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Women Losing Weight: How I’m a Liar, and Why My Method of Weight Loss is Actually Hard as Hell

June 6, 2012
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Many people liked my post on the Happiest, Healthiest, Easiest Weight Loss in the World.   The idea is simple: restore proper hormone function by nourishing the body and eliminating food toxins.   This type of weight loss is happy because there’s no psychological damage, and body image issues take a back seat when health is prioritized.  It’s healthy, because it’s about nourishment first and foremost.  And it’s easy because there are no hard-lined restrictive efforts.

I don’t believe that healthy weight loss is ever achieved in the typical brain-body warfare model.  Instead, it is only ever achieved when a woman works in partnership with her body’s natural hormone system.  If she is good to it, it will be good to her.   Easy Peasy.*

Yet this kind of weight loss– this happy, healthy, easy weight loss– is actually for the modern woman enormously challenging.   Here’s why:

It requires acceptance.

Perhaps I should have been more upfront about this in the first place.   This may in fact be the easiest way to lose weight in the world,* but only if it is done with love, and with forgiveness, and with a refusal to adhere to body image norms.   Three things with which women struggle fiercely.

This weight loss will never occur beyond a certain point.  It moves a woman down towards a healthy weight, but then it stops, peacefully and joyfully thrumming along at that weight.   This weight is not 17 percent body fat.  I advise (delicately) anyone fantasizing about that to get over it as soon as possible.  No one on this weight loss plan will end up healthfully looking like Cameron Diaz.  If a woman were going to be one of those sticky types, she would have always been one of those sticky types.   Nor will anyone necessarily be a rippling, chiseled woman.  If anyone were going to look like Jilian Michaels, she would have also been birthed on the fiery precipice of hell.

Everyone wants to be thinner.  (Almost).  According to society, and even according to paleosphere standards, super thin and ripped is hot.   Many women in the 20-25 percent body fat range are trying to lose weight with zero real health justification.  Zero.  What they are instead looking for is to meet the social standard.   They may think that meeting this standard is going to make them healthier, or they may make excuses for or justify their weight loss efforts by pretending it will make them healthier, but the fact is that the weight loss endeavor is completely unjustified.

And, in many cases, downright harmful.

Which brings us back to why this kind of weight loss is hard:

In order to be healthy, we have to accept ourselves.

We have to prioritize our health.  We may of course lose weight for health benefits, but not for any other reasons.  This notion is an indomitable monster for many women (and men) in today’s world.  It goes against years worth of programming, and it goes against social pressures and against  personal perfectionism and against every desire so many women have ever had to be attractive and loved.  Because we have to face it: our desires to be attractive are desires to be loved.  So much of the battle we are fighting for holistic health in our brains and in our hearts occurs on this precipice, this edge of love.  How can we be loved without being stereotypically beautiful?   It sounds ridiculous, but it also is insidiously and powerfully in the subconsciousnesses of all of us.

My proposed method of weight loss is hard because it demands of us that we kick our needs for social validation under the bus.  It demands that we take a stand for our natural bodies and our natural needs.  It demands that we stand up, that we hug ourselves, and that we tear all of our Shape magazines and gym memberships to shreds.  More than anything, it demands that we say “fuck off” to social norms, and that in doing so we ignite in us the power and confidence to accept the love everyone in our lives is showering on us even when we ourselves are uncertain of what we are doing.  We need to love ourselves, and to accept love, and to stand with our natural bodies, and to be unapologetic and refusing, and to lead by empowered example after empowered example.

It is not easy to lose weight.  Physically, as a woman, fat is valuable, and the body fights to hang onto it tooth and nail.  But it is easiest if done with (that albeit hard-won) acceptance and with love and with care.  It is healthy if done with acceptance and with love and with care.  And it is happy if done with acceptance and with love and with care.  Restriction may work in the short term, but it is not healthy in all of these ways, and it may end up backfiring in the long-term.  The only way to healthfully lose weight is to do so in loving, proud partnership.

This kind of weight loss–the healthy kind of weight loss–takes not the strength of a physical endeavor, nor the strength of restrictive willpower, but instead the Herculean strength of indomitable spirit, pride, and love. 

 

 

*Though of course not.  Hormones are far more complicated.  It’s a bare-boned fact that fat is an endocrine hormone and women’s endocrine systems can be disrupted by changing the volume of fat cells in her body.  It is also a fact that many women’s metabolism’s have been damaged by modern foods and toxins.  And it is a fact that women’s body have been damaged by diets and exercise.  No, it’s not always puppy dogs and candy canes, the land of women’s weight loss, but it can be done, and hormones really can be readjusted to help a woman reach a healthy and fit place with time, care, and love.

**Or not.  Ever have a tapeworm?

 

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Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.

35 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! It was a great reminder. I also see this way to lose weight as an incredibly easy and happy one – to the point where I cannot understand how others just don’t see it. But this post really helped me understand why someone else might see it as a hard thing to do. I went through a period in between my calorie restricting, doing battle with my body days and discovering Paleo in which I followed the Health at Every Size philosophy, which advocated intuitive eating. I loved the idea and came a long way in my self acceptance. Even though I wound up putting on 50 lbs during that part of my journey, it was a valuable stop along the way. I came to realize that you cannot eat toxic food “intuitively” and self-regulate your appetite. When you’re eating things that are not only harming you, but are truly addictive (like wheat and sugar), what hope is there to “eat sensibly”? Discovering Paleo clicked the key piece of information into my understanding and has left me with a blueprint for getting to my healthiest for the long term.

    I’m not dropping weight at a rapid rate – it took me a year to lose 50 lbs and I’ve been maintaining that for a few months now, even though I still have much more to lose. But I understand that this isn’t a race. It’s not like I’m going to stop when I reach a magic number, so what’s the hurry? I am living a healthy lifestyle that allows me to fully enjoy life NOW, not “when I get to my goal weight”. I trust that as my body continues to heal, I will eventually get to a place where I feel comfortable and that is easy to maintain (no dreams of a stick figure here). It really is a big shift in the way of thinking about weight loss and I can see how making that change would be difficult. However, it is so worth it when you do! It’s such a relief to just live your life and not worry so much about fitting a certain mold.

    • That’s beautiful, Amelia. And so, profoundly inspiring. And SMART and strong and I love the way your different paths and discoveries have weaved themselves together. Healing healing healing!

      Wow. I am so happy for you in your embodied joy and in your journey. Thank you.

      • Thanks, Stefani! I love your blog and the information you are sharing with all of us. It is so needed and lacking out there.

  2. I LOVE so much about this article; honest, up-front, and powerful. However, I feel the statement, “tear our CrossFit memberships to shreds”, may be a bit off base. In my experience CrossFit gyms nurture members to become FIT and to stop focusing on “skinny”. At my gym, CrossFit Lincoln, I think our coaches and members all do a wonderful job of talking about how workouts and healthy eating should add quality to your life….not take it away. Our community of people create a support system for one another to stay focused on what each individual body needs to perform, not “how few calories can I consume”. In your article it seems that you have a negative association with the folks at CrossFit gyms and I hate to think others might feel the same.

    • Ah, yes. So I changed it to “gym memberships” in light of your totally well-taken point. My apologies for making it seem like crossfit’s attitude about bodies was the problem I was talking about. Rather, I was railing against women pushing themselves too hard to fit into perfect bodies. So “gym memberships” fits better, but still of course, as I just said, exercise is healthy. My brain isn’t working well today, so I’m having a hard time finding a good phrase to put in there instead. :) Maybe once I step away from the computer, goodness.

  3. Wow! That was wonderful and just what I needed to hear. I can’t thank you enough for posting that. I am going to print it out and put it somewhere I can see it every day.

  4. Good thoughts and a well written piece.
    Personally, I found that CrossFit was significant factor in helping me accept my body in it’s natural form. It can be challenging to find a good balance in today’s world, but it was a significant component for me finding a happy, healthy lifestyle.
    Of course, everyone is different. :-)

    • Yes, thank you, of course CrossFit totally kicks ass for a lot of people. That’s awesome for you, that you find both physical and emotional strength from that practice. :) There are, however, on the other hand very many perfectionists pounding pavement in those gyms.

  5. Thank you!

    I’ve spent too many years stressing over 20 pounds one way or another. It took a series of head injuries and being completely out of control of my weight as a result to change that. I have finally come to realize that I’m fine however I am, and I now have a wonderful man who accepts me as I am and cheers me on whenever he can.

    Does it mean I’ll stop trying to be the healthiest Me that I can be? Not at all. I still work at health. It just means my body image is not my whole identity, and a few pounds one way or another is pretty much meaningless in the long run. I’m a lot more than that.

    • Hell yes you are!!! Hell yes!

  6. I’m giving this post a standing ovation. Awesome , awesome, awesome!

  7. Just a simple Thank You Stefani. It’s not easy in this modern world to stand up and say “dammit I AM beautiful and worth it” when we are bombarded by images of “perfection”. But thanks to you, one more woman stands up and declares my health and long life with my family and friends is more “beautiful” and worth more than an image on a billboard.
    Again, thank you.

  8. So awesome. I love this perspective, and it’s one I’ve started to finally learn in the last year with my journey in paleo eating. I dropped 6 lbs right away, and have just been hovering for awhile, at 24% bodyfat. I’ve had it in my head that to “look really fit” I need to drop another 5 and get to 21%. That’s not a ridiculous goal by any means, but I continue to eat paleo and continue my usual CrossFit, and I’m just hovering at that weight. I’m also the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been, so I’ve pretty much decided, especially after reading this article, that I’ll just keep being healthy and happy and if that means I don’t lose another 5 lbs and get to that magical 21% that I think I need to be, who cares? I look good, I’m strong, I’m healthy, I’m happy. Stop obsessing and keep treating my body with love. As Christa said above, standing ovation. Love this, and I’m sending to all my girlfriends :-)

    • Lori I am thrilled. Holy crap. THANK YOU.

  9. Wow, thank you so much for this beautifully written post! As a long term sufferer of PCOS, it is incredibly difficult to lose weight. For years I have put pressure on myself – “If only I was a little bit thinner”, “If only my tummy didn’t stick out”

    Acceptance gives us permission to be and love who we are while always striving for self improvement – based purely on health not aesthetics.

    Thanks you again :)

  10. Another bang up job Stefani! Wow… Your words could not be more true. Knowing your body is so important and accepting what the physical limits of your body are and that they may not be what you consider to be perfect, is the key! :)

    Thanks again for your amazing blog, and this extraordinary revolution!

    Manda.

  11. This post literally gave me goosebumps. This message is so powerful and so important. I’m sending the link to this post to every woman I know.

    • Thank you, Caitlen. Welcome. :)

  12. Paleo has made me happier with my body than anything else has. It’s not even because of the shrinking – I have lost 3 sizes. It’s because I was proud of myself for sticking with it, and because I feel utterly awesome, and so capable now! I’m proud of myself for being finally able to make that change – and that makes me more confident that the fact that I can fit into off-the-rack clothing now!

  13. Another great article…I followed you over from Free the Animal. Your words are really resonating with me right now as I navagate this change of perspective about my body and the life I really want to have…its so much richer than the number on the scale. Im aiming for radiant good health, and all that implies. Thanks.

  14. Just got done reading the initial article and this one and it’s totally where I’m at – I’m starting my 2 year of healing from totally burning myself out through doing too much, eating too little, stressing too much, and a whole slew of other isses (adrenal, hormonal, thyroid, etc). I’ve learned a lot over the last year, and this drives home all those points – balance and heal what’s going on inside and the outsides will come along on its own.

  15. I cried reading this. I am 5 foot tall, 9 pregnancies with 5 births, perimenopausal for the last 8 years and I am now 46 years old. My mother is anorexic and has been my whole life, so my view of diet and health was seriously tainted. I was always very fit until the last 4 pregnancies where as after the last birth I slipped quietly and horribly into perimenopausal symptoms. Last year I finally lost 34 pounds and that put me at the 116-120 range. I was happy with 116 but cry when I hit 120. In reality my clothes fit no different, but I was married to a number. I flex my weight due to hormone fluctuations and of course seasonal allergies. I have read lots of primal lifestyle books and switched to the primal lifestyle and that has helped me maintain, but not lose, because for the longest time I thought I still looked ‘fat’ at 120. I am just now coming to the realization that I am good. 120 is where my body wants to be..I am strong, fit and healthy. I still struggle with allergies, especially this time of the year…I still struggle with my hormones, but there is no money to do the bioidentical approach, so I try to balance through food and Progestra-care cream. But I am good. thank you for a beautiful article that reminds me that life is more than a number on the scale.

    • Thank you, Brick. It sounds like you have a beautiful and hard and lovely and inspirational story. I’m honored that you’ve shared, and am so glad you are with us. Please let me know if you ever need anything.
      <3 Stefani

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  17. I needed to hear this right now as well. After being paleo and low carb for 7 years, I suddenly put on 10 lbs for no reason – and it looks like I have some issues with my thyroid and hormones. Rather than focusing on the dreaded 10 (and the same ol’ 10 that never did come off no matter how hard I tried), I need to just take a breath and concentrate on handling the health stuff. The belly, thighs etc can wait. No need to beat myself up. Thank you.

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  19. I’m struggling with the message here. Maybe I’m out of balance. I’m hovering in that 22%bf range, and want to downshift to a lower percentage, yes, purely for vanity reasons. Is that really “completely unjustified”? Is my own desire to see a particular level of fitness and aesthetic when I look in the mirror (so long as I’m pursuing that goal in a healthy fashion) so loathsome, or even troublesome?

    I ask this sincerely, as I’m aware of how easy it is to slip into food-related pathology and obsession. Is any degree of vanity-driven weight-loss unhealthy?

    • No, I don’t think so, so long as we are cognizant of what we are doing and do not permit ourselves to idolize ideals and then engage in self-negativity when we do not achieve them.

  20. My first time here, and I feel compelled to say this: it’s not just the content. You are also a wonderful writer. Of course you can’t separate the two, but this sentence made me stop, I had to read it over and over. This is me. And who knows how many millions of other women. Wow. I am at a loss for words, and I’m a writer! Thank you, I’ll be reading everything here – and now I have to read that sentence again, I haven’t even got to the end of this article.

    • “They may think that meeting this standard is going to make them healthier, or they may make excuses for or justify their weight loss efforts by pretending it will make them healthier, but the fact is that the weight loss endeavor is completely unjustified.”

  21. This is such a wonderful post. It’s just so damn difficult to turn off the voices in ours heads sometimes. To just allow ourselves to embrace ourselves as is and just love. Least it is for me. I pray that one day I’ll be at your level of self acceptance and love…

    I plan to read this post often..and hopefully something will sink it sooner than later.

    Thank you for all your doing Stef.

    BR

  22. I just found your blog… and boy, does it resonate with my soul. THANK YOU for posting. My story is a lot like yours, and I’m sure a million other women could say the same thing. I am glad there are voices out there who stand up for themselves, and everyone else. I feel so empowered after reading this. I could go on and on, but I’ll refrain. Just, thanks. :)

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  25. I began following a paleo diet about a year ago and lost over 100 pounds. I actually did it to be more healthy a better example to my seven year old daughter. About a month ago I started craving sugar constantly. I fell off the wagon and began consuming massive amounts of candy and ice cream. I’ve spent the last few days fasting and trying to get back on track. I’m not thin by any means, but I keep trying to tell myself that this is about my health, not about gaining 10 pounds back. I just have to return to eating sensibly and I will be okay.

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