It was just before the holidays when I began to gain weight. Up to then, I'd spent my life as an avid exerciser and consistently healthy eater who managed to keep the extra pounds at bay. But this time was different. I had left my job as an Office Lady to begin a new career as a freelance writer. As if that wasn't enough to handle, I planned my wedding and moved to a new city just weeks after we tied the knot. It wasn't long before I was stressed and broke(ish) and began to lean into the food -- and I leaned hard.
But after a few months of too tight pants, stress-eating, freaking-out, overanalyzing it and then finally, not caring; it occurred to me that there must be more to gaining weight (and losing it) than just feeling bad all the time. And it turns out there are plenty of reasons for women to stay calm when their pants don't fit.
It's not the cupcakes we regret in the end
In Bonnie Ware's book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, people at the end of their lives share their deepest end of life regrets with Bonnie, a palliative care nurse. Coming in at number five, "I wish I had let myself be happier". After months of calling myself fat (I'm not) and feeling guilty (when I didn't have to), I realized I was squandering precious hours and energy that could be spent doing, well, almost anything would be better.
According the patients under Ware's care, time spent conforming to expectations and social norms left people longing for missed laughter and playtime at the end of their lives. This isn't something we would want for others so why are we doing it to ourselves? It is important to mention that making money, being sexy and avoiding pizza were not listed among the regrets of the dying.
Cut back on worry workouts
If worrying were a workout, we'd all be runway models. But the effects of constant low-grade stress and the body image tug-of-war eventually take their toll. A recent study from the U.K. found that women will spend an average of one year of their lives worrying about their weight. That's 21 minutes a day, two hours a week, and over 120 hours a year. With data like that I have to wonder what could have been accomplished in the 5 full days I've spent willing or wishing myself smaller over the past year.
Like our muscles, willpower energy reserves are limited meaning all activities requiring decision making and self-control drain our resolve over the course of each day. Everything from getting out of bed, not eating pizza for breakfast, answering emails, negotiating with kids, avoiding cookies and sitting in traffic leave little energy for the gym and healthy dinner at day's end. It's like boa constrictor -- the harder you fight, the better French fries start to look. Cutting back on unnecessary willpower suckers like weight worry and cleaning at 10:00 pm help us to meet our goals and to be consistent in the long run.
Be a man!
Ask yourself, "What would a man do?" I learned this one from a friend and colleague who wisely began asking herself this question when she was a) feeling guilty b) being indecisive or c) feeling insecure. This one's not exactly scientific but a Google query of "how men feel when they gain weight" returns a full two pages of advice for men who want to tell a woman she's gained too much poundage. Take a break from beating yourself up to think about how much time and anxiety a man might commit to worrying about the impending beach body season.
So where does that leave me? Do I still want to go back to my old weight? A bit (old habits die hard). But I also have a lot of goals for this year and I think I just found an extra 120 hours to put towards getting them done. What are you going to do with yours?
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