In every forum, there’s always someone who dominates the discussion and over-share things. At a weight-loss support group that I attended, it was a thirty-something former model who poured her entire life story, even though our mentor only asked what we had for dinner the night before.
For some reason, the former model said she had missed dinner, had been scolded by her husband for doing so, and they had ended up in a fight, and so on and so forth. And, of course, here came the waterworks.
Out of boredom, I poked my glasses slowly with a pen, barely listening to the sobfest. But then, a realization hit me, who was I to judge? I was no different from her or any other participant. All of us were here because we wanted to lose weight in a healthy way. Because we were tired of the mockery and the ‘have some will power’ look. Because we were already veterans of weight-loss schemes and scams that had taken their tolls on our physical and psychological well-being.
In my case, it was an acute digestive disorder that required me to take medication for a full year and a series of injections on my stomach. In the ex-model’s case, being unconscious in hospital ICU, no thanks to over-exercise and perilous diet pills.
And for the skinny college girl in front of me, who was the target of my sharp glare earlier as I mentally accused her of being in the wrong place, being bulimic had caused her irreversible liver damage.
Who was I to judge? It was even the second time for me to attend such program, which made me feel a bit like Lindsay Lohan of fat camp.
The first time was in 2011, after seeing the success of two friends in shedding a significant amount of their post-baby weight. I was never obese, actually, but I always tend to be overweight and was alarmingly veering toward 70 kilograms – the heaviest I have been -- when I joined the weight loss program.
The program was called Hypnolangsing, or hypnoslim, which basically focused on changing people’s mindset toward food and exercise so that we would lose weight more permanently.
There was no hypnotizing like you see on TV, where people turned into dog and barking, the program is more about correcting or luring people into having better relationship with food and their bodies.
The principle is simple, though it’s certainly easier said than done: Eat Less and Move More. Here were some pointers taught in the 2-day class:
- Eat whatever the hell we want, don’t suppress yourselves. Denying ourselves certain things only make us wanting more. Besides, it is not exactly the content but really the portion that made us fat. It will also avoid overindulging.
- Eat mindfully, or eating with intention and attention. Savor the aroma, the texture and the tastes of the food.
- Listen to your body signal. Recognize when you start to feel hungry, really hungry and starving. Eat when you start to feel hungry, don’t wait until you’re famished so that you won’t eat much.
- Keep a food diary to track your food and eating pattern.
- In terms of ‘Move More’, go easy on hitting the gym hastily and vigorously. Walking is the most simple and doable workout. The mentors suggested us to buy a pedometer and just walk more, starting from around 3,000 steps a day and increase them to about 10,000 steps daily.
- Stay away from weight scale for a while, because if you lose weight you would get euphoric, but if you don’t, you’d feel awful. And both have the risk to make you throw your efforts to lose weight.
- No cheating day! Forget dieting for five days and indulging on weekend. Repetition creates a lifelong habit.
There were also discussions on body image and acceptance toward our body, which included exercises in front of a mirror to instill positive thoughts and drive away self-hatred.
Going back home, I did what I had been taught right away. I ate on the dining table instead of on the couch while watching TV. I savored each bite and amazingly, it allowed me to feel more satisfied with smaller quantities of food. It enabled me to appreciate and really taste the food…and boy did instant noodle and French fries tasted really shitty after a dozen chew.
I had done exercise regularly before the program, but I started to walk more afterward. I walked farther to get the cab to work instead of waiting at the apartment lobby, and after work, I stopped the taxi a kilometer or two from home and walked instead. I took the stairs instead of the escalator, and was obsessed on increasing the step count.
Four months later, I managed to lose five kilograms, which was exhilarating because anyone on a diet must know how hard it is to even lose a kilo.
However, a few months afterward, the weight loss just stopped. Maybe I hit a plateau; maybe, as I got busier, I began to eat mindlessly; or maybe I took the whole ‘eat whatever you want’ principle too literally.
After a few months of going back and forth on losing one kilo and gaining one kilo, I decided to attend the program again to refresh myself. This time, the program had been refined and called ‘Happy Eating Go Langsing (Slim).’
Apart from the previous pointers, an emphasis of the program was on emotional eating. At first I denied being an emotional eater because my appetite dropped when I’m stressed out. But as it turned out, I am one, as I treat food in celebratory mode, eating as a celebration, including when I succeeded in losing weight!
We were taught to analyze our feelings, define them well and eventually cope with them so that we wouldn’t resort to food to distract ourselves from the feelings. All feelings are good, the mentor said. Just find the cause and satisfy them or channel them to other things.
When we thought we were hungry after seeing some food, it meant that our eyes need visual ‘nutrient’, so satisfy them with beautiful pictures, the mentor said. Getting hungry after smelling food? Distract them with other tantalizing fragrance. Feel like chewing something even though you’re not hungry? It means you’re bored and in need of physical sensation.
These two classes have taught me a great deal, most important of which, I think, is improving my relationship with food. I no longer see it as enemy, but instead as fuel and nourishment. Also, I have always loved walking, though there’s not much space in Jakarta to do so, and now I love it even more being the simplest exercise.
Sure, guilt and frustration are still there, especially since I still haven’t gotten down to the weight that I want to and when I’m on the receiving end of fat jokes. But what I do now most of the time, instead of starving myself, I just grab my pedometer and walk away.