I Tried Noom Coach so You Don't Have To

I Tried Noom Coach So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

In the efforts to be fully transparent, and as body positive as I can be while also working on my physical weight for health reasons, I tried Noom for a variety of reasons, some of them weight-related and some of them not. I’m really excited to tell you how it went. However, I understand reviews like these can be really triggering, especially for those struggling with negative body image. As always, if you feel something like this will be hard for you to read, don’t hesitate to close the window.

I started using Noom, an app that divided food into Green, Yellow, and Red groups, at least 5 years ago. I remember signing up and having the app on my phone. I didn’t like the Red, Yellow, and Green designations; I totally “got” it, but it didn’t really help my issues with seeing foods as “bad” versus “good.”

And while Noom does subscribe to the idea that making foods taboo is bad, using Red, Yellow, and Green ascribes them to “Stop,” “Caution”, and “Go”, which still arranges them on a spectrum of Good to Bad. For all their dedication to terminology at Noom, I don’t know why they kept this designation system! They could have at least chosen different colors.

Either way, I stopped using the app and promptly forgot about it until I heard an ad for that very same app on one of the many podcasts I listen to. “Huh?” I thought. “Noom costs MONEY now?!” I needed to know what the difference was.

Noom Coach is a program like the app I used way back when—that same structure of assigning food to categories and you eat a percentage of the category each day—with the added addition of a Goal Specialist, a Group function, and more. Basically, it became a support program to help you navigate both the physical aspects of weight loss and the emotional and psychological aspects as well. As someone who has struggled with my weight for a long time, I found this focus a little refreshing; there is a lot of psychology around the foods we eat and why (as well as the foods we don’t eat and why) and I’ve always been very interested in it.

As well, since one of my goals in 2019, is to have a second baby, I knew I needed to get to a starting point that would be less damaging to my body than last time. (Again, that disclaimer at the beginning of this post comes in). This is something I need to do for my long-term health, since having preeclampsia during a pregnancy massively increases my risk of heart disease. I thought Noom would be a great option for that, since it seems a little more gentle than, say, Weight Watchers.

What is Noom?

Ok, so first things first: what is Noom? Noom is, like a said, a weightloss app. But it’s design is not just like MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers. It targets the psychological aspects of weight gain and loss as well. Like I said, they divide foods into Green, Yellow, and Red. Basically, Green foods are foods that are nutrient dense, but not calorie dense. Everything in Noom is based on caloric density. Green foods are things like fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, leafy greens. Yellow foods are things like avocado and peanut butter; nutrient dense, but also kind of calorically dense. And Red foods, despite Noom’s insistence that no that’s not the case are the foods you expect: butter, oil, fast food, coffees.

But it’s more than just tracking food. I only signed up for a 2 week free trial (and spoiler alert, I did not spend the money for the first 3 months), but I still had access to the Goal Specialist you are assigned immediately. After a while, you’ll also be assigned a Group Coach, as well as a Support Team. That means within the app you have daily articles to read, quizzes to take, and more, as well as daily weigh ins, tracking your intake, and more. Plus, you’ll have support throughout the entire time.

In theory, this sounds like a great program. They set you up for success right from the beginning and just ask you to be more conscious of choosing nutrient dense foods. For me, that worked really well.

My Experience Using Noom

I’m an emotional eater. I know this. I know it! I also know that I love, love, love certain foods and viscerally hate others. I am a very picky eater. I don’t like most condiments. I don’t like anything mushy. I struggle with leafy greens because I find the texture really unpleasant in my mouth. In general, I’m just a picky eater. I am also extremely busy and very stressed. I have a 3-year-old, a full time job, and a lot going on in my life right now. When I originally started this review, my brother was about to get married—and if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that this was a huge stressful event in my life. Well, a lot happened both before and after the wedding; so much so that I had to put this review aside to deal with it and not use this review as a place to unload.

I’ll just say: my experience with Noom did not help my stress levels.

Like I said, I think Noom’s setup is absolutely great; the app is lovely and easy to use. I loved the daily articles about psychology. I loved the quizzes. The separating of food into color groups made sense, but I still found it a little triggering to see that Red column. There was one thing I had a huge problem with. It was my Goal Specialist.

I want to preface this, again, with this: I know 100% that my experience is based entirely on the fact that one person messed up and it ruined the entire app for me. I know that. And I know that if I had gotten any other Goal Specialist, who was more of a match to me, i probably would have spent the money on Noom Coach to keep going for 3 months. I know those things.

Ok, so, it’s time to talk about what happened.

The purpose of the Goal Specialist is to walk you through the goals you set up in Noom. My goal was to have a baby in 2019 and to get to a happier, healthier point, both physically and mentally. I won’t say the name of the Goal Specialist I was assigned; we’ll call her S. The thing about the Goal Specialist was that she only really sent me one message per day—and in fact, for the first 4 days of the program, I only got 1 message from her asking me to think about things I wanted to work on, then message her on Wednesday after I signed up. That was easy enough.

Here’s roughly what I sent:

“Hi S! I’ve been thinking about things I want to work on and I definitely think preparing ahead is going to be a big one. I feel like I’m busy all the time and end up grabbing whatever is easiest to eat once I get to work. I have a toddler and getting him out the door is my number one priority in the morning, alongside making sure my husband gets to work on time. I feel like I don’t really have the time or energy to really food prep, so ideas for grab-and-go items I can have ready would be amazing!”

I got a reply from S nearly 24 hours after I sent that. Almost always, if she messaged me in the morning and I replied immediately, it would be 24 hours before she replied again. I don’t know if this was part of the program, but it made communicating really difficult. I unfortunately didn’t save her response when I deleted and unsubscribed from the program and app, but this is roughly what she said:

Michelle, it sounds to me like you’re making a lot of excuses. We all have the same time in the day.”

Firstly, categorically, no, we don’t all have the same time in the day. I work 65+ hours a week adding up all my various jobs and responsibilities, on top of having a toddler, cooking and cleaning, caring for a large dog, and taking time for myself. I work out 4 days a week already. The subtle implication that I’m lazy made me see absolute red. This reply was not helpful and did not answer my question or request whatsoever; it didn’t help me get to my goals. It was demotivating and damaging.

My reply was absolute shock that she would say something like that to me. It was not a supportive comment to make to someone who was asking for very specific suggestions. I replied and told her that absolutely was not something I was ok with her saying and I would be requesting a new Goal Specialist. Which I did.

It took 4-5 days for them to assign me a new Goal Specialist.

In that time, S messaged me again and apologized, then again implied that I don’t grocery shop! So great, another snide comment about being lazy. Nice!

When I was assigned my new Goal Specialist, I was close to the end of my free trial. I tried having a conversation with my Goal Specialist about how I was struggling to remain motivated to use the app after S’s messages and, again, it always took nearly 24 hours to receive a reply. When I expressed concern about the program when it took so damn long for anyone to reply to me, the new Goal Specialist (we’ll call her A) simply apologized. Finally, I realized I was done; it wasn’t working for me, despite the fact that it had everything I really wanted in a weight loss app. I told A I wanted to cancel my subscription before the end of my free trial so that I would not be charged for 3 months.

It took two days for that to happen, but I wasn’t surprised by that.

Final Thoughts

I know that’s a lot to read. And trust me, it took me an embarrassing amount of hours to write it in a way that wasn’t just emotional.

As someone who is incredibly Type A and fears being seen as lazy, being called lazy was a huge trigger for me. (And again, I realize this is the action of one person, but it is one person who represents Noom.) It made me immediately not want to even open the app, let alone follow what it told me. If the representative thought I was just lazy and making excuses, then what did it matter? The things I struggle with—taking time for myself, taking a break from working, not having to be perfect all the time—are very real, and yet, I felt like my Goal Specialist had completely devalued the things I struggle with. She acted like they weren’t real and that hurt a lot.

I think part of this issue is this: i was assigned a Goal Specialist that was 1) much younger than me and 2) not a parent. I don’t mean this as a way to talk down to young people (she was maybe 22 or 23) or people who aren’t parents. But fundamentally, the life experience between a fresh-out-of-college Gen Z and a 30-year-old millennial is monumental. The same as between a non-parent and a parent. I definitely feel sometimes that young people and non-parents look at parents and think we are just being lazy in regards to what we eat and our activity levels. But it’s not true. We know it’s not true, but it’s impossible to fight a stereotype, ultimately.

And beyond just that life experience level, what does a Goal Specialist who has never been overweight, never had to rush a toddler into the car to get to drop off on top, never had to walk around with the evidence of pregnancy on their body forever, know about my life? About my experience in this body? About the invisible sacrifices I make both at home and at work daily? The ways in which I have to choose between my health and the health of my family? How can they help me when they think I’m just making excuses? If you read even a single article about working mothers, you know that we perform massive amounts of emotional labor and make sacrifices every day. (And when I say working mothers, I mean mothers who stay home too. Taking care of a home and raising children full time is work, they just aren’t being compensated.) What can a Goal Specialist expect to motivate me when they only see my inability to remember breakfast as being lazy? When they don’t see that in the time I forgot to grab a healthy breakfast, I dropped off a toddler who cried and wanted to stay with me, made sure my husband had breakfast and lunch for work, cleaned up the living room, got to work, arranged my schedule for the day, started working, and made sure coffee was made for the office?

We all have things we struggle with, of course. This isn’t unique to parenthood or motherhood. But I definitely felt that Noom was missing that crucial element of assigning Goal Specialists based on experience. It felt incredibly random and S just wasn’t a good fit for me. In fact, she set me back in terms of my mental health and it took a long time for me to be able to talk about it. I haven’t even told Danny about my experience on Noom.

So, to summarize, here are my thoughts:

  • Noom is, in theory, a great program.

  • There are still some major issues with the way Noom assigns Goal Specialists, as well as their system for tracking.

I found the entire experience really disappointing and, frankly, disconcerting. It’s the New Year and Noom advertisements are everywhere. if you see one and it sparks in you to try it, I hope this review helps you better weigh whether the cost is worth it.

Actually, You Don't Need a Summer Detox

Actually, You Don't Need a Summer Detox | Writing Between Pauses

The worst part of summer is not the sticky, hot weather that starts to get oppressive around, say, late August; it's not the sunburns, or bug bites, or having to work when the weather is absolutely splendid outside. No, the worst part of summer is the diet industry. 

If you read my blog, you know that I've struggled with body image for a long time. It's what made me stop taking outfit photos. And it's why I don't really photograph myself for this blog still. Trust me, I'd love to--but it's just not something I can do right at this moment. 

And you know what absolutely doesn't help? Summer and the rapid influx of blog posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts about doing a detox. More than 10 people I follow have mentioned their recent juice detox (ugh), or their extremely pared down diet that is little more than socially acceptable anorexia (double ugh). Having to mute everyone who mentions doing a summer detox is exhausting, so let me be the one to say: y'all, we don't need detoxes. 

If you have a functioning liver, you don't need to detox. Your organs do that for you. 

You also don't need to drink special tea to help you lose weight. And you also don't need appetite suppressant lollipops. 

That's right, Kim Kardashian, I'm talking to you. Instagram is often rife with diet culture, repeating absolutely false and quite frankly dangerous information. (Does anyone else get those awful weight loss accounts in their Explore section of Instagram? I swear, it's the worst part of the Instagram algorithm.) It's not just poor, misinformed Kim K whose doing it. She's in good company, of course. Every single one of her sisters (minus Kendall, bless) has posted a misguided ad for some kind of weight loss product. 

Khloe K
Kourtney Kardashian
Kylie Jenner

In case you don't know, Fit Tea (and Fit Coffee and Lyfe Tea) is a tea that acts as a laxative. That's all these products are: expensive, repackaged laxatives. Not only is it dangerous to take them as weight loss products (and not just for your dignity and outfit if you dare venture out of the house after drinking one), it's incredibly irresponsible. Laxatives are not a way to lose weight. They are a way to damage your body. Just like detoxes. 

Appetite suppressant lollipops aren't just meaningless marketing tactics (most likely, they're about as effective as eating a real lollipop); they're dangerous as well. Encouraging people to "eat a lollipop" to "suppress their appetite" presumably when they are actually hungry... is encouraging people to starve themselves. Plain and simple.

Just like these teas aren't designed to make you actively lose weight (but rather to become addicted to a mindset and product that benefits only the person who sells the tea), this isn't a lollipop designed to help curve overeating or boredom eating (two things that can be helped more effectively buy body positivity, rejecting diet culture, and intuitive eating); this is a lollipop that encourages you to starve yourself and not eat, period. But the truth is, it won't work; if you try to use it that way, you'll end up eating, which makes you feel ashamed of yourself; you'll buy more lollipops, you'll try hard. And now you're stuck in a negative binge-and-restrict diet culture induced cycle. This is the damage that ads like this cause. 

Summer detoxes are the same thing. Juice cleanses don't actually cleanse any part of you. They starve you. You'll lose weight, of course, because you aren't eating food or any fiber at all. You're just drinking empty calories, sugar, and water. This is dangerous. Your body needs food to survive. As long as you are in reasonably good health (and many people with chronic illnesses are not--and they deserve to love their bodies too), you don't need to detox yourself. If you do need to detox for a medical issue, that's something you discuss with your doctor--not with some charlatan who survives off of carrot juice on the internet. 

So as June approaches, remember: you don't need that detox. Even if your sister in law is doing one and won't stop posting about it on Instagram. Even if your friends are work mention that they want to start drinking smoothies for every meal. You don't need to detox. Your body is good enough, and beautiful enough, as it is, right at this very moment. 

Refresh Your Workout Wardrobe This Spring

spring work out clothes

My husband and I recently rejoined the gym. If you read my blog(s) (um, this one or the one before, or the one before that), you probably know that, until I got pregnant, I worked out nearly every day. At least 5 times a week for sure. I love working out, but once I had Forrest, it became really challenging. 

Going back to a gym routine lately has been so much fun. On the downside, however, all my work out clothes are from pre-pregnancy. Can you see where I'm going with this? 

It's a sad situation right now. Especially the sports bra situation. So let's look at some options for refreshing our spring workout wardrobes. 

1. Sports Bras

Sports bras are always a challenge. Hopefully I'm not alone in this. Everyone has a particular style they favor and a particular fit they like. I picked three different types: a very traditional sports bra (the Nike); a cute-almost-crop-top sports bra; and a high-backed sports bra with lower sides. All three are super cute and not super expensive. 

2. Tops

Athletic tops are one of those things that I believe are inherently a little scammy, right? You can wear just about any shirt to workout in, as long as you're comfortable. I prefer loose fitting tank tops, so I picked three cute ones for your enjoyment (I'm loving the World's Okayest Runner tank). In general, I buy my workout tops at Forever 21 or Target: wherever I can get some affordable that I'm totally ok getting covered in sweat. 

3. Leggings

Honestly, I could spent the rest of my life in athletic leggings and be absolutely fine. Also, if I ever become magically super wealthy, I will just buy hundreds of pairs of the best leggings I can find. I love them. My favorite workout leggings are from Aerie and they unfortunately don't make them anymore (grumble), but these "chill joggers" look super comfy for workouts and for lounge. If you're more a traditionalist, the black Nike workout pants are classic and the GAP leggings are perfect for late Spring/early Summer runs outside. 

How to Be More Active When You Don't Have Time

For an entire year after Forrest was born, I really struggled to get back into being active. When you feel like you don't have time, when you're always moving from one thing to the next, it can be hard to add "go for a walk" or "do an exercise video" to that. In the last three months, I've tried harder to be active: to take Forrest on walks, to not just sit on the couch. 

If you're busy in the same way I'm busy, and you're not willing to wake up at 4am ahead of your toddler (someday, Forrest will sleep in, right?), here are a few tips for trying to be more active. Here's the caveat of these tips: I'm not claiming you'll be able to work in a 2 hour work out. It won't be easy. But here's what I do. 

1. Get a Fitbit 

This is a daunting one for some people. But I love my Fitbit. I have a cheap, $50 Fitbit (it's the most simple version) and a hand-me-down Fitbit One. Both work just fine. You don't have to get the fanciest version for it to work, I promise. I mostly just need my steps. Here's the thing: I work a sedentary job, I have a toddler. I know it's going to take a while of practice for me to hit 10,000 steps a day. (For some people, who live in cities where walking everywhere is possible, this is nothing.) So my goal everyday is 5,000 and if I hit that, I feel pretty good. If I can hit 7,000, I feel like a champ. Set realistic goals for you and your Fitbit. 

2. Fit in what you can 

Ok, this is a big one for me. I used to love going to the gym every single day after work. I would spend an hour doing cardio and lifting weights. It kept me healthy, made me feel good, and improve my mood. But the truth is, I just don't have time to do that anymore. I've thought of ways to fit it in: going before work, leaving work earlier, going in the evening once Forrest is in bed. But I'm so exhausted by the end of the day. Instead, I try to go walking when the weather permits. Forrest and I will walk around the park, then play on the play structure. It's a nice little exercise and we get outside the house. On days where I'm home with Forrest, we go in the morning, and then usually play outside for a little while in the afternoon. 

3. Download workout apps. 

I have tons of work out apps. FitStar and Pump Up are two of my favorites. In the evening, I have about enough energy to clean the house and then for a 10-15 minute work out using one of these apps. It's not a huge time commitment, but it's enough to make me feel like I'm active. I like FitStar because it automatically syncs to my FitBit. However, I like Pump Up because you can generate work outs depending on what areas you want to target and whether to include cardio or not. So if nothing else, a quick work out using an app is doable, especially in the evening or early morning. 

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How Intuitive Eating Changed My Life

A few months ago, I started listening to a new podcast called Food Psych, hosted by Christy Harrison, a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor as well as a Registered Dietician Nutritionist. I had heard of intuitive eating before (although it hadn't been called that) through Geneen Roth's books, but I had never actually tried to put it into practice. 

I am nothing if not a victim of diet culture; I have been thinking about diets, and shaming myself for eating, for as long as I can remember. I still remember the vivid horror I felt, at 9 years old, that my thighs were bigger than my best friend's and how I needed to fix it immediately

For years, I've known that my eating behavior was not normal or healthy. I fixated on food at all times: worrying about it, wanting it, dreading it. I never really knew when I was hungry; I ate when I was expected to, then I ate out of stress, boredom, or feeling nothing. I read an article recently called Hunger Makes Me (that I highly, highly recommend) and I never identified more with a passage of writing than this one: 

I will rely on any other cue—the ease or difficulty of procuring food, the time of day, what other people are doing, the timing of my work and gym and social plans—before I’ll remember to look inward. Imagine being told that your biggest secret—your weirdest sexual fantasy, your most embarrassing faceplant, your favorite Nickelback song—was supposed to dictate your behavior, publicly, as many as three times a day.

When I started listening to Food Psych, something clicked inside of me. 

All these things we view as healthy--going low carb or no carb, posting on fitness Instagrams, taking diet advice from uneducated strangers on the internet, signing up for Weight Watchers--are killing us. Diets, I've since learned, only increase your chances of gaining weight. A study of diabetes patients found that the group that was instructed to diet actually ended up in worse health than the control group that maintained an "overweight" status. 

Here's the thing: weight doesn't determine your health. You're just as likely to get diabetes if you're fit and healthy as if you're overweight. If your reaction to reading that sentence is "No, I've learned diabetes is a fat person disease!", then congratulations, you got played by the diet industry. We are seeing just as high of numbers of diabetes diagnoses in fit, healthy people as overweight people, leading us to believe that diabetes is more genetic than we have previously believed. 

That's just one example. There are many. 

Beyond that, diet culture confuses us about what we feel: we eat what we've planned, when we're supposed to, versus eating what our body craves when it is actually hungry. When you get rid of "taboo foods," when you allow yourself to eat a cookie when you're hungry and want a cookie, but also allow yourself to eat a salad when you're hungry and your body craves a salad, then you are letting your body lead you. The arbitrary lines of "good" and "bad" foods cause us to obsess over them. 

This is all damaging behavior. I know it is, because I'm living it and it's damaging me, mentally and physically. 

I started reading a book called The Intuitive Eating Workbook (I'm still working through it, but will review it soon) that walks the reader through the 10 principles of intuitive eating. It's hard work and I won't pretend I'm perfect at it already. It's hard to get rid of everything I've ever known in terms of "healthy" food and "healthy" bodies. But opening myself up to body positivity and health at every size, I can only see my mental health improving. 

The hardest part of practicing intuitive eating is telling others around you to stop talking about their diets, to stop talking about dieting around you in general. I find (and really, have always found) that diet talk triggers my anxiety eating, but after starting to practice intuitive eating, it's even worse. The moment someone starts talking about never eating cookies again, or giving up cake or bread for life, I start to doubt what I'm doing. I start to wonder if maybe intuitive eating is wrong and all these diets are right. Certainly, all those fitness Instagrams seem happy...

The truth is though that I can't imagine a life where I permanently give up a bad food. I would never be happy never eating cake with my son or baking cookies with him just to eat the dough. That's just not a life worth living, nor is it sustainable--because eventually you'll be confronted by your "off limits" food. It's not a matter of having self-control. It's a matter of listening to your body and allowing yourself to eat. 

But I still struggle with telling others that I cannot listen to diet talk. I still struggle with confronting the beliefs other people still hold about diet culture (and who believe I should be actively dieting). I still struggle with health anxiety that I'm giving myself diabetes or going to die early for no reason. 

It all takes work. But I can tell you: intuitive eating, truly, changed my life. 

When Did Everyone Start Caring about Thigh Gaps?

I wrote this post in June 2013. While the thigh gap craze has definitely died down, it's still really relevant: there's always a new desirable trait (big butt and tiny waist, thigh gap, "hip bridge") and all of them are just as problematic as thigh gaps. There are hundreds of ways to feel bad about your body. It amazes me that we still find new and interesting ways to make women feel bad. 

A few weeks ago, I read a really interesting article that posed a really fascinating question: When did we all start caring about thigh gaps so much? And where did the obsession come from? 

If you use Tumblr, or Instagram, or Twitter, or any social media site actually, you've probably noticed an obsession with thigh gaps. The impressive Casey of PopPilates has several "get a thigh gap" videos. Pinterest is flooded with simple work out routines promising thigh gaps and thin thighs, as well as a reduction of love handles, an increase in the size of your butt, and to flatten your stomach so much it's like you've traded your internal organs for pure nothing. Tumblr is overrun with pictures of girls and their thigh gaps.

It's become an internet obsession. Let's be real, it's totally kind of creepy. I mean, do women really need another thing to nitpick our bodies about!? I'm already obsessed with the size and shape of my nose, my stomach, my chest, my arms, and my ankles. Please don't make me paranoid about the fact that my thighs touch, world. 

The article I read actually mentioned that it's confusing as to where the thigh gap obsession originated: obviously, there are roots in the pro-ana Tumblr community. Somehow, it spread to mainstream, to every day not-that-eating-disordered women thinking that having thighs that don't touch is the ultimate measure of a perfect body and perfect health. And then, of course, it spread into pornographic images, which makes its origins in pro-ana communities super weird. 

I've always followed a ton of fitness accounts on Instagram, another community that I would use the word "weird" for. The other day, though, I noticed most of these accounts frequently tagged photos with #thighgap. Um, excuse me? Aren't you supposed to be "healthy living bloggers"--and don't most humans know that a thigh gap is ultimately a measure of your body type (aka how wide your hips are, how your femurs are positions) and not your health? 

As a reminder, there are a few things we all should know. They are: 

  1. Having a thigh gap is not a measure of health. You can have a thigh gap and be overweight (yep!) -- it just depends on your body composition. You can have a thigh gap and be healthy. You can have a thigh gap and be very unhealthy. You can be very thin and not have a thigh gap. You can be not very thin at all and have a thigh gap. A thigh gap is primarily a measure in the width of your hips and your muscular structure. Seriously. 
  2. Losing weight to get a thigh gap is terrifying and if you're trying to lose weight to get a thigh gap, you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself what you're really doing. Time to confront some truths.  
  3. No amount of exercise is going to widen your hips. Coming from a wide-hipped lady, trust me, you don't want that to happen. 

The thing is, some human bodies just aren't meant to look a certain way. I'm never going to look like Giselle Bundchen in a bikini: I'm not that tall, that tan, or that slim-hipped. It's just a fact. Some bodies aren't every going to have thighs that don't touch. And that's totally okay

Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.
— J.K. Rowling

There are more important things in life than having a thigh gap. It's okay to want a body that is healthy and strong. It's not okay to try to manipulate your body into behaving a way that it just might not be able to. It's like a lactose intolerant person eating milk and cheese every day, even when it makes them sick, because they feel like "to be healthy" they need to eat milk and cheese!

Being healthy is about how you feel, throughout your day and about yourself. I've struggled for a long time with body image issues and I've spent my fair share of time in front of a mirror wondering why my belly isn't perfectly flat and why my butt is so dimpled. The fact is: that's just how my organs are arranged inside my body; that's just how my (female) body decides to store fat. There are things I can change and things that I can't. 

I've come to accept though that my body is a certain shape and I just have to work with it, not against it. It's easier to say that, of course; in reality, there are many days where I just want to hide away because I don't have a thigh gap, I haven't lost the weight I want. But when we start letting things like this--like thigh gaps and work outs and weighing our food--we start ignoring the things that really make us who we are. 

We're all more than bodies. We are bodies that create, and write, and love, and work. We can make pumpkin spice lattes and we can write novels. These bodies can hug a friend. 

What's more impressive? Dedicating yourself to passion, whether it's fitness, hiking, writing, scrapbooking, or whatever, or having a thigh gap? 

That's what I thought. 

Getting Over Body Obsession

I wrote recently about my struggles to stay body positive while also actively trying to lose weight. This is not an easy task for me and one that I work really hard at; I don't want my friends who are happy with their bodies to think I'm judging them simply because I am trying to lose weight. Remaining body positive, and supportive of everyone in my life, is incredibly important to me. 

But beyond that, there are things I need to work on that aren't just losing weight and body positivity. I've always had an unhealthy obsession with my body size, and monitoring my body size. I recently mentioned to a group of mom friends that I can remember my exact weight at every important event of my life: my wedding day, the day I got home from Idaho after graduating, the day I got engaged, the day I had Forrest. These are numbers taking up valuable space in my brain. A small part of me had held out hope that this was normal behavior, but I knew it actually wasn't. It's not normal, or healthy, to remember your weight on exact days, especially days dedicated to your own wedding or your first child. 

I cried every morning I had a doctor's appointment because I knew they would weigh me--and write that down on a little piece of paper, cruelly, without letting me defend it. I always wanted to put an asterisk on it. One that said, perhaps, I was thin once! I really was! I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted because I was so active! I work a sedentary job! I'm working on it! I wanted to argue with the computer system that classified me as a "high-risk pregnancy due to overweight status." I wanted to tell my doctor, every appointment, that I'm not, like, ok with my weight; I know I need to change. 

This is also not normal behavior. The actions of the medical community notwithstanding (there are some definite changes that need to be made regarding the treatment of weight issues and non-issues), it's not normal to obsess about how much you weigh when you're pregnant. 

I remember writing up a workout plan for myself postpartum. I remember anxiously imagining a time where I could restrict calories again. This is not only not super healthy, but really depressing to think about. 

It's hard to know that I have so many issues relating to my body and health. As I've written before, I know I'm dealing with body dysmorphia, but that doesn't really change the fact that when I go to the doctor, I get treated like none of my issues matter because, obviously, I just need to lose weight and they'll all magically go away. (This is one of the most annoying things about my medical treatment: I can guarantee you weight loss isn't going to fix at least 75% of my issues, but ok.) I know I want to lose weight for my health and my personal happiness--but I also know that, in some ways, I won't ever really be happy because you can't be happy when you're obsessed with your body. Period. End stop.

I posted on Twitter recently about all the fitness Instagrams I follow. A lot of them are people who have lost significant amounts of weight through IIFYM (If it fits your macros), a method of measuring food that focuses on macronutrients versus calories. I love following these accounts because I feel like IIFYM gives you a more realistic ability to follow meal plans, because you worry about nutrients instead of just calories. You go for nutrient dense foods and you'll feel fuller and be healthier. However, a significant portion of people who follow IIFYM tend to start going down this very strange path where they start eating a lot  of artificial foods (like that nasty Halo Top ice cream stuff or Arctic Ice) and weighing their food. Seeing a woman list that she ate 100 grams of onions, and only that much, is a whole new level of obsession.

It's very easy to go from one end of the spectrum to the other: being overweight and obsessed with your body to the point of hatred, then losing weight and becoming obsessed with staying that way. Perhaps so intensely obsessed that you start to do things like traveling with a food scale everywhere and weighing individual sandwich ingredients in a restaurant. It was six years ago that Marie Claire published this piece about healthy living bloggers--and how their meal plans are dangerous and unrealistic--and yet, we're still doing it. 

We live in a culture that is obsessed with bodies and body sizes--so it's easy for us to get obsessed as well. It's a cycle that difficult to break, but I believe it is possible: I believe it is possible to lose weight and be body positive, to lose weight and not become obsessed with staying thin, to be healthy and not weigh food. I believe these things are possible--I just need to work on doing them. 

Is it Possible to Lose Weight & Still Be Body Positive?

I've written before about how I had a (very elaborate) fantasy about how easy losing weight would be postpartum. I truly imagined that I would shrink down to nothing, due to my breastfeeding and activity and going walking 2 weeks postpartum! None of those things happened, hilariously enough. I did manage to give birth to a 6-pound baby and an impressive 6-pound placenta, and then managed to pee out about 10 additional pounds of water. 

Yes, water. For two weeks after Forrest was born, I would wake up just soaked in sweat. The horrible part was that, of course, I was barely sleeping, but I knew if I fell asleep for even an hour, I would wake up completely and totally soaked. That's what postpartum life is like: everything hurts and you start sweating out all the extra liquid you saved up over 9 months for your joints and body. And in my case, I had been VERY swollen. 

After that, things stopped. I didn't lose any more weight, mainly because I couldn't think about it. Alongside taking care of Forrest, pumping, and eating whatever I could to keep my milk supply up (cheesecake? Tried it), I didn't really care. Then, around 12 weeks postpartum, I cared. I suddenly, crushingly cared. 

I also still care. I told Danny the other day that I know I have pretty severe body dysmorphia issues and I'm never 100% confident that what I see in the mirror or in photos is what I actually look like. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I'm like, oh I'm not that big! It's not so bad! But then I'll see, say, a family photo and I'll think, I've transformed into a small whale. I am baby Beluga. Under the sea, where I should be. 

I have absolutely no idea which one is accurate. Am I huge? Am I chubby but otherwise normal looking? Am I slowly engulfing the planet? No idea

My body image issues aren't helped by the fact that I align myself, wholeheartedly, with body positivity. It's so easy for me to look at my mom friends and say, "You're gorgeous. Never change. You are the most beautiful woman on the planet." And of course, it's easy for them to say it in return. It's harder to say it to ourselves, to look in the mirror and say, "You look great, even if you're not [insert desired size here.]" 

I feel very torn with the idea of trying to be body positive, but also being aware that I desperately want to be a different size. It's all well and good to preach body positivity until I'm tearing myself down, privately and painfully, for being a size that, generally speaking, some people would kill to be. 

I've been losing weight recently (I have no idea how much and for the sake of my mental health, I don't actually weigh myself--but the people around me assure me that I do, indeed, look smaller) and wondering if losing weight negates all the body positivity work I've done in the past few years. 

It's difficult to think what changing my body says to other people. But, living as an overweight person the last two years, especially while pregnant, did a number on my self-esteem... not that my self-esteem was that great to begin with. The way people treat me, ignore me, act like I am taking up space that I'm not allowed is incredibly difficult to live with--and, of course, I want to change it.

I don't want to change my body just to please other people; but I do want to lose weight to be taken more seriously in my job. Plus, I just want to feel better about myself: I hate getting dressed, I hate taking pictures. I don't take pictures with Forrest simply because I know what I look like. That's hard to wrestle with. 

With all that being said, I hate that I've allowed myself to feel that I should change just because of how other people treat me (and how I perceive they see me.) I don't think anyone should lose weight or change their appearance to make other people happy. If it makes them happy, sure, go for it--but not other people. 

And even though I tell Danny that I just want to be able to wear the clothes I want, to be able to shop anywhere and feel confident and not like the sales associates can't wait to get me out of there, I also want to lose weight so people are nicer to me. I don't want to be called a fat ass while crossing the street anymore (a real thing that happened, yes.)

I also don't want to have a teenager point at me, during the middle of my next pregnancy, and say, "You think that's pregnant? That's just fat." (Yes, another real thing that happened.) I'm tired of being made to feel inconsequential because of others. I just want to be taken seriously.

I just want to be seen as the hard worker I am--and, by and large, most people see overweight people as stupid and lazy, a fact that could not be further from the truth for a vast majority of the population. 

I try my hardest, every day, to be body positive. I have lost friends over calling them out for negative comments, calling others "fat" (as a clear insult), or trying to make others feel bad about their bodies. I try to treat myself with love and kindness. It's hard to lose weight, but I don't want to lose my ability to treat all bodies positively in the process. 

That just means I have to work at it a little bit harder than everyone else.