Weight-Neutral. What does it even mean? I've been thinking about it lately (since my bizarro health screening weigh-in), so I thought I'd explain how I actually approach it.
First, what it isn't. It isn't: not caring, giving up, lowering expectations, thinking less of yourself, or accepting some horrible fate. It isn't eating with wild abandon, being oblivious to consequences, or living in denial. Whew! What a relief, right? When I was dieting, I thought it was all those things and worse. If I don't KEEP dieting, god only knows what will happen. I couldn't fathom any alternative.
So, let's talk about what it means to me now to be weight neutral. I still enjoy being a healthy, happy, fit person. Nothing has changed there at all. What has changed is that now I pursue, healthy, happy, and fit straight on rather than pinning it on a look or a number. I'm active every day because I love to move, love to be outdoors, love to learn crazy new feats of strength and flexibility. I want to feel good before, during, and after I eat. That means I'm not going to overdo it until I feel ill, I'm not going to starve myself, and I'm not going to eat mostly sugar and deep fryer grease, because, blaaaarghfff.
I operate based on what I value and how I want to feel. I value excellent health, a strong body and mind, graceful aging, freedom, flexibility, joy, and confidence. I want to feel energized, rested, clear-headed, peaceful, enthusiastic and connected. So, here's the funny thing that only took me decades to realize: managing the shit out of my weight actively undermines EVERYTHING that's important to me. That pursuit of a number at all costs makes me stupid, isolated, exhausted, anxious, insecure, rigid, and miserable. OMG! How had I never grasped that?! Why did it take so long? I guess maybe because society blasts us with the message that we'll be happy when we lose weight. I was never happy when I lost weight! I was tired, and immediately fearful of gaining it back. There never is a , "Yay! I'm done now!" If weight is your thing, there is always something else to worry about or fix.
When I am just going about my business of eating to feel fantastic and moving for the pure joy of it, there is no downside. It's all good. As soon as a weight goal enters into it though, everything that was good now gets second-guessed. You tell yourself it was a trick, all this feeling good. You've gained 3 pounds so obviously this feel-good stuff is a joke and you need to restrict your food starting now. Then you finish all the cold lasagna, a bowl of cereal, a bag of candy, and the leftover frosting. Then some potato chips, peanut butter toast, and cookies. Then you slash your food intake by two thirds the next day, eating mostly salad and protein bars and putting up with gnawing hunger until you lose all control again the following night. If you step back and look at this situation logically, you were eating better when weight wasn't a thing. A LOT better. You felt better, you enjoyed your food more, you were more consistent, more confident and happy. So which approach is actually most effective? Is it consistent, awesome self-care no matter what? Or that restrict/rebound drama circus that happens when we're scale-focused?
Part of it is that I've had the experience of being healthy and fit or malnourished and miserable at the same weight. The scale can't tell you what's going on with your body and mind. It can't tell you how you've been treating yourself. It doesn't validate your terrible behavior toward yourself, or invalidate your kindness and caring. If you give it that kind of power, there's a problem.
Nothing exciting happens with my weight anymore. Well, unless I show up at an afternoon health fair full of water and wearing snow clothes. That was exciting for a second, but that weight wasn't real. Just like if I ate paleo keto vegan for a few weeks and hopped on the scale. That's reverse snow clothes. The number doesn't mean anything. It's mind games.
If I am feeling fantastic, enjoying my food, loving my workouts, sleeping well, and I have plenty of energy, THAT is the right weight. It's not one magic number. It changes throughout the year. I tend to eat more warm comfort food and hibernate a bit in winter. Then I move around more and crave more cool, fruity things in summer. Either way, my body is calling the shots. I don't see a number and then crack down or celebrate using diet logic. As a result, my weight is far more stable than when I was ping-ponging between restriction and rebound eating. I just stay a boring, happy fit person all year now, no drama.
But, but, but.... I know because it was my fear too. What if weight just spirals out of control? What if I keep gaining? What if my appetite is broken and my body untrustworthy?
Initially, I wanted any excuse to keep doing what I knew, what felt familiar and safe, which was restrictive eating based on a fear of weight gain and a desire to be as light/lean as possible. The thing is, it wasn't actually working so well. I'm leaner now that I don't care about numbers than when I was obsessed with them. I'm not always lighter on the scale though, because now I don't deplete myself of sodium, carbohydrates, water, glycogen, muscle, brain cells, and the contents of my digestive tract in order to see the lowest scale number possible. I can have all of those things topped off, be ten pounds heavier on the scale, and still fit in the same jeans.
If you are taking great care of yourself, nothing dire is going to happen, only good stuff. I had to live that to believe it, but it's the truth.