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What I learned after Failing 3000 Times at Losing Weight

Hi, my name is Joané, and I have been trying to lose the same 4 kg for the past 11 years. I weigh 64 kg. I am the exact same weight that I was 11 years ago when I wrote the number 64 on the back of my exam paper as a way to motivate myself to go down to 60 kg. I have come full circle. I have lost weight and gained weight over the years, but I always return to 65 kg.

These four f#/ck:)g kilogrammes are my mount everest. But my belly fat is the bane of my existence. It has tortured me for the past fifteen years. I have been on a diet since I was ten years old. Let me rephrase that: I have been failing at dieting to lose my belly fat for the past fifteen years.

Granted, I started by following the wrong health advice, which was to eat a low-fat diet (damn I loved sugar), I am a binge eater/overeater and I did not know that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which messes with your hormones like insulin that make it hard to lose weight.

But still, I chose to keep eating, and worked out that I have tried to go on a diet to lose my belly fat roughly 3000 times over the last fifteen years.

I fell in love with health and wellness in the process and I have been obsessed with becoming as healthy as I can for fifteen years. I stopped eating sugar 95% of the time (including fruit), and I also gave up gluten, soy, dairy, and pretty much any processed foods.

I have been eating this way for three years, but I still overeat. Healthy food has always been just as delicious to me as unhealthy food. You can still maintain your belly while eating healthily if you eat enough.

Even though I have achieved so much, I will still feel like a failure until I finally have a flat stomach. I have no idea what that even feels like, but I am still determined to find out.

Here are a few things that I have learned after 3000 failed attempts at losing weight:

Stress Gets in The Way

Stress and anxiety are still my main triggers for overeating. Until I learn to control my stress levels, I will never be free of this burden. Meditation, yoga, dancing, walking, weight lifting, writing, doing breathing exercises, and making up random songs and singing them in the car are all ways that help me relax.

You Should Not Listen to Ed

Ed is the voice in your head telling you to eat the cookie. He can also be referred to as your monkey mind, your inner bitch, your lesser self, etc. Ed stands for eating disorder, and that is exactly what we have: a disordered relationship. And I definitely have a disordered relationship with food.

Every time I gave in and ate too much, I was listening to Ed. What I am working on now, in conjunction with trying to reduce stress, is to try and study and understand Ed, so I can learn how to defeat him.

Start Over Immediately

Ah, there is nothing quite as exciting as the start of a new diet. You are filled with hope, and you believe that this is finally it. You are starting your last diet. Your diet plan has been planned out, you have bought new workout outfits to inspire you to go to the gym, and you know you can do this. Or perhaps you finally decided to quit smoking, and just threw away your last empty box of cigarettes. You have enough motivation to stop completely, or to last you for a year. Or, as you quickly realise, three days.

I am a firm believer that if you can last through the first three days of a diet, you will be fine (until the third-week mark when you eat all of the food in sight, but that is when the clock resets, and you start counting to three again).

As much as you want to believe that you will do everything perfectly, if you are honest with yourself, what are the chances of you actually being able to stick to your diet 100% for months at a time? Chances are, you are going to mess up.

The key is to start over, and not to give up. And no, that doesn’t mean starting over on Monday, or even tomorrow. You should start over immediately. As soon as you can say with certainty that your moment of relapse is officially a past-event, you can give yourself permission to move on.

The only place that the past exists is in our minds, and instead of hating yourself for eight hours after eating a slice of cake and six handfuls of chips or giving in to the pull of nicotine, you can choose to not torture yourself.

You should still learn from the experience, but often, the stress you can develop around food or “bad behaviours” could arguably be even worse than the act itself. Cortisol (the main stress hormone), when elevated, has a long list of negative effects on your health. This does not mean that you should carry on with your bad habits and simply not stress about it, but that you should be kind to yourself and not stress if you do give in to temptation now and then.

Just start over immediately and try again.

Why Will Number 3001 Be Different?

I know exactly what I need to do, and I am only allowing myself to focus on three things: reducing my anxiety, trying to eat mindfully, and saying no to Ed when he tries to convince me to have a snack. There is a chance that I will fail and go off the rails and binge eat for a few weeks, and I will let you know if I do so, but I do feel positive that I will at least get much closer to my goals.

I am already doing well, and can see my body is starting to respond well. I have not been able to exercise for months, but can finally do so, so my body will start experiencing those benefits as well.

I am excited, and I am taking it slowly. They say that most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in three. Who knows, if I succeed in making these changes habits, I can set new goals, and then slowly work on them. In three years, I know I will have conquered this enemy.

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