You’re Fat Because You Think You Should Be

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I met with a wonderful support group in Fredericton yesterday and a good part of the conversation was about how we identify the underlying issues beneath our weight problems.

We all gain weight by eating more than we move, and we all lose weight by moving more than we eat.  Every infomercial, trendy program, and quick-fix fad tries to convince you it’s more complicated than that.  But it’s just math. You have to burn 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat.   If you eat 1200 calories a day – that’s 8,400 calories a week.  If you’re burning 1000 calories a day  – you’re only burning 7000 calories a week.  That gives you a calorie surplus of 1,400 a week.  At that rate you’ll gain a pound every two and half weeks.   Success is in the calories deficit.  Same scenario – you’re consuming 1200 a day, 8400 a week but now you’re moving more and burning 1500 calories a day. That’s 10,500 calories burned each week.  That creates a weekly calorie deficit of 2,100 meaning you’ll drop a pound every 12 days.  There’s really no magic to it at all.

So if it’s that simple, why does it feel so much harder? Why do some people struggle for a lifetime with the same fifteen pounds, and why do others need something like lapband weightloss surgery?

The logic behind creating a calorie deficit is simple, but as anyone with food issues knows logic has vey little to do the choices we make.   When I think back to my choices as I climbed to my highest weight, there wasn’t a whole lot of logic to be found.

What was making me eat the amount of food I was eating? I was hitting up a drive-thru and ordering six burgers a few times a week, and ordering a large pizza and garlic fingers as a party-for-one every Friday night. I was drinking more than two litres of Coke Zero everyday.  Even in my ignorance and denial some part of me knew that wasn’t logical, right?

Lasting change comes from addressing the underlying causes.  Subconsciously I was making the choices that would be give me the body (and therefore the life) I actually wanted.  If I made bad choices, and grew larger than normal, I could shake off all the expectations that come with being normal.

Those of us with food issues eat to give ourselves the body and life we think we deserve.  I didn’t think I deserved much so I made choices that shut me down, isolated me, and slowly drained away every ounce of hope I had.  Gone were the dreams of a career, I was just happy to have a job.  Gone were the dreams of meeting someone special and starting a family, I had accepted that no one would willingly share their life with someone who made the choices I made.  Gone were the dreams of the boy who wanted to write, and travel, and experience a world bigger than the one he grew up in.  Gone were the dreams.

At the start of my journey I just focused on the math and it worked.  Long before my surgery the pounds were coming off because I had changed what I was eating and I had started moving. From my moment I finally found out what I weighed to the moment I got on the operating table for my weight loss surgery I was down 60 pounds.  I had done that by giving in to logic.  Face your fears, find the strength, and trust the math.  The pounds started falling off.

As the weight came off the world opened up and one choice, one pound, one step at a time I was realizing the world was much bigger than I believed it to be at my heaviest.

So now, with almost three years worth of highs and lows under my (much smaller) belt – I realize the real reason I’ve stayed on track isn’t because I wanted a smaller body, or simply to be healthier.  I’m not motivated by a number on a scale or a suit in my closet I’m still trying to fit in.  Every step of the way I uncover another piece of my worth.  I believe in myself more everyday – even on the weeks the scale doesn’t move (or moves the wrong way.)  The best motivation is the reintroduction of those dreams you had pushed aside and left for other people to live.

The calorie deficit is how I’m losing weight.
But why am I doing this? Why am I still so passionate about this?
It’s because of those dreams.

It’s because now I walk. I hike.  I jog. I skate.  I snowshoe. I ski! (Well, once so far.)
I go places I’ve never been before.
I’ve beaten the social anxieties that poisoned me for years.
I’m comfortable in my own skin…even if I wish there was less of it.
I have a passport because I remember telling Mr. Donovan in Grade 4 that when I grew up I wanted to be an explorer.
I now believe in love and believe I am worthy of love.
I hold my worth inside me and fight for it everyday because I’m the only one who can.
I do this because I still have dreams and because I have found hope.
There’s more power in that any number on a scale or a size tag on a suit.

When I bring this message to weight loss groups there are usually a lot of tears, one or two who react angrily because I’m holding them responsible for a body they feel victimized in, and there is the one or two who nod because they get it.

Yesterday – there was a room full of nods.  That’s what support looks like.

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