Math and Lasting Weight Loss!
You may be wondering what elementary school math concepts have to do with sustainable weight loss, or weight loss without dieting. As it turns out, quite a lot! And I don’t mean for calorie or macro counting, because I don’t do any of that! But everything came to me the other day as I was helping my 5th grader with his homework.
The assignment was dealing with the “basic number properties,” namely the associative, distributive and commutative properties. Remember those? Ha! I didn’t! So I did a quick little review on Google! The overall idea is that there are ways you can rearrange and reconfigure numbers as you add, subtract, multiply and divide them that will not change your answer. But there are also ways to rearrange and reconfigure the numbers that WILL change the outcome. And you need to know the difference!
Order of Operations Lesson
So 2 + 4 + 5 is the same as 4 + 5 + 2. You can move the numbers around and the order doesn’t matter (this is the commutative property of addition, since I know you were wondering 😉 ) But 2 – 4 – 5 is not the same as 4 – 5 – 2. Subtraction is non-commutative. The order you put the numbers in does matter, and if you change the order, you change the answer.
Okay, math lesson is over! And now you really are smarter than a 5th grader 😉 So, when it comes to creating a functional relationship with food and sustainable weight loss, the order you do things in matters! There are things you need to do first, second, and so on to lay a solid foundation for change and results that last. If you switch up the order, you get a different (and perhaps undesirable) outcome.
Elements of the Equation
So what are the elements in this equation for successful, sustainable weight loss? I’m glad you asked! They aren’t any big secret: just the things we all want.
We want to lose weight, live a good life, have freedom with food, and keep the weight off. Right? And these are worthy goals! The problem isn’t with the objectives themselves, but in the order we believe they come in. Because just like with subtraction, the order makes a difference. Change the order; change the results! Let’s look at the order most people–and most of the weight loss industry, for that matter!–think things go in.
Here’s how we believe it should play out:
- First, you lose the weight
- Then you have freedom with food
- So you are able to live a good life
- And you will be able to keep the weight off
This scenario is based on the false assumption that losing weight automatically brings freedom with food, happiness, and self-acceptance. But if you’re like me, you’ve been on enough diets to know this isn’t true. In fact, the complete opposite is likely the case! You finally see the number you’ve been hoping for on the scale, and instead of happiness, you feel anxiety. It’s like a house of cards, ready to crash down at any moment. You don’t know if you can possibly maintain the efforts it took to achieve these results! There’s so much fear that the weight will come back. This isn’t the good life. All the things you hoped for, the way you envisioned you life as being once the weight was gone, seem as far away as ever!
Because here’s the reality. Weight loss does not equal freedom and peace with food. Weight loss does not bring automatic happiness. By itself, it doesn’t change your personality or sociality. It doesn’t make you more fun or likable. It doesn’t automatically give you the skills to manage your food choices well. Weight loss only means you are a smaller version of your exact same self. We fantasize that changing our jeans size will change everything. But it just isn’t so!
My Last Diet Ever
I remember the very last diet I ever went on. It was 2011 and I did MediFast with my mom, and I just knew it was going to solve all my problems!! I spent a fortune on the food, and got all the weight off. Overjoyed, I went to Nordstrom and spent another small fortune on clothes in my new size. By this time, the restrictions of the diet were beginning to take their toll. But I was determined, and I just knew if I could continue to change how I looked, it would all come together for me!
So I went out and spent several hundred dollars on new makeup. And several hundred more on a Brazilian blow-out in my hair. More and more money, grasping at straws trying to fix what I thought was the source of all my problems: my appearance. Only to find I was still unhappy, still angry, still anxious and worried all the time.
And then I couldn’t stick to the diet any more. And the weight came back soooooo quickly. Plus more! And the new clothes no longer fit. Then the Brazilian blow-out wore off. And the make-up couldn’t hide my double chin. I was back to my same old self. Except about $2,000 poorer (with NOTHING to show for it!), 5 pounds heavier than when I started, and more miserable than ever.
I bet you have a similar story. We’ve all been there. It’s so painful! So let’s start challenging the assumption that weight loss is the first step in creating a better life. When weight loss is the only priority, it simply does not create the results we are hoping for.
Formula for Success!
Now fast-forward to present day in my life: I have lost the weight, and kept it off! But weight loss didn’t come first. And losing weight on its own did not make me a better friend, mom, or wife. HOWEVER other changes I made before I lost the weight–changes that HELPED me lose the weight–did make me a better person! So let’s talk about some of those changes, because they are what need to happen first and they are what really count in getting the results you want!! Remember, if you change up the order, you change up the outcome. And when I learned a new order of operations, every outcome in my life was completely different….for the better!!
A Key Change: Not long after my MediFast rebound weight gain, I made my declaration to never diet again. You can read all the nitty-gritty in that post, but the general idea is that I promised myself I would never again do anything miserable or unsustainable for the purpose of losing weight (in other words, DIET!) In addition, I began seeing a therapist to help heal the pain and anxiety I was experiencing. My path toward lifelong thinness began with creating a better life for myself. See what happened there? I took the element of the equation that used to be third on the list and made it first! My number one priority!
That was a huge paradigm shift for me: embracing the good things in my life that had absolutely NOTHING to do with my size! So liberating!! I talk a lot more about this in my post Heavy, but Happy. There is so much good in our lives that isn’t contingent upon losing weight! We just have to start looking for it! So that is what belongs first in the equation: Living a good life!
The peace I experienced as I learned to enjoy my life, and to accept myself just as I was, set me on a path for continued change and growth. It was only at this point that I began to experience freedom with food! I learned a skill set to help me honor my body, my appetites, and accept challenges and setbacks as part of the weight loss process.
The mindset shift and the skills I have gained are so powerful, that when I began using them consistently, the weight came off. Without any calorie counting, crazy exercising, or special diet foods. Just new behaviors, learned and practiced as part of living and loving my life! And these skills are like riding a bike. Once you learn them, you don’t forget them or stop using them.
Because they aren’t things like knowing the perfect portion size for chicken breasts. Or putting half your meal in a box at a restaurant before you even start eating. Rather, they are skills that changed me from the inside out: enabling me to understand my body’s signals and my emotions, and respond appropriately.
And because the changes are so integrally part of who I am now, the weight stays off. But the weight loss and maintenance are based on a foundation of mental and emotional changes, not the other way around! This is why my blog has the subtitle: quit dieting. love life. lose weight. In that order!! I let go of dieting and a focus on weight loss and began focusing on living a good life first. Which led to peace and freedom with food. Which allowed me to learn the skills that took the weight off easily. And now the weight stays off effortlessly.
I now have my desired outcome–completely sustainable weight loss–but the steps I took to get there weren’t in the order you may have expected. It turns out sustainable weight loss really is all about the math! Who knew?? 😉
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