That Time I Finally Lost Weight (And How You Can Do It Too)
I consider myself to be a relatively smart woman. Not genius smart, but definitely capable enough.
My smartness comes largely in the form of what I would label as ‘book smart’ or academically smart (I’m not especially talented in other areas like art or music). I have been bookish pretty much all my life. I asked my grandma to teach me to read at three + only remember once getting below a distinction for any exam ever (+ boy was that a day I’d rather forget!!). My senior year in school was finished with straight high distinctions, + my masters + research thesis were both completed with a Dean’s commendation due to my high grade point average.
I also get a lot of gratification out of working pretty hard. My final (of my three degrees) was attained while I was at home caring for my two young children, many months were spent studying late by night + caring for kids as best as I could by day. I pride myself in being able to work through most complex issues in whatever field of work I find myself in + I get immense satisfaction from my achievements. I expect a lot of myself, but I feel that it has mostly positive outcomes in my personal + professional life. No one is perfect + certainly am far from it, but I know I give the important things in life my very best shot.
But all my smarts never helped me with my weight.
The picture above, on the left, is me in 2005. I had just completed one degree + was working overseas for a year before returning to Australia to begin my masters degree. I should have been happy when this photo was taken. That’s my dad’s hand in the photo, we were so lucky to be travelling together + on a boat in beautiful Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
I don’t know whether you can see it in my eyes but instead of being happy, I was deeply unhappy.
By 2005 I had force fed myself to fifteen kilograms beyond my healthy weight. I was exceedingly unhappy with my inability to control what I put in my mouth. No one was force feeding me, no one was shovelling Oreo’s in my mouth other than me. I had complete control over my hands, so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stop them from putting food into my own mouth. I couldn’t comprehend how could I be so capable in other areas of my life yet so weak in this one. In my darker, more contemplative moments, I was profoundly disappointed with my failure at being a person who couldn’t control something as simple as her weight. I obviously wasn’t as smart or as capable as I thought I was. And I clearly wasn’t working hard enough.
It would not be until years later that I would begin to recognise this same frustration so well in other women. Today I see it most often in women who say they just want to be healthy + just want to make more positive decisions than negative, but are still over their healthy weight. I see it in smart, hardworking women who don’t necessarily want to be a size four or six bikini model champion, but who simply care about how they treat their body + want to exist happily + healthily in this world.
If this is you, I hear you more than you’ll ever realise. But I digress….
It sounds cliche, but one day it all changed
Back then, in my most difficult moments, I felt that I had been betrayed by my own mind. I felt that it had decided to do its own thing + I was just along for the ride. I felt that I was stupid, undisciplined + incompetent.
I don’t know how many breakdowns it took for me to decide that I was sick in the head, but by the end of 2005 I was sure I was going crazy. I finally gave up + went to a doctor to tell him that I probably had something like depression, or maybe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (they were in the family after all), or at least something that could explain my inability to stop my own hands putting food in my mouth.
I remember the visit like it was yesterday.
Back then I didn’t realise the profound impact it would have on my life, in fact I was rather put off by the doctor’s response. He said I didn’t need drugs, I didn’t have depression or OCD. He said I was more like an alcoholic + that I was using a drug to numb my pain + my drug of choice was food. Note that anyone who knew me well enough could have probably picked up on this (part of the reason why I was overseas was because I was escaping a particularly painful breakup back in Australia), but not me. And truth be told, I wasn’t really made privy to that insight until years later. At the time, the more profound learning for me was in the doctor’s simple solution to my seemingly complicated + unsolvable predicament.
Just change one thing. Nothing else.
The doctor asked me to just eat three meals. He didn’t care what was in them but he said no matter how hungry I was to just eat three meals. I could have dessert if I wanted, just as long as I ate it as a part of those meals. I could have McDonalds three times a day for all he cared just as long as I only ate three meals.
The first few days were brutal. I was so used to being able to eat whenever + whatever I wanted + the pain of being restricted was almost overwhelming. But I helped myself get through it by (for the first time in a long time) allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted in my main meals without feeling guilty or analysing it too much. By the end of the week I was eating just three normal (relatively healthy) meals, dessert each night + was feeling pretty ok with it because I had stuck to the goal that I was given.
After seven days I went back to the doctor + I had lost over a kilogram. I was dumbstruck. How could I have spent all my life thinking weight loss had to involve me being 100% strict when all I had to do was eat three normal meals? I couldn’t fathom how I could have put so much pressure on myself to work harder when all I had to do was not snack.
The following week he asked me to not have second helpings. I still could eat what I wanted, but I couldn’t get up to have more.
I lost another kilo.
The most important part of this story is not that I was slowly addressing one well known aspect of effective weight loss (portion control), it was that in one short week my mindset went from an incredibly rigid ‘I can’t’ mindset to a ‘maybe I can’ mindset. From there, I went on to experience a domino effect where my ‘maybe I can’ mindset was enough of a catalyst to get me back to the gym. Each small change that I made boosted my confidence enough to lead me to eventually lose around eight kilos over the course of that year. The long term effects of this one mindset change would eventually set me up to develop my own successful weight loss program.
Small change plus vulnerability equals growth
In later years I was able to delve much more deeply into some of my issues + it was through therapy + the building of secure, loving relationships that I believe I made my biggest gains. My weight has fluctuated as I have worked my way through these issues, but it has never returned to where I was in 2005. And as you can see in the photo above on the right, my eyes are much happier.
A deeper analysis revealed that even though in 2005 I was trying to numb the pain of a difficult breakup, the greater issue was that I was never able to reconcile why my hard working, intelligent self couldn’t always control my own behaviour. I (being of strong German + Viking heritage) have always believed that stoicism + hard work were the only way to achieve anything. I felt that the only person I could ever really rely on to deal with my own issues was me. And it turns out that one of the greatest learnings of my life to date has been the realisation that I can’t always do everything on my own. Sometimes the greatest growth happens when I give it all over to someone else. And I believe this to be true for most of us.
I believe that sometimes being completely vulnerable + giving over some of your burden to someone who can help is indeed the strongest, most effective thing you can do to increase your chances of personal growth. I recognise that this seems paradoxical. One would think that the more you give away your agency to someone else, the less you have + to be honest, I still don’t fully understand it. I now realise however, the true power of the first principle in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Process: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol + that our lives had become unmanageable" because that’s essentially what I did in giving my power over to that doctor. How it can be that giving over your power + reliquishing your own control ends up giving you more control in the end is beyond me but I do know that the clients that reliquish control + accept that they can’t do it all on their own end up making the most progress with weight loss.
Sometimes the best change is slow change
The second greatest learning to come out of this was the understanding that change happens when you decide it is going to happen. No one is going to make that change happen for you + for the most part, change will happen slowly with many bumps along the way. And while I say that no one is coming to rescue you (you have to rescue yourself) I am convinced that if you let people in with vulnerability + honesty, the right people will teach you how to do the rescuing + support you while you do it.
But you have to make it a priority. Effective weight loss requires a little bit of letting go plus a lot of support plus a wholehearted commitment to yourself + to your mental + physical health.
Where to from here?
So where am I at now + how can my story help you?
As you know, I’m now a nutritionist. I left my previous career (+ all that time studying!!!) because I realised that if I could help even one other person realise that they could be healthier, stronger + more capable than they ever imagined, then I have achieved something great. I now dedicate my book smarts to helping women navigate this exact process. My weight loss program is a unique culmination of my personal experience together with the science-y stuff that must underpin any program that supports your health.
For me these days, change is always happening. I still have habits that plague me from the past, but they don’t have the vice-like grip that they used to. My definition of health has changed as I get older + so has my view of myself + my body. Being a healthy weight will always be a part of my version of good health but I now also focus on other aspects of my health just as much, because my weight no longer defines me the way it used to + because there are other parts to me that need caring for. I am kinder to myself + more willing to ask for help.
My mission is to support those women who are keen to discover the power of being vulnerable. I’m here for you when you decide that you’re ready to be open + gently critical of the way you are doing things. I’m ready for when you want to change while maintaining real compassion for yourself.
You may not have a story like mine. But you will have your own set of habits that you are currently doing that are not serving you + I’m here to help you modify them so that they suit you better.
And guess what the first week of my weight loss program asks you to do? NO SNACKING!!!!
Click below to join me for a free trial of HABITS my six week online weight loss program.
Hey! I’m Zoe Morosini, a Brisbane based nutritionist on a mission to show every woman that want to lose weight that she doesn’t have to lose her mind trying.