“Why is this so hard? I don’t think my grandma ever had to try to lose weight! And if she did, I’m pretty sure she didn’t have to count calories.”
I’ve heard this from more than one client. It’s a common train of thought. Because losing weight, or thinking about losing weight, or trying to lose weight, or being worried about gaining weight…is so common in today’s culture.
But did Grandma have to think about losing weight when she was your age? Let’s break this down:
Grandma did not have Instagram showing her what body type she should strive for. However, fashion magazines and various other print media in her day fulfilled the same purpose. Maybe those pictures didn’t bother Grandma, but they were certainly touted as the “ideal” body type. This “ideal” changed by the decade, but whether the ideal was curvy or scrawny, there was always someone telling women what shape they “should” be.
You might not have heard your grandma talk about weight loss…but by the time you were old enough to be aware of adult topics, she may have been past the age where she cared so much.
Grandma tolerated a few extra pounds at an earlier age than we do today. Our anti-aging culture tells us that the middle age spread is not acceptable, and that we just need to work harder and diet harder as our metabolism slows down. Does this mean I think you should give up on weight loss? No, of course not…but do you need to adjust your standards?
Grandma WAS smaller than you. She was most likely shorter, and probably also weighed less than you do at the same age, even if you take the height difference into account. The average female waist size in 1950 was 25 inches. Today, it’s 34 inches.
Grandma was probably more active than you are. Technology advances (digital and otherwise) have made our lives easier. But those modern conveniences come at a price, because they make it possible for us to move around less. We’re more sedentary than Grandma was in her day.
Grandma rarely ate out. Restaurant meals are notoriously higher in calories than homecooked meals. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional meal out, but if you regularly dine out instead of eating in, you’ll almost certainly add pounds to your figure over the years.
Grandma ate less than you do. Portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years, so that larger portions are the new normal.
Grandma ate less junk food than you do. Some processed foods were available, depending on the decade, so I’m sure she consumed them occasionally…but not nearly on the scale that most Americans do today. Many processed foods are specifically engineered to provide a dopamine hit…and when that hit is gone, you crave another hit. If you’ve ever said you’re going to just have one handful of Doritos, and a half hour later you’re staring at the bottom of the bag…you know what I’m talking about.
Grandma had fewer food options than you do. Today’s food culture offers us so many choices that sometimes it’s overwhelming! Studies show that the quantity of food consumed in one meal is directly related to how many options are offered. If Grandma tried something and didn’t care for it, she might not have had a different flavor option to try next time. Further, decision fatigue is a real thing, so if you’ve reached for the healthier choice all day, your brain will be tired at night, so you’re more likely to make a less healthy choice. Particularly during the Depression, but also at other times, Grandma probably only had one choice…eat what’s available or don’t eat at all.
So, did Grandma ever go on a diet? Did Grandma ever **need** to go on a diet? Did Grandma try to lose weight and it just happened more easily than it does today? Of course, I’m using “Grandma” to represent a large group of women…so whether or not Grandma struggled with weight loss depended on the decade she came of age, her genetics, and her food environment while growing up. But there’s certainly a lot to consider here, and a lot that we can apply to our generally obese, diet-obsessed culture today.
I don’t make any of the above points to criticize you or your food choices. Grandma had many environmental and cultural advantages when it came to maintaining a healthy weight. Some of these factors are out of our control (for example, the vast array of cheap, easy-to-obtain junk food). But complaining about what you can’t control doesn’t solve anything. Instead, consider what you CAN control. Take some of these points as action items to make weight loss easier. Not effortless, but easier. Reduce your portion sizes, eat out less, be conscious of your activity.
Commit to making some small changes to your daily routine, and you’ll be amazed at the results.