Monday, October 3, 2016

How I Lost 40lbs

Yesterday, as I do every Sunday morning, I stepped onto my bathroom scale, took note of my weight, and calculated my BMI (Body Mass Index). Only this was the first time in the past 6 years that I was categorized with a "NORMAL" BMI for my height and weight.

I've officially lost 40lbs, since March of last year, but my mini internal celebration didn't last very long. It's been a turbulent journey towards Wellness to say the least, and it's definitely not over yet. Through self-reflection over the past few years, I discovered that my life is a constant struggle between my love of food and not wanting to get fat.

My recent weight loss over this past year and a half has been influenced greatly by my realization that being healthy is just as much psychological as it is physical. As a child, I developed an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food, my body, and my emotions. 

Food = Happiness
Food will always be a key happiness driver for me. I want to eat it ALL! I have a bucket list of restaurants and dishes I want to try in various cities all over the world. I have an extensive Pinterest board filled with recipes I'm dying to cook. Looking at and creating new #FoodPorn on Instagram fills me with joy.

Yelp is one of my most used Apps on my phone, and I never shy away from participating in any conversation involving food. When celebrating achievements and milestones, I want to eat. When I'm feeling anxious, upset, or stressed, I want to eat. When I'm looking for a reason to get together with friends or family, I suggest we eat. 

Nothing brings people together like food. Life shouldn't be about counting calories all the time. Sometimes, it's more important to create memories with people you love while enjoying and doing things that you love. I love eating, and I love food. But I don't love the panic and anxiety that accompanies when I've given into my cravings from time to time. 

The Fat One
Though I was a typical skinny Filipino kid at one point, my metabolism eventually did slow down, while my love of eating still remained. Growing up with siblings who maintained their incredibly fast metabolisms for far longer than I did, I was always a bit chubby, and I was commonly referred to as "The Fat One" in my family. 

Being Filipino, my family would regularly attend large family gatherings with endless amounts of my favorite Filipino foods and desserts. It was expected to eat when you were told, and it was seen as extremely disrespectful if you refused. These expectations were fine as a child, but once I started gaining weight, it turned into a double edged sword. 

Filipino adults do not sugar coat anything. If my parents, grandma or an aunt noticed that I've gained weight, no one would hesitate to say something to me. I've continued to hear these unkind comments, since I was 12. 

For 17 years of my life, I've been continuously told that I need to lose weight. Even when I was in the best shape of my life, dancing and conditioning for competitions, Monday through Friday for ~3 hours each day, my mom wouldn't shy away from telling me when an outfit made me look fat, and my dad would ask me "Why are you so fat?!" in a joking tone whenever he got the chance. Even though my family had good intentions, by bringing my weight to my attention, you can probably only imagine how this affected my body image and self-esteem.

For a long time, I would avoid looking at my naked body after taking a shower. I didn't want to validate the comments of others by finding and staring at my fat with my own eyes. 

I've grown to accept my body, flaws and all. I have scars and stretch marks. My weight may continue to fluctuate as I get older, and I know I'll probably always have curves. But as long as I know that I'm doing my best to stay healthy, mentally and physically, I'm okay with that.

Finding What's Best For Me and My Mental Health
I dated an obsessive United States Marine Sergeant about 5 years ago. Like the early stages of most relationships, you can only go out on so many dinner dates, before your food and happiness weight catches up to you. It was probably about 6 months into our relationship, and with the initial excitement of our honeymoon stage now settling down, I realized that I desperately needed to get back into shape. 

Though I knew he meant well, he tried to convince me to eat Paleo for the rest of my life, despite my adamant opposition. (This was the first of many arguments that would arise in our relationship, eventually leading to our inevitable breakup.)

Out of love, I tried to eat Paleo with him for about a month. I still remember how miserable it made me feel, especially because of my pre-established relationship with food. Eating delicious food makes me happy, so feeling deprived and guilty for craving cheese or a dessert after dinner was utterly depressing. 

I've always been a believer in honest communication, so I did my best to explain my unhappiness and that once the month was over, I was going to go back to being a mindful eater (80% Healthy 20% Unhealthy).

He was upset and tried to make me feel guilty about actively choosing to eat unhealthily from time to time. He wanted to convince me that I'll never be able to reach my fitness goals, but I knew better. I didn't want to diet on an all or nothing meal plan. I had to do what would be best for me.

Wellness can be broken down into two main facets: mind and body. This is where psychological and physical balance comes in. I didn't want to imagine living life crying into my salad, wishing it was bacon cheeseburger. Indulging every once in a while keeps me sane and prevents me from saying "F*CK IT" and eating every single deep-fried, salty, and fatty food I can find.

My relationship with food has changed over time. There was a time when I wouldn't just eat to the point where I felt full, but rather, I ate to the point where I hated myself. There's a fine line between eating to boost your mood and eating to the point of regret. 

Maintaining a wellness balance between my mind and body allows me to lose weight while keeping my sanity. I do my best to consciously pay attention to what I've been eating while staying consistently active. 

If you're struggling with your weight, I advise you to first evaluate your relationship with food and your body. In order to lose weight and keep it off, I've found that you need to be more self-aware of the entities causing your problems. Being healthy shouldn't be driven by your desire to achieve a perfect body, but rather an action of self-love. 

Eating well and exercising is a form of self-respect. Feel free to eat unhealthily if that makes you happy, but also respect and love yourself enough to identify when you're not taking good care of your body.