Out of the chub that covers me
Though soft I sit from pole to pole
I thank forever the Lord that Be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the sweet clutch of circumstance
I have not pinched nor snacked around
Under the bludgeoning of chocolate chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of fat and fears
Looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of these years
Finds, and shall find me, unweighed.
It matters not how great the plate
How charged with condiments the roll
I am the Master of my fate
I am the captain of my…stomach.
I first mangled William Henley’s Invictus six years ago, and I was then, as now, trying to lose weight. I wasn’t dieting, but I was exercising and trying to eat according to the Sunnah, which, on a side note, is possibly the only weight loss plan endorsed by God Himself. SubhanAllah. 🙂 Fast forward six years, and I’m not trying to lose weight so much as I am trying to try to lose weight.
To say that I’m trying to lose weight implies that I am actively doing something about my weight. I’m only trying to try, which means I forget I’m supposed to be trying, have a second helping of Thai green curry and then later remember that I wasn’t supposed to be filling my stomach. And then I feel sad, so I have a cookie. I’m not joking. I’m struggling here, and like many other young mothers, the only proof I have of a previous life and waist-size are some pre-marriage abayas lovingly kept and impossible to wear except as righteous-looking wetsuits. With matching sheilas.
And I’m typing this as a much, much needed reminder to myself, because I will be turning 30 in five months, and while there’s no magic to the number, there is the fact that my health as a human being isn’t going to automatically improve or maintain itself. I’m not old, but I’m not getting any younger, and the older I get, the harder it will be to get into shape. Besides, the excuse that you’re only carrying a little post-baby weight only works when you actually have a baby. Iman is no longer a baby, she’s an all-singing, all-dancing, hair-pulling, toe-biting, cookie-stealing two-year old. With whipped cream and a cherry on top.
So it’s time for me to dust off the old resolve, and bolster it with some imperative and structure it with some best practices. Here I go.
I resolve to lose weight, InshaAllah. I have done it before, and with Allah’s Grace I will do it again. I once lost 50 pounds with the same- God’s help, eating according to the Sunnah, and exercise. The exercise wasn’t very intense, and it was secondary to controlling my stomach. So how does one eat according to the Sunnah?
“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” –The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, recorded by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih.
It took me almost two years to master eating according to the Sunnah, and it was one of the hardest battles I had ever fought against myself. Once I finally did it though, I can testify- it feels amazing. Eating according to the Sunnah does not mean that you go hungry, it means that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are satiated, not full. Being satiated means that the need to eat has passed, though the desire may still exist. The need is a function of how empty your stomach is, but the want being a function of how good the food tastes.
The funny thing about eating this way is that in a few hours, you’ll get hungry. Surprise! If you’re eating to satiation, and not fullness, this is natural. So eat again just until you’re satiated, and life goes on. And gradually, your stomach shrinks, you start to feel light and energized, and you can enjoy a meal without having a belly-ache afterwards. The weight begins to fall off by itself- no dieting, no counting calories, no carbs this or protein that. You are consuming enough calories to fuel your body’s basic needs without putting excessive amounts into storage (fat). And you have mastered one of the most overpowering urges that humans can experience- the desire to overeat.
Of course, you do need to exercise common sense- don’t fill a third of your stomach with bon-bons. Don’t drink a third’s worth of grape soda. Eat normal food, drink water, and remember that you are in control of your body. You’re in charge, not the stomach!
When you start losing weight, and passing by mirrors and thinking things like- hey, that doesn’t look half bad! Then you’ll probably want to accelerate the melting process. That’s where moderate exercise comes in. Do something, anything aerobic for fifteen minutes a day. Take a walk around the block. Run up and down your stairs, get on a bike- just do something, anything, to get your blood pumping and your muscles moving.
Weight loss is, simply speaking, a matter of math.
One pound of human fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. In order to lose one pound a week, you need to decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. And yeah, you could starve yourself briefly, creating miserably sudden weight loss, but there’s a good chance you would cut into muscle mass, mess with your metabolism, and then fall face-first into a gallon of ice cream once you had reached your goal, thus, undoing all your hard work.
Dieting NEVER works, because dieting is a reduction of calorie input that is generally a) drastic, and b) unsustainable, and therefore temporary. Temporary changes in eating habits only yield temporary results, because the underlying problem (consumption of excess calories) has not been addressed. Once you go back to your old habits, you inevitably go back to your old weight.
Eating according to the Sunnah is different, because a) you are never hungry, only satiated and b) it is a permanent shift. It is a change in how you perceive food, eating, and the purpose of your stomach. It’s a fuel tank, not a bean bag.
So here I go. And to keep myself honest, I’m going to blog updates. If X is my starting weight (and no, don’t ask me what X is) then the goal is X-20. I’ll weigh myself tomorrow morning, and I have five months to lose 20 pounds. I was going to say 30, but with my grinding, groaning right knee and a move to Dubai coming up soon, I need to keep my goals reasonable. Make dua for me, ladies. (Brothers are exempt for praying for my weight loss, thank you) I’m going to need it!