Ditch the Diet (and Weight) Drama
Drama, drama, drama.
That’s how we’d sum up the attitude that many women have when it comes to food, exercise, weight, and body image. It’s like The Young and the Restless up in that headspace. But living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean ricocheting among high highs, low lows, and badly acted plot twists. In fact, being a Fit Bottomed Girl is more like watching an episode of Seinfeld or Friends. You know what’s going to happen, and you know you’re just going to feel better because of it. Which is what this first principle is all about: ditching the diet and weight drama, once and for all.
“Diet”--as most people have come to understand it--is a four-letter word. It’s about deprivation and torture and not having what you really want. It’s about eating celery and carrots and going to the gym for hours instead of eating tasty food, spending hours on the couch watching movies starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, and drinking copious amounts of wine (which, for the record, is how we spend many of our evenings and is a great use of a Friday night). This “diet” business is a drastic, unsustainable change in how you eat, with an end goal of reaching a number on the scale rather than achieving overall well-being. For many people, diet is about temporary results that lead to long-term dissatisfaction, guilt, and a sense of failure that chips away at not only your confidence to be healthy but also your overall sense of self-worth.
Like we said, drama, drama, drama . . .
Why Dieting Stinks
We probably don’t have to tell you that yo‑yo dieting stinks. But we will anyway, because it bears repeating. In fact, let us scream it from the proverbial rooftops: Dieting sucks! It blows! It’s not a good way to live!
As we said, for many people the word diet is synonymous with deprivation. It means being “good.” (Which, ahem, implies that you’re “bad” the rest of the time?) Some diets feel like a torturous period you endure for as long as you can before going mad and being driven back into the warm and inviting arms of cheese, carbs, and chocolate. Some diets are about eating when you’re “supposed to” and not eating when you’re actually hungry. Many diets leave you saying no to the foods you love, totally ignoring your body’s cues as to when and what you should eat. But if you’re thinking about “going on a diet,” doesn’t that imply that you’re going to eventually go “off” it? Whether you make it to the end of a specific program or give up beforehand, this attitude about dieting is not a permanent, healthy way of life.
There are too many ridiculous fad diets for us to list here--and anyway, we wouldn’t want to give them the attention they don’t deserve! But suffice it to say that most of these diets involve seriously restricting calories and/or food groups. And it’s a given that they are not sustainable in the long term.
Why is it so hard to stay on a yo‑yo diet for more than a week or two? First, your physiology plays a major role. Your body likes the status quo, and it wants to survive. And when you drastically cut the number of calories your body is used to getting, it thinks it’s going to wither away and die. So all of these amazing and complicated processes start happening in your body, cranking your hunger levels way, way up. We won’t bore you with the scientific specifics, but if you’ve ever heard of the hormones gherlin and leptin, they’re at play here, making the odds of your long-term weight-loss success virtually impossible. Tricky little bastards.
You know that saying “Old habits die hard”? Well, it is true. While your motivation can power you through a crash diet for a week or two, in our experience it’s just too much change all at once for any person to handle. Especially when you add in those aforementioned tricky little bastards causing you to want to eat your arm without sauce. Not only that, but when you are changing everything about how you eat and exercise at the same time, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about all of that. And that means a lot of brainpower goes to thinking about what you should--and probably what you shouldn’t--be doing. As you undoubtedly know, human nature dictates that as soon as something is labeled “off-limits,” we can’t help but want that darn thing. Whatever the forbidden food is, it simply becomes incredibly irresistible--a giant pink elephant that you cannot stop thinking about. So instead of focusing on all the foods you can have, your brain becomes fixated on the ones you can’t have, leaving you feeling deprived and miserable.
This is the reason many people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions past January. Despite our best intentions and biggest aha moments, we are all creatures of habit. And while you can change your habits for the healthier, it’s simply unrealistic to try to change all of them at once. That’s why, as Fit Bottomed Girls, our goal is to tweak a little here, bit by bit, so that new habits are made and kept forever.
Crash and fad dieting have also been shown to do all kinds of other nasty stuff to factors other than your weight, such as weakening your immune system, harming your heart, and making you super cranky. (Okay, so there’s no formal research on that last one, but we have had enough experience with it to know that being “hangry” is a real thing.) Extreme dieting has even been shown to reduce brain function, impair memory, and make someone more prone to depression. When you crash-diet, you’re simply not giving your body the energy, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs to function at its best!
Despite the fact that crash diets never work in the long term, we seem to all be obsessed with them. We all know people who have tried every fad diet out there, and they’ve “failed” at each and every one. But can we really call this “failure” when the fad diets don’t work for anyone? Clearly, it’s the culture of dieting that’s broken, not you.
Which leads us to the reason we really discourage crash dieting: it drains your self-confidence. Because it is so hard to follow a crash diet for more than a few weeks, most people begin to think that they are personally to blame for not having the willpower to overcome their food demons. You think you can’t do it. You think you’ll never get healthy. You get beat down. And no matter how many different diets you try, the results are always the same. You lose some quick pounds, only to go back to your old ways, re-gain the weight, and feel that you’ll never succeed. Every pound that creeps back on has chipped away at your self-confidence. This is no way to live.
How Not to “Diet”
In the next chapter, we give you some specifics of what and how to eat to really tune in to your hunger and listen to your body when it comes to cravings. But for now, we’re asking you to make a vow to treat your body with respect. No matter what amazing results the next fad diet tries to sell you, remember that they’re out to make a quick buck, not to give you the healthy lifestyle of your dreams. The short-term results you get from a fad diet are not worth the blow to your ego that will come when the pounds inevitably start sneaking back on.
Your body really does know what it’s doing, and it will lead you down a healthy path--but you have to stop and listen to what it’s telling you. Through years of extreme eating (that’s what crash dieting really is!) we’ve spent so much time being told that we can’t trust our instincts. But that’s wrong. So instead of trying to make massive changes to your life and cutting out entire food groups, think about what foods give you energy. Pay attention to which foods bring you joy and which foods leave you wanting more. After eating a big ol’ greasy pizza dinner, how do you feel? And how does that compare to the feeling you get after a meal of chicken, veggies, brown rice, and a piece of chocolate? What about when you hydrate with water instead of a diet soda?
Stop seeing foods as either “good” or “bad” and instead start really nurturing your body with food. While no foods should ever be totally off-limits, once you start to clue in to what foods make your body feel good, the decision of what to eat will become pretty darn easy. And be sure to check out the 10‑Minute Fixes at the end of this chapter to help you to start listening to your body more attentively and to begin replacing junk food with simpler and more whole foods.
FROM THE FBGs
What We Wish We Could Go Back and Tell Our Younger, Non-FBG Selves
FROM JENN: It wasn’t until before my wedding in 2007 that I “got” what living a healthy lifestyle was really about. In high school, I was active and worked out, sure, but did I do it for health? Eh, I did it more to fit in and be “skinny.” It wasn’t about how I felt or the energy I had--it was about looking a certain way. Or, really, not looking a certain way, as I definitely focused more on avoiding certain things (being fat) than on adding goodness to my life. By college, I was full-out obsessed with the number on the scale, the calories consumed, and how many hours I spent at the gym. I over-exercised, under-ate, yo-yoed, binged, drank too much, and was not being my own best friend.
That all changed before my wedding, though. I refused to walk down the aisle focused more on what I weighed than on what I was about to do: marry the love of my life. So I found a registered dietitian and I learned how to eat intuitively, listen to my hunger, and honor it (more on that in Chapter 2). I dropped my obsessions through lots of time and trial and error and unwavering self-love (oh, how I wish this book was around then!), and I got on track. The process and difference inspired me so much that it became the inspiration for the mission of FBG. So what would I tell my younger self? Oh, plenty:
1. Any guy who thinks you’d be great if you just lost 10 pounds is never, ever worth your time. (And probably deserves a kick in the nuts.)
2. Use your time to study, laugh with friends, and be creative--not to add up calories or fat grams.
3. You are beautiful as you are, right this very second.
4. Cultivate friendships with those who bring out the best in your true nature.
5. Enjoy the journey. Everything is going to be A‑okay.
You Are More Than the Number on the Scale
Who can relate to this scenario?
You wake up fresh in the morning and with tons of energy. You feel great. You’ve been working out, eating well, sleeping the right amount, and you are ready to tackle the day--no, you’re ready to tackle the world! So you bound, naked as a jaybird (always weigh naked, right?), into the bathroom and hop on the scale. But . . . what’s that? The number on the scale reads more than it did yesterday and even last week? But . . . but . . . You’ve been working so hard. How can it be? And then the destructive thinking starts: I’ll never be skinny. I can’t do this. I’m destined to be overweight and unhealthy my whole life. I suck. Head down, you get dressed in all black and have a terrible day.
Or how about this one: You’ve been eating healthy and working out regularly for a few days now, but then your boss comes in, drops a major last-minute project on your desk (sending you into a stressfilled panic), and before you know it you’re in the break room eating donuts. Then you spend the rest of the day obsessively calculating how many calories you ate and what it’ll take to burn them off. Later, you hit the gym and punish yourself with running, your least favorite way to work out but the only way you’ll be able to burn the calories to make up for the donuts.
Now, looking at these two scenarios objectively, can you agree with us that it’s crazy for your good mojo to be obliterated by a number that’s flashing on some metal object you probably bought for less than $30? Should your confidence be shattered by a couple of dumb donuts? It’s crazy. Instead of tying your self-confidence to things that really matter to your worth, like your character, your inner value hinges on how much you weigh or how many calories you eat. This means that one day you can be totally awesome and the next day totally suck. Not a great way to measure self-worth! Let’s face it: there are going to be days when you snack on donuts instead of vegetables; there are going to be days when the scale tells you something you don’t want to hear.
Never mind the fact that the number on the scale isn’t even the best indicator of your health or progress. In fact, your weight can greatly swing--up to five pounds in just a day or two--based on simple things like hydration, sodium intake, or even if you’ve pooped lately. (TMI? No such thing in our--quite literally--book.) So if you’re using the scale more than once a week to gauge your progress, you are not getting the most accurate picture of what’s happening in your body.
You’ve probably heard about the body mass index (BMI), too. It’s calculated based on your weight and height, but this number is too simplistic and--like the scale--doesn’t take into consideration how much muscle versus fat you have on your body. In fact, based on the national guidelines of what a normal BMI is, many professional athletes are deemed overweight while many lower-weight and unfit people are called healthy.
And don’t even get us started on those “ideal weight” charts that give a standard number for what men or women of a certain height should weigh. Really? With the diversity of bodies out there, we should all be a specific weight to be healthy? Sure, extra weight has its risks, but study after study has shown that you can have a few extra pounds and still be fit and healthy. This is why we focus on measuring progress by other means.
So stop beating yourself up because of the number on the scale or obsessing about the calories you had at lunch. There is no magic number that will lead to eternal happiness, total fulfillment, and worry-free bathing-suit shopping. When you’re living a truly healthy FBG lifestyle, you’ll naturally settle into the right size for your body. You will look good, you will feel good, and you will be able to face any dressing room without fear. Promise.