The art of saying “no”

One of the most valuable skills that I’ve learnt throughout the dieting process is the art of saying “no”. By this, I don’t necessarily mean being able to say “no” when people offer me chocolate, sweets or junk food in general (although that has been an important part), but I mean mentally saying “no” to any suggestion that my brain comes up with to try to sabotage my resilience. It also means the hundreds and millions of times that I have had to, over the past 4 months, say “no” to all the junk food pushed at me every time I go near a checkout of any supermarket or cornershop, or the vending machine in my office that offers exclusively high sugar, high fat options.

Initially, I found this incredibly hard. As someone that has spent most of my adult life overweight, I had developed a strong sense of entitlement for all of life’s bad things, in what I considered to be the pursuit of being happy. I had also developed a pretty strong reward muscle, which convinced me that I deserved a treat in almost any occasion and in whatever form that took; an extra glass (or bottle) of wine, gorging myself on crisps or chocolate, or relaxing in front of the TV instead of getting my body moving in the way that nature intended. This was exacerbated in part by close friends and colleagues who have the sort of composition that means that they can say “yes” to bad things regularly, without it having any sort of material impact on their waistlines. To those people, I salute you.

However, since embarking on this journey, I’ve learnt a few important things. First and foremost is that your body on the outside is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how healthy you are on the inside. I have, since developing an interest in weight loss, discovered that many of the health complications related to gluttony and having a sedentary lifestyle, such as type II diabetes, heart disease or various other metabolic diseases, do not necessarily present outwardly in the form of fat. Therefore, my resentment of those people was unfounded, because, although it would be nice to be thinner naturally, my obesity gave me a clear marker that there was something wrong that I needed to change, and perhaps if I had been naturally thin, I wouldn’t have discovered this until later in life when it was too late. Second is that, in the same way that me and my body have had to make peace with the fact that we’re not going to be an astronaut or an Olympic athlete, there is strength that can be gained from accepting your limitations. I have had to learn that, although some people can eat what they want, exercise little and look fantastic all the time, that is not my situation and never will be. And to be honest, thank the lord for that, because through my decision to take control of my weight, I’ve discovered the joy of exercise and of being comfortably full, and the impact of this on both my mental and physical health. Third, I have noticed how, and I can only really speak for the UK, the odds are largely stacked against anyone that strives to improve their well-being. By this I mean that every time you go to the supermarket and have chocolate and sweets rammed into your line of sight; every time that you go to a restaurant and they ask you if you’d like chips with your food; and every time you see an advert on the TV encouraging you to try garbage foods that will do you no good, you are mentally having to say “no”. And it’s no wonder that so many of us fail; frankly, it’s incessant. Fourth and finally, there’s absolutely no way to embark on a diet without feeling like you’re not fun anymore. Having to say “no” to friends offers of going to that amazing burger restaurant, to sharing a bottle of wine when you know that it’ll have a negative impact on the scales that week, or to getting drunk with your colleagues instead of going to the gym never feels like something a fun person would do. Added to this is the uncomfortable feeling of having to ask, when a friend kindly offers to make you dinner, if they could make it a lower-calorie option. I certainly have had to battle with the feeling of being an annoyance or being boring throughout this whole process, and some days it strikes harder than others.

But there’s an upside I promise. It’s only through this process that I’ve realised that learning how to say “no” has led to a whole new set of yeses that I have never been able to say before. These include saying “yes” when I ask myself if am I happy; saying “yes” when I ask myself if I’m in control; and, most importantly, saying “yes” when I ask myself whether I think how I look on the outside is an accurate reflection of the person that I feel I am on the inside. It’s an empowering and enduring feeling, and to be honest, far outweighs the temporary disappointment that any of these nos produce. And to anyone that is struggling with it, aside from locking yourself in a dark room with no stimulation, I’d advise being open and honest with those closest to you about how important your goals are to you so that they can help to create an easier environment for you, and trying to start light with saying “no” to little things, like an afternoon snack you don’t need or the biscuit your colleague has brought back from Italy. Before you know it you’ll be shouting at the waiter for asking if you want that extra side of onion rings: “NO I DON’T THANK YOU AND MAYBE YOU SHOULD RE-EVALUATE YOUR LIFE“. OK, maybe don’t do the last thing, but do say “no”, and trust me, next time you step on the scales, you’ll say “YESSSSSS“.

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