There are a lot of technical definitions and explanations for deja vu. Essentially, you feel like this situation or scene is familiar to you when it shouldn’t be. In weight loss, this usually shows up when we’ve gone off the rails and gone back to our old eating habits. We all know– or should know– what happens then: we feel like we used to feel! Depending on how long it’s been since we’ve put ourselves in that situation, we may or may not feel a little deja vu.
When I weighed almost 440 lbs, I felt pretty terrible. My knees hurt, my back hurt, and just standing was painful. These aches I knew were definitely weight-related but I was also up all night in the bathroom, I had terrible headaches when I woke up and a lot of times, I felt like I was getting hot flashes at night. Since I am near the right age for hot flashes, I pretty much chalked those up to menopause. It wasn’t until I changed what I ate that I realized my headaches, hot flashes and overall cruddy feeling were also tied to my weight and bad eating habits.
This past weekend, I experienced a major bout of deja vu and it was not a fun trip down Memory Lane! I spent a major portion of the long weekend hanging out with friends which meant I did a lot more indulging than I intended to do, mainly because I wasn’t paying attention half the time although the other half was intentional. Since I wasn’t paying attention, I did not realize until much later that I had had too much of pretty much everything! I know I can make excuses or blame my friends but the sad fact is I am responsible for my food choices. It also doesn’t change what I chose to eat and drink, but the consequences were a literal wake up call to pay more attention to my choices!
Not too long ago I wrote about perspective and how we don’t know how good we can really feel because our idea of “feeling good” is a lot closer to “not feeling as bad as I normally do.” The difference is that once we truly begin to feel great, we realize how awful we had been feeling before. For me, some of the first positive effects were I no longer had terrible headaches in the morning and the ‘hot flashes’ went away as well as being up all night in the bathroom. What I came to learn was that those were due to my over-consumption of quick carbohydrates, especially at night. The fewer of these quick carbs that I ate, the better I felt. My joints began to feel better and I no longer felt like a stiff creaky old lady. My energy leveled out instead of bouncing up and down and I stopped getting headaches and feeling mentally exhausted all the time. My legs, back and knees also stopped aching the more weight I lost, but I had expected those changes. These other improvements were a complete surprise to me!
Like most of us, I had accepted the headaches, fake ‘hot flashes’ and being up all night as the “natural effects of aging,” even though I was still under 50 at the time. The fact that these issues were driven by what I ate had never occurred to me. It was obvious that my painful knees and back were due to carrying around 440 lbs, but just changing what I ate made a powerful improvement to my overall sense of well-being. I was vividly reminded this past weekend of how powerful– and how delicate– this improvement really is!
To be blunt, I spent this past weekend on a carb binge! Things like popcorn, sugar, pastry and bread made their way into my diet and while there were some that I purposely chose to indulge in, there were a great many others that I dismissed since “they can’t really hurt me.” In short, I stopped paying attention to how many of these carb-heavy and sugar-rich foods I was eating. That’s when I learned that yes, these foods can hurt me!
After a few short days of eating some of the things I used to eat on a regular basis, I went back to feeling the way I used to feel. After not feeling like that for nearly four years, I had forgotten how truly awful it was. The morning-after headache was akin to a migraine and it lasted most of the night. I was awake most of that night to feel it because I was running back and forth to the bathroom and when I wasn’t, I was lying awake with the covers thrown off because they were too hot. In fact, I had to turn down the thermostat because I felt too warm! Even before I got that bad, I started feeling stiff and achy again: I was back to being the creaky old lady who was tired all the time. Being stiff, achy and tired again was bad enough without the additional effects! By the time I got up to go to work on Monday morning, I was truly and painfully regretting my choices over the weekend.
The result of this ‘deja vu all over again’ was that I was extremely motivated to go back to making healthy choices again! We all tell ourselves that eating low carb, nutrient dense whole foods is good for us, but sometimes we forget the consequences of not eating what’s best for us. We tell ourselves that this is a permanent change to our lifestyle but it’s easy to recite the platitudes and slogans without making the real changes. Many of us lament the weight or water gain when we slip and I know I have done it, but it wasn’t until I revisited my old life that I discovered a new motivation. I want to eat healthier not only to lose weight and feel good: I want to eat healthier so I never feel that horrible again!
We spend a lot of time looking for motivation and trying to keep the momentum going. Motivation tends to be short-lived. Once it cools off, we start feeling cravings and begin making excuses for eating unhealthy foods. I found new motivation the hard way: if you really want to know why you started this weight loss journey, just take a short trip back to your old life. Once you’ve lived a few days the way you did before, you’ll have all the motivation you need to get back on the road to living healthy!