I have lost weight. Please stop pointing it out.

I have lost a lot of weight and people have noticed.

So the question I have been getting asked A LOT is, "What are you doing?" And that question is usually followed by a comment about how the question asker feels they need to lose some weight too. And to be honest, I hate how my weight loss makes others feel insecure about their own bodies.

I don't like hearing negative self-talk. Especially when the most honest answer I can give to the "what am I doing" question is that I am changing my negative self-talk into loving self-talk. But I don't think that is the answer that people want to hear. I think people are looking for the name of some new diet I am on. Also I think they are secretly hoping it doesn't involve exercise because who has time for that?!

This conversation has been coming up a lot for me recently and it makes me uncomfortable. And my sense of uneasiness came as quite a surprise to me because I usually thrive on praise from people for my accomplishments. I love hearing how people enjoyed an event I planned or think a graphic I designed looks professional. (Sure it may sound a little prideful, but it is the truth.) But now when so many compliments are being directed at me about the way I look, I don't want to hear them. The one exception is for my husband. Bariki, if you are reading this, keep those comments coming!

I understand when people comment and question me about my weight loss. I understand it is meant to be a compliment and comes from a good place in their hearts. But we live in a world where the worth of a woman seems to be directly linked to her body shape. This is a part of our culture that I don't particularly want to be perpetuating. But I worry that my weight loss is doing just that. Especially because I work with kids and teenagers for a living, I want to be a better example.

We are told to hate the way we look. We are told stories over and over again about people hating themselves and then they finally lose a bunch of weight and they feel so happy and are able to enjoy life again! Well guess what, that is not my story. I have had issues with my weight, body shape, and not liking myself since elementary school. I was the chubby friend in my group. Once a few girls I hung out with decided to ditch me so they hopped on their bikes and took off. I couldn't keep up with them. A chase ensued throughout the neighborhood until I gave up and rode my bike home. That is the earliest memory I have of hating my body and eating food for comfort.

Well guess what, after I started losing weight that didn't go away. I still had major issues with negative self talk and emotional eating. I started my weight loss with diet and exercise, you know the way everyone thinks you should. But then I stopped losing weight. There were times I would be stressed or upset and turn to food for comfort and then feel guilty and scold myself for eating food I shouldn't. It wasn't enjoyable at all.

I LOVE FOOD! And guess what, every tip and trick out there to lose weight takes most of the enjoyment out of eating food. And when I finally would put food in my mouth that I usually could enjoy, I wouldn't because the food police in my head was spouting off about all of the food rules that I was breaking. I blamed the fact that I didn't have enough will power to tell myself "no" when my body was craving bread. So yep, I kept heaping on the guilt of more personal failure. The emotional roller coaster that came with the dieting was worse than I was experiencing before.

The hope is that if we can just have enough will power to get through a few months of a diet that we will be skinnier and happier at our new lower weight. Well guess what... WRONG! The biology of our bodies actually changes when we diet and most people gain back all the weight they lose and then some. Many scientific studies have proven this to be the case.

So there I was, the scale said I was lighter, but I was feeling worse than before. Then I stumbled upon this thing called "mindful eating" through a TED Talk. (watch it here, totally worth your time). I realized the biggest thing I needed to do was change my relationship with food and with my body.

So let's not talk about how much weight I lost. Let's talk about changing our diet obsessed culture. Let's talk about teaching ourselves and our young people how to have a healthy relationship with food. Let's talk about loving our bodies the way they are today so we can be healthier tomorrow.

My goal isn't to lose weight anymore or achieve a photo-shopped version of the ideal female body. That isn't realistic and it won't make me happy. My goal is to be healthy for myself and for my family.

And I feel called to help others do the same. I am starting on a new adventure to share what I am putting into practice with you all to help you transform your relationship with food and your body. Stay tuned while this adventure unfolds!

And always, thanks for the support.

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Health Coach Ruthie

Ruthie Mhanga loves to encourage others in finding joy in life! Ruthie finds joy in being a wife, mother, sister, and daughter. After concerns during her second pregnancy were discovered with her weight gain, Ruthie knew she had to do something about her destructive relationship with food and binge eating (especially doughnuts...). She has found freedom from food with the skill of mindful eating and hopes to encourage others that making peace with food is possible!

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