Self-confidence has a huge influence on weight loss. There are a lot of people who think that losing weight boosts your self-confidence and, while that does happen, if you aren’t already self-confident and sure of yourself before you lose weight, losing the weight isn’t magically going to make you confident and secure. In fact, the more insecure you are before you lose weight, the harder it is to lose the weight at all. While there are a lot who think this makes for a vicious self-defeating cycle, being insecure about yourself isn’t going to get any better after you lose weight. You’ll just be doubting you’ve done enough to meet everyone’s expectations.
I like to think of self-confidence as being true to who you are. It takes some guts to be yourself, especially if everyone else in your life is telling you that you’re wrong or that you are too different in some way. The United States is a bit of a paradox: we cheer individuality as long as it’s not too “individual,” if you know what I mean. In short, if you’re too weird or different, you stand out and then somehow, that’s not good. I’ve been lucky in that way: I was always different from my classmates, so what the heck? They’re going to be picking on me anyway!
Being self-confident means that you make your own decisions no matter what everyone else says or thinks, and that can mean standing up for yourself. It can mean choosing things that are different from what your family and friends like. It can also mean putting up with their criticism and ridicule, which as we know is uncomfortable and difficult. It can be a difficult choice for some. Being different can be a real struggle since we usually have to fight against the tide of conformity. Probably the best illustration I know comes from the movie Out of Africa where Robert Redford’s character Denys Finch-Hatton is explaining his lifestyle to Meryl Streep’s Karen Blixen: “I don’t want to live someone else’s idea of how to live. Don’t ask me to do that. I don’t want to find out one day that I’m at the end of someone else’s life.” (Out of Africa)
This quote really put the movie into perspective for me, (mainly because until this quote, I had been thinking his character was just a great big jerk). It also put life in general into perspective because he is right: if you live your life by someone else’s rules, you will have missed out on living your own life! Maybe this sounds a bit drastic for the topic of weight loss, but I don’t think so. Think about how many times friends, family members, weight loss ‘professionals’ and the media tell you how to lose weight. There is a lot of subtle subtext that if you don’t do it their way, you are doing it wrong or you will fail and gain it all back! It’s not their body and it’s not their life but they imply that they know better than you about your own health. Sometimes, that really is true, but it’s still your decision to make. You are allowed to ask about credentials and training and source information when it comes to your health and if they don’t want to share that information, for me, that’s a huge red flag that maybe I don’t want to listen to their advice.
I am definitely not a weight loss professional, but I am someone who has spent my life struggling with my weight. It’s one of the many things that made me different from my classmates and it’s been the source of a lot of ridicule and criticism from family as well as strangers. Everyone knew the best way for me to lose weight and if I didn’t listen to their advice, I was some kind of idiot or worse, I just liked being fat! I was fat because I was a glutton; I was fat because I was lazy; I was fat because it was in my DNA; I was fat because because because! I’ve spent most of my life being told by others ‘why’ I was fat and how to lose weight even though some of these people barely knew me!
Needless to say that after a lot of tears and self-doubt, I grew a thick skin. (I’m sure they thought that added to my weight too!) When I decided to start eating Paleo, I got a fair bit of criticism. There is a huge majority that believe that grains are heart-healthy and that all fat is evil because it causes heart disease and that if you don’t eat enough carbs, you will be chronically fatigued. I’ve been given advice to go vegetarian, go vegan, and been told countless times that “Paleo is too much meat!” However, it got harder and harder for them to argue with my “weirdo fad diet” when the weight started coming off and staying off! Eventually, they stopped criticizing me and my diet because nothing succeeds like success. I lost weight and am still losing weight and I haven’t ended up in the hospital with chronic fatigue, deadly heart disease and/ or malnutrition. FYI: my doctor really likes my cholesterol numbers, too!
It really can be a hard thing to stand up for yourself and do things your way when the rest of the world is telling you you’re wrong. By the time I decided to try Paleo, I’d spent a lifetime being told I was wrong or just weird. When I chose German instead of Spanish in college, I was criticized by family (German’s not ‘marketable’) and by total strangers for ‘rejecting my Hispanic heritage’. When I opted not to marry or have children, I was told it’s because I’m not feminine or ‘attractive’ enough (I had a few offers– no thanks!) When I discovered Queen, hard rock and heavy metal music in my 20’s, I was told I was going through a ‘rebellious phase’ since no one else in my life listened to it. It’s a ‘phase’ that’s lasted 30 years since I still listen to it (my hard rock friends now roll their eyes at my growing Green Day addiction but oh, well!) As I said, I’ve got a thick skin and this is where Mr. Finch-Hatton’s quote has stood me in good stead: I choose to live my life by my rules because it’s my life!
When it comes to choosing how you want to lose weight, the choice is yours, not anyone else’s. The only advice I can give you is probably the stuff you know already: is it safe? does it work? do you enjoy it? If the answers to all those questions are “yes,” then who cares if people tell you that Whole 30 is better or going vegetarian is healthier or that sticking with Weight Watchers is the way to go? If you think diets like Paleo and Atkins are dangerous, dumb or just not practical, good for you! You made a decision that works for you! It’s your body, your lifestyle and your health. Do what works for you. You are the one who has to live with your body. You don’t want to wake up some day and discover the body you’re living in is the result of someone else’s rules.