Most of you know I am a rabid fan of My 600 lb Life on TLC, mainly because it’s my version of a 12 step program: it reminds me of where I came from and points out some of the common pitfalls. I noticed on the most recent episodes that Dr. Nowzaradan has a large cardboard display in his waiting room. The display shows a shapely happy young woman and the text reads: “Take weight off. Put CONFIDENCE ON!”
I know as a rule the better you feel about yourself, the more confident you feel. I also know that being happy, being confident and liking yourself have very little to do with how much you do, or don’t, weigh.
I watch a lot of movies and one that I really like is Runaway Jury, with John Cusack, Rachel Weisz and the incomparable Gene Hackman. He plays a jury analyst who finds the weak spots in the jurors and then pressures them to vote his way. There’s a scene in the movie where he and his team are watching footage of potential jurors to pick out their weaknesses and one of them is an overweight woman walking down the street. As she passes a man walking a large dog, she moves to the other side of the sidewalk and one of Hackman’s team comments “she’s definitely self-conscious about her weight!” Hackman remarks “Maybe she just doesn’t like dogs.”
There’s always a lot of talk in the weight loss and fitness arenas about being comfortable in your own skin. This doesn’t mean you have to love everything about your body but it means you have to accept who you are. To paraphrase the Serenity Prayer, there are things about myself I can change, there are things I can’t, and I need to accept the ones I can’t. In spite of those things I’d like to change if I could, I still need to be comfortable with who I am.
Example: even if I reach and maintain my ideal body weight, I will never be tall. I am 5’4″ and other than getting shorter as I grow older, my height isn’t going to change. I will also never have delicate wrists and ankles. My wrists and ankles will always be as thick as a man’s. No matter how much weight I lose, this won’t change more than a little bit because they aren’t thick because of fat- it’s the actual bones! All those lovely graceful bracelets and ankelets my classmates wore in high school were not made for wrists and ankles the size of a guy’s so all I could do was envy them. I think I resented this fact of life even more than I resented being fat! I knew I could change my weight but bones? Not likely! Even plastic surgery wasn’t going to give me graceful little ankles like my sister has or the tiny delicate wrists that my cousins have- I am stuck with the “tree trunks” like my aunts and grandma!
Accepting who you are is where confidence starts. Once you’ve accepted who you are, you begin to feel more secure in yourself. You know what your capabilities are and what you need help with. Knowing your limitations and your strengths allows you to feel more confident in your job and in dealing with others, and it has nothing to do with how much you weigh. But if you are not confident in who you are, then you are going to have a problem when you want to make any kind of positive changes in your life and this includes weight loss!
Confidence comes from inner strength and this is where change begins. If you don’t have the strength to make the necessary changes to improve your life, your health and your eating, how do you expect to make any positive changes at all? Most people acknowledge confidence and inner strength are necessary for a lot of life-improvements like going to school or changing jobs, but when it comes to weight loss, that gets left behind. You need to have inner strength and confidence in yourself to make those changes too! These start with things like saying no to old habits and temptations. Even if you don’t quite know where to start, you do know that junk food is not going to be helpful, so you can always start by saying no to those temptations! It’s harder if you are the only one in your family who eats those things or has a weight issue. We all know it’s hard enough saying no to the potato chip craving or Oreos & ice cream habit without being surrounded by family members who are happily indulging!
It takes a certain amount of confidence to watch other people eating the things you love and say no. Sometimes your friends and family members will try to coax you into joining in, either because they don’t want you to feel left out, they feel guilty for indulging in front of you or just feel guilty for eating it period! Remember all those lectures you heard in high school about saying no to peer pressure? This is where they come in handy! You need to have the strength and confidence to say no even if it’s your favorite pizza!
Sometimes the confidence comes in being independent. Doing something differently than you’ve done before or something different from what everyone else does can be a struggle. It makes you feel like you’re standing out in a field with a great big target on your head. In my office, most of the other workers get takeout. They walk in with their bags and boxes and sometimes the whole office smells like nachos or Chinese. I usually have tuna that I prepare in our kitchenette. Hmm… burrito bowl or tuna fish? Since we’ve moved to a new location, there are a lot of local restaurants that actually have some healthier options like a lettuce wrap ‘sandwich’ or the burrito bowl, technically, I can ‘eat healthy’ and still have takeout. I have done it a few times before we had a fridge installed, but even though it’s still ‘healthy,’ it’s also more expensive than I like and it’s still more calories than the tuna. Do I want to blow that many calories on a burrito bowl when I can use them for something I might prefer at dinner? Frankly, I’d rather have a bowl of strawberries than a burrito bowl or a lettuce-wich, so I stick with the tuna! It’s tempting to follow the crowd and order out or go pick it up, but I know what works for me and my budget and it isn’t takeout!
Confidence in ourselves means that we accept the fact that we might screw it up on occasion. No one gets everything right all the time and especially not the first time! Welcome to the Human Race! Certain things happen when we fail: we learn from our mistakes! Not only do we learn what we did wrong but we also learn a little humility too. There will always be people who revel in the failure of others and those are the people who use someone’s mistake to make themselves feel better about themselves. Don’t be intimidated by that person! They are the ones who are afraid everyone will see how small and insecure they really are. They are the ones without confidence, without strength and without independence. They’re the ones who give up, follow the crowd and won’t try anything new without first seeing how the ‘Guinea pigs’ fared.
Being confident in yourself means when you look at yourself and your life, you are happy with what you see and the person you are is someone you like. If this isn’t the case, it’s your choice to stay that person or change for the better. No one can do it for you, especially with weight loss! We must all decide for ourselves: are we worth the effort to make the changes or not? Yes, we are!