Everyone has a unique motivator, a very personal reason for beginning a journey toward a healthy lifestyle through the Ideal Protein Diet. No matter the reason, it’s important to recognize that weight management – while an important factor in determining a person’s overall health – is only one part of the whole picture. This week, I’d like to talk about that bigger picture, and in order to do that I need to share a bit of my own story.
I started the Ideal Protein Diet in October 2013. I was tired of looking at myself in the mirror and curling my lip at what I saw. I was tired of hearing my husband say, “You’re so beautiful,” but not believing his words. I came from a long line of professional dieters, and I’d tried everything at least once. I committed to Ideal Protein, though, and before too long the pounds were melting off. People were taking notice, and my clothes were hanging off my frame. I bought new clothes, smaller clothes, and then people really took notice. “You look amazing!” “Wow, you’ve lost weight!” “What are you doing?”
I couldn’t believe it. No, I mean I literally couldn’t believe what they were saying, because every time I looked in the mirror, I could only see the old reflection of my former self. I could only see the body I used to have, instead of the new one I was sculpting out of dedication and hard work. I continued to curl my lip up at the mirror and roll my eyes when my husband called me beautiful. Regardless of what the scale said, despite the fact that I couldn’t wear anything in my closet, I could not see the difference in my reflection.
I was incredibly frustrated – not with the diet, and certainly not with my evident success on the diet, but I was frustrated with myself. There I was, 40 pounds lighter, and still filled with negative self-talk and low self-esteem. I couldn’t figure it out – wasn’t getting thinner supposed to make me feel better about myself? Wasn’t the idea of finally being skinny the thing that motivated me to stay on the program without cheating or giving up? I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working.
The answer? Losing weight will not magically fix you.
I’m going to repeat that, just because I feel I should.
Losing weight will not magically fix you. It will not instantly erase years of negative self-talk, poor self-esteem, or the lingering effects of fat-shaming and bullying. Melting off the pounds does not erase your lived experiences, and it does not invalidate those experiences. Losing weight can help heal your body, but it cannot heal your heart. In order to do that, you must focus on a different sort of weight loss – mental and emotional exercises that will help you shed that negativity. This is often referred to by therapists as “Self Care.”
Self Care comes in many forms, and is unique to the individual who is practicing this important healing exercise. Self Care is any action – and sometimes, inaction – that contributes to your emotional well-being. It is, by definition, a truly selfish act – an act for you, and you alone. For example, you may find volunteer efforts incredibly rewarding and emotionally validating, but as long as someone else benefits from the action it cannot really be considered an act of Self Care.
Examples of Self Care include:
Photographing yourself on days you feel good about your appearance, as a physical reminder that you’re awesome.
Looking yourself straight in the eye in the mirror and saying – out loud – to yourself that you are awesome. Say “I love you.” Mean it.
Take off by yourself with your favorite music and spend some time enjoying something alone – perusing a book store, sipping your coffee in the sun, or just going for a drive. Give yourself the gift of silent reflection, a few moments free of noise and schedules and phones and obligations. Take a break.
Indulge in a premium product every now and then – retail therapy can be rewarding by triggering the same parts of the brain that provide pleasure signals to the rest of the body.
Journal about your thoughts and feelings – both good and bad. By writing your thoughts down, you can often find that they no longer seem so loud in your head.
Saying no to people. If you really don’t want to attend a function you’ve been invited to, you do not have to say yes, even if you feel obligated out of friendship. It is okay to say no to something as an act of Self Care. You don’t have to give the asker a reason. “I’m terribly sorry, but I simply cannot attend.” “I really am sorry, ordinarily I’d love to be able to help you out, but right now I simply am not able to.” Remember – if you spend all of your time taking care of other people’s problems, you will never have time to work on your own.
Exercise Self Care on a daily basis, it is essential for your mental and emotional well-being. You’re already making great strides toward a healthier you by following the Ideal Protein Diet and taking control of your relationship with food. Now is the time to go one step further and take control of your relationship with yourself. Find something that is just for you, something that makes you feel good about yourself, and do that thing every day. Go for a walk in the sun. Spend an hour in a hot bath with a good book. Heck, stay in your pajamas for an entire Saturday and binge-watch that show on Netflix you've been meaning to start watching. Do something, every single day, that's just for you.
You are awesome, even if you don’t know it yet. I promise.
-Colleen Bailey, Weight Loss Coach