I gained weight, and the world didn’t end. That’s because gaining weight as a result of a period of overindulging is normal.
And, it’s okay.
In fact, it’s very likely that you’re going to gain weight sometime in the near future. Does the thought of that scare you? Don’t let it, because you’ll be fine. You just need to know how to manage weight gain in a healthy way.
The truth is, weight gain is sometimes part of what results from the ups and downs of life, which might include a food-drenched vacation, a bad breakup or death in the family, or back to back holidays (I’m talking about you, Thanksgiving>Halloween>Christmas>New Year’s).
I want you to be confident that nothing bad is going to happen to you if you go with the flow and don’t take drastic measures to suddenly lose that weight. Freaking out about gaining a few pounds can make the situation worse both physically and mentally, and getting anxious about it is completely unnecessary. Life’s messy. Whatever, you’ll clean it up.
And just because I know you think that dietitians are the best eaters in the world and we couldn’t possible empathize with your situation, let me tell you my personal story.
This past winter, I had a really rough time. My dad got sick, and then he died eleven weeks later. Yeah, that was pretty much…well…UNSPEAKABLY HORRIBLE. My dad was my spirit animal, so I was a bit stunned, to say the least.
During those eleven weeks, I knew that he was dying, and everything in my life went on to the back burner. I barely exercised (weirdly, I acquired a running injury at the same time, so the option wasn’t even there anyhow), and I sat by his side on his bed writing blogs, watching old movies, and talking to him for hours upon hours. He loved to hear about what I was writing – rolling his eyes at the crazy diets I was reviewing – and talking to me about food photography. When your parent has weeks to live, nothing else matters but soaking up those last hours with them.
I got my time in with my dad, but as you would expect, that time was sad. Really, really sad, and very stressful. I’m sure my body was pumping out stress hormones at 1000 times the normal rate from all the nights I lay awake out of sadness, and my eating habits were totally erratic. Ever the dietitian, I’d sometimes bring my big salads to my dad’s house for dinner, but there was a lot of unhealthy food kicking around there, brought over by well-meaning friends and relatives. Add that to the fact that all my dad really wanted to eat was chocolate Haagen Dazs, and you know the end of the story: A lot of croissants and ice cream, and a tire around my middle. Great.
I was too tired to give a crap, and maybe that’s why instead of making a big deal and perseverating about my weight gain like I did years ago, I concentrated on treating myself and my body with care. After what I had just gone through, I chose to focus on the positive times that I had enjoyed during those weeks with my dad. All of those hours with him had been so precious. My weight gain paled in comparison to that!
Once I returned to my typical life, the weight disappeared. No crazy diets required.
This wasn’t the first time I’d gained and lost weight, and no way it’s the last – developing recipes means a lot of weight ebb and flow, and above all else, I like to travel and I love to eat. But after all my years counselling clients about this, and taking my own advice, I’ve learned a few things.
I’m going to let you in on the dos and don’ts of dealing with weight gain in a healthy way:
Do: Relax, and understand that this is a normal part of life.
The world isn’t going to end when you gain a few pounds, trust me. We all inadvertently gain weight, and it’s okay: You overindulged, no big deal. Get over it and move on. I’m not saying that it’s good to weight cycle back and forth constantly, but every once in a while, you’re going to put on a few. Completely normal.
Stop talking about it to your friends, who probably couldn’t care less about how much you weigh, and stop getting on the scale to check how much weight you actually put on. Focus instead on the good things in your life, instead of your weight. Don’t you feel better already?
Don’t: Freak out and do the classic diet overcorrect.
I see this far too much: some people who gain a bit of weight will get really motivated to lose that weight, and do some crazy cleanse or strict diet. Nope nope nope, people. Don’t do that. Restricting calories or entire food groups because you want to drop weight fast is the best way to enter the soul-sucking vortex of the yo-yo diet.
Stay calm, and stay away from idiotic fad diets and cleanses. You never need a diet/liver/kidney detox so don’t buy into that shit.
Do: Go back to your normal habits.
It sounds really simple and intuitive, doesn’t it? If you’ve always been a pretty healthy eater, just do your thing. Stop the behaviour that caused the weight gain, and return to your normal diet. Your body will do the rest.
Don’t: Berate yourself.
It literally makes me feel sick when people come into my office and put themselves down because they’ve eaten poorly or gained weight. There’s so much power in your words, and to turn them against yourself for any reason is not okay. My diet sucks sometimes too, everybody’s does. That’s not a reason to put yourself down, and there’s also a scientific reason not to do that, as well: research suggests that negative self-talk may actually cause weight gain and emotional stress.
Remember this rule: if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend or your child, don’t say it to yourself. Instead, practice reframing your negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, instead of telling yourself, ‘I’m so disgusting, I shouldn’t have eaten so much food on my vacation’, say, ‘I had such a great time on vacation, I really needed to get away!’
Going around in circles in your mind about what you did ‘wrong’ in order to gain the weight is stressful, exhausting, and not productive. Treat yourself with kindness, always. You deserve it (no matter how much you think you don’t, you DO)
Do: Stock the house with healthy food.
Access is everything. Just as having access to all sorts of crap at my dad’s that I don’t usually have at my house played a part in my weight gain, make sure that you do the opposite. Make sure your home is full of healthy, minimally-processed food, and get rid of the junky stuff that’s tempting to you.
Don’t: Do the all or nothing thing.
Overindulging is fine every once in a while, but continuing the party because you figure you’ve blown it already? Not helpful. All or nothing thinking can really impact your health (read my blog on it here), and it can set you on the diet merry-go-round. Trust me people, that is NOT fun.
A three-day bender is easier to reverse than a three-month one, so try not to prolong things.
Do: Seek professional help if you feel out of control.
I think everyone needs counselling at least at one point or another in their lives. If you feel like you can’t get rid of the diet mentality or you’re engaging in some seriously negative self-talk, it may be time to book an appointment with a registered dietitian…and maybe a therapist as well.
Cleaning out your closet, so to speak, can be life-changing. Consulting an expert in the field that you require help with is essential.
Take that step if you need to, when you’re ready.
Don’t: Listen to unqualified people or ‘health gurus’ who dispense diet tips.
Seriously, my next blog is going to be about this…but until then? STOP believing in crappy diet advice from celebrities/celebrity trainers/health gurus/lifestyle experts/random celebrity chefs/total IDIOTS/Gwyneth Paltrow.
I’m finding that seeking credible nutrition advice has never been as confusing as it is now, partially because of all the self-proclaimed ‘nutrition experts’ out there, spouting bullshit craziness everywhere people turn.
Keep calm, and move on.