Elephant in the Room: Weight Woes and Sticking to a Healthy Lifestyle Change

Dear Cora,

I’ve always been on the heavier side of the body spectrum. Most of the time I try to pretend it doesn’t bother me and embrace all the “love your body” messages that are storming social media these days, but lately it’s been really hard. I feel self-conscious whenever I’m out with friends that I’m the “ugly fat girl” in the group and convince myself I’ll never find a guy that can look past my size and be attracted to who I am as a person.

I’ve tried several diets over the years and always find myself giving up after a week or two. I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a Nutri-System or Weight Watchers plan because of my lack of commitment, but I don’t want to go on living like this. I want to make the life change, but how do I make sure I stay on track?



Renovation starts hereDear Dumpy,

I want you to know that I am cyber-hugging you right now with all of the elephant-love-I-feel-you-lady-ness I can muster. I’ve mentioned before in this column my own struggle with size, but your letter only goes to prove that all of us tend to feel insecure about our waistlines/thighs/chest size/you name it. Next time you’re feeling self-conscious out with your friends remember that they are probably feeling the same way, and all of you are wrong.

There’s really something to those “love your body” messages that have been popping up all over the Internet. My current favorite is the Dove body sketches campaign – because it shows that women are our own worst critics. I have no doubt that you are beautiful, despite your moniker Dumpy. I can tell because you’re already aware there’s more to you “past your size.” If you want men to be attracted to those qualities instead of worrying about your pant size, you need to do the same. Sexy isn’t being a size 0, sexy is confidence. Confidence is knowing yourself.

However, if your weight really is causing you unhappiness, you’re right; there’s something that can be done about it. I too have dabbled with diets of every variation, some with better results than others. The key words you used though were “life change.” And that’s exactly what it has to be for it to stick. Life changes in my experience are day-by-day affairs. Tara Stiles made a great video about beginning a healthy lifestyle, and my favorite tip is “start today.” Don’t procrastinate until next month or next week, and start with simple changes. Maybe you start a walking routine, or give up nightly desserts. Research healthy recipes (there are several great ones on Intent Blog already!) and vegetables you love. This way instead of following someone else’s diet rules, you are creating a routine of your own that you enjoy and makes you feel good so you’ll be less likely to quit.

Remember that changes like these take time, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to fit into the perfect-healthy-super-active routine over night. Build slowly and you’ll start seeing changes that encourage you to go further and experiment to find the practices that work best for you.

Now there are going to be days when you get stuck in traffic, lock your keys in the car, when your hair looks like it was hit by a natural disaster or your boss gives you a ridiculous assignment 20 minutes before you were planning to leave and now you have to miss the elimination show of “The Voice.” These are the days when the “I’m making a positive life change!” mantra is not going to make you feel as good as you know a late-night-double-fudge-brownie-with-ice-cream will. These are the days where you are going to want to give up and you’re going to need a little bit stronger motivation to stay on course.

I’m going to give you my secret tip for those hellish-just-give-me-the-freaking-brownie days. Who is your Hollywood crush? Pick out your ultimate fantasy man (or woman) and put a picture of them on your fridge. For me personally, it’s Andrew Garfield from “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies (what? An elephant can dream!). I’ll remind you that life changes only work when you’re doing it for yourself, to make yourself feel confident and sexy, not to please someone else – but the next time you’re thinking “I am going to murder someone if I don’t get that chocolate” I want you to look at that picture of your fantasy person and ask “Would I want him/her to see me naked after eating this?” The craving for sugary treats won’t completely go away, but it gives you just the extra amount of determination to say no and grab the carrot sticks instead.

(Note: The trick also works if you put a picture of your fantasy body on the fridge and ask “Is this going to help me get those abs or not?” for those who are uncomfortable with the fantasy partner)

Most importantly, Dumpy, caving for a snack or a piece of cake is only giving up if you don’t try again. Making the decision to live a healthier lifestyle is a daily choice, and sometimes we don’t make the right choices. That’s okay! Use it to remind you what the right choice is the next day. One step at a time, day by day and you’ll get there, honey. I believe in you and know you can do it. We all can.

Best wishes,

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avatar-NO-BKCGRNDSubmit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.