My Happy Weight: Part One

Disclaimer: This is a post about weight and dieting.  If this is a triggering subject for you, please be responsible for yourself and don’t read it.

I’ve talked a little bit about my history with weight loss here before.  I’ve touched on the subject of my history with dieting in extreme and unhealthy ways.  I’ve said to myself, here, and to others that I’m never going on another diet again. I wrote a post about it, for goodness sake.

But I’ve been thinking lately about the notion of a “happy weight”.  This term gets thrown around a lot.  I think it’s easy to confuse the term “happy weight” and it’s meanings, which may be different from person to person.

Here’s what I mean:

Definition #1: Happy weight – a weight that you dream about weighing, where you will be the absolute happiest with your body

Definition #2: Happy weight – a weight that you can maintain with little effort, the weight into which your body settles

Definition #3: Happy weight – a weight where you physically and mentally feel your best, you’re happy with your physical appearance, but maintaining it doesn’t impose a burden on your mental health

These definitions aren’t mutually exclusive.  Hopefully, there is some overlap for each of us.

I guess the next logical question is how do I define my happy weight. What does this weight look like to me?  More importantly, what does this weight feel like to me?

If I’m being honest with myself, I have to say Definition #3 resonates most with me.  And if I’m being brutally honest with myself, I have to admit that I do not feel like I am at my happy weight.  I feel like I am close, but not quite there.

Sometimes my clothes pinch in all the wrong places, my jeans feel a bit too tight, and I don’t look my best in clothes I used to love to wear.  You know these clothes…the clothes that have been hanging out in my closet without being worn or only worn occasionally with certain other garments that make them more appealing.  Too tight pants with a long shirt, too tight shirt with another layer…you know.

I’ve been feeling this way for a while. Then, I felt guilty for feeling this way.  Because I’m not supposed to want to diet, right?  I’m supposed to be content with the way I am.  I eat healthy enough.  I believe in intuitive eating.  I believe in trusting your body. I believe if you’re really in-tune with your body’s signals, you will find your “happy weight”.

But despite my best efforts to listen, I’m still not completely happy with my weight.

I think sometimes my listener is broken.  I believe I eat healthier than most people.  But, I also think I eat more than most people.  I’m a very tiny person so in reality, I need less food than most people.  However, I often eat as much as the people around me, regardless of how hungry I am.  Even though I’ve drastically changed my eating habits in the past 10 years, figuring out the amount of food to eat that both nourishes my body and helps me feel my best has somewhat alluded me.

My journey in finding what works best for me, is just that — a journey.

I learned about calories and macronutrients in my early 20’s.  I learned that a calorie is energy and when you take in too much energy, your body converts calories to fat.  Unfortunately, that’s about as far as I got in my understanding of calories for some time and I tried to survive off of a very small amount of calories in order to reach my ideal weight.

I ate a lot of diet foods, 100 calorie packs, and anything that filled me up with the least amount of calories possible.  If something was 100 calories versus 105 calories, I chose the lesser of the two every time. I tallied everything methodically and flat out refused to eat anything that was an “unknown”.  The prospect of eating out at a restaurant that didn’t post calories online sent me into panic.  When I found it impossible to meet my unrealistic and restrictive diet, I felt hopeless and was very hard on myself for not living up to my ideal.

Moving back in with my family for two months after graduating college helped me get over this restrictive mindset.  Surrounded by food I grew up loving and being in an environment of people who loved me, helped me to put my guard down when it came to eating. After moving out on my own to be a teacher, I still struggled with this from time to time.  I turned to restrictive diets again and again, but somehow never had the willpower to keep at it like I had before.

Once I met Brad a little less than two years later, my eating changed.  I began cooking and enjoying food more and more as we shared meals together.  Eating became a celebration.  And every successful execution of a recipe was cause to celebrate.  As I tried new and different foods and cooking techniques, my relationship with food changed.  I didn’t fear food as I did before and how could I?  Cooking brought Brad and I closer together.  We fell in love over shared meals; meals in restaurants and meals I cooked for him or we cooked together. For the first time, I saw how preparing food for someone was a way to show love.

And then, things changed again. About two years later, I got out of graduate school and started a new job. I moved in with Brad and began my life in Charlotte.  Then, one day, I stumbled upon healthy living blogs and just like that, I was opened to a new world of healthy eating. I wouldn’t say my diet in the past few years leading up to that was extremely unhealthy. But finding healthy living blogs was a revelation.  The knowledge I learned from them radically changed my eating habits.

I actually learned to like vegetables. I gave up most of the processed foods.  I turned to whole foods when I was hungry. I virtually stopped taking short cuts in cooking that involved pre-made things and learned to make most things from scratch.  When I was in a pinch and needed a quick meal, I made an egg or a salad, rather than eat a frozen meal or a bowl of cereal.  I learned why eating organic produce, grass-fed beef and free range poultry was important for my health and changed my eating habits to reflect my new understanding. I learned that a plant based diet was optimal and learned to do interesting things with plant based protein that both Brad and I enjoy.

However, I still hold onto some of my bad habits.  I eat when I’m not hungry because it’s time to eat. I eat because the food looks good and I might never see this food again. Seriously, as crazy as it is, this is how I feel about food sometimes.  I eat from boredom.  I eat because I deserve it.  I eat because I had a bad day.  I eat because I need comfort. I eat because I exercised.  I’m full, but I should eat some more because after all, I did exercise.

I’m ready to change this.