The dream email arrived on a day I really needed it. I was feeling out of shape and like I needed a change. A resort spa manager had written me: “I’ve heard you’re a good speaker. We’re looking for a speaker who’d like a week for free here in exchange for two evening presentations for our other guests.”
“Since we’re a weight-loss resort, we’d like you to teach both nights on weight loss.”
I was 36 years old, chunky and knocked up. A fat, pregnant “weight loss” instructor?
“Give me a week to think about it,” I told her.
As I thought about it that week, I realized not changing is more painful than changing. Let’s face it, appearance matters. Professional women can’t afford to be significantly overweight. Like it or not, when we are, some doubt our competence in issues other than eating. Appearance is the first thing others note, and while we can’t change our age, our race or our sex, most of us can achieve a weight that is healthy for us.
I eventually took that offer and have returned to the spa more than once to teach the course. Before I said yes the first time, I did a lot of thinking — and lost my lifelong weight problem forever.
Here’s how: I stopped convincing myself I couldn’tdefeat my weight problem. I redefined my weight problem as a mental, emotional and attitudinal problem. I realized that food and exercise weren’t the problem. It’s the mind that tells the hand that it’s OK to reach for those calories and OK not to exercise. I decided my habits had trapped me in an overweight body, and that I could break out of fat prison. I realized I alone could decide whether my past equaled my future. I could give up a wonderful work opportunity because I was powerless to change, or I could confront and deal with sabotage.
My challenge to you is: If you’re trapped by excess fat and have been beating up yourself about it, change course. Examine your traps and eradicate them.
Common traps for time-crunched working women include:
- Coming home from a jet-setting job so wired you raid the refrigerator
- Letting one weight-gain mistake derail you
- Feeling so drained by the end of the workday that you buy the cheapest, fastest dinner — regardless of the calories
- Work consumes your life, derailing your exercise plans and leaving you with no time to take care of your own needs —to the point where you use food as a comfort, reward, legal treat, buffer and coping mechanism
- Engaging in autopilot eating when you’re not hungry
If these habits are part of your life, here are some suggestions:
- At the end of a busy workday, take a short walk on a bike trail before getting anywhere near your refrigerator
- Replace the all-or-nothing myth with the belief that any positive change — even five minutes of exercise or one cup of hot tea rather than the cheesecake — counts as success
- Buy sushi, chopped-up fruit, veggies or stir-fry combinations from local grocers so you don’t reach for something easy but high-calorie
- Spend five minutes daily on something you like, especially if you don’t have time, so you won’t crave food for comfort
- Make a list of alternative non-caloric methods to reward, treat and cope — and use them
- Notice what you’re doing and choose — do you want to eat or not? If you do, it’s OK, but choose first
- Keep a stash in your desk of low or no-calorie treats
- If you start to lose your motivation, remind yourself of all the accomplishments you’ve achieved in important areas of your life, then ask yourself if you’re going to let a brownie sabotage something you’d really like to do
- Fill your life with so many other recreational and pleasurable events — including writing a journal to keep in touch with emotions that might derail a weight-loss program — that you have no time to eat out of boredom
- When you’re about to let the short-term pleasure of eating cloud the long-term pleasure of leaving your weight problem behind forever, make a mental or written list of all the opportunities you’ll miss and all the feelings of disappointment you’ll have if you still have your weight problem one year from now.
Start today. If I can do it, you can do it.