(Re-draft of the previous post)
It took me more than 20 years to learn that I was sabotaging my body from the inside out while trying to change it from the outside in. It was one single habit, but the consequences left my body scarred for about 15 years of my life. It’s been a few years now since I’ve shed 50 pounds, weight that had plagued me for most of my life.
From an early age I was overweight for my size, although even as a kid I knew that certain foods were to be avoided and that exercising regularly was the key to losing weight. I didn’t eat bad foods that often, in fact, usually less than some skinnier kids I knew, while I would exercise regularly to try and lose all that weight. I would bike almost every day for 30-45 minutes around the neighborhood or I’d do various exercises in the morning. There was a stretch of weeks where I would run around the block a mile every morning. I ran so much that my shins ached all day long and I almost permanently damaged my feet. But none of that affected my weight to a noticeable extent.
Then I got a lucky break. After finishing school I began to lose weight consistently. Suddenly the exercises I had been doing all my life were showing dramatic results. Within a matter of a few months I lost 50 pounds. At first I didn’t quite fully understand what was behind the weight loss. Only after doing research did I find out how important certain things were besides exercising. I came to realize that what attributed to my weight problem was a habit that I had picked up from when I was young.
When I was 6 my family moved to America and I lost all my friends and had no one to play with. I didn’t realize this then, but now I can see how depressed I was and how it attributed to an eating disorder which is all too common, binge eating. At school, where other kids itched for lunch time, it was something I dreaded. Lunch time was when the bullies would get me, when I’d face socially awkward situations around the lunch table, when I’d have no one to play with, and wait painfully alone for recess to be over. I began avoiding lunch and kept that habit all the way through college where I would go without eating during school hours. When I got home, I’d make myself feel better about my terrible day by eating. As far as my parents could tell, I had a healthy appetite. They were working hard to provide for us and I didn’t want to bother them with my little eating disorder and little self esteem issues.
Little did I know what a huge thing it was that I was hiding, but not just from my parents, from myself as well. Every day I was placing my body in shock by fasting for 8 hours after breakfast, binge eating in the evening, then fasting again while sleeping. So while exercising, my body did not relinquish those stores of fat because it thought I was going through times of famine and stress. My body slowed its metabolic rate, stored more fat than normal when I ate, and made sure to keep that fat from being burned too readily.
A habit I formed as a child due to loneliness and teasing, I carried on into my adult years even though I wasn’t alone or being teased (except the fat remarks I’d get) anymore. And due to this habit, even though I was exercising far more than most of my friends, I remained heavier than they were. After graduating and starting my career, my life settled into a steady rhythm, so did my eating habits. I began to eat more naturally and instead of skipping meals for the first part of the entire day, I began to have regular frequent meals. I’d never considered how important dieting was when it came to losing weight. And I don’t mean a diet like the ones you are “on.” I mean the lifestyle that you live every day normally.
Everyone’s body is different of course. And other factors such as genetics, hormones, the quality of the food you eat, the frequency of exercise, etc., all matter. And I’m still learning about all these as well and how it affects my body. But so far one of the most positive life changes I’ve made is regular, frequent, nourishment of my body in a healthy manner.
Now I make sure to eat small amounts every two or three hours when I get hungry, and to avoid large meals as much as I can. I notice that now I get hungrier more frequently, which indicates to me that my body’s metabolic rate is high and it’s burning through the food. As a result I have more energy throughout the day, which helps make working out easier than it used to be. It’s a positive feedback loop. I also notice now that when I don’t exercise for weeks at a time, I don’t gain fat dramatically like I used to when I was younger.
So my advice to you is to stay nourished. Starving yourself is a bad short-term solution and worse long-term. And learn from your past, you might be sabotaging yourself somehow too without realizing it.