How it all began: January diet? Nope, I bought bigger clothes.

by JL Fields, Editor @ Stop Chasing Skinny on July 6, 2011

Last January I did something completely unexpected.  I did not go on a diet.

I wrote about this revelation on my blog JL goes Vegan:  Food and Fitness with a Side of Kale.  Since that time I have received numerous emails from readers. Some who have happily ditched the scale–and are loving their bodies–and others who desperately want to move beyond the scale.

My wish for everyone–you and me– is that we don’t let the number on the scale determine our mood for the day. That we don’t let the size of our clothes determine our sense of self-worth.  That’s why I started this blog.  I want to explore my own journey to stop chasing skinny. And I want to you to share your experience.  So that we can all find happiness beyond the scale.

I look forward to sharing with you and hearing from you. For now, here’s how it all began…

JL, Editor, Stop Chasing Skinny

January diet? Nope, I bought bigger clothes.

by JL, January 1, 2011

Hey, if I could embrace my grey hair in 2010, after dying it for 20+ years,

why not embrace a few extra pounds?

Each January, for the past five years, I’ve found myself weighing about 8 – 10 pounds over my “happy weight.”  I would buy the latest edition of The South Beach Diet, re-enroll in the online Weight Watchers plan or purchase a personal training package from my gym. I would diet.

By March or April I would find myself down 10 -13 pounds, below my “happy weight.”  I would spend my spring and summer running marathons (now half-marathons) and training and competing in triathlons. Yet I would continue to “diet” (Rice, no thanks?  Bread? No, I’ll have a bread-less sandwich, thank you very much.) Essentially I was always dieting, simply to maintain the weight loss.  Late summer / early fall, well into my training, I would finally heed my body’s call and begin eating healthy breads, rice and grains.  And the scale would start climbing.

This year the weight started climbing earlier than usual.  After “going vegan” I started cooking. I mean really cooking. Healthy, hearty, fabulous vegan food.  I fell in love with food. I moved from depriving myself to allowing myself to savor and enjoy every morsel of the (mostly) healthy foods.

Last January I began working with a nutrition counselor, Jill, to try a cleanse for the first time.  I admit, it was my 2010 attempt to drop the 8 – 10 pounds.  I did lose several pounds but learned that cleansing isn’t for weight loss. I “dieted” through the spring and continued to meet with Jill throughout the year to guide me on my vegan transition and then to tackle some health issues connected to diet.  We recently had our last session of the year.  She asked me if I had any concerns. I said “Yes, once again my weight is up and I need to diet.”   She queried me as to why I felt like I needed to diet.  I explained that every year I find myself 8 – 10 pounds over my happy weight.  Jill said that she saw me experiencing an incredibly healthy relationship with food. That I was enjoying it. She went on to make two simple observations.  1) Maybe this is my weight.  2) Perhaps, if I bought some larger clothes, I might actually realize I look good now.

Buy bigger clothes?

I went out the following weekend and bought a pair of jeans, a pair of slacks, a skirt and a dress.  I loved how I looked in my new clothes.  On Monday at work, in a sassy new dress, a colleague asked “Have you lost weight?”  Nope. My clothes fit. What a concept.

Interestingly, this conversation had come up with friends before my consultation with Jill.  I have two dear friends, Erin and Kari, with whom I have trained for triathlons, with whom I have gained weight and with whom I have dieted.  In October I told them that I was re-thinking my “happy weight” because I wasn’t happy.  They were very supportive and reminded me that I looked good at that very moment.

Also interesting, I shared with two other friends, Lisa and Susan, my conversation with Jill and her observation about my new relationship with food.  We three had a fabulous girlfriend weekend this summer in San Diego that included lots of food in, and lots of food out. Lisa’s response to Jill’s observation was surprising. She said that she had never seen me enjoy food so much as this summer and that it was such a contrast to a girl’s weekend several years ago when I declined her offer of just one M&M because “I can’t eat that” (pre-vegan days, it was about the calories, not the milk chocolate).

Let’s talk about this whole “happy weight” thing.  First, it’s an arbitrary number that I’ve tried to reach and maintain for oh, 20 years.  Hello! I’m 45; I’m peri-menopausal; I have hypothyroidism. Maybe, just maybe that number needs to go up?  Second, what’s so freaking happy about a weight that I have to starve myself to achieve and maintain? Not one damned happy thing about that!

All of these years I’ve been asking myself the wrong questions. Instead of asking “How did I gain this weight?” and “What did I do wrong?”  I should have simply asked “Why do you keep trying to get to a weight that you cannot maintain?” Maybe happy is right now, this 8 – 10 pound increase that I experience, and maintain, each year?  Or perhaps happy isn’t attached to a number?

Here’s me in May

at what I perceived to be a happy weight

Here’s me today

Ten pounds heavier and healthy and happy.

It’s January.  People are dieting.  I am not.

I will, however, get back on track with a (moderate) exercise routine and chill on the vegan cookies and candy and drink (a little) less red wine.  I’m not planning on letting go of good health and good fitness but I am letting go of a weight and size that I simply cannot maintain.

I am going to buy more clothes in my new size. I’m going to train for a half-marathon for the joy and fitness of it, not as a weight loss strategy.  I’m going to buy a bigger size of triathlon gear because I’m not concerned about wearing size small, I just want to be in the game!

I’m going to eat (brown) rice and sandwiches (with bread) whenever I want.

I’m going to fall in love with my rounder belly, my rounder hips, my rounder, healthier me.

Will you join me? Will you ask yourself if you really need to diet or if, in fact, you just need to clean up your eating a bit?  Will you ask yourself it you look great right now? Will you consider donating the pair of jeans you haven’t been able to wear for five years instead of torturing yourself trying to fit into them? Will you embrace your size, whatever it is, and simply find the clothes that fit you well and make you feel great?

Let me know…

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    You look great! : )

    • JL

      Thanks, Libby! I’ve picked up a few more pounds since January, but I like to call it “muscle” weight 😉

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  • Bess

    This post blew me away when you initially wrote it and I am very proud of you for making an entire blog devoted to showing women who have grappled with body image issues and are making steps to feel secure in their own skin/let go of the expectations set by the media.

    Can’t wait to read more and potentially contribute :)

    • JL

      Please, please, please contribute!

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  • Jen

    You look BEAUTIFUL!

    • JL

      Thank you! :)

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  • Katheryn Limback

    Like you, I usually make the yearly goals (around my birthday…in the fall…before the holidays…ultimate fail). This year, though, I have made a goal similar to yours– to be happy. I stuffed all the “skinny” clothes in a bag and treated myself to clothes that fit for my birthday. Though I think I’m heading in the right direction, I was wondering if you know of any resources to get past this whole obsession with weight? Inspirational stories definitely help, though, and I’m wondering if I may use your story in my blog, By the way– you look fantastic! Happiness looks good on you. :)

    • JL

      Katheryn, I learn best from my peers, which is why I read blogs. I’m learning to get over the need to be size 2 / 4 by reading from fierce women and men who love themselves. It helps!

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  • Ruby

    Wow— I love it. I too have finally decided to buy new “happier size” clothes for myself— however it’s just a new strategy to be more “looking together” while I diet. I too invest a gargantuan amount of effort to stay nearishmy happy weight, but I am miserable and often binge. binge binge binge is not who I want to be now how I want to react. so I now need to ponder the whole despicable cycle. thanks for the food for thought *no pun inteneded

    • JL

      Ruby, thank you for your comment! I know just what you mean about “looking together” You’re on a quest but you want to look great while getting “there” (wherever “there” is!)

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  • Somer

    You look gorgeous! I’m plant based too and this week I was thinking, maybe I need to cut out some whole grains to lose that last couple pounds…. Cut. out. whole. grains. How is that rational?!? Thanks for reminding us to love our bodies and to stop starving and chasing something that is a lot of work and super hard to maintain!

    plant based story

    • JL

      Thank you for your comment, Somer!

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