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HAES and the attempt to improve my health

October 24, 2013

So, although I have been vaguely interested in fat acceptance and HAES (health at every size) for many years now, I have always had a fundamentally ambiguous relationship to both concepts.  On the one hand, I am now thoroughly convinced that diets, in the conventional sense, are pointless in the long term.  In fact I declared at age 18 that I was never going to go on a diet again, after a surreal and unpleasant experience with Weight Watchers. On the other, I remain desperately unhappy with my size and my fitness levels.  So far I have failed to make any sustained changes to my daily habits which would have an impact on either.

Accepting the pointlessness of diets as a fact has not really kept me from toying with various diets and eating plans, including a long stint as a vegetarian, attempts to go low-carb, and an interest in the low-GI concept.  But every time I decide that I am going to follow a diet I fail, usually within the first day or two.  This is usually the product of laziness and a lack of planning but it has occurred to me recently that in part I am sabotaging myself through some combination of fear of change and perfectionism.  A big underlying issue for me is a long-standing belief that I am not worthy of happiness and do not deserve to take care of myself.  Hence a tendency to frumpiness and constant self-recrimination.  In the last year or so this has really improved, thanks to medication and participation in a local women’s mental health group as well as the excellent YouLookFab.  But I still don’t take very good care of my physical health.

This is where the ambiguity towards HAES and fat acceptance comes in.  It has been difficult to accept the message that I am not likely to ever lose a significant amount of weight.  In the back of my mind I have always had the fantasy that I will someday slim down to a model-worthy size and instantly become beautiful, stylish, healthy, and successful.  Unravelling this idea is still a work in progress, but in truth none of these things are dependent on being slim.  My DH (and my friends and family) already think I look fine — and what’s so bad about being ugly, anyway?  Having an unattractive appearance does not make you a bad person.  Style, health, and success can all be achieved without losing weight.

My eating habits, in all honesty, are not really that great.  I have a tendency to eat on the slightest whim and am not very good at resisting hunger, however transient it may be.  I eat more fruits and vegetables than many people, but I could eat more.  We tend to have big dinners very late in the evening, which is not only associated with weight gain but also exacerbates my acid reflux problems.  I follow my DH’s lead in eating cookies and candy far too often.  We clearly have very different metabolisms, as he is very much within a normal weight range despite eating more sweets than any other adult I have ever met.  I know that I have significant hormonal problems that not only contribute to my weight but also put me at a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.  In general I feel unhealthy and sluggish, and I’m scared that I have begun to cross the line toward serious issues.

With all this in mind I have decided to start a new health improvement initiative. This time, however, I am ignoring my weight and size.  If I lose a bit, fine, but I am not going to intentionally restrict calories or cut out food groups or any of the other things that have failed me in the past.  To a degree I want to follow the No-S diet, mainly the principles of no snacking and no seconds.  I would like to re-train myself to recognize true hunger and learn intuitive eating, so I will probably go back and listen to some Inside Out Weight Loss podcasts on the subject.  But the main thing to change is to start a program of regular exercise.

NHS guidelines call for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week as well as muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week. My goal is to work up to this gradually, perhaps over the course of the next 6 weeks.  Eventually I want to take on the Couch to 5K program and develop a habit of going for a short run every day, but I don’t think I am fit enough to attempt it at present.  For now I want to get into the habit of going for a 20-minute walk after lunch every day, excepting of course days that I can’t do this for whatever reason (in class or on a plane) or when I am already doing something physically intensive (out for a hike or working on an excavation).

One problem I have had with the No-S diet in the past is keeping track of success and failure when I am not at home, but really a vacation counts as a “special” day, so I am declaring that it is ok not to track myself on days when I am out of town.  I’ve had fairly good success in establishing a habit of eating two eggs for breakfast every day, which does seem to have had an impact on my snacking for the rest of the day.  I really notice it when I have had something like cereal instead — I am ravenous within an hour or so, and find myself nibbling a lot more frequently.  So I will stick with this habit, as well as eating a substantial lunch to stave off late afternoon snacking.

The real challenge will be sticking to this plan.  It is not particularly difficult or challenging, but developing new habits is always problematic. Hopefully this time will be better.

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From → Fat, Mental

One Comment
  1. Someone permalink

    Just stopping by as a fellow YLF-er, ’cause I suspected from one of your posts that my new “home state” might be the same as your old one. But first, seeing this post, I wanted to mention the paleo way of eating in case you haven’t given that a shot. It has successfully addressed the issues you list, for many, many people.

    It’s sort of like low-carb, but not really…the simplest way to put it is that it’s based on real, whole food and leaves out wheat (which modern industry has changed for the worse) and sugar as much as possible. Guess what…the removal of wheat, I have found, HUGELY improved my hunger issues, which has been a serious contribution to my peace of mind and ability to concentrate!

    So, then, you end up filling out the menu with high-quality protein and…something that boggles the mainstream…good fats. It works! Never mind “model” sizing, I hate the cruel BS that the media has perpetrated on women. But this way of eating makes people much, much healthier and happier. Slimmer, yes, but that’s a side effect. A great place to find out more is marksdailyapple.com. I have no affiliation, just passing on info. Best wishes!

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