Am I Obsessed With Losing Weight?

by | Mar 9, 2015
Vacation stats

Vacation stats

Last week I wrote about the 5 Things I Always Do When I Want to Lose Weight. It is about how I handle it when I come home from vacation and feel uncomfortable in my clothes.

In general people loved it and it performed really well. But a couple of people took issue with it, claiming that it came off as too “obsessive.”

They said that I shouldn’t be spending vacation time in the gym and shouldn’t care so much about getting healthy when I return home. The implication being that these actions were somehow emotionally unhealthy.

At first I was really confused. For nearly 6 years here at Summer Tomato I’ve been writing about the dangers of dieting, paying special attention to the psychology of food, health and body image. I even wrote a book about it.

Do these guys seriously think I have an unhealthy obsession with weight loss after all that? That I don’t know the value of taking breaks and enjoying vacation? That I feel guilty about indulging in delicious food? That I don’t realize that intentional self-restriction is a terrible idea?

I am very aware of how tricky it is to write about weight loss without sounding like a dieting advocate. I went out of my way in this particular post to emphasize that my motivation was to feel comfortable in my body. I explicitly stated that I was not dissatisfied by my appearance, and that I didn’t believe other people looking at me would even notice.

I had to re-read my article and the comments several times before I could find the disconnect.

Even though I believed I had clearly explained my motives, I didn’t explain my feelings. Clearly these readers interpreted my actions the way most people would. Associating exercise with pain and guilt, and Real Food with deprivation.

The assumption made was that I was somehow punishing myself for having a good time.

Let me try again.

I’m a writer. I spend most of my time sitting at my computer writing articles and thinking up new ways I can help people find joy in food and health.

I love my job, but I hate sitting. I ordered a standing desk and can’t wait until it arrives.

One of the absolute best parts of my day is when I get to walk to the gym and train with my friend Adam. We workout as often as we can because we love it so much. We always try for 5 days a week (we call these 5ers), but feel lucky if we can squeeze a workout into our schedules 3-4 days a week.

When I get home from the gym I feel like a new person.

My other two favorite activities during my work days are when I get to take my dog Toaster to play at the park and when I get to eat dinner with my husband.

I wish we could bring Toast with us on more vacations, but when he can’t come I do my best to maximize the other things that make me happy. I eat, I explore, and if there’s a decent gym I exercise. I do not check email.

To me, this is the ultimate luxury. This is what makes life awesome.

But sometimes it’s too much. As much as I love food, I also love feeling fit. And I’ve gotten really good at maintaining that balance.

A lot of indulgent food makes me feel puffy and bloated. The digestive pains that I suffered from for most of my life before becoming a foodist start to return. My clothes cut into my skin in an uncomfortable way.

It feels bad physically. I don’t feel bad about my body (shame), my body is making me feel bad (discomfort). This is a crucial distinction.

When I get home and refocus on health, it isn’t because I feel guilty for having had a good time. It’s because I believe I deserve to feel great.

It isn’t because I hate myself for what I’ve done, it’s because I love myself and value caring for the body I live in.

Feeling great is what I love, crave and expect. Feeling crappy is unacceptable. Why would I intentionally stay in an uncomfortable and unproductive place when I know how to fix it by doing things I enjoy?

There is nothing wrong with prioritizing the state of your body when it is keeping you from feeling your best. But to do it in a healthy way means understanding your deepest motivations.

You must be able to distinguish between self-loathing and self-love.

I treat myself in a way that I believe everyone deserves to be treated, with care and respect. I believe I have a lot to offer, and a lot to learn.

I’m no different from anyone else, so I give myself the same advice I’d give to my best friend or to a child learning something new or to you.

If something I do doesn’t turn out the way I hope (this happens all the time) I don’t get angry with myself or feel ashamed. I simply ask what I could have done differently to get a different outcome, and try my best to do that the next time around.

Punishing someone for trying and not succeeding is disrespectful and counterproductive, so I don’t do that to myself.

I view missteps as an opportunity to learn, not a reflection of my value as a person. I give myself the benefit of the doubt that I’m doing my best, and try to give myself all the tools I need to succeed next time.

I don’t believe in failure. I believe I can always do better if I figure out what is holding me back.

I never think that I’m not good enough. That the problem is me. That I need more discipline. That I deserve to be punished.

I always start from a place of self-love, so much so that I get confused when people interpret my actions otherwise.

I hope this time I have been perfectly clear.

Do you know your deepest motivations?

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33 Responses to “Am I Obsessed With Losing Weight?”

  1. Reader from DC says:

    I recently read an article that talked about exercise as part of a “good life.” In other words, movement is part of what makes up quality of life, just as friends and family, career, and activities you enjoy, whatever they may be. I really liked that idea, because even when it seems like a chore to get up and go for a run, I find that a regular exercise routine really elevates the quality of my life. So no, I don’t think you are obsessed. And let’s face it, more people are overweight than ever, so advice on how to lose weight is certainly not misplaced.

  2. Monica says:

    One action can have multiple impetuses.

    It’s a given that people, upon reading of someone’s experience, put themselves in the story.

    It’s a mirroring of them and their struggles. Not yours.

    take good care 🙂

  3. Irina says:

    Hi Darya. I think your previous article was very clear and it was very useful. I can completely relate to your experiences. I feel we shouldn’t look at being active and eating lots of beautiful fresh veggies and fruits as punishment. I actually look forward to my cleaner and less heavy regular meals after a holiday. I also love to be in control of what goes into my body, so I miss cooking during times away. We love vacations, they are fantastic to relax and indulge but it’s my opinion that if I was stuck on one for a very long time, I would start to miss my usual daily life, especially food.

    You’re awesome and thank you for all your great advice through the years!

    • Irina says:

      To add to that, even at home, if I have a couple of inactive and lazy days indoors or I’ve overindulged, I don’t feel good at all! I feel more sleepy, less motivated and less alive! So, next day I can’t wait to go for a brisk walk or exercise, eat more of living juicy fresh produce, it makes me so happy. I realise I don’t enjoy being energyless couch potato me at all!

  4. Gail says:

    I try to remember compassion whenever someone says a self-revealing comment directed at my body or behavior. This, like maintaining my 140 pound loss, is no easy ambition. I get angry, disappointed and discouraged sometimes Your blog entry was so clear and direct, and it nailed every point. Well done. Those who follow your blog will benefit, if not right away then sometime in the future. In the meantime whatever someone else thinks of me is none of my business. I am grateful for the support of others, especially you today.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Thank you, Gail. I know that if two people commented, probably a hundred or more were thinking it. I thought a reframe could be helpful for those people, and a good reminder for those still struggling with body image.

      Congratulations on your success, that’s amazing.

  5. roger davies says:

    I really appreciate your distinction between guilt fed motivation (or perhaps the crushing antithesis of motivation) and the desire to return to your happy default state.

    I find myself most motivated to the healthy lifestyle by competitive sports. I’m in my late 40’s, and find balancing good eating (with 3 very different dietary restrictions at home), parenting, and work to be tricky. However, the start of outdoor soccer season, and the difference between how I feel before, during, and after the match totally changes my enthusiasm for the daily steps.

    I’d love to better understand how you took that motivation and made it a daily default setting. I still find myself feeling dread in anticipation of constructing multiple or weirdly concessionary meals. The anticipation of ‘having’ to work out keeps me in bed a bit longer, despite how great it feels when I’ve actually DONE it.

    Anyway, keep the tips and the passion for a joyful healthy life rolling.

    • Darya Rose says:

      I think it becomes default through habit, but the kind that takes awhile. For years exercise was definitely a chore. Then I realized when I didn’t do it I felt like hell. That was when I realized I actually liked it, and started optimizing my life for it. Now I look forward to it as a contrast to sitting all day.

      Same with food. I still don’t love cooking, but I love the food I make and how I feel after I eat it, so I get bummed out when I don’t get to do it. Part of the adjustment for me is feeding a family instead of just myself, which is way more work. I can feel myself learning to like it though, so I assume it’s just a matter of time. Focusing on the benefits until the work no longer feels like “work.”

  6. Gigi says:

    Great post, Darya.

    Love all your advice and motivational words of wisdom.

  7. I love that you helped us see that it’s about self love. Not obsession or shame. If you care about yourself you do what makes you feel better. Get better and look better. How else can we love others unless we love ourselves first.

  8. Justine says:

    Hear hear! I think your posts are very clear regarding motivation. When I found your blog it stuck in my head simply because of your mantra – “life should be awesome.” That changed the way I view eating and exercise. Personally, I find your views refreshing and encouraging, not demoralizing or obsessive-sounding. I share your blog posts with my husband and they also changed the way he views his health (previously, he wanted to use diet pills.)

    And I very much relate to what you wrote here, about balancing fitness and indulgence, and the feeling of discomfort one gets if you fall too hard on either side. (Exercise has been a serious boon for me mentally as I have a mental illness. Although I treat it with medicine primarily, exercise also helps a lot.)

    I appreciate your insights and look forward to your updates.

  9. Becca Hayes says:

    I absolutely love reading your articles. Although my initial weight loss was the result of bariatric surgery, I have embraced a life that makes me feel good (physically and emotionally) through healthy eating and exercise. I have finally (at 35) hit that place where I miss my workouts and crave physical activity. Your articles really seem to emphasize loving who you are and using food and diet in a positive way to really feel great. I wouldn’t assign anyone the label of being obsessive unless they were being unhealthy in their habits. You seem to be the picture of health and happiness. It’s so cool to follow all the wonderful things you’ve done/are doing. Orange churns out some decent people after all. Haha!

  10. La says:

    I thought the message in your original article was perfectly clear, but as the saying goes, we see things not for what they are, but who WE are. For someone who doesn’t always enjoy eating lots of whole foods and getting lots of exercise (i.e., sees those things as a chore or a challenge), they definitely could perceive that you were beating up on yourself for “indulging” while on vacation.

    To me, the term “indulge” means to give in to whatever thing I desire in that moment (not just doing what I think I “should” be doing). Sometimes that means enjoying the bliss of lying in bed on a Sunday morning, whereas at other times it will mean the freedom to get up and spend an entire day on my bike with friends exploring new roads (instead of, say, doing laundry). When I was on vacation in the UK a few years ago, an “indulgence” was a giant plate of properly cooked veggies (which are VERY hard to find over there!), whereas at home, it might mean a 3/4-mile walk to my local gourmet ice cream shop.

  11. marie says:

    Hi Darya
    since i’ve started reading your blog, your words and perspective have been nothing but inspirational to me! So much so that i’d love to think i invented it for myself 🙂

    Thanks to the way you see things, i’ve started seeing exercise and especially running as far less of a chore (i’m currently recovering from an injury and yearning for the days where i’ll be able to run everyday again !). I also pay more attention to the way i eat and to what i eat, and this also in the purpose of feeling good about myself and in my body, rather than working on guilt as i’ve been doing for too long.

    It comes as no surprise then, that I did not feel like you were obsessed about loosing weight in your previous article, rather that you were actually giving us more keys as to how to enjoy life and treat our body right. But i really liked that article too, i think it’s important to stress the difference between being motivated by discomfort rather than shame, by feeling good rather than seeing oneself in the eye of others.

    Now enough about this, can we get to the important part : TELL US ALL ABOUT THAT STANDING DESK, would you dear ? i’m myself looking at some models, i would love your take on this !

    • Darya Rose says:

      I’ll want to use it for awhile before making a public statement, but happy to let you know how it’s going.

    • Tyler says:

      I have a standing desk and find I switch back and forth between it and a couch or beanbag chair while working. Extended sitting has been shown to cause a lot of ill effects, so being able to stand for a couple hours really helps. I especially enjoy stretching while reading.

  12. Sherry A. says:

    Your blog has been my go-to place for sound (scientifically backed) insight. The bonus is that you are ‘real’, and you don’t BS! This sentence in your blog says it all to me, ‘It’s because I believe I deserve to feel great.’ Damn right!

  13. Julie says:

    I get it. I feel uncomfortable and bloated after a trip like that and you just want to get back to your comfort level and feeling healthy. I don’t feel that you are obsessed at all.

  14. Natalie says:

    I hear you, Darya! My co-workers especially give me a hard time for this exact thing you’re describing all the time. They assume that because i bring lunch every day and never eat the pizza provided at work lunches that i’m depriving myself or think i need to lose weight. Especially now that i’m pregnant i get loads of comments like ‘just have a doughnut already!’ The implication being that i’m slender and should just get over it already and give my baby some pastries.
    Contrary to what my co workers think, i love my body, my baby and food… And that’s precisely why i don’t eat the crappy work pizza and doughnuts! Sadly, that logic that doesn’t make any sense to a non-foodist.
    You did a great job clarifying the difference between caring deeply for the body we’re given while enjoying life and depriving ourselves because of some kind of self loathing. Well done, as usual 🙂

  15. Jane says:

    Laughs while eating pizza. Try explaining to people that you are currently planning a running vacation. Yup, my next big vacation is going to include a week of 10+ miles a day trail runs. I just accept that I’m weird.

  16. Brett says:

    You don’t need to explain yourself! You keep doing what you are doing. I loved your book and I love your website. I have fully adopted the Foodist lifestyle and I’ve already enjoyed losing 15 pounds and I still get to eat what I want (in moderation).

  17. Erin says:

    Hi Darya! Love this clarification and have some clients I’m going to share it with. You explained the difference between motivations really well. Sometimes I struggle to explain it (I’m an alright writer, but think more visually) so this will be a good qualifier.

    Having read the previous article, I had wondered what was behind your words a bit more, as it seemed like others did. Since I don’t know you other than what I’ve read, I couldn’t make a judgment one way or the other, but I could see how some people could see it one way, while others could see it in another.

    It’s also not too far off to think someone who had once been restrictive, then became non-restrictive could once again become restrictive. Or still have moments of it.

    I think that when some people respond in more of a harsh manner, in a way they are trying to stick up for themselves or someone they know. Maybe even you 🙂 It’s just not always expressed well. It’s easier to feel angry sometimes than it is to feel ashamed, guilty or hurt. Or compassion.

    Either way, it’s great you recognized that you could improve upon your initial post and did so. Thanks for that!

    P.S. Looking forward to your class on CreativeLive.

  18. Deb says:

    Thank you Darya, for all that you share. You are so helpful, so wise…

  19. Jim says:

    I can totally relate to your comments. Having just spent a week in Key West, it is time to make some adjustments to get back to my normal weight and exercise routine. I don’t regret any of the great food I had while on vacation, but I know I need to make a few temporary adjustments to get back on track. It is a small price to pay for a great week of fun with family.

  20. Donna says:

    Darya, I am glad that you shared more on this topic and explained your feelings. I applaud you for taking the time to examine your writing and find the disconnect that prompted comments you didn’t anticipate. I am a photographer, and I love to move. I’d spend all day walking, hiking and exploring to take pictures if I could. But a lot of my work requires that I sit at the computer and edit photographs or write for my blog, and so I look forward to exercise. Sometimes, like when I work hard to get 10K steps a day, my friends will accuse me of being obsessed with exercise – but really I just want a break from sitting!

  21. Aurora says:

    Great post Darya! I’m in the exact same situation you described in your previous post and perfectly identify with it. Long story short, I was slender until my university years when I maybe gained a max of 30 lbs. and carried it around for 9 years. It wasn’t until my engagement year that I worked my butt off to get in shape again. Through 5-6 45 mins. treadmill jogs a week and a strict healthy-food-only-no-junk-food lifestyle, I managed to lose all 30 lbs. and return to my pre-university weight. I’ve managed to sustain it for the past 2.5 years, giving myself the flexibility of maintaining a weight at 3-4 lbs. above my wedding weight.

    Unfortunately, I came down with the flu and for the past 5 weeks, I’ve been out of commission with no treadmilling whatsoever. Obviously with a persistent cough, I’ve had no choice but to sit out. Downside is, I’ve noticed that when I’m good, I’m good but when I’m bad, I’m bad! I was very careful with my eating habits at the beginning of my flu, knowing that I wasn’t as active anymore. Past 2 weeks have been a struggle as junk food snacking has crept back in. I’m now about 6 lbs. (or so the scale says!) above my normal and I just feel gross! I feel lethargic, sleepy (also a combination of being overworked at work for the past few months) and hate how uncomfortable I feel in my clothes. I could easily be called obsessed but I don’t think I am. Since losing the 30 lbs., my family has been on my back about me being ‘too skinny’ (I assure you that I am not!). I just hate how I’m in this rut now. My lingering flu cough has finally gone away. Now I just need to get back on my treadmill routine. Definitely not easy when I’ve been off of it for a while but I am ever so motivated to be back to my healthy and feel-good self. My husband and family say that they don’t ‘see’ any changes but it’s not about how I look, it’s about how good I feel inside. After getting fit for my wedding, I swore I would never let myself go again, not after all that hard work, so I intend to stick to my self-promise. It’s just so hard when you lose the rhythm…but must be careful to never be tempted with that what-the-hell attitude!

  22. Jesse Cooper says:

    Your weekly stats are great, I only wish I can do half of that. After reading your post, I am more motivated to push harder this week.

    • Darya Rose says:

      These were from an abnormal vacation week, where I had the freedom to casually walk around Dubai at my leisure. Normally I get 70-80K steps.

      I recommend finding ways to work steps into your normal life. When I was in grad school I used to take the train one stop, then decided to just walk the distance. Interestingly it only added about 5 min to my commute (the train was often late, so I spent a lot of time waiting). Plus it saved me money and got rid of TONS of stress that I didn’t even realize was being caused by the crowded train. Little things like this add up dramatically.

  23. Naty says:

    Excellent article. I can definitely understand where you are coming from. You write beautifully and your content is very informative. Thank you.

  24. Rina says:

    I have been dieting , eating healthy and exercising for the past couple of months. But more than being self motivated, what i noticed was constant demotivation by people and so-called-friends around me.

    Its good to be obsessed as long as you feel healthy and better. All those people are simply hypocrites. They are obsessed too but just won’t tell it out.

  25. Ross says:

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to de-bloat after coming back from a vacation, or exercising while on vacation. I’ve done the same, plus I don’t feel as good when I don’t exercise.
    But when I see posts on this website about how peas pureed with some water make a good meal, or how you think some shreds of zucchini with some tomato sauce is an adequate dinner, it’s concerning. I’ve made your cabbage and eggs recipe. It’s good. But it’s maybe 300 calories, max, and I believe I’ve seen posts from you that say you think it makes a good dinner (or something to that effect). I dare make the generalization that that amount of calories is extremely, unnecessarily low.

    • Darya Rose says:

      I actually eat about 2400 calories a day. I don’t count them, but I had for enough years that I know portions pretty well. My resting metabolic rate (how many calories I burn if I am sedentary all day) is 1700 calories (formally tested). I’m 5’5″.

      My eating habits have changed substantially since I started this blog as a single, broke grad student. I eat more for social reasons now, can afford better food, and travel often. I often enjoy light meals like cabbage and eggs (it’s actually substantial for lunch) better than heavier ones, simply because I feel better after eating them. If I made the squash noodles again (it’s been years), I’d definitely roast a chicken too. I don’t remember ever eating peas purred with water except maybe as an infant.

      If I feel like I’ve over indulged for too many days I just feel gross, and opt for lighter meals and more exercise for a few days to get centered. But my weight hasn’t fluctuated up or down by more than three pounds in nearly 8 years. I can guarantee you long-term, intentional calorie restriction would not have worked for this long.

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