It’s January of a new year, and the only thing more predictable than sunburn and extended hangovers is the resolution of millions of Australians to lose weight.
A new year, a new you, so the saying that we hear all January goes.
To avoid being a cliché (and also because I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes), I started losing weight in September. I’m doing it slowly, losing about one kilogram a month because to be honest, losing weight is exhausting.
I’m not referring to going to the gym, but the mental and emotional strength that is required to make the three extra rolls of belly fat melt away.
The glossy magazines that feature pictures of athletic women drinking green juices don’t show the grit that’s involved and the sheer willpower that’s needed at times. They also don’t reveal that what is needed, more than a FitBit or overpriced yoga pants, is emotional support from family and friends.
A little encouragement and having someone to update on how things are progressing is a really important way for me to stay committed to getting rid of the evidence of my over-indulgence. Knowing that friends are doing a little fist pump with me along the way is my motivation.
Nutritionist Fiona Kane says emotional support is often not recognised as being as important as it actually is.
“We’re quite obsessed in our society about calories-in, calories-out, but the problem with that is that it’s not the whole story,” Kane tells SBS.
“The people who you choose to share your journey with can have a big impact on how to perceive yourself and if they’re saying or doing things to undermine you or to make you feel ashamed, then that can be enough to derail you.”
Knowing that friends are doing a little fist pump with me along the way is my motivation.
Losing weight can be a minefield. Even when it’s justified, it can be difficult to get some people to support you without feeling like you’re vain or have been sucked in by the media.
When that happens, it means spending more emotional energy on trying to convince them that, no, I don’t have an eating disorder, I don’t have bad body image, and no, I’m not trying to shrink to a size zero.
I’ve had well-meaning friends rush to reassure me that I “don’t need to lose weight” and that I looked “beautiful just the way” I was. It’s a knee-jerk reaction that is coated with good intentions but feels deflating.
Kane says there has been a welcome increase in the awareness of eating disorders and poor body image, but that people shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that anyone who wants to shed some kilos has a problem.
“Some people assume that you have some sort of disorder if you try and lose weight at all.
There are people who do lose weight for the wrong reasons, and because those wrong reasons are more public now - which is a good thing - it can be easy for everyone to get labeled the same,” Kane says.
The people who you choose to share your journey with can have a big impact on how to perceive yourself.
There are times when staying on track is a struggle, when eating yet another mini tub of yoghurt becomes too monotonous or you’re not seeing the results you expected. It makes you feel vulnerable and it becomes easy to simply give up, whether it be for a day, a week - or for good.
To outsiders, losing weight is easy - eat less, move more. But that doesn’t take into account work, relationships, friends and socialising, caring responsibilities, illness and everything else that life involves.
Wading through this swamp of obligations really does limit your ability and willpower at times, so to have someone to lean on, to help remind you of your goals, is priceless.
Losing weight is not unlike running a marathon; you’ve got to do a lot of preparation and plan for the long distance. It’s also not that exciting to watch or hear about.
But knowing that my friends are behind me, and encouraging me to keep going, when all I want to do is dive into a bathtub full of spaghetti Napoli, genuinely makes the difference between whether I stick to my goals, or dive head-first into that bath.