If you’ve read my previous post about how fixing psychological issues might help with weight loss, then you’ll know that I originally intended to write about something else (me being me, my thoughts are rarely linear :P).
SO. This time around, I want to talk about how my weighing scale being broken was actually a blessing in disguise, as it ultimately helped me in my quest to a healthier lifestyle.
Now before I jump into it, I’d like to clarify a couple of things, lest some misguided SJWs jump down my throat about ‘fat shaming’ or whatever. When I say ‘weight loss’, it implies that weighing less is the only way to be healthy – but that’s not what I mean at all. You can be heavy / big-sized, and still be healthy. In my case, weight loss is a goal I hope to achieve, because I can feel the ill effects of this much weight on my frame: bad knees and a bad back, for example. You may have other goals, like bulking up /building muscle, or gaining weight. The bottom line is that we’re all striving to live healthier, happier lives. Body positivity is about loving yourself – and that includes recognising that you may have health problems due to your lifestyle.
As mentioned in my previous post, quarantine measures were put into place in Malaysia on March 18. I told myself that I’d utilise this time to take steps to a healthier lifestyle. Lo and behold, my weighing scale was broken. I wasn’t able to get a new one or have the scale fixed coz most businesses were closed. didn’t think of measuring my initial stats either (my thought process at the time was ‘let’s just get this thing started’) – but I believe my weight at the start was around 78 – 79 kilos.
(Left) Sometime in August 2019. I didn’t take many pictures when I was fat because I hated how I looked. I had the same body shape / weight in March 2020. (Right) April 2020.
(Left) Also from 2019 and (right) April 2020.
Since the quarantine first came into place, it has been 70+ days. I actually don’t know how much I weight right now. But here are some of the things I’ve learned:
- NUMBERS ARE NOT AN ACCURATE REFLECTION OF PROGRESS
In retrospect, it was a good thing the scale wasn’t working, because it removed my old way of ‘measuring’ success. In all of my previous weight loss attempts, I was often hung up on how many kilos I had dropped, and would get discouraged if the numbers did not reflect the amount of effort I was putting in.
This is a dangerous way of thinking, and it set me up for failure. I would get frustrated (“I ran for 30 minutes every day for a week! Why does my belly still look like I swallowed a hippopotamus!?”). I often gave up by the end of the first month. The cycle would repeat itself – work out for a period of time, control food intake, get discouraged, give up. Rinse, repeat.
Not using a scale meant I was forced to rethink the way I measure progress – based on how my body feels. It’s in the simple but often overlooked things, like feeling (and looking) less bloated in the morning. Reduced intestinal and stomach problems. Less acne. More energy. Better stamina; being able to walk longer distances without feeling winded. Being able to lift heavier objects. Less pain in the knees and back. Pants that feel looser. Even something as simple as being able to touch my toes more easily. I might not have a six pack, but these are all small but important victories, and it’s important to recognise and celebrate them.
2. MEASURE PROGRESS ON YOUR OWN TERMS
#Fitspo was a trap that I fell into and couldn’t get out of for the longest time. I’d follow celebrity fitness trainers and influencers on soc-med, and tell myself “I can look like that too if I work hard enough”. Reality, however, is not always as straightforward.
No matter how you paint it, people have different bodies. If you’re big boobed (Believe me, it’s not all fun and games, especially when you’re running and trying to keep them from falling out), there are things you can do to naturally reduce your breast size slightly – but to think that you will ever be flat chested is an unrealistic expectation. And that is often the problem with many of these #fitspo posts. What we see online or in the media can often be distorted; a ‘perfect’ ideal that we can all strive for but never achieve.
I’m not saying that inspiration isn’t a good thing. If you are motivated to achieve a certain ideal or aesthetic, then perhaps looking at people with six packs can be used as inspo to achieve that goal. But just because you didn’t lose 10 kilos in 1 month like that other guy on Youtube, doesn’t mean that your efforts are for nothing.
This is something I’m still trying to learn, because I still feel doubt creeping in whenever I watch ‘weight loss success stories’ (“I lost 20 kilos in 3 months!”). I have to constantly remind myself that my progress is on my own terms, and that I shouldn’t compare my journey with the journey of others. They lost x amount of weight? Good for them. I can touch my toes without my belly getting in the way? Good for me!
3. YOUR LIFESTYLE SHOULD BE SUSTAINABLE
A healthy lifestyle is not a sprint: it’s a marathon. Being able to stick to a sustainable way of living will give you better results in the long run. I’ve tried diet fads. I took Herbalife (for what it was worth, it did help me to lose weight while I was taking it. Hence, my stand on sustainability. Buying that stuff was expensive af, and once I stopped, the weight came back because I was actually starving myself, lol).
One of my ex’s friends is a naturally tall and lanky guy. For a time, he was an extremely dedicated gym-goer. But although he built muscle, he still wasn’t at the ideal that he wanted, so he took whey protein and ate steamed chicken breast and boiled eggs everyday.
He succeeded. But he was miserable. And once he stopped the protein, he lost the muscles he worked so hard to gain. I could tell it was very discouraging. These days, he no longer takes protein, but has found a more sustainable way to balance a healthy diet with his workouts.
Some people may argue that this is a ‘sacrifice’ that you have to make in order to achieve a certain physique, and that many people do that, to great results. It is my belief that at the end of the day, it boils down to what you think is a sustainable lifestyle – if you’re okay with eating steamed chicken breast and boiled eggs everyday for the rest of your life, then that’s a sustainable lifestyle for you. If it’s making your miserable, however, then perhaps it’s time to relook things.
4. PROGRESS TAKES TIME
This is another thing that I’m trying to come to terms with. Like many millennials, I am used to instant gratification – after all, we live in the age of the Internet, where you can get information and services in the blink of an eye.
The problem with many of my previous weight loss attempts was that I expected fast results. My ‘cut off’ time was usually a month: if I wasn’t losing enough weight, then I’d feel discouraged and give up. This is why I said that not having a scale around this time helped, because I’m not able to see any numbers.
Of course, I’m constantly reminding myself that I did not get to this point overnight. It took me seven years to gain 20+ kg, so how can I expect to lose all of the weight I gained in a month?
5. THERE IS NO ONE-SIZE FITS ALL
What works for one person might not necessarily work on another. I mentioned in a previous post about willpower, and how it isn’t the only answer to weight loss. To a certain extent, you do need some willpower – society would be in pandemonium if we were all animals without self control. You should definitely have the will to make a change, for yourself.
BUT. I just don’t agree that in all cases, you can rely on willpower alone to overcome ALL challenges. I have had personal trainers who went about things the wrong way, insulting me and ‘pushing’ me to do better because they feel that is the ‘correct’ way to motivate someone. The truth is, there is no right or wrong way – only the way that works for you.
I remember an encounter with a particularly nasty trainer who plunged me into hardcore training without taking into consideration that I was a total beginner.At the end of the session, he told me I’d never improve if all I did was complain (I felt dizzy and told him I felt like puking). Needless to say, I never went back to that gym again. Maybe he has had success with other clients, using that method. But it certainly did not work for me.
So perhaps I have weak willpower. Perhaps I don’t respond to that kind of treatment kindly. The question that needs answering, then, is what works for me?
I eat whenever I’m stressed – and I am stressed most of the time, lol. It’s funny the way some people tell you to ‘chill’ (I know they mean well, but still), because if everyone could ‘chill’ upon command, we wouldn’t need therapists, and the world would be free of problems.
Having identified this trigger (stress = comfort eat), my solution is to divert my thoughts as best as I can to something else, or at least keep food away from my reach until that feeling of stress has passed. Being forced to stay at home more often during the quarantine has actually helped, because I am only allowed to go out for work; hence my ability to go out to look for junk food has also been reduced.
If all else fails and the need to comfort eat becomes maddening, I feed the machine a little, ie I allow myself a small portion of something (say, I feel like downing a pint of chocolate milk – which I used to do, as scary as it sounds – I would instead opt for a 200ml of low fat milk) , which is usually enough to calm the beast. By identifying these triggers and working to minimise them, I can avoid behaviours like binging.
Again, this is what works for me personally – you may have other ways of handling things. It’s about finding your personal trigger ‘safety’.
6. IT’S OKAY TO ‘SLIP UP’.
Bad habits die hard.
During the first month of quarantine, weaning myself off high calorie foods was no easy task – I literally had withdrawal symptoms for fried chicken (my favourite comfort food). I had dreams about eating fried chicken, and you know shit is real when your cravings are so intense you dream about eating unhealthy stuff – that’s what they call an addiction.
The good news is that I don’t have those intense cravings anymore. I had fried chicken once last month, but that was it. Even then, it was more of a ‘I don’t know what to eat, I THINK I want fried chicken’ but after eating my body just didn’t feel good, so I stopped. It’s a far cry from before when every waking minute was spent battling my stress and my cravings – which was often a losing battle. Back then, I had fried chicken every couple of days (gasp). This current lack of cravings is, to me, a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. The mind is a strange and powerful thing. It can be wonderfully resilient when used for good, but also super destructive when used for bad.
That being said, I have had days when I slipped up and ate something unhealthy. The me before would have berated myself horribly and just said “fuck it I fucked up today so I might as well just fuck up the rest of the day and binge”. These days, I try to tell myself ‘okay, so you ate a fucking cookie. You enjoyed that mfing cookie, it was great. Now you still have the rest of the day. Skip rice for dinner and get your protein and greens in. Do an extra 10 minutes of exercise.’
Of course, no one says it is easy. It’s an ongoing process of conditioning the mind. Give yourself a break – don’t beat yourself up for a few bad decisions. The problem comes when you constantly make bad decisions.
7. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO, RATHER THAN WHAT YOU CAN’T
I hate most forms of exercise.
There, I said it. Lol.
I get that people enjoy doing Tabatha and yoga and Insanity and feeling themselves getting stronger. I enjoy feeling stronger too. But I dislike doing all the stuff that fitness trainers recommend for getting fast and proven results. Mostly because when I was really heavy, jumping and things like lunges/burpees and even some ‘low impact’ routines felt horrible on my knees.
There is one thing I like to do though – walking. All the weight I’ve lost so far have been from indoor walking routines. And while the results may be slower than doing HIIT/kickboxing or whatnot, I believe that consistency is key. Slotting a 30 minute walking routine at the end of my evening feels doable, and I am more likely to follow through.
(Lucy Wyndham-Read is one of my favourite online trainers. Her workouts are usually short, doable but challenging enough to feel that you’re making progress).
On good days, I push myself to do more challenging routines (the ones that I usually hate, lol) that offer variety. My point is, if I had started off doing exercises I hated, I would definitely have given up. By mixing it up with an activity that I enjoy, ie walking – I am able to gradually build up my stamina and perform those exercises better. As my strength improves, I’m sure that HIIT workouts won’t feel so daunting. And if I don’t feel up for it, I can always fall back on walking, then take on the challenging routine on another day.
8. HAVE A GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM IN PLACE
I might not be the best to talk about this – but sometimes I wonder if things would have turned out differently if I had a good support system. I’ve always had to do things on my own – and the few times I’ve reached out for help, I have been disappointed. It is a bitter lesson, and I am still learning to trust. But while that is my personal experience, it doesn’t have to be that way for others. Weight loss and a healthier lifestyle is a personal journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If family isn’t supportive, look to your friends. If they aren’t supportive, join a support group for weight loss, or a local gym where you can find like-minded people. Just don’t be afraid to find what works best for you.
Ending this with a selfie – I finally feel comfortable and confident enough to take selfies again without feeling like I look like an ugly potato lol.
It might sound cliche, but to everyone else who is trying to lead a healthier lifestyle – you are definitely not alone! Stay strong and know that you’ll always have people rooting for you – me among them!