I've recently lost 60 pounds making changes to my lifestyle and have worked really, really hard to maintain a very rigorous healthy eating and exercise regimen. I'm the kind of person that needs to set very clear boundaries to stay on track, so it's very hard for me to indulge in carbs and cheese and meats when visiting friends or family for dinner. So here's my dilemma: How can I continue to honor my lifestyle change without appearing high maintenance or ungrateful for the dinner that sits before me? What is the proper etiquette for discussing dietary restrictions when you're a guest in someone's home?
I'm preparing for a busy social / work season and our calendar is filled with dinner parties that I don't feel comfortable requesting an alternative menu in advance. Do I pick at my plate and hope the will power is strong enough to decline the bread basket? Or do I forgo my new lifestyle and indulge for the evening, hoping I'll get back on track the next day?
I suppose this letter is also laced with an underlying fear, that I won't be able to keep up my current lifestyle. It's a healthy, balanced one, but I often fall victim to peer pressure (especially with food!). Do you have any advice for a people-pleasing, food-loving, comfort-seeking gal like myself?
Table for -60
Dear Table for-60,
Sixty pounds? Oh, lovely girl, I am flitting somewhere between hoorays and how-the-heck-did-you-do-thats and a happy smidge of green-eyed monster! Well done! We should have a party to celebrate your win! We can serve celery sticks and kale shakes for all the friends!
Drat. That's no fun.
I'm teasing, but think about it for a second, won't you? That's a big part of why we're all here, isn't it? To have a fun life, to smile more often than we frown, to run more than we sit, to look in each other's eyes more than our screens, to make muscles that can move a couch and carry babies, to celebrate our wins and never end on a loss, to be charmed by something each and every time we look in the mirror…and to try our best not to freak out when our dressing doesn't come on the side.
First, I want to assure you that you're not one dinner party away from seeing that sixty all over again. Not two parties, or even two weeks plus as many bread baskets full. I'm rarely right, but I promise you I'm right on this. And second, I want to whisper conspiratorially in your ear that we're not so crazy to be scared. That it's perfectly normal for us to weigh our success and self-worth and happiness levels with a bathroom scale upon which we perch tiptoed with one foot covering the numbers until they settle and NOBODY MOVE, PEOPLE! Because gaining two pounds means we're a fat flop for the rest of the darn day, and so a lot, a LOT, A LOT is riding on this weigh-in.
Yes, I wrote we. I guess I've lived, from time to time, in the same episode of The Biggest Loser as you do. There was a point I spent every snack wondering how it was going to look in number form tomorrow morning. So not cool. What's worse is that, for a too-long time, I said no way more often than I said yes, and that is never a good ratio in life. I exercised alone, I starved alone, I binged alone, and I missed a heck of a lot of fun. And for what? So I could wear tiny white jeans and a black fitted turtleneck with the cutest chunkiest booties in this faux steely gray snakeskin that totally made my legs look skinnier than they actually were…oh, that was a cute outfit…but I digress. I was skinny and boring and utterly lonely. I don't want that for you.
What changed? I have no idea. I think I just redefined myself and stopped living in a constant state of pause. I tried Pilates and swimming and running and tennissing and hot yoga and even that aerial yoga where you're upside down for most of the class until I got dizzy. Instead of seeing myself as a girl on the verge of gaining all my weight back, I decided to be the girl I am right this very minute. And here's what I know about that girl. I'm a smart (but only about some things not related to facts, dates, and science), strong in many ways (except when it comes to Snickers-related willpower), super happy, generous with my love and optimism kind of a woman. I know that it's not a good thing to eat three Snickers in a sitting, but if ever it happens I'm still a pretty great person. And I still fit into a million very cute outfits. Some days that includes those tiny white jeans, but if ever they're a little snug I'm still a pretty great person.
You're never going to be happy with yourself if you're never happy with yourself.
What's the worst that can happen if you overindulge a bit too much? Maybe you find yourself gaining a few pounds over a particularly cozy winter that involved a lot of roaring fires, red wine and hot cocoa, and pasta pasta pasta. Easy. Just check yourself all over again, and think a little harder about how much you're sweating and sweeting. Increase one and decrease the other. You've done it once, you can do it once more.
Let's be clear: You are not a sixty pound weakling. You're a strong, dedicated woman who's shed sixty pounds and shaped a healthy, working body through a series of awesome choices and probably a whole lot of sweat. You have a job, and you get invited to parties. I'm so proud of you. And I beg you to be proud of yourself. Because you're a pretty great person. Give or take sixty pounds.
Enjoy your busy social season, please? Say yes and smile. Don't bother asking for your dressing on the side – it never happens. Find a few things you love whenever you look in the mirror, even when perched precariously on the scale. Thank your hosts for having you, and mean it. And always, always pass that bread basket. Gets me every time, too.
That's the only way I live my days.
P.S. There may be another option besides simply loving yourself, but I can't completely endorse it! In college, I totally skipped the drugs and drinking stage by telling everyone I was allergic to Mad Dog 20/20, cheap beer, cigarettes, and anything else that frightened me at after-parties. Untrue, but a genius way of not being the buzzkill of every get-together! If you experience a moment or two when you feel like you need some help with your health or willpower – and telling the truth just won't do – invent an allergy or blame an antibiotic. Sometimes, we all need a fake escape hatch. Pretty great people, included.