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I am a large, body-positive, feminist, who worked with in the Eating Disorder field as both a clinician and educator. And still, this time of year I always find myself hyper aware of my size. And while I think societally we are continually inundated with propaganda about weight loss resolutions, during this time of year, my own mind starts to spew out suggestions of weight loss too. Rapid, extreme weight loss of course.

However I try to re-frame the focus…on health, well-being, increased mobility, those aren’t the thoughts driving my fixation.  While I know better than to choose unhealthy things, like fake sugars or fats, from which it is hard to make the “healthy” argument, I can start to fantasize about things like juice fasts, or a vegan lifestyle, despite knowing I will unlikely ever pull anything like that off…or I wouldn’t be consistently bigger than I want.

I am certainly not alone. The weight loss industrious machine will make the bulk of its billions for the year in the next 3 weeks. I have a million things I could say about our culture’s current obsessions with unnatural thinness, but here I want to suggest some ways to direct/contain/use the drive to build a better, healthier body (read thinner, …since for most of us that is the real motivation), that will result in some positive changes, rather than a few days or weeks of deprivation that lead to weeks or months of over-eating (because THAT is how it goes).

Focus on what You can add to Your diet versus what You want to try to LimitHere is why. For those of us who are big, but even some folks who just have a few pounds they want to lose, experiences/ thoughts/ anxieties/ fears of deprivation cause panic that ultimately results in over-eating and over indulgence in whatever foods we attempted to restrict, or else we would have succeeded at our efforts to refrain from quantities of foods that keep us from losing weight.

Contrary to the fantasy that thin people come about it easily, most of them have to actively attend to what and how much they eat and how often they move. It is different levels of difficult for them. The difference for people with a lot of weight to lose, is that is is monumentally difficult for us…we are filled with deep-seated anxieties related to being deprived that makes simple regulation of our food intake anything but simple. Stop with the self-shaming. We are climbing a much steeper, rockier, higher mountain that people who don’t have out constellation of issues. We can’t compare their efforts to our efforts. Totally different mountains. (They have some seriously rough mountains of their own, but not related to management of their hunger/cravings, or they would also be big).

Do not threaten Deprivation…Focus on what You are adding instead of subtraction from Your diet.Veggies, veggies, veggies.Raw, juiced, stir-fried, dipped in fatty dressings or humus, in salads, stemmed, in soups, frozen, in sauces, grilled and put into a roll with melted cheese,…  any which way. Even if in a cream sauce, or a salad with croutons/ chicken/ eggs/ cheese/ fatty dressings, it is good to try to add as many veggies as possible. Heat an entire bag of frozen veggies, put a little butter or olive oil on it, and eat the whole thing as a snack or before your lunch or dinner. Buy some pressed vegetable juices like Naked Juices, and drink a big glass of it before a meal, or as part of a snack with some nuts, or hard-boiled egg, or cheese stick. Even if you drink the veggie juice with a bunch of Goldfish Crackers, focus on getting in veggies. Search Pinterest for veggie recipes so that you find ways you absolutely love vegetables.

Even though in life I try not to buy things with packaging, I try to make an exception for healthy food because anything that increases my chance of eating healthy foods has to take priority for me. That means I will buy pre-packaged salads, cut up butternut squash, and shredded broccoli slaw (a fav for me on salads or as a slaw).

And remember, quantity and volume are a different issue when we are talking about vegetables. Eat a whole container of grape tomatoes while you are cooking. Put peanut butter on an entire stock of celery to eat while watching TV. Steam up a head of broccoli, toss it with olive oil and lemon juice, and use it to scoop up some refried beans.

Worried about what to do with all those veggies if they start to go bad? Garbage soup! Cut up all those veggies, sauté them in some olive oil, add a big can of whole, peeled tomatoes and a container of chicken or vegetable stock, and there you go! Bulk it up with a can of beans if you need a heavier meal.

Beef up those Veggies with some ProteinProtein breaks down slowly so it keeps hunger at bay longer. It also doesn’t have the rapid breakdown into sugar issue that plagues carbohydrates.

Add beans to your diet first. There is a wide variety and they can be used in tons of ways. They are fat-free and protein rich and go particularly good with veggies.

Nuts and seeds are great too. Similarly wide ranging and multi-use. They have a lot of fat, so they can’t be used in large quantities if you have a weight loss goal, but when you add them to yogurt, or eat with some fruit, it will extend your satiety and pack you full of nutrients and healthy fats.

Try any proteins you haven’t, in case you like them, like tofu, tempey, edamame. You can use them in creative ways, like adding silk tofu to a fruit smoothie to make it creamy and again, packed with healthy protein.

And don’t forget fish, shellfish, eggs and chicken. Certainly nothing is wrong with pork, lamb and red meats, but when you are wanting to focus on adding the good stuff, they aren’t it.

Cheese is a given, but give some naturally lower fat cheeses like feta, ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese, Neufchatel, and Parmesan a chance. While no-fat cheeses/yogurts/dairy require additives and are best to avoid, lower 2% versions are worth trying in the many hard cheeses available.

Protein is important enough it is even worth buying some whey protein to add to smoothies or yogurt.

Foods that Support good Intestinal HealthI am no expert on this so I will try to find some links to read up on for yourself. But here is the basic rundown. There is great research now on the importance of intestinal health for many things, including weight loss. Our intestines can help or hurt our ability to breakdown, absorb and then metabolize our food. Some researchers are collecting evidence that big people may be essentially starving from a failure of their intestines to function properly.

While I am not normally into supplements, the research is compelling enough to have convinced me into some daily intestinal support additives. Here is what I take:

Omega fats in the form of Flax and Fish oil supplements

Vegetable enzymes


I also add flax oil into my salad dressing, and grind flax seeds to sprinkle in salads or yogurt. I sprinkle wheat germ and nutritional yeast on things too. I have a little cabinet near my fridge where I have all these kinds of supplements, including other random things like chia seeds, whey protein, apple cider vinegar, aloe gel, hemp seeds and wheat berries. I feel like a mad scientist adding goodies to my morning yogurt, nut and fruit concoction. But I also feel like I am packing myself full great nutrients that will work their magic on my intestines, giving me the best shot at having a system that makes good use of what I eat.

The other part of the intestinal health diet is fermented and cultured foods, like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kimchi, chutneys, pickles, tofu,  miso, soy sauce, kombucha, tempeh, kefir. You might need to look some of these up, and find ones you like enough to eat regularly as part of an everyday diet.

Complex CarbohydratesAgain, we are focusing here on what you are going to add. You can still eat your white rice and regular pasta whenever you want. But give some really crunchy complex carbs some tries, like sprouted bread, flax seed crackers, and some nutty, grainy cereal.  Make sure to eat your carbs along with some fats and proteins, which will slow the breakdown into sugars.

FruitsWhile not quite as key as their vegetable cousins, they are full of vitamins, nutrients, fiber, vitality and life. Like carbs, it is good to eat them with some protein to slow down the processing of the sugars.

My favorite fruits tend to be expensive, but I indulge just the same. I try not to let anything get in between me and healthy food.

One Good Change Leads to AnotherThere is some good research on how turning one small change in a routine not only re-wires the brain a bit, but loosens up the brain to increased re-wiring. This includes minor changes like using your other hand to turn a door knob.  Consider adding something that small, that is good for you. Try drinking a glass of water the first thing in the morning. Make it a routine. It is good to do in and of itself, but it also starts the day off with change. And one good change leads to another. 

Smith is an analytically oriented psychotherapist with 25 years in practice. She is additionally the Founder/Director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which specializes in matching clients with seasoned clinicians in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

If you are interested in therapy and live in Philadelphia or the Greater Philadelphia Area, please let Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice match you with a skilled, experienced psychotherapist based on your needs and issues as well as your and own therapists’ personalities and styles. All of our therapists are available for telehealth conferencing by phone or video in response to our current need for social distancing.

Author Karen L. Smith MSS LCSW Karen is the founder and director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which provides thoughtful matches for clients seeking therapists in the Philadelphia Area. She provides analytically oriented psychotherapy, and offers education for other therapists seeking to deepen and enriching their work with object relation concepts.

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