“But you don’t NEED to lose weight!”
I have heard that many times. I stand 5 feet 4 inches tall and when I first started dieting at the beginning of the pandemic I weighed about 147 pounds. I know there are people that weigh more than me who will scoff that I don’t know how good I have it. There are many people that would be happy at that weight. But I want to let you know, that it is important not to not judge others based on your own experiences. It is not fair to compare yourself to others, because it discounts the other person’s feelings and can set people up for guilt or shame. The fact was, I personally did not feel comfortable at that weight.
I started the DASH diet and lost about 12 pounds total – which was a major feat for me. It was hard since I am a sugar and carb addict. In the past I would eat 2 jumbo M&M chip cookies and milk for dinner – and I would stuff them in as fast as I could. Sometimes I would go to Dairy Queen and get an Oreo Brownie Fudge Sundae for my lunch. Giving that stuff up was difficult. I loved the sweetness and the texture and the feeling of satisfaction. Switching to lean proteins and vegetables was torture – for awhile. Eventually my body adjusted and I was able to lose the weight without as many cravings.
I felt great and my clothes fit better than they had. But after awhile I found myself saying, “One cookie won’t hurt me” or “Just this once I will buy that mini cheesecake”. I began having more sandwiches, pizza, and burgers. And my weight started going up. The worst began around October of 2021 – Halloween candy, then two of my kids had birthdays in November, then there was Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. By New Years I had gained about half of the weight back and felt miserable. So I decided I needed to give the diet another go.
This time it was not so much about the weight as it was about comfort. My stomach was bloated and uncomfortable almost all the time. I felt my double chin coming back. My chronic pain had increased. I was not sleeping well. My face was puffy. I had terrible gas. I was taking Gas-X almost every day.
When I told my mom that I was going to diet, she didn’t understand because “I didn’t need to lose any weight.” I was at 140 pounds. My mother is obese, so she felt that I was just fine. She told me that she worried about me becoming too focused on my weight. She told me that she thought it was because I didn’t want to end up like her. When I explained that it really was about comfort, she didn’t understand. She didn’t feel what I felt. She didn’t feel the constant bloating. She thought I was being vain. I decided I would not discuss my diet much with her anymore because it became a touchy subject between us.
As I was working on my diet, I became aware that some foods made a big difference in how I felt. In the past I had tried to reduce the amount of starchy carbs I consumed. It seemed to help. So I did my best to eliminate gluten. I still tried to focus on how many carbs foods contained, but it was not as important to me as whether or not something was made with wheat. LOTS of foods contain wheat. You don’t notice it until you are trying to eliminate it. I was distraught that my favorite cookies were off limits. People at work noticed that I was not eating the cookies from the staff room and when I said I was on a diet, they responded with, “You don’t need to lose weight.”
I found gluten-free snacks – made with rice or almond flour instead of wheat. Luckily there are a number of gluten-free foods available at regular grocery stores. I bought some gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and was prepared for something dry and tasteless, but was pleasantly surprised at their softer texture and full flavor. Salty, crispy rice crackers became a treat. Yesterday I discovered some gluten-free cookies that taste just like Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies! I have also been enjoying fresh fruits and some vegetables (I am not a veggie eater).
The other day, I suddenly had a craving for hot buttered biscuits – so I splurged and ordered KFC for delivery. Having a couple of biscuits surely wouldn’t hurt. But it did. I bloated up and had terrible gas and was soon pulling out the Gas-X for relief. It made me realize that gluten really did make a difference in how I felt. So I decided that I would make better choices.
I will not completely rid myself of gluten. I love a particular organic multi-grain bread that does not seem to bother me as much as other kinds – but will eat it minimally. I want to eat frozen diet meals for dinner, and I know they are not necessarily gluten-free, but I pick the ones that have rice or potatoes instead of pasta. I do not feel as deprived since discovering the crackers and cookies that don’t make me bloat up like a balloon. I asked my daughter to see if she could find a gluten-free cake for my birthday next month.
Since restarting my diet in January, I have lost about 4 pounds. Most importantly though, I feel so much better. My stomach is not distended. It is still flabby, but I am okay with that – because it does not hurt. I am able to breathe easier – literally. When I was bloated, I often felt like I could not get a good breath of air. Now it feels so much better. I am not needing to pull up my pants as often – which sounds odd I know, but my stomach being bloated often caused the waist of my jeans to curl down and pushed them down so that they lay UNDER my tummy bulge.
I would still love to lose a couple more pounds, to get back to where I was – and to feel better overall. I am determined to improve my diet even more – to pay more attention to how much gluten I ingest. As I feel better and the weather gets warmer, I am interested in actually getting some exercise, which will make a big difference in my energy level.
You need to do what works for YOU. Don’t listen to the people around you who say you don’t need to lose weight, because they really don’t know what you are going through. Don’t compare yourself to other people – and don’t judge other people and their choices. Your diet may not work for other people. Their diet may not work for you. Experiment with your diet to find out the foods that help, and the foods that make you feel bad. You don’t have to deprive yourself of the foods you love. Just figure out a way to enjoy them perhaps in different forms. And if you “fall off the wagon”, hop back on and do the best you can to hang tight. The way you feel is important. If you feel poorly, find out how to change it. You are the best judge of you. Do it for yourself. Love yourself. You get this one life, and it is up to you to decide how you want to live it.