How to improve health without focusing on weight?
April 12, 2012 3:08 PM Subscribe
I think I'm finally done with dieting and obsessing about the scale. But I do want to develop healthier habits, and I am very goal-oriented. What are good ways to do that without obsessing over the scale?
posted by the essence of class and fanciness to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
tl;dr: A decade of dieting has left me 50 lbs heavier than when I started, so I want to find ways to get healthier that don't involve a diet. But I need ideas for how to develop motivation and self-discipline without a diet.
For the last dozen years, I've been on and off the diet hamster wheel, and it's left me 50 lbs heavier than I started ("obese" by BMI standards) and with a seriously broken relationship to food. The breaking point finally came last week when I tried for the nth time to do the "paleo" thing and, in the middle of feeling absolutely miserable, I suddenly realized that I didn't want to punish myself for being fat again, which is what dieting feels like to me.
So! No more dieting. This is non-negotiable (so please, no advice on diets, no matter how well-intentioned. After the last decade, I am a freaking expert on diets). However, I do want to develop better habits. I would like to be able to eat well-balanced, appropriately-portioned meals 90% of the time, and then occasionally eat things like chocolate and french fries without feeling guilty. Added motivation/complication: I have a food intolerance whose effects are subtle on a day-to-day basis but add up over time. I really do need to stop eating this particular food, but my feelings about that are all tied up in my feelings about diets.
I would also like to get more physically fit, by which I mean better cardiovascular fitness and stronger muscles. This is partly for health, but also because I live in a beautiful part of the world, and I want to be able to experience it properly. I want to be able to go on week-long rugged backpacking trips and learn how to boulder and kayak and stuff like that - and I want to keep up with my fit friends! Right now I'm recovering from an illness that left me with seriously reduced muscle mass, so I need to build up to things like this gradually. I do however really like walking as exercise and it's one of the few things - along with yoga - that I can get myself to do regularly.
Finally, I want to look good. Which I'm guessing that fitness and good diet will help with, but gosh is it hard to decouple that in my mind from a number on the scale!
So, this all sounds really good, and feels great. However, I have tried this before - ie, focusing on healthier eating and more exercise without tracking my weight (or sticking with a calorie limit or restricting carbs, etc) and it hasn't worked. I think the problem is that I am extremely goal-oriented and I respond well (at least for a while) to structure. So without a weekly progress indicator like my weight, I lose motivation. And without limits like "stay under x calories" or "don't eat grains" I tend to lack the self-discipline to eat sensibly - ie, if it's ok to eat a piece of chocolate a few times a week, why not every day? And why not two pieces? Or: if it's raining today, why not skip my walk?
So I guess what I'm looking for is another way to approach this than "dieting." How do I develop a plan and stick with it without feeling like I'm punishing myself? What are some good benchmarks and goals can I use if it's not the number on the scale?
Oh, and just to be clear: I'm currently quite healthy. My past health problems have been solved and at my last physical, all the standard numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) were good. So this is less about averting an impending health crisis and more about taking good care of myself physically.