Remember That Time You Thought You Were Fat? 5 Tips for a New Healthy Outlook

by Kirby Bumpus, MPH
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Remember That Time You Thought You Were Fat? 5 Tips for a New Healthy Outlook

I was recently going through a box of pictures (back when I used to get pics printed) and came across a picture from my senior year of high school. I looked great, had a smile on my face and seemed happy, but I can actually remember every detail. I was going to a school athletic awards banquet. I was 17 and the captain of my volleyball and softball teams (not the most popular sports at my prep school in Greenwich, Connecticut). I even remember what I was thinking, “Why am I so fat? … If only I was 5-pounds lighter, I’d be so happy.”

And that was high school!

I wish I could say those negative thoughts were something I left behind in high school, but the truth is they’ve followed me into adulthood. I still think the “if I just lost another 5 pounds …” thoughts, but they are fewer and further between.

Have you ever looked at an old photo of yourself and laughed (or cried) because you remember thinking or telling yourself you were fat or not good enough and now you would do anything just to get back to that point?

Thanks to spending more time with myself and learning to better love the entirety of myself, I’ve finally realized I need to stop trying to chase the past and instead focus on being healthy, happy and feeling good. You can certainly be overweight and healthy, but you need to take care of yourself inside and out.

If you’re stuck wishing you could turn back the hands of time, here are five tips to readjust your perspective and mindset moving forward:

1. FOCUS ON HOW YOU FEEL

Your weight can be affected by so many things: salt intake, sleep, water intake, bathroom habits, your cycle (for women) just to name a few. For this reason, you should treat weight as an indicator and not the end all be all.

As mentioned above, you can be overweight and happy, but think about the many other indicators of health. Ask yourself:  How do I actually feel? Am I run down? Am I unhappy with how I look? Does my body ache? If so, it’s time for a change. And I don’t just mean weight loss, I mean taking care of yourself. Eating well, exercising, sleeping and taking care of your mental health are all key components of health. Take the time to regularly think about how you are doing on all fronts, not just the scale.


READ MORE > DON’T LIKE TO EXERCISE? HERE ARE 6 WAYS TO MOTIVATE


2. FOCUS ON SELF LOVE

Knock negative thoughts out by overloading on positive ones. Think about how phenomenal you are! What do you like about you? What do those in your inner circle like about you? Write down your positive thoughts and read them back on the days when all you can think of are the downers. Write about what makes you happy, the things you want to accomplish and how you plan to achieve them. You may want to play a little Nina Simone to boost those feel good vibes.

3. CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES

Write your goals down. Better yet, log them in the MyFitnessPal app so you can literally watch your journey on a chart. Think about how far you’ve come and where you want to go. If you are having trouble getting rid of the destructive negative thoughts, it’s time to talk to a professional.

I’ve currently got a 22-day streak on MyFitnessPal … I know that’s not a huge number compared to people like Carla (who’s logged more than 1K days in a row!), but for me it’s rewarding to log in and see that reminder. I find it even more motivating because people who consistently track their nutrition and physical activity are more likely be be successful. One study showed people who logged their meals for six months lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

Please pass me my phone, immediately … I need to log now!

4. RESPECT THE CHALLENGE OF WEIGHT-MAINTENANCE

If I calculated it, I’ve probably gained and lost the equivalent weight of the starting lineup for a team in the NBA. Sigh.

The truth is, preventing weight gain once you’ve hit your goal can sometimes be the hardest part. Studies show only about 20% of overweight people who accomplish their weight-loss goals maintain that loss for at least one year. Set yourself up for success, but stay focused and don’t beat yourself up if you gain, because you are not alone in striving to accomplish your goals.


READ MORE > ARE YOU AN ATHLETE?


5. REMEMBER YOUR BODY IS INCREDIBLE

Whether you’ve had a baby, recovered from surgery or just got over a cold, use those as reminders your body is capable of awe-inspiring things: Your body is an extraordinary machine and you sit in the driver’s seat. You are, to a large extent, in control of what your body looks like and how it performs based on how you treat it. Make the decision to hop on the elliptical, run around the block or increase your intake of fruits and veggies because those choices have a direct effect on your health.

Keep flipping through the photo albums, but remember you only have one body. As you age your body will, too. Adjust your goals accordingly. Stop trying to chase your high school, pre-wedding or pre-baby weight. Instead focus on the weight that’s right for you at this point in your life.


READ MORE > OK. YOU GAINED WEIGHT. THESE 5 TIPS WILL GET YOU BACK ON TRACK


I want to hear from you! Have you ever looked at an old picture of yourself and wished you would have just appreciated and loved yourself and your body? How do you keep things in perspective? Share your story in the comments below, I look forward to reading what you have to say!


Better Than Ever

We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: Everything from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!


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  • Adjiee

    I am 100% guilty of this! Lol. I always look back at old photos and know that at those times I wanted to be slimmer and I would kill to be that size now! I loved this blog because I am pretty good with appreciating where I am in life, trusting the process and loving myself but this was a MUCH needed reminder. Thank you!

    • Sheri Callahan Anaforian

      I needed this. I’m 58 and have had several surgeries, two major these past 3 1/2 years. Between weeks of recovery following each surgery and no exercise, my body has become out of shape. Thank you for perspective. I log my food daily on MyFitnessPal and am working on walking daily.

  • ICanDoIt2Day17

    Hello Sherri & Adjee, I can definately relate to both post. First, I’m 2.5 weeks post-op. I had surgery (fusion) on my neck@ C-5,6,7,&T-1. My doctor told me there is no exercising for at least 4 months so that I can heal properly and avoid re-injury. However, I haven’t been watching what I eat or logging my food. To be honest, I’ve been eating my emotions and have gained the seven pounds that I lost back + some. However, today I’ve made up my mind that things must change because I do want to be slimmer.
    I’m always looking at past pictures of myself wishing I could go back to that weight but I’m really not doing what I need to be doing to achieve my goals. I, like Adjee am appreciative of where I am in life but I honestly need to commit to eating right and doing the right thing for my body. Good luck to both you ladies with your goals.
    I Can Do It 2017

  • Cyn

    I can tell you what year it was and exactly what eas going on in my life by what my size and weight was. That is how I “tell time” in my past. I, unfortunately, stuggle daily with trying to not hate the body I live in currently because it leads to the vicious circle of depression-hating how I look- not wanting to go outside the house- depression- eating- gaining weight- hating how I look …………… I am still at a lose on how to change the mindset associated with that.

  • Sherry Combs Sharpnack

    I have used the “My Fitness Pal” app for 1256 days in a row, even on vacations. It has truly changed my weight loss journey. I had lost 15ish pounds by eating more healthfully, but was stuck there for about a year, when I got my smart phone and a work friend set up your app for me. It helped me lose 59 more pounds. That was over 3 years ago now. I have regained 10ish pounds, but mostly b/c my husband and I work out most days now. I tell people that the app truly changed my life. I wish I hadn’t spent my 30’s and 40’s fat, but I can’t change that. I can only deal w/ my eating day-to-day now. Maintaining weight loss is NOT easy.

  • Heather

    I totally needed this. Wow, what a great article! Emotions and self-esteem really impact me during my weight journey and I need more help with this, and the things that trip me up, than I do with exercise and food (tho I’m a huge fan of MFP recipes in particular!). Can you talk about why we self-sabotage? Or how to remind yourself of your goals? I have the best of intentions and then mid-week, it’s like, “Wait, didn’t I say I’d go to bed earlier? Or, oh, that eggplant I planned to make is almost rotten!”

  • Heather

    Another big problem I have is “all or nothing” thinking. I bet lots of people get de-railed by this. I ate something bad, so I might as well keep on eating bad things for the rest of the day. I totally binge. Usually it’s a trigger food, like cheese… So, do I keep it in the house and try to make peace with it. Do I try making rules with it that I don’t trust myself to follow?!? (like only if it’s part of a meal) or… do I write it out of my food plan completely. I want to see more of your columns because now I’m hooked… Keep ’em coming!

  • Marilee Jikey

    I remember the time I thought I was wrong, boy was I wrong. lol xo

  • AletaRei Gordon

    I sure did enjoy this article. For years I look at pictures of myself and wondered why did I think I was fat in that picture. I started thinking I was fat when I turned 25. I’m now 54 and my thinking pattern is still the same. If I reach 94 and look at pictures of myself now I don’t want to wonder then why did I think I was fat at 54. I had my annual physical today and outside of the incurable sicknesses I am healthy and strong. I will begin to follow this advice and see what happens.