Understanding What “Natural Weight” Means
By Nancy Adler
To me, your natural weight is a place where you feel comfortable and healthy. It’s not a body-fat percentage or a number. We often get hung up on what the scales say, but if you are at a place where you feel comfortable, where you have good energy levels, can do what you want to do and sustain that without fighting, you are at your natural weight and should embrace that. As long as it’s a healthy weight you can live by and not starve to stay there .
Eat three meals a day while sitting down. Spend time on each meal, focus on the food and consume it properly. Achieving your natural weight comes from eating in a way that means your body feels satisfied with the food you eat so you stop craving more. Every meal I eat contains a protein such as meat, fish or eggs, some vegetables and a source of fat. Even for breakfast I’ll eat something like eggs, feta and spinach or cooked frozen peas. This combination is like putting a log on your metabolic fire. It will stay burning for four or five hours. Sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates are like adding a bit of kindling – no wonder if you eat these your energy fades after a few hours and you are hungry again.
We have become partly addicted to food – not just sugar, but the idea of eating. Before the 1990s no one really snacked, but we have ended up eating in a way that means our blood sugar see-saws and we are hungry all the time. We have forgotten that it is good for our stomachs to rest between meals. If you eat well, you don’t need to snack. Eat only when you are hungry, stop when you are full. If you are eating the right foods, that should be three times a day.
Protein needs fat to be absorbed, so do a lot of the nutrients in your vegetables. It satiates us. I don’t mess with my food anymore – I eat chicken with the skin on, eggs are eaten whole and yes, I do sometimes cook my vegetables in butter. It’s ok to go out of the box every now and then.
You are aiming for a state of food freedom, a place where you eat to nourish yourself, and that won’t happen if you’re worrying about the scales. Focus on noticing the other benefits of eating well. For example, the first thing people often see on the I Quit Sugar plans is how good their skin starts to look. The next thing that changes is their energy levels. At this point they start to feel more positive and they actually stop talking about their weight. That, to me, is where we should aim to be.
People often feel that who they are and what they have is not enough, and eat to try to make that feeling go away. The more you identify the good in your life, the less you feel the need to fill the gaps with food. This exercise can help: a couple of times a day sit and take a moment to think of five things that are good in your life right at the moment. Even the smallest thing can help you appreciate that overall your life is good.
To tackle a weight problem you have to know how and when to eat, but you also have to look at how you talk to yourself when you are not eating. The more critical you are of yourself the more likely you are to soothe yourself with food. Phrases such as “You’re so stupid”, “When are you ever going to learn?” all chip away at the idea that you deserve to be kind to yourself – and eating more healthily is a type of kindness.
People think they are supposed to be happy all the time, or that if they have bad feelings it will destroy them, but it’s not feeling that does that. Often we eat because it’s easier than tackling an issue – food can’t hurt you with its reaction, it won’t leave you, it doesn’t argue back – but unless you work out your feelings rather than eating them, you will always have a weight problem.
We spend much of our lives not paying attention – we focus on what we could or should be doing and not what we are doing. If you are not present when you are eating you will eat too much. On my retreats, when people become present during meals, not only do they eat less, sometimes they also find that they have been eating a lot of foods they really don’t enjoy.
Please exercise! It’s what your body is designed to do. Even if you never set foot in a gym, if you are moving in some way everyday, you are exercising. Going for a walk, playing with the kids, taking the dog out – the more that you can do, the better. And if you truly enjoy whatever it is you do, it’s better still. I would, though, suggest exploring yoga – it can help you tune in to your body’s needs and become more comfortable with yourself.
If you are eating portions that make you stagger away from the table feeling uncomfortable, if you are eating foods that don’t nourish you but fill your body with chemicals, or foods that make you feel bloated, gassy, tired, cranky or hungry within minutes – these are all foods that are fighting your system. If they are in your diet, your body will never perform at its best, and finding your natural weight will be harder.
No one is born with a weight problem, but over the years our beliefs, confidence and self-esteem – and those of others – chip away at what helps us maintain a natural weight. Recognising that at some point you have been the weight you want to be now is key to ensuring you get there again.