Weight loss is often urged for people with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity because of the adverse effects overweight has on hypertension, lipid abnormalities, diabetes, and physical activity. The encouragement occurs despite the evidence that weight loss is a futile goal for many people. Although about 1/3 of the people appear to be able to lose weight and maintain that weight loss, relapse is inevitable for the majority of people. Because genetic factors play a part in obesity, it is possible that urging these folks to lose weight fosters “weight cycling.”
Today, it is reasoned that if a person is mildly or moderately over-weight, not hypertensive, or diabetic, or those two conditions are present but controlled, and if that person exercises regularly, it is more productive to promote weight maintenance. Now that we have given you a reason for not going on a “diet,” let us share with you the current thinking on how to feel better, shape up, and lose some weight in the process without miracle diets or gimmicks that backfire.
Follow the rules that all diabetics should live by. Eat a varied diet low in fat and protein, high in complex carbohydrates. Exercise, and take care of your medical problems by learning all you can about them and becoming a part of the solution, not part of the problem. This means that you will use denial less of the time to defend against those fears of the known and unknown, and not rationalize your behavior as much.
It means that you will begin to respect your ability to take back control over your daily life, and not allow a malfunctioning pancreas to dictate your destruction. It means a “new and improved” way of thinking about you, the person reading this article, you, the person who wants to find a way to be more healthy, you, the person who may have failed at many diets, you, the person who is willing to give it one more chance.
Now, what we espouse is that you do not try one more “diet,” but that you decide to change your thinking and the way you think about yourself. How to do this? It sounds simple, but in reality, it’s easier to go on the “great grapefruit diet” for 2 weeks and then go off, gain back the weight, and try another great “diet.”
At least we know what to expect — the elation when we start the diet, the quick weight loss and pants that zipper, the boredom, the small cheating, more cheating at the end of the diet, the relapse, and the search for another diet. How do we know this? What red-blooded American woman who has ever read Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar hasn’t wanted to lose 5, 10, or 50 pounds to be like the models in the magazines, knowing full well that if we just shed those 5 pounds that all of our problems will evaporate with the weight?
This is our starting point. We are going to change our thoughts about ourselves and the reasons for following our exchanges and exercising. There will be no magical transformation from the maid to Cinderella and the Prince will not knock on your door with a glass slipper. You will, however become honest with yourself.
You will examine where you are in time and space, and see where you would like to be. Then you and your support team can come up with options that fit your lifestyle so that you can become more fit, setting goals that are achievable. We do not wish for you that you fail at one more diet, but rather, succeed at a way of life which is full of choices and solutions.
You will begin by taking baby steps and as you learn that you can indeed change and not be overwhelmed while modifying behaviors, you and your health care team will design more baby steps to try. When you decide to be honest with yourself, the use of denial and repression will be minimized. Setting yourself up to overeat or cycle in diets will no longer be all that you know; you will have taken the first step to liking yourself enough to take care of all of you.
Most of us know why we cheat or overeat. We recognize that we have anger that we can’t cope with, or that food protects us from feeling overwhelmed by perceived danger, or that food helps ward off loneliness or a sense of lessened self worth, but what we may not know is why we have these feelings. It is important to gain some understanding about your own unknown reasons that keep you from succeeding.
Why? Because as you begin to change your lifestyle with appropriate exercise, medication, and healthy eating, you may become anxious giving up your old destructive, but protective, ways of coping.
What to do? There are self-help groups that can aid — counselors, ministers, and best friends who are good listeners. You may even consider visiting a psychiatrist who specializes in those with chronic disease and who may help with a long-standing underlying depression. You may wish to look at your family tree to see if depressions runs in the family. If it does, it is important to know and share with those who are part of your health team.
Now that you are getting more honest with yourselves and looking at the underlying reasons for your past inability to protect yourselves in a healthy manner, you can begin to understand that you do not have all the answers and are more willing to learn about yourself, your eating habits, and how to set reasonable goals for you, not me, not your sister, but you.
You will become more aware of what triggers your old fears, sense of happiness, and every other feeling that we all have. Even more important, you will be able to better tolerate those feelings that led to overeating. Someone once described these misunderstood fears as being like an animal that sneaks up, unseen, and bites them time and time again, unleashing reactions that numb the pain in the short run and allow it to continue in the long run.
Try to think of your own metaphor so that you can visualize it and control it easier. You are not alone now in working on changing thoughts and actions. You have begun to trust others. At that point, you can share feelings of shame, guilt, relief, numbness, and others that eating gave you in the past without feeing overwhelmed, because you have begun to regain control of your health.
What will change? No more grazing all day; thinking about food 24 hours a day; eating alone, rather than in front of others; no more starving and then eating everything in sight; no more secret rituals about food; no more overeating — all this can change. Does it happen overnight that we think in a more kind way about ourselves, that we treat ourselves better, that we become a friend to ourselves? We all know the answer to that is “no.”
We will have good days and not-so-good days. As we change and take care of ourselves, the dynamics of our relationships will modify. We all realize that being self-affirming will make us more tolerant of others. We also recognize that understanding that there are no magic quick fixes will allow us to look at other aspects of our lives in the same mature way.
We concede that as we feel better we will want to exercise regularly, remain healthy, and take control of our lives. We all know that our end goal is ours, not a magazine’s or a family member’s idea of success. When you think about it, it sounds pretty good. Let’s take the first step by ourselves, together with the fellowship of this site (we’re always here, just an e-mail away, for a word of encouragement or praise).