What’s been your experience with previous attempts at losing weight?
Yes, I started on the road to fat loss and fitness, and ultimately health and happiness on shaky ground at the tender age of 15. I had a lot of self-esteem based “must be skinny to feel beautiful” motives. I tried every diet plan and pill I could get my hands on. I eventually met a trainer that taught me how to count calories and create strict meal plans based on protein to carb to fat ratios. It worked. I lost weight and hit my goal. It was validating. I felt a rush of happiness and a feeling of worthiness when I saw pictures of myself, but there was another feeling creeping behind the satisfaction. It was fear. I was scared of venturing off of my strict plan. I was scared of navigating happy hours with friends or office birthday cake parties, which I had been avoiding while on my strict plan. I felt deprived and yet still hadn’t worked myself out of binge behaviors. I couldn’t trust myself around the samples in the bakery section at Whole Foods or what would happen if I accepted a plate of cake and ice cream at a Sunday barbecue. I knew a large piece of the puzzle was still missing. I’d gotten to my goal, but I had no idea how to transition from super-strict-program mode into a mode that felt sustainable for the long-term.
For the next year or so, I struggled. My weight went back up and then down and then up. I had a weird relationship with foods like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and fruit because I was afraid they were going to make me fat. But I continued to seek out the answer to how to find this balance; how to build a life around what one of my mentors-from-afar, Danielle LaPorte, calls “Goals with Soul” rather than chasing a number on the scale. And eventually I got the hang of it. I lost weight without dieting. I found a fitness routine that I truly enjoy. I learned how to incorporate more feminine practices into my very masculine routine. And I found MY balance. It was tough at the time because I didn’t have any guidance. I was doing it on my own through trial and error. I look back now though and can appreciate that time of challenge and self-discovery. Each challenge was a step forward on the bridge that led me to where I am today—healthy, happy, and whole.
Why do you think you gained the weight initially? What were some of the factors you feel contributed to it?
I think I gained weight initially because of my warped, confused relationship with food. I didn’t know what it meant to eat healthy. I followed what mainstream media and marketing told me to do, which was basically to eat fat-free and low-fat foods. At the time, that meant packaged foods to me. I also didn’t understand the difference between a diet and a long-term eating plan. So I would yo-yo back and forth between being on a diet and then off, hating myself every time I fell off the diet wagon, which perpetuated the cycle. I didn’t know how to create or seek out meals that were nourishing to my body AND satisfying to my taste buds. And I often ate to fill a void. I turned to food for comfort instead of tuning in and healing the pain at the root of what was causing me to use food to feel good.
How do you think your emotions played a part in your weight story?
They were a huge factor. I tell my clients that the emotional side of the equation is the often overlooked, underestimated key to weight loss and long-term maintenance of a lean, healthy physique. My relationship with food and with my body was a big source of stress for me. Stress affects your body and specifically your nervous system. Even if you eat the healthiest food in the world, if you dislike it, your body registers that icky emotion as stress. When you’re stressed, your nervous system goes into fight or flight mode, shutting down all unnecessary to survival bodily functions (ahem… digestion and metabolism being at the top of list) and your body can’t break the food down properly. The more you can bring positive emotions into your body, the more you help it to function at optimal levels.
Your nervous system functions on two different levels—sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flight” response, is characterized by quickened breath, pulse, and heart rate, cued by the rapid release of the stress hormone.When you operate in this state on a regular basis, your system gets all out of whack—your hormones are erratic, your metabolism slows, you don’t sleep well, and you have major mood swings. This is the state of being that causes not only weight gain, but also disease. The parasympathetic nervous system, or “tend or befriend” response, is where you want to spend the majority of your time. This state is characterized by slow heart rate, calm, deep breathing, circulation to the organs in the core of the body, and feel-good hormones like oxytocin, nicknamed the “love hormone” flood through you.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is active, your body as a system is in a state of equilibrium and relaxation. Any action that brings you a feeling of joy helps to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, and as a result, the release of oxytocin in the brain. So when you think good thoughts about your body, your life, and you emotionally feel good, you trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. When you think about how you feel guilty for not working out or for what you’ve eaten or the million things on your to-do list for the day, you trigger the sympathetic nervous system, triggering a stress response in the body.
When did you notice you were losing weight? What else was changing in your life?
This last time that the weight loss stuck for the long-term I started noticing when my pants felt looser and by how my body looked in the mirror when I’d get out of the shower. It was small changes that added up over time and I’ve been able to maintain my leanest physique and body weight since maybe… grade school? No joke. Adding in the emotional work is what changed. I started being nicer to myself. Treating myself with more kindness. I started eating foods that were nourishing to my body, felt good when I ate them, and were satisfying to my taste buds (meaning they tasted great too) because I wanted to take good care of this amazing body that I have been gifted with rather than to try to get to a certain number on the scale. I started practicing a more relaxed 80/20 when it comes to food, meaning 80% whole foods and 20% non-whole foods (packaged, bottled, etc). Please understand, this is a figure of speech. I don’t actually calculate percentages of food, factoring in every morsel to figure out if it’s a part of the 80 or the 20. I mostly eat whole foods. I sometimes don’t I also started listening to my body more. When it asked for rest, I gave it rest. I changed my workouts so that I was moving my body in ways that felt good rather than doing workouts that I hated because I thought they would give me the results I was chasing after.
Since you didn’t follow a diet, were there any other intentional behaviors or habits that you felt helped you with losing weight?
Adding in more self-care was a biggie for me. Being an entrepreneur, I am my own boss, which takes a lot of discipline. During the day, I am mostly in my masculine energy, leading and directing, crossing things off the to-do list, taking lots of action and getting sh*t done.
I had to consciously schedule in time to allow myself to be in more of a receiving, self-care (feminine energy) mode. As women, this is so important to our mental and physical health. We need that me-time, however that looks for each of us individually. For me, it’s taking a bubble bath, getting a monthly massage, doing more feminine forms of moving my body like dancing or yoga, shopping or even window shopping, or writing in my journal.
Another practice that I think was crucial to my success was looking into the mirror into my own eyes for a few minutes and genuinely “seeing” myself. I’d look into my eyes and feel love for the person I saw staring back. Love for me. Eventually I got to the point were I could actually say the words “I love you” to myself too and mean it.
Were there any “bad habits” you needed to break? How did you change your behavior?
Pssshh, yea, tons! The first one on the list being my pack-o-day sugar-free Orbit gum habit. I thought I had all kinds of digestive issues because by the time I got home at night my stomach would be so bloated I looked 4 months pregnant. I quit the gum, adding in some good probiotics and (over time) lots more veggies and these days my digestion is a-okay!
Are you satisfied with your current weight? How long have you maintained your weight loss?
100% yes. And that feels so good to say. I’ve maintained it without much attention for roughly the past 5 years.
Looking back on your experience, what did you learn about yourself?
It’s time to stop denying yourself the amazing life that you have right now. I went on for years beating myself up over the way I looked and felt in my body. I deprived myself of the joy I could be having each day by looking in the mirror and only seeing what I wanted to change. I only saw what made me not good enough. What kind of way is that to live? You are already perfect. Life is about evolution and you will continue to evolve and change. When you love and accept yourself first, the changes that you make will always be positive. You will always be moving forward. When you’re working toward Goals with Soul, there’s no backward steps, only forward motion.
About Sheila Viers:
Healthy living advocate Sheila Viers is the CEO of the premium gym bag brand, Live Well 360, and creator of the ROCK Your Dream Body program. Renowned for her practical and intuitive self-love philosophy, Sheila’s journey began a decade ago when she decided it was time to end her struggle with emotional eating and self-sabotage for good. After years of yo-yo dieting, over-exercising, and issues ranging from food sensitivities to hormonal problems, she learned how to get out of “body jail,” lost 35 pounds, and now teaches women how to create this freedom and ease in their own lives.
Today Sheila’s passion is to help women feel amazing in their skin along the way to the greater vision that they see for themselves. Her vision extends far beyond weight loss and her unique ability to inspire women to step into their potential, by ROCKIN’ their dream body and in turn, their dream life, is catching fire. Sheila believes that together, women can change how we view ourselves and each other so that we can embrace our perfectly imperfectness, shine our light, and allow ourselves to experience the love and happiness that we all crave and deserve.
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