If I could consume nothing but celery and water, I would.
February 22, 2009 1:06 AM   Subscribe

How do I keep morale up and depression from setting in during a lengthy weight loss process?

I am morbidly obese, by clinical standards. I am in my early 30's, educated, have a job I like and friends, am active in the world, and try to enjoy life as much as possible, given it's unpredictable nature. I've been obese since childhood, and have been trying to lose the weight off and on through various means since the age of 12. In the middle of last year, I nearly died due to a massive infection and the resulting kidney damage, following a botched weight loss surgery. I knew it was risky going in, due to a non-weight related medical condition, but I was desperate to lose the weight and so drawn in by the promises of success and the confidence of my doctor. After some very unpleasant medical procedures, including the reversal of my surgery, a large sum of money, and a painful recovery, I lost 30 pounds, but am largely in the same place I was before.

My question is: what are some tactics to keep my morale up, and from getting depressed about my weight, now that I am back to trying to lose it the old-fashioned way?

I'm not an overly sensitive person, but fat jokes are everywhere. It's ok to make fun of fat people, because we did this to ourselves. I almost died once already, what else can I do, but what I'm doing? I 'm not projecting; I see the way people look at me when I'm out in public, especially when I'm in a gym. On one hand, it's good motivation, but I'm not going to be losing a massive amount of weight anytime in the immediate future, so I'm in this situation for the long haul. I already attend Weight Watchers, but that focuses solely on the diet aspect, not the "living as a fat person" part.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Callous people exist. It's a fact. You can take it to heart or choose to move beyond, above and further away from it and not let it faze you whatsoever. It can be like rain falling off teflon or it can be caustic like acid. It really boils down to how you choose to let it effect you and where your focus lies. Keep the focus on the positive and let the other stuff just slide off. It goes hand in hand with the overall health program you're undertaking right now. One needs thick skin to endure - but first muscles - a strong foundation must be be implemented. I would go for a good support group where there are similar others who can be of strength to you and you to them.
posted by watercarrier at 1:41 AM on February 22, 2009

Have you looked at Spark People? There are endless tools on there to help people lose weight but I think the best part of the site are the groups - you can find a group to join that is focused on anything you want and the people there are incredibly supportive. Good luck!
posted by triggerfinger at 2:57 AM on February 22, 2009

Yep, fat jokes, I bet, will be some of the last ones to become socially unacceptable, for reasons you mention: fatphobia's so easily justified with supposedly rational arguments (though I'd argue that that's rubbish: what difference does it make to other people how much you weigh? It shouldn't make any, unless they're having some gut reaction that's got less to do with objective arguments and more to do with what their culture's trained them to feel and they've never questioned). However objective they sound like they're being, though, people who make mean jokes or comments are evidently NOT nice people, ergo not people whose opinions should mean anything to you. Clearly they're idiots with no ability to see anything beyond the black-and-white of their own myopic opinions; you've got every right to dismiss their rude comments and looks as such. You deserve respect just because you're a person; it's not contingent on whether you live up to the nearest idiot's standards of what they feel people ought to look like.

Do you have friends who're on your side, or who you can get on your side, who you can rant to about this stuff when it gets you down, and get nods of agreement? Looking into a support group might be another way of getting that.

I have a friend who's recently lost a lot of weight, and in our group of friends we're all so totally impressed with what they've done. I can't speak for anyone else, but for my part it's the fact that they just made that decision and then went singlemindedly about it. That's some serious determination. I don't know if thinking about getting that kind of awe at the end of it from your friends (or even from new people you meet who'll eventually see old photos of you), and them telling you how amazing you are for having achieved it, could serve as inspiration in down moments at all... I figure it's worth noting, in case.

Best of luck to you!
posted by springbound at 3:16 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

> have a job I like and friends, am active in the world, and try to enjoy life as much as possible

You have an incredible amount of fun and happiness to look forward to. If life is already this good for you, it's only going to get better.

(Have you seen the number of posts of people trying to figure out how to make friends?)

Say that to yourself at least twice per day.
posted by amtho at 4:00 AM on February 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

I know you are trying to lose weight, but you touched on the stigma faced by fat people everyday. One thing that could help is looking at the principles behind the Fat Acceptance movement and the 'fatosphere'; they could help you make sense of that and build up your self esteem and/or righteous anger.

Have a look at some of the blogs: shapely prose, the rotund, big fat blog. They tend do be anti-diet but promote a lot of awesome other ideas.
posted by Sijeka at 4:44 AM on February 22, 2009

One thing i'll mention, which may or may not be helpful to you, is that I found my mood and morale increased quite a bit after the first couple of weeks of workout as I worked up to higher and higher times on my first machine, the elliptical. Checking weight once every week or two was also a big motivator.
posted by arimathea at 4:52 AM on February 22, 2009

It's ok to make fun of fat people, because we did this to ourselves. I almost died once already, what else can I do, but what I'm doing? I 'm not projecting; I see the way people look at me when I'm out in public, especially when I'm in a gym.

Yeah this is really a problem and unfair. As one who has also been morbidly obese throughout my life and who has just lost a lot of weight but is now plateauing I wish I could offer sage advice.

Addiction to food *is* an addiction, and we are all biologically programmed to be food addicts to some degree. To an extent for any addiction we do it to ourselves and we have to own up to it but I question the moralistic tone that a lot of people take to fat people. That tone, and we all know what I mean, would never be used to an alcoholic to "help them."

I commented in another thread that there is no obesity chic like there is heroin chick. *

Joining Sparkpeople or something similar is good. Even posting here is good. Weight Watchers worked for me. It doesn't for a lot of people, depends on the leader, but if you get a good one, the cameraderie really helps.

The gym is tough, but a lot of the truly obnoxius gym rats are posers who would eye you like that no matter what. So eff them. Easier said than done. Perhaps another gym?

Because you are anonymous, your locale is unknown, but New York has some great city gyms which are cheap (watch out for kids peeing in the pools in the summer though). YMCAs are also cheaper than commercial gyms and have a smaller child urine to water ratio than the city gyms. Both tend to be less of a scene.

You're in a good position that you have friends, perhaps whom you can lean on. Really lean on, can you say I am losing my motivation and I started to lose weight, but I am afraid that I will be discouraged because it is a hard slog. can I call you, even at 3:00 AM when the siren call of ice cream from the bodega is calling to me like in some Greek tragedy. A true friend would. I gotta tell you, once I began to lose weight and it became noticable, the amount of encouragement from friends, co-workers, even neighbors I just nod to in the elevator freakin' floored me. I never knew that it was there.

Also note that unlike other addictions, you can't stop 100%. Plus food, since it is a requirement, is wrapped up so intimitely in every country on earth. SO you will inevitably fall off the wagon. that is when it is tempting to say, screw it. I know I've been there you know too. This is when you can call your friend.

And if someone actually makes a snarky comment there's always the Winston Churchill comeback; ""I may be fat, but you're ugly and I could diet!"

Aritmathea is right re: Exercise. I was incredibly skeptical about all the anecdotes about exercise and mood and exercise quelling apetite, but damn - it is true.

* I liked that comment so much I am pretty proud of myself that I can use it again. I should copyright it.
posted by xetere at 6:53 AM on February 22, 2009

I am on Weight Watchers as well. There are many lovely women at my meeting looking to lose, oh, 25 or 30 pounds or so. I'm in this to lose half my starting body weight, so I understand what you're going through, to the extent another person can.

Here is my considered opinion about how to deal with people who tell fat jokes, mock your struggle, or otherwise impede your progress.

Fuck 'em.

I 'm not projecting; I see the way people look at me when I'm out in public, especially when I'm in a gym. On one hand, it's good motivation, but I'm not going to be losing a massive amount of weight anytime in the immediate future, so I'm in this situation for the long haul.

This is not your motivation. This is people being assholes. You are in the gym getting healthier and stronger, and you should be really proud of yourself. THAT'S your motivation. The logic of people staring at us big folk in the gym eludes me. Their thought process is "When will that fat person start taking care of themselves?!?!" HELLO! We're in the GYM! Would you like all the weight to slide right off of us like a huge backpack after an hour on the elliptical?

I have two main ways to keep my motivation and morale up. First, I tell everyone what I'm up to. Friends, family, co-workers, EVERYONE. It keeps me honest, and it means I get lots of compliments on my progress. Second, I set intermediate goals. When you're looking to lose 100+ pounds (and I'm definitely on the plus side of that equation) you can't just focus on the end goal. Cherish each 5 pound star from your meeting. Buy something in your new size, even if it's a $5 sale shirt from WalMart - you'll look better in it. Is there something you can't currently do physically? That's a goal. Make sure to speak up for all your celebrations at your WW meeting - 5 pound increments, 5%, 10%, 25/50/75/100 pounds, 16 weeks - people clapping for you is fun. Make sure they give you the bling for 10%, 16 weeks, and the 25 pound increments. Wear them proudly on your keychain.

Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your goal. Focus on the fact that you are a wonderful person right this second, and losing weight doesn't make you better, just healthier. Feel pity for those who can't see past your size. Don't give up. If you have a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad month, figure out what's challenging you and get back on program. So you're fat. SO WHAT. You've put a plan in place to get healthier, and you're following through. You are to be commended for your perseverance.

posted by booksherpa at 7:51 AM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Having had my own brush with mortality last year (a blood clot -- a nasty one -- the result of too much weight, too many cigarettes and a too cavalier attitude toward exercise) I've been on a mission to make some real changes in my lifestyle. Here's what I've learned:

1) Chart your progress. The scale simply doesn't tell the whole story... a scale with a body-fat monitor is somewhat helpful, so too is a good friend whose handy with a measuring tape. For me, though, an exercise heart rate monitor has proved my best tool. I the last three months I've lost only a very few pounds and about an inch and half around my waist, but my resting heart rate has fallen like a stone, and the time it takes me to recover from hard, aerobic work has halved.

2) Don't just celebrate success; reward it. An important step in my program was quitting smoking. When I quit I rewarded myself with freshly cleaned and whitened teeth. Having stopped smoking and made serious progress on my cardiovascular health, a couple of weeks ago my doctor took me off the blood thinners that had been prescribed... I'm going to reward myself by visiting one of our local ski mountains and learning how to ride.

3) Find an exercise program that works for you. I mean, really... who wants to do *any* regimen that bores them to tears? Me, I found rowing. Rowing allows me to push myself -- hard -- and it also allows me to go relatively easily for a very long time. So I can choose with any exercise session whether I want to focus on cardio, or fat-burning. It's all good. :)

4) This is life or death stuff. Choose a lifestyle accordingly. You've learned the hard way that there can be consequences -- some of them horrific -- to shortcuts. You're presented with hundreds of decisions to make every day... make healthy choices. Me, I *choose* to have some almonds as a snack instead of a cookie. I *choose* to get up early and exercise before I go to work. Oh, and I *reward* myself with the smug sense of satisfaction that I'm getting stronger every day as a result.

5) *Those* people? Fuck 'em. They are without a clue. They are not worthy of your time. Why should you care what they think?
posted by deCadmus at 8:09 AM on February 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

Wow, I'm really sorry to hear about what happened with your surgery. I hope your health is recovering and that you're getting stronger by the day.

One thing I noticed about your question is the sense of desperation about losing weight. It makes me think, along with your recent experiences trying to lose weight, that maybe you are not in the mental space to attempt weight loss in a safe and healthy way (and some people would argue that there is no safe and healthy way to lose weight, but I'm not going there now.)

The thing you might want to ask yourself is why you feel so desperate to lose weight. Is it because you're concerned for your health? Or because it's hard to find clothing that fits? Because stuff isn't accessible to you at your size? Because people judge and make fun and are generally shitty to fat people? Because you want to feel good about the way you look, and actually enjoy your body?

In my opinion, all of those problems can be addressed without making overt weight-loss gestures (and, in my own experience, it's actually easier to address those problems without trying to lose weight. Trying to lose weight can make one feel even more neurotic about food, exercise, and one's body. Not exactly a good thing if your goal is to feel better about yourself.)

My suggestion would be that you focus on your health and well-being, both mental and physical. You have been through a LOT. You are still recovering from the effects of nearly dying, and right now might not be the best time to push your body into losing weight (something that is, at the best of times, difficult for people.)

It might be a good idea to look into some therapy to help you with body image and your feelings about existing in the world as a fat person. You might try reading some books about body image and self esteem. I know it is hard. I am fat myself. I weigh about 260 lbs at 5'4", and, for what it's worth, I am a nutrition student, and I believe that being fat is not a death sentence. I know it can really, really suck to have to deal with the world and people's judgements about you. But the problem is not necessarily your body, and losing weight won't necessarily help.

Right now, you should go easy on yourself. As much as the world might judge you for the way you look, your own judgements are likely even harsher, and make it harder for you to deal with a fat-phobic society.

I would also suggest ditching Weight Watchers for a dietitian who knows about intuitive eating and/or eating disorders (I'm not suggesting you have an eating disorder, but RDs trained in eating disorders have a lot of knowledge about body image issues and Health at Every Size, moreso than someone whose only specialty is weight loss, in my opinion.)

I also agree with Sijeka's suggestion to look at some of the fat acceptance and Health at Every Size blogs, even if you're still invested in weight loss. They can teach you a lot about feeling good about yourself and dealing with a culture that isn't always friendly.

You have survived through a lot -- you're obviously a very strong person, and I think you deserve to turn your strength to your own advantage, so you can make peace with your body. I wish you the very best of luck.
posted by peggynature at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I lost 80 lbs in the last year, and am still dieting to lose the rest. Yes, it's damned hard to keep the motivation high. You have to give yourself credit for starting the diet, and for adding more exercise. You're taking a positive step. You are taking control of not just your current weight and health and appearance, but for your future as well.

To Keep Motivation: I'd say that you need to figure out exactly why you're losing weight. Not why you think you should lose weight, but what actually is motivating you. Health? Appearance? Being tired of feeling marginalised? Tired of feeling tired? For me, it's about clothes. I love clothes, and it's hard to find stylish clothing in larger sizes. And not feeling marginalised. Health comes a distant last for me in the motivation sweepstakes... though it might be more socially acceptable for me to claim it as my primary motivator. For a friend of mine who's been dieting with me, it's that she's tired being the fattest mother in the playgroup. For another friend, it's because she's watched a family member struggle with diabetes, and she's seeing the writing on the wall.

Only you know in your heart of hearts what is motivating you to lose the weight. Don't let anyone tell you that your motivation isn't "worthy" enough. Once you connect with your goals, you'll keep motivation.

Give yourself non-food treats, if you can. A new book, a new handbag, a new hair cut, a massage... a bath bomb from Lush. Something to look forward to and work towards!

To Keep Moving: If gyms make you uncomfortable, work out at home. Cross trainers (elliptical trainers), cross country ski machines, treadmills - whatever you have space for. They're all over ebay - pick one up, cheap, and use it. I don't know if there's an analog where you are, but I also like As Fit As A Butchers Dog. It links you up with people in your area with similar fitness levels and interests, and can find you a trainer as well.

Get a pedometer. You're supposed to do 10K steps a day, which sounds a lot, but isn't. If you walk a bit more here and there, you'll be amazed at how quickly those steps add up.

To Keep Happy: nthing Sparkpeople, can also recommend Minimins if you need more UK based support. If you can find a diet group with people who have approximately the same amount of weight to lose as you do, you'll also feel happier and more motivated to keep on. The times I've felt a little wobbly in my diet, I've thought about how if I cheated, I'd be letting the side down, letting my friends down who were trying so hard and not cheating on their own diets. I don't know if that would help you, but it's something to think about.

To Keep Sane: the diet I was doing had a therapeutic element to it. It really helped me figure out some of the reasons I was overeating - the ones that have nothing to do with portion control or just liking food on your plate. The group leader introduced a lot of ideas from transactional analysis (ego states) and CBT (crooked thoughts, learned behaviours, reinforcements). We actually had "homework" to take home - exercises for the next time we met. I don't know if your group leader does things like this, or if you'd be interested in doing something like that on your own. But whatever you do, stay for the meetings after the weigh in. And consider counseling on your own. It might help you recognise patterns in your relationship with food.

Overall, keep in mind that it took you a while to gain the weight, and it will take you a while to lose it, too. But you will lose it. Hang in there - and memail me if you think I can give you some support!
posted by Grrlscout at 9:10 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would keep motivated by vividly imagining how easy and fun it will be to beat up those snide gym rats after I achieve a modicum of cardiovascular fitness and additional muscle tone.

But then, I'm a vengeful asshole spurred on by rage.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

You might also want to look through AskMe questions about dealing with general depression and anger. Any time I have been successful with weight loss, it's been through dealing with those issues on that somewhat broader level.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:47 AM on February 22, 2009

So, Weight Watchers wasn't your thing. What about Over Eaters Anonymous, which has an on-line branch, or TOPS? You have friends, a job you like--that's more than what a lot of people have. I'm guessing they will be supportive. You have the foundation in place, now GO FOR IT!
posted by 6:1 at 11:00 AM on February 22, 2009

If I am looking at you in the gym, two possibilities. First, I am happy for you for being there and hope you are enjoying yourself. There are shallow bitches, I know, but many of the people in the gym are not like that. We're all sweaty and huffing and puffing and doing our lunges or whatever and no one knows who has lucky genes and who has come down a long hard road.

(The second is that I'm concentrating and don't see you at all.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:11 PM on February 22, 2009

First, bravo for working for your health. That should be a great source of pride because it is not easy to make big changes in weight because of the commitment involved over a long period of time. It is SO EASY to get frustrated. Also, having been both heavier and lighter, I can totally affirm the belief that people treat you completely differently. Clerks in stores...strangers on the street... I honestly didn't notice the difference when I was heavier, but I sure noticed how much nicer everyone was to me when I got back into shape. It was pretty astonishing. I don't know what the solution is for that. It just sucks. Try not to let that keep you from doing what *you* want to do for *you*. If you are feeling good and healthy (even if you are still heavy) you will notice this a lot less, I think.

I've been struggling with weight on a smaller scale for the last couple years and I have found that the thing that really works for me is accountability to someone other than myself. I can make all kinds of deals with myself, but if other people are working with me, I get all competitive and stick to my plans. I have been charting my weight publicly on zeaLOG for a couple years here, and several weeks ago, started working with a bunch of different people on "smaller loser" weight loss log on zeaLOG here. The group log has had me totally motivated in a way that I just haven't been in YEARS. We're keeping track of percentage of weight lost just like on the Biggest Loser, which for some reason is more fun to me than measuring pounds.

One of the people on that log is a man in Australia who is trying to lose 50kilos. He's got a blog about his process that you can check out. I just think it is so much easier when you have people rooting for you and working on the same stuff, you know?
posted by Edubya at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2009

I would like to add my own viewpoint as a fellow gym-goer. I do not see you as a "fat slob." I see you as a fellow gym rat, subject to the standards of conduct that I apply to all fellow-exercisers. Don't don't leave your dumbbells on the floor; don't blather on the phone while you're on the elliptical; don't hunch like Quasimodo on the stair climber. I could care less whether you're 105 lbs or 305 lbs.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2009

Paraphrasing something I saw someone on Mefi write in another thread:

If you're working out and eating right, you're winning.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:04 PM on February 22, 2009

My perspective: I lost roughly 120 pounds something like ten years ago and am still more than 100 pounds lighter. I lost it through independent dieting and some cycling, until a nasty wreck kept me off the bike.

A couple things. First of all, losing weight will make you feel good, so if you are actually losing weight then your morale will most likely take care of itself. It's a serious fucking achievement to loose weight, and you will get a compounding sense of accomplishment along the way, and you won't give a fuck what the haters say. Success is awesome for morale.

Secondly, I haven't set foot in a gym since college and I have no plan to ever again. I am about to go bust out sets totaling 100+ push-ups in a couple minutes, but fuck going to the gym. I never got a damn thing out of putting my workout on display. It's for me, not any of them.

Finally, be aware that there's serious evidence that exercise is not the path to weight loss. Diet is what does it. Just know that you don't get to eat like normal people; but then again, look what eating normally gets those people.
posted by NortonDC at 3:11 PM on February 22, 2009

As a person who has battled off and on with her weight her whole life, and has an obsessive and unhealthy relationship with food to this day, I understand the frustration and pain. I used to dream when I was at my heaviest that I would pull big pieces of fat off myself, crying, like they were velcroed on, and then people would start cheering and clapping in the dream, and I would wake up on the verge of hyperventilation from panic. I was doing everything I could to lose the weight, every day, and the sense of panic never lessened, nor did my depression or low self-esteem, until I was within 5 lbs. of my goal weight. People who have never tried to lose 30+ lbs don't understand that it's the WAITING that is hell; you're doing the work, you just NEED to see the payoff! It's very hard to be patient or feel like you're a failure if the scale doesn't move every few days. Weigh yourself weekly, not daily. It helps, at least it did for me.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helped, so did self-hypnosis. But I had to see the therapist weekly, because after 6 days of telling myself "I am a good person, I am more than what I look like!", it would start to sneak up on me again... the feeling that if I was *thinner*, my life would be worthwhile, people would love me, and maybe then I could love myself.

People are right about diet being a huge thing. You need to log what you eat; eat lots of protein and healthy fats. Do cardio six days a week, even if all you can manage is 20-30 minutes. If you can, buy equipment and videos and work out AT HOME. Fuck the gym people; even if you know they're not looking at you, you expect them to look at you, and this struggle is as much mental as it is physical. It's hard to focus on your workout if you're constantly looking around wondering if people are staring at you or whatever, I know that feeling well.

Sleep in your workout clothes. Work out as soon as you wake; you'll have energy all day. You won't be tempted to sabotage later if you start out thoughtfully each day. Only buy healthy foods, nothing you can binge eat; if that means you only buy one day's worth of food at a time, do that until you can mentally deal with something larger. (I am notorious for having a home with beverages and condiments only; I buy food to cook for other people, and single-serving food or staples only for myself).

If you can manage another quick workout right after work, you will get two calorie burns a day... you'll elevate your metabolism immensely. You can do a lot in a small space with an elliptical, stair climber, free weights, weighted hula hoop and a jump rope. If working out bugs you because it takes too much time, break it up into small segments throughout the day: do 50 jumping jacks when you wake up; walk for 30 minutes at lunch; walk on the treadmill at night while you watch TV. It adds up quickly.

You might also try Overeaters Anonymous vs. Weight Watchers. I'm not saying you overeat; but if anyone knows about the food struggle, the pain, the depression, the fact that you MUST eat to live but cannot manage your relationship with food and your body image -- they can. Believe me on this.

Decide now on a reward plan for meeting goals that are not food based; pedicures, shoes, outfits, a hair makeover, a massage, things that will make you feel beautiful and relaxed that have nothing to do with eating... trigger that mental pleasure receptor in a different way. Have a friend to share these things with and at least one person you can call when you feel really down, like you're about to sabotage your process; if it's not a therapist, find a friend or family member who will support you. Keep a journal of ALL positive progress; when you feel like giving up, read your old entries -- they'll keep you going when you have nothing left mentally or physically and want to curl up and quit. Good luck.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:03 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

WeightWatchers can offer more than just nutritional support - depending on the groupmembers they can offer great coping skills. Feel free to drop in on different meetings to dest drive the different group dynamics.

When I was attending meetings, the group dynamic varied a great deal from one location to another. One group was pretty blah, but another meeting had a very funny leader and some tough-as-nails steel magnolias in the group who were totally inspiring. One lady with the mouth of a sailor had already lost over 120 lbs, was looking to lose another hundred. She wouldn't take crap from anyone, and was filled with enough tips and earthy humor to keep the rest of us humming for the week.

If you go to enough meetings you'll find other people looking to lose significant amounts of weight, people who have already lost a lot, and people who have overcome incredible obstacles and are happy to share their stories. (And of course, if you want to talk you may be the one inspiring others to keep going.)
posted by abirae at 4:39 PM on February 22, 2009

First of all, some inspiration. There's a bloody surgery photo about halfway in, be warned.

Second, the perennial depression cure, eating well and exercise, is only offered so often because it works better than any other method. I promise that, once you've got some momentum in your workout routine and some balance in your diet, you're gonna feel crazy awesome. It's amazing what we can get used to - we can grow so accustomed to operating around aches and stiffness that we stop noticing them. An energy level lowered by lack of sunlight and dietary imbalance can seem the norm if you've had years to get used to it.

But the body is also capable of amazing recovery if you give it even a little of what it needs. You'll not reach your goal in a weekend, so its good that you've accepted the long haul ahead of you - but that doesn't have to be dreary! The whole idea of working out is to find a routine that stretches your capacity without being so brutal that it's an agony. The worst thing you can do is to try doing it all at once. But if you keep at it, if you do challenging routines that you intensify once they become easy, you're gonna feel your body's potential start to unlock. You're gonna start to notice a thousand little benefits to your workouts in your day-today life. It'll make you feel good when you realize how much lighter everything you've gotten used to carrying becomes. As your limbs grow more limber, you'll rediscover the simple pleasures of sitting and reclining w/o aches, twinges, cramps. After a month or so, you start fitting back into clothes.

Forget about the gym - what a waste of money! Get yourself some comfortable clothes, dumbbells and some floorspace at home and you're good to go. The chief advantages of working out at home are as follows: 1) No staring, judging eyes 2) You and you alone control the playlist. Studies have shown a 20% increase in energy output in a music-fueled workout over a silent one. So load up your iTunes or whatever with all your favorite stuff and get to it!

So even though you won't get there all at once, keeping at it does start providing you with benefits in pretty short order. Chief among these is the change in your neurochemistry. The emotions dragging you down are not abstract things that you're imagining - there are concrete processes behind what's happening in your head. By working out, burning energy, flooding yourself with hormones, pumping your blood faster, better oxygenating it with lungs you're strengthening and expanding, you're reversing the very chemical processes that are depressing you. Diet & exercise swarm your depression like goddamn Omaha Beach, no joke.

Likewise, dietary corrections will restore your digestive system to its proper function after just a month or two. Whole grains, fruits & vegetables, lean meats - all good stuff. Correct your diet and stick to it, and before long you're gonna have much happier, more cooperative set of intestines. If you're feeling like I was feeling, you've probably gotten used to a low-level bellyache. No one feels good w/ a bellyache. Clearing that kind of persistent discomfort up goes a long way towards correcting your mood.

I don't know about you, but I got big cuz I love eating - and I didn't get a lot of traction in my weight loss attempts until I embraced this "shortcoming" - see, giving up on stripped grains, high fructose corn syrup, massive doses of dairy and all that other stuff doesn't mean giving up on indulgence in the slightest - just a change in ingredients. Buy yourself some cookbooks, read up on some healthy recipes online and discover an entire universe of flavor you may not have encountered otherwise. Portions must be kept under control, of course, but in no way, shape or form is delicious about to exit your life. This was a tough sell when I was starting out but, today, sometimes the very thought of my 7-grain porridge w/ blueberries and honey is what gets me outta bed.

So all you gotta do is a little research to set up your workout and your diet, get on a program and keep the faith for about two months. At that point, you're sure to see some benefit from your discipline. Build on this success, congratulate yourself for it, and keep at it. Cuz here's the thing - you're not a "fat person" - you're a person and your project is the removal of a few excess fat cells. There's haters out there because there's enough ignorant fucks in the world to provide haters for anything and everything. Ignore their sorry asses because, in undertaking this project, this renewal and reinvention of your very person, you're growing Mightier than any hater could conceive of being. Focus on the benefits of what you're doing for yourself and grow greedy for more. The further you go, the more these benefits compound and your depression problem will largely take care of itself.

I wish you well, but I'll not wish you good luck. It's not about luck, not in the slightest. My wish is for you to Keep Going, because you're 100% capable of reforging yourself.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:46 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

I have lots of weight to lose and one thing that helped me a lot was removing ALL processed foods from my diet. I found that after about three weeks of no processed foods, my depression lifted, my craving for junk foods went away, and even my appetite diminished. I had to actually force myself to eat sometimes in order to get over 1000 calories a day because I simply wasn't hungry for a long time. And I am someone who can eat constantly, because my appetite censor never shuts down - that is, unless I stop eating processed foods. I replaced the processed foods with whole foods- simple as that. I rarely did any cooking but if I did it was baked yams or sweet potatoes (no butter). I lived on vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits, and used nutritiondata.com & sparkpeople.com to make sure I got my daily needs met in protein and other nutrients. Eating this way did not take away all of my psychological urges to eat but it helped a huge deal by removing the physical cravings and getting my appetite under control.

For the physical part, I like the pedometer idea because then I can challenge myself to do measurably better each time I walk. There are plenty of yoga and tai chi-type videos online that you can follow in the privacy of your own home, as well.

For inspiration I like to keep a journal, and on my computer I keep "evidence" of my progress- pictures showing my complexion clearing up from eating better, measurements and clothing sizes getting smaller, before&after photos etc. You might find these activities motivational as well. When you have a setback and look back at your progress, that can help you to get back on track. Further, you can use your data to figure out why you stray from your plans, and make adjustments to your health regimen accordingly. See this as a self-discovery project rather than a weight-loss project. When I focus on mind, body and spirit rather than body size, I feel less stressed and negative about my efforts to lose weight.

For support, I found people on Twitter who eat the way I do, and we provide support and information to one another. Also, Weight Watchers has a free forum where you can get support from other people facing similar challenges to yours.

Anyway, enough of that. People have provided really good information. Feel free to contact me via my profile if you like.
posted by Piscean at 12:12 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fat bias is the last great discrimination frontier.
This is just a tiny thing, but maybe it will help. Every time I see a fat person at the gym, huffing and puffing and struggling on the treadmill or working to lift just a bit more weight, I'm so impressed. It takes guts to come to the gym and try to get healthier -- the gym is a judgmental place where people automatically evaluate and criticize each other's appearances. It can't be easy to walk in there when you're morbidly obese. I too have struggled with body image and eating problems, and I know how terrible it is to be self conscious . Just know that there are people like me all around you, silently rooting you on.
I've recently lost a bit of weight myself, and there are a few hints I can give you.

1. Focus on the day in front of you, not your entire huge task. Think to yourself, "Today I will eat well. Today I will exercise." Don't think about the fact that you're going to be doing it for weeks and months to come. Sufficient unto the day, don't you know.

2. If you screw up, realize that it doesn't mean that you're a fat, stupid failure or all the other names we call ourselves. Screwing up is part of the process. Just let it go and get back on the pln.

3. Every week or two, take pictures of yourself and take your measurements -- waist, hips, chest, thighs, biceps, neck, all of it. Sometimes when the scale doesn't move, you'll find that you lost an inch somewhere and you'll know that even if you're not losing weight, you're gaining muscle and losing fat.
posted by meglo91 at 9:29 AM on February 23, 2009

Huh, the link I posted died. Ah well, this one's better, anyhow. David Smith spent four years on his project and came out looking like Sex in Blue Jeans. So can you!
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:48 PM on February 23, 2009

Congrats on working on your health!

First off, I think it's important to remember its not about what they think, but how you feel. If you're dedicated to improving your health and stick to that as your main goal, your progress will be more rewarding daily - that apple you eat is helping you be healthy, and you know it, rather than worrying about measuring or weighing.

Furthermore, if you think about it as changing your diet rather than going on one, it will be less of a "lets not think about what I'm missing out" but rather, "what new delicious thing can I have that fits within my new eating habits."

By actually measuring progress, you will get bogged down in the details. It's more important to simply change the way you live and stick to it, and start going through your new healthy routines without thinking about how or why or when. You will look up one day and be surprised at who you see in the mirror.

I recommend reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan for a fascinating discussion of what we really should be eating instead of the latest fad. Also, there's a good chance that you need lots and lots of nutrients - most of our food lacks it, but you'll read that in the book - so you might consider a nutritionist, a holistic one, of course. I don't know where you live, but if you're in the LA area, I can recommend a fantastic one. E-mail me if that is the case.

There could be a myriad of reasons why you put on the pounds in the first place - thyroid problems, parasites, etc - that a nutritionist will be able to pinpoint and send you in the right direction.

And one other big thing - no one is perfect. Allow yourself to ease into this gradually rather than making sweeping changes that will only make you feel like you can't stick to them. Health is a lifelong journey that takes patience and practice, and hurrying or setting deadlines will not work. If you decide that for lunch today you just need some comfort food, go ahead. Just make sure not to feel guilty about it and to eat lots of veggies with dinner.

posted by anniek at 12:07 PM on February 24, 2009

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