I’m not sure I ever expected a comment like this.
This person actually sounds like they are asking for advice. From me.
This is a response to a comment I received on my Fat Mission page from Brit. The reason I am posting your comment here, Brit, is not to eviscerate you (as you say you are worried of), but because I would love it if my readers and fellow blogging friends would offer some advice in addition to my own.
Before I respond, I will paste her comment here:
I stumbled upon this blog today through the Health blog on the NY Times website, and I will admit that my first reaction was to get pissed off. I’m resisting that reaction, however, so we can have a civil discussion (because those rock).
I am 22 years old, 5′5.5″ tall (I am, really, and I’ll fight you for that half inch :-P), weigh somewhere between 210-220 lbs (although everyone I’ve ever told my weight can’t believe it’s actually that high), and wear a size 18/20. I know I’m overweight–obese, actually, if you go by BMI. I know I should lose weight. I know what I’m supposed to do: “eat right and exercise.”
I know all these things, and yet…it doesn’t happen. Because for me, it’s like it is for smokers. They “just” need to stop smoking, right? It’s easy to say, but SO much harder to put into practice. I know I should “eat right” (which seems to mean SO many things to so many people), and I am trying to eat more vegetables, but I still love cheese and tortilla chips and desserts. I know I should exercise, but for the past few days when my alarm has gone off 1.5 hours early so I can go to my apartment complex’s gym (because I think I’m even less likely to go in the evening), I end up turning it off, because that extra sleep is just way too tempting. I’m not excusing my actions–I know that’s not the right thing to do. But like I said before, knowing and doing are two entirely different things, and until I either somehow pull together the willpower or find something that can drag myself out of bed…I feel like I’m stuck.
I’m also a bit stuck because of my lack of knowledge. At this point in my life I’m on my own in the food department, without a college meal plan (although I am going back to school this fall for my masters degree). And while I’m finding that I do enjoy cooking, it’s a daunting and slightly overwhelming uphill climb. I know I should be eating more vegetables, but right now I’m limited to what I feel comfortable using, which is pretty much onions, bell peppers, lettuce, and potatoes. I got some baby eggplant and beets at the grocery today on impulse, but I have no idea how to use them, and many other veggies. How do I cook them? Do they even need cooked at all? What are they good in? And, importantly, can they be a part of a packed lunch, because at the work I’m doing this summer, and when I’m back on campus this fall, unless I want to grab some fast food I’m going to have to rely on a packed lunch that can be eaten cold, as I won’t have access to microwaves or anything like that between classes. So I usually fall back on a sandwich and Sun Chips, which I’m sure isn’t my best option, but I don’t know what else to pack.
And, like I said before, it seems like everyone has a different idea of what is healthy. Atkins, the Zone, Mediterranean style, low-fat, low-carb, no meat, no grains…it’s enough to make my head spin. For example, plain water isn’t my favorite beverage, so at meals I usually drink Coke Zero, since it has no calories. No, people say. Soft drinks are bad. So I got some fruit juices and flavored waters. Wrong again, I’m sure some people would say–too much sugar. And I’m sure others would jump all over my skim milk too. So I’ve been trying some different green teas (although those seem to have lots of sugar too), but I’m finding that I just don’t care for tea that much. So in the end, I go back to my Coke Zero. Does that make me a bad person? Should I force myself to drink only water, even though I don’t like it?
I keep telling myself that this is the time I’m going to start losing weight, but there’s so much conflicting information out there that I feel like I’m going in circles and/or banging up against a wall. That, combined with my lack of cooking knowledge and apparent lack of willpower, and I’m doomed before I even start.
And this has now gotten way too long, so I’m going to wrap this up and post it–and hope that I’m not eviscerated too severely.
Thank you, Brit, for your comment. I have much respect for you because you reveal that you are overweight, and although you would like to change that, your efforts are in vain. While I have gotten plenty of comments where people feel the urge to divulge specific details about their life, yours is different. You’re actually hoping for a discussion instead of yelling at me because you think I hate fat people. Please, then, participate.
I hope that I am correct in thinking that you would like advice. I realize that you are also just venting your frustrations with yourself and that it’s very difficult to do what you think that you should be doing.
You begin with the idea that saying you need to eat right and exercise is easier than doing. That is ABSOLUTELY true, and please recognize that it IS a difficult thing to do, but NOT impossible. I think that if you say that to yourself, it will make your will stronger. If you for one second believe any diet book or website that tells you that “it’s as easy as _____”, then your will becomes weaker. The reason is because no lifestyle change that makes changes to your body is easy or fast, especially the ones that work long-term, and if you try them, you will fail.
Making a lot of changes at once is an almost certain path to failure. Make one small change at a time, and make sure you feel good about that change before you make another. Start with drinking more water. You don’t have to drink ONLY water. Put a glass by your bed at night, and drink it as soon as you wake up in the morning. Then maybe start with replacing one of those Coke Zero’s during one meal with water, and have the soda in between the meals instead of the chips or desserts. Eventually, you may not miss the in-between snacks so much, and then you may not need the soda to help you curb your craving. By then you might actually enjoy drinking clean, refreshing water. You may be surprised that maintaining hydration improves your energy levels. The less you feel lethargic, the less you will crave empty calories that are too salty and too sweet.
I don’t want you to think that snacking is bad, though. A healthy snack keeps your digestive system churning between meals, and a more even flow of calories into your body throughout the day is better for your metabolism.
In terms of going to workout in the morning, why do you try and get up 1.5 hours earlier than you normally would? That is a big chunk of time with which to change your schedule. No wonder you are having such a hard time getting yourself out of bed to stick to that. Why not try a smaller amount of time to workout until you get used to it? 30 minutes? That sounds much more do-able doesn’t it? Hit the treadmill and watch the morning news or read a book. Keep your mp3 player charged up and make a playlist with music that will energize and motivate you. Lay out your workout clothes before you go to bed so it will literally take you seconds to head out the door. Less things to slow you down = less excuses. Don’t try and go everyday at first. Although, if you have a regular schedule, some people do better with being consistent and making it part of their daily routine. For more on this, read my post Exercise: What’s your excuse?
So, you’re not a gourmet chef, are you? Well, who is? The fact that you enjoy cooking is a great start! This is where the internet offers loads of help. Recipezaar is my favorite recipe site. Don’t know what to do with that baby eggplant and beets? You can search for recipes by typing in one ingredient, and it will find all of the ones that use it. It’s also great because you can filter your results by ratings, and read reviews by members of the site, so you don’t have to worry about whether something that sounds strange will taste horrible or not. A great way to prepare vegetables (you can even use frozen) is to steam them using a vegetable steamer. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and they’re ready in 5-10 minutes. Easy. Or, you could use ZipLock’s even easier method.
I believe the key is to keep it simple. I know that there is unlimited conflicting advice out there, and PLEASE don’t ever pick up a diet book or a magazine with a weight loss tip again. If you make it a point to absorb everything that companies that are trying to make money off the fact that people are fat throw at you, you will become obsessed with thinking about food and what you should and shouldn’t be doing all of the time, and that may cause you to eat more. In this case, knowing less is more, in my opinion. As your day goes along, I would recommend actually NOT thinking about it too much.
However, I will say this… you should educate yourself on what purpose food actually serves for your body. I know that seems silly, but if you know a few simple things about sugar, carbs, protein, and fat, you will think differently about food. You have heard that soda’s aren’t good for you, but do you know why? Do you know why the sugar substitute “aspartame” can be bad for those looking to lose weight?
This may not work for everyone, but this is what I did; because you are young and are still a student, let me know what you think: Read a book about nutrition.
You can know for yourself what things do to your body, or you can read what other people claim to know (i.e. diet fad books). As I learned more about what high fructose corn syrup, saturated fats, excess salt and sugar, and highly processed foods actually do to the cells and hormones in my body, I looked at food differently. Food literally tasted different. Like you, I knew that a bag of Doritos and a soda was not good for me, because I heard other people say it. But, I didn’t really know why. Now, those bad foods don’t even taste as good anymore. A big part of it is because I’ve found better foods that make me feel better, not only when I’m tasting them, but after I’ve eaten them too.
It would be hard for me to tell you the one book that will do it for you, but I will offer a list of some of the books I have read over the last few years:
The China Study (currently reading… really good!)
Over about a 2 year period, as I was reading these books, my diet changed completely. Not because I planned on it, or obsessed about losing weight. That just followed. It was because I was more conscious of what I ate, and of the healthy effects that good food would bring me.
In conclusion: Don’t obsess about it. Just think about feeling better and living longer through delicious, healthy eating habits.
Well, I’m sure there’s more I could say, but I would like to leave anything else for my readers to discuss. Please, all, feel free to add any advice that you think would be pertinent; whether it coincides with mine, or disagrees with it.
Maybe some ideas on how to stay motivated? Also, suggestions for some healthy lunches she could pack?