerios, but not every meal needs to be interesting or exciting. What’s important is that we figure out how to get sufficient nutrition from our diet, find a plan that allows us to lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived, and then just go about the rest of our lives, like normal people do.
I’m not saying we can’t enjoy our food or that y’all should be suffering on some foul diet made up of foods you actually hate (because that shit ain’t sustainable for anyone in the long term) but if a lot of our food choices end up being pretty boring, that’s not the end of the world. That’s normal. Going out of your way to try and imbue every meal you consume on your weight-loss regime, with amazing flavours, textures, colours and fragrances, isn’t how most people eat. The very fact that we treat going out to dinner or having a celebratory birthday meal with such reverence, is precisely because they’re supposed to be special experiences that elevate the humble meal to an altogether different level. And I think we as a society have forgotten that.
“By the end of the 19th Century, fine dining restaurants had become part of the landscape for the wealthy aristocratic Europeans and upper-class Americans. These groups transformed eating out into an art form. Through the 20th century, restaurants continued to evolve through two world wars and the Great Depression. The 1950s saw the rapid growth of fast food, while the 1960s marked the beginning of casual family dining and chain restaurants. By 2000, more and more families were dining out on a weekly basis.”History of American Restaurants in the 20th Century
Eating out regularly is still a relatively new concept for the working & middle classes as a whole. And it’s no coincidence that our ever-expanding waistlines have gotten bigger at exactly the same rate as the explosion in choices with regards eating out. It has become so much easier and cheaper for the average person to eat out, that dining culture is no longer the preserve of the upper classes. Everywhere we go there are myriad options to cater to our taste and wallets, offering intentionally hyper-palatable food combinations that we can choose to eat on the premises, take home or even have delivered to our doors. And we’ve gotten so that we almost feel as though we’re entitled to all this choice and convenience. We work hard, raise families, keep households, attend schools and at the end of the day we’re exhausted. So of course we feel like we deserve to ‘treat’ ourselves and our families to something quick, easy and tasty. But all we’ve really done is condition our taste-buds and our dopamine circuits to associate food with always being something that should taste epic and provide a massive bang for our buck.
So when we finally realise that we’re fat and out of shape, we naturally start to try and make our new food-plans really tasty and interesting and exciting, because we’re still trapped in the mindset of a person with a fucked up relationship with food. We look for recipes that will provide satisfying alternatives to the foods that we over-consumed to get fat in the first place, because we’re still obsessed with making food the focal point of our daily lives. And we really need to stop doing that.
Hey, I’m not claiming to be free of this way of thinking folks. I say all this as someone who realised a while ago that my own relationship with food was completely skewed, because of the type of ‘stimulant seeking’ mentality I have. I wrote a blog post about that very realisation which ya’ll can read here: Stimulus Chick. I know that I have a very active mind that loves to be stimulated and hates to be inactive (I have never been able to ’empty my mind’ and meditate and probably never will, lol) and that ‘stimulant seeking’ mentality plays out in the way I have approached food. Y’all, I’m as bad as everyone else with this, but it’s something I’m working on fixing because I don’t want food to be the controlling aspect of my day-to-day life; I’ve got way too many other things I could be focusing my attention on. And that’s why I’ve come to a second realisation about food, weight-loss and why it’s actually completely normal and healthy, for it to all be incredibly mundane.
When I look back at my previous posts on here I can see that I have yet to shed that obsession with having amazingly tasty food all the time. I’m not altering my behaviour, merely finding an alternative conduit through which I can continue to satisfy that ‘food-centric’ mentality. And I see it in so many other people who are trying to overhaul their diets and implement permanent “lifestyle” changes too. Letting go of the idea that all food has to be hyper-palatable and exciting is difficult. It’s scary and that fear is rooted in our aversion to the unknown, and filtered down through these comestible crutches we develop over time. It’s hard enough to cut out something like sugar from our diets; taking the next step towards a relaxed – almost nonchalant – form of ‘Intuitive Eating’, where food is no longer a perpetually intense, sensory experience is something else. But it’s what I truly believe is at the core of a successful lifestyle overhaul and a healthy relationship with food and eating.
Does that mean I’m suddenly going to become the most clean-eating, nutrition-focused, A+ example of how to eat? Um…no, I’m a work in progress folks; always have been, always will be. But I do want to try and take a mental step back from having an obsessive preoccupation with the food I eat. It’s going to be difficult, because I’ve a/ got a whole 40 years worth of habits to try and undo, and b/ also need to make sure that I’m sticking to my low-carb WOE by always having enough of the right food on hand to tide me over. But I’ve been eating this way for just over 5 months now. I know what I can and cannot eat and going forward, just grabbing something simple to eat because it meets my nutritional needs, is how I’d like to start regarding most of my food choices. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be eating foods that I enjoy or not enjoying the food that I eat, because I will never get sick of eating steak! But not every meal has to be a sensory adventure. Food is and should be primarily, a source of fuel. And I need to remember that.
So, if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: weight loss is going to get boring over time AND THAT’S A GOOD THING! If you’ve been plodding along for a while and you’re no longer excited by your food choices, don’t immediately rush to try and inject a sense of excitement back into your life. At least not for the reasons I’ve been talking about today. Most of us got to where we are – being overweight, addicted to sugar and having a dysgenic relationship with food – largely in part through us abusing our pleasure / reward pathways with a constant stream of sensory overload from hyper-palatable food sources. Simply put, we’ve gotten addicted to the pleasure gained from eating. And it’s hard for us to let that go.
But if we’re ever to find our way back to having a normal relationship with food, we need to work on breaking that association between food and being constantly, pleasurably stimulated. It sounds trite, but finding other avenues from which to get our kicks, really is the best alternative. Cultivating interests outside of weight loss and food is a healthy route to living and eating like a “normal” person. I know it’s really tempting to want to ‘shake things up’ and find new, exciting ways to lose weight, but by always seeking that new injection of stimulation, we’re only feeding into that same cycle of ‘stimulant seeking’ behaviour. Deciding to do an egg fast for a week might get you some great results on the scale, but is that how you’re going to eat for the rest of your life? And how do you think your body is going to react once you return to how you were eating previously? By all means, consider things like intermittent fasting as a permanent way of eating that will become boringly second-nature over time; but if all you’re after is that initial ‘high’ you get from doing something new and different with your food, then you’re never going to find your way out of this ‘stimulant seeking’ behaviour around eating.
Like I said, right now I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but I’d like to think that by coming to this realisation, I will be better equipped to do something about it. Because I hate the idea of something as mundane as food having such a powerful hold over me. I want to eat to live, not live to eat.
Stay boring, y’all!