Happy Sunday everyone! It’s time for our final instalment of our weight loss and veganism posts! So far we’ve debunked myths surrounding weight loss and going vegan and I told you my personal story regarding this. We also gave you some great tips and resources if weight loss is your goal, and in our last post we discussed emotional eating. Today, as we close things off, I’d like to talk about where your are now, about the imperfect world in which we live in which seems so focused on striving for ‘perfect’, whatever that means.
I remember when I was reading Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman’s book Skinny Bitch (a hilarious book about veganism and getting fit), they start by saying how veganism changed their lives and got them healthy, and how after being so happy and joyful with their new bodies, they still had fat around their tummies, because in their words… “we’re women”. But this goes for men as well! Every single day we are bombarded with images of incredibly slim bodies, with perfectly sculpted muscles, the perfect messy yet flawless hair and a Hollywood wardrobe to boot. All of this mixed in with commercials for the perfect slice of pizza, fast food goodies, sweet heavenly treats, all you can eat restaurants that are right round the corner -because they couldn’t make it easier on us… they’re right there.. everywhere we go-. No wonder waists are dangerously large, disease rears its ugly head, and our self confidence plummets. We can’t seem to get what we’re promised in the first ones, and we have the goodies in the second ones to provide emotional comfort for that fact. The good news is health is completely attainable, but the washboard abs we envision might not be, probably because the ones we see on TV or in magazines aren’t even there. Take a look at this article and scroll down to watch the mind blowing video.
The pressure of having the perfect body has been getting quite scary, creating everything from self confidence and body image issues to full blown eating disorders. Although there are some people who are genetically blessed, pay a visit to the surgeon’s office or who can spend hours upon hours at the gym, this is not reality for most, and we’re still holding ourselves accountable to these ridiculous standards. Gorgeous beauties are being defined as plus sized models, and every little cue we get in the media tells us that even mothers with 5 kids need to look like svelte Hollywood actresses. Effortless, sexy, super feminine and flawless.
I remember listening to the great vegan podcast Red Radio hosted by Erin ‘Red’ Grayson and listening to her talk about her ups and downs in relation to weight loss. As a muay thai professional fighter and former overweight teenager, Erin states that the only time she ever got to actually see the washboard stomach we see in magazines was with serious extreme training of 8 hours or more daily, and severe calorie restriction prior to one of her fights. She recalls it as being completely stressful on the body, on the mind and on her emotional wellbeing and impossible to sustain unless this suddenly became a daily habit. I don’t know about you, but in spite of being a complete exercise lover, I do not intend to spend 8 hours in the gym, or live counting calories and feeling restricted.
The last woman I’m going to talk about is a close friend, I’m not naming names to respect her privacy, but a little over a month ago she said something that stuck with me. While she was recalling her physical changes after going from vegetarian to vegan (she was feeling incredible and lost a few pounds when making this change), she was telling me how her body was changing with just leaving the eggs and dairy behind. She said, and I quote, “I was already slim and at a healthy weight and I thought my body had gone to where its limits were in regards to weight loss”. When I heard her say this, I heard what to some may be resignation, but what to me was absolute genius. In spite of the fact that she was now telling be that she was thrilled to have lost a few pounds after going vegan, she was also showing me with absolute peace of mind, that acceptance of her body had come before, and that she was leading her life happy with a healthy body, regardless of what we see in the ads or the scale. Her acceptance of her previous weight and where she thought her body could go sounded like an absolute freeing frame of mind to me. Apparently, she was right. I started researching, and for most of us, there is a ‘set point’ or ‘set range’ to be more accurate, in which our body feels comfortable and at balance. This is why sometimes no matter what we do, our weight on the scale seems to oscillate between the same few numbers over and over again. Unless your are overweight or underweight (and your BMI – a number that takes into account your weight and your height- can help you loosely determine this), your body might be sticking to a number range, which in most cases is probably higher than what we think we need to have to achieve Hollywood status, and that number range is probably perfectly fine. For this reason, if you’re at a healthy weight, and eating foods that are nourishing and healing your body (and here’s where veganism comes in), you need to stop worrying about the number on the scale and start working on acceptance and love for where your body is right now. My friend had done it, and it sounded like freedom to me.
Another source of freedom for me was becoming vegan. By taking the word diet or weight loss out of the equation, and adopting a vegan lifestyle for reasons that were much bigger than myself, I stopped stressing out, worrying and restricting. My focus shifted and incredibly, so did my health and weight, not because veganism always produces these effects (I’ll say it again, veganism is not a magic pill, it completely depends on how you eat), but probably because I was living with every fiber of my being, and loving every minute of it.
You all know after reading our tips and resources for weight loss post that I no longer weigh myself, I no longer dread the scale or focus on a number. I can tell from the way I feel in my clothes when I’ve gone a bit overboard with the vegan cupcakes and I get back in balance by eating lots of whole foods (vegan of course!). I can tell when I look in the mirror, by how I feel when I’m running or doing yoga, when my body is where it’s supposed to be. We need to start respecting our own bodies and our own journeys, imperfections and all. We seem to have this idea that other people have got it figured out, are hiding the Victoria Secret abs under their T-shirts and this is simply not true, at least in the majority of cases. I recently started following an account on Instagram (which I unfollowed shortly after), in which some yummy vegan smoothies were being featured. Fitness posts soon followed (nothing wrong with that), but one day, the owner of this account posted a full body selfie which showed an absolutely incredible body, and a caption that said, “not perfect yet, but getting there”. I saw right then and there that having the “perfect body” has nothing to do with self confidence, and much less with health, which is the only thing that really matters. We’ve all seen that person with a body not fit for fitness magazines walk into a room and light it up, be joyful, confident and happy. We’ve also seen men and women constantly putting themselves down whenever you give them a compliment on how great they’re looking, sitting hunching their shoulders and looking down while being beautiful and special people. I’ve heard women worry to no end for the final loss of that last kilo. I’ve seen women avoid exercising or weight lifting (two activities that are essential to overall health and especially bone health in women) because the number on the scale will go up. Seriously?! It’s time to toss that stupid scale and have a love fest when you look in the mirror. For this, today, I’m sending you some homework.
1) The girl in the mirror: I want you to do this exercise as many times as it takes until it becomes a habit. After you’ve taken a shower, go to the mirror and look. Don’t let your eyes take you to the places with imperfections that turn on the shame spiral. Look into your eyes and remember what you were like a few years ago, what you were like as a teenager, what you were like as a little girl. Now acknowledge that each and every one of those versions of you is still there, inside that body, and that she’s looking right back at you. She’s listening to everything you say, and paying attention to everything you think of. Would you tell your 5, 10, 12 year old self that there’s still fat on your thighs or stretch marks in your tummy? Would you tell her her arms need toning and the cellulite needs to go? I don’t know about you but if I saw an adult talking to a young girl like that I’d smack ’em. Don’t do this to yourself, to the little girl you once were who probably had her fair share of judgement by others already. Look at how much you’ve grown into a woman, and women have curves. Look into your eyes and see how much wiser you are, look at what you love about your body and try to start looking at the little imperfections as the little ‘birthmarks’ that make you unique. Don’t focus on losing them, focus on accepting that where you are today is just fine, and that tomorrow you’ll continue your journey and see where it takes you. Tomorrow, get out of the shower and do it all over again.
2) Stop judging other people by the way they look, the weight they’ve gained or lost, or the clothes they’re wearing. I learned this incredible tip after reading Victoria Moran’s Fit from Within, in which she states that the way we see and judge others can completely affect how we see ourselves and even our weight! By thinking that judging others by appearance is fine and even fun and harmless banter, we also believe we and others can speak to and see ourselves in this light as well. Instead of going for the jugular, comment or think about something positive, how funny the person is, or how cute she wore her hair that day, how kind he or she is, or how well he makes your favorite drink or chocolate chip cookies.
3) This one is mandatory whether you are a woman or a man, or are a parent or thinking of being one. Watch the documentary Miss Representation. It’s a life changer and will open your eyes to what we’ve been putting ourselves through and why. Don’t judge by the trailer or synopsis, watch this film from start to finish and many things will start to shift in your perception.
Today I told you some stories that came from amazing women, and the lessons of course apply to men as well. This does not mean we need to stop striving for health and well being, it means we need to give ourselves a break and love the process our bodies’ take us through without judging or pushing against it. Personally, I eat as healthy as I can and have my vegan treats too, I exercise every day but also take days off. I run, do yoga and lift weights, and of course part of this is because I want to feel and look great, but also, I want to feel empowered and strong. When this is where I’m at, I feel confident, happy and healthy, and this for me is what it’s all about. It’s been so much fun exploring the topic of weight loss and veganism with you. If you’re just joining us, enjoy the previous three posts below, which all have very important information regarding this topic. I wish you the best in your journey to health, which may or may not mean a perfectly tanned surfer body. If you have it, kudos to you! If you don’t, strive for health, and your body will go where it needs to so that you can love and live your life.