Ginger Vieira was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 13, celiac disease a year later, and fibromyalgia in 2014. Ginger provides great insights into life with multiple chronic illnesses, including how to make the most of your life despite your health setbacks.
Weight loss. Ugh, it’s such a charged and overwhelming topic for many, especially those of us living with diabetes. As if mainstream media doesn’t turn up the pressure enough with skinny models on magazines and the constant wishy-washy nutrition fads (“Eat this . . . wait . . . no, don’t. Eat that . . . um . . . wait, now that’s bad, too!”), as people with diabetes we get an extra helping of weight-loss pressure from our doctors.
Yes, it’s true, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is absolutely going to help us when it comes to our diabetes management. Reducing our overall body fat levels will increase our sensitivity to insulin, make it easier to attain lower blood sugars and improve so many other aspects of our health. But perhaps focusing on the number on the scale isn’t actually the most successful path to losing weight.
If you are someone who has been battling weight-loss goals and yo-yo dieting for years, it might be time to try a totally new approach.
Here are three tips for a new approach to thinking about your health and weight-loss goals:
1. Seriously, ditch that scale
You’ve heard this before, I know, but it’s crucial. Our bodyweight can shift so easily based on how many carbohydrates we ate, how much water we drank, whether we sweated a lot at the gym or did an exercise that didn’t induce sweating, etc. Merely the time of day can change our bodyweight by several pounds!
Ditch that scale. Real weight loss that shows up in real numbers on the scale takes much longer than we’d like and weighing ourselves every day or every week is just going to get in the way of realizing we’re making progress. When you take away the distraction of the number, you’ll finally be able to focus on your actions, your habits, and how you really feel.
2. Start over with your relationship with food
How many foods can you list that you currently avoid because you feel “bad” for eating them? How many foods do you currently avoid because you “can’t control yourself” around that food? A long-term healthy relationship with food (which is essential for long-term maintenance of healthy bodyweight) doesn’t involve constant self-restraint and deprivation. A healthy relationship with food means you know how to enjoy a treat without guilt, without obsession, without bingeing.
If you can’t keep a jar of peanut butter in your house because you’ll eat the whole thing in one sitting, I’d challenge you to reconsider that relationship by actually stocking your pantry full of peanut butter. Sure, you might go a little nuts (pun intended) for a day when that stock is first there, but very quickly you’ll find that having so much peanut butter around you and having no rules around that peanut butter will take the power out of that food. It’s just a food. The rest is simply an emotional habit you’ve created in your head; habits are not permanent.
3. View your health goals as a lifelong project.
Going on a “diet” implies a temporary change in nutrition. Deciding you must go to the gym “every day for a month” until you lose 10 pounds is going to burn you out fast. And as soon as that diet or lofty gym goal fails, you’re going to stop your pursuit of health and weight loss. Instead, take your darn time! Chill out!
Pick one or two aspects of your health that you’re going to really focus on and go from there. No deadlines, no due dates, no “I have to fit in that dress by July 1st or else I’m a horrible failure.” Leave all that behind and start the process of exploring how you currently treat your body with food, exercise, and diabetes . . . and gradually take steps towards creating the way you’d like to treat your body with food, exercise and diabetes. Take time to read studies and books without committing to any of them. Just learning. Absorbing. Thinking.
Take a look at what you’ve already done that hasn’t ever worked well for you. Take a look at what aspects of different nutrition approaches do work for you and perhaps combine them to make your own sustainable changes in nutrition rather than following a fad-diet. It’s a process. Your health and your relationship with your health can completely evolve if you give yourself the time and space to let it happen.