Alright, so of course I want to be beautiful; What woman wouldn't? For years I've fretted over how great it would be to be thin and pretty and have a bikini body. Four kids later and tons of stretch marks, that's never going to happen, and the truth is that I'd given up on the idea of becoming beautiful. Age goes forward and not backward and I'm not the woman I used to be.

Most of my life, people have been telling me that I'm fat or that I'm ugly. It's what happens when you start puberty at the tender age of eight years old and grow boobs before all of your classmates do.

I'll save the story of how I gained the weight for later, because this isn't about me so much as it's about why you should, as I have, consider letting go of weight loss as your primary goal and make health your number one priority.

5 Reasons that Healthy Diet and Fitness aren't about Beauty

We all have our own reasons for deciding that we want to lose weight, but for me, it took a health scare to get me actually focused on dropping the pounds. I care about what I look like, but over the years have convinced myself that my appearance doesn't matter. Moreover, I convinced myself that I couldn't feel any better because of previous bad choices that I'd made.

I was stuck, and literally eating myself to death. Before March of 2015, I didn't care that my lifestyle was killing me. Wanting to feel pretty wasn't going to fix my problems. Wanting to feel healthy was.

After all, you can be beautiful at any weight.

I've been considering the reasons why, for me, weight loss isn't about beauty, and I wanted to share them with you because I know these are things that some people don't think about when it comes to weight loss.

5 Reasons that Eating Right is about More than Beauty

1. Less Pain

When you're experiencing chronic pain, sometimes it becomes so common to be in pain that you forget that pain is the body's signal that there's something wrong!

For many years -- since shortly after I first entered puberty -- I've had chronic stomach pain. Doctors have diagnosed a variety of problems and given me drugs to treat the symptoms, but I had resigned myself to spending my life feeling slow, sluggish, and generally like crap.

My stomach wasn't the only part of my body that hurt, but it was the part of me that most regularly kept me from engaging in my own life for a long time (now it's my hips and sciatica).

It also turned out to be the easiest fix. I reduced the amount of fat in my diet by more than two thirds and no longer experience nightly heartburn, have drastically reduced gall bladder issues without surgery (not something I'd recommend: Talk to your doctor!) and rarely feel nauseated, gassy, or crampy. Even my menstrual cramps have dissipated!

Thanks to drinking more water, my head and knees hurt less frequently as well. Eating well and working toward a healthier lifestyle will help to reduce the amount of chronic pain that you experience as you become more healthy -- in many cases regardless of what your weight is.

2. Reduced Anxiety

I have post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety is a part of everyday life for me, with some triggers setting me off more than others. Since changing my diet (and adding music to my life), I've seen an improvement in my anxiety levels, likely due to hormone balancing.

This will no doubt improve more when I become more active as well and begin to go for daily walks. Exercise releases endorphins, which affect mood.

Diet can have a dramatic effect on the mood. Nutritional health may be closely related to mental health and eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly all contribute to improved mental health.

I cannot, unfortunately, say the same thing for depression, as I continue to struggle with depression on a regular basis. 

3. Less Illness

The healthier I become, the healthier I stay.

This sounds obvious, I realize, but you have to think about it. Good nutrition leads to increased benefits to health, including an improved immune system. This season, everybody in my household has been sick at one point or another -- except for me. I don't have as many allergic reactions as I did in the past, I haven't had a cold or the flu, and I feel better in a general sense as well.

As someone who isn't comfortable with the ingredient lists for common vaccines, allow me to assure you that I am not vaccinated against the flu, but since changing my diet, several illnesses have gone around my family which I have not picked up.

In addition, I have fewer allergy symptoms than I did in the past. Good nutrition improves the immune system.

4. The Better I Eat, the Better I Move

I've been having problems with mobility. It's embarrassing to admit to it, because I'm the one who allowed myself to gain this much weight and then stayed on my rear end instead of getting up to move around more than I do, but it's something that I've come to accept.

Weight loss obviously has an effect on how well I move, because there's less strain on my joints. I'm on my way toward 50 pounds of weight loss, and that is significant. My joints are already feeling the benefits.

However, in addition to taking pressure off of the joints, good nutrition has helped to strengthen them. 

Better nutrition also translates to more energy thanks to B-Vitamins. Moreover, I go to bed earlier (around 8 in the evening) and get up earlier (around 4:30 in the morning). This pattern has worked wonders on my ability to get up and get moving, where in the past it was difficult to drag me out of my seat.

In the future, I'm going to be committing to more motion -- starting December 1st, I'll be getting up and getting active in new ways. I hope you'll join me!

5. The Better I Eat, the Less Money I Spend

There are those who will disagree with me about this (including my husband!) but the better the quality of the food I eat, the more that I crave the higher quality food, and the less money I want to spend on things like fast food and eating out.

Admittedly, I have a minor addiction to eating out (and I don't use the word "addiction" lightly). I like to think that I have good habits regarding food choices, but that's not always true, either.

Anyway, my point is that the better I eat, the more foods I am willing to try, the more foods that I'm willing to try, the more foods that I like, an the more foods that I like, the better I eat while preparing food simply at home.

(I particularly love fish.)

This is even true when purchasing organic foods, because they still cost less than paying somebody else to cook junk for you!

5 reasons eating right isn't just about beauty
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Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I feel like, all in all, I did a good job with my food choices for the day. It was Thanksgiving, so I figured that I'd sample a little bit of everything, in moderation, and keep the portion sizes small instead of frustrating myself by sitting at the table with a salad while everybody else ate normally.

It's not that I don't love salads, because I crave salads the way that some people crave cake or pie, but there's so much social pressure to eat a lot at the holidays.

I don't know about you, but my Facebook feed is pretty full of people talking about how stuffed they were after the holiday was over. 

When did gluttony become so socially acceptable? And why is it that, at the holidays, gluttony is expected of celebrants? 

I couldn't opt out: This was the first Thanksgiving that I got to really spend with my family in the past twelve years. I've been doing well with eating right, though, and even if I've not been getting as much exercise as I should, I've still managed to drop 40 lbs (and counting). 

It's difficult to avoid gaining weight at the holidays due to the enormity of the holiday feasts.
The spread is always so tempting, and it's hard not to overeat at a feast!
My strategy was to take a little bit of everything on the table. My sister is an amazing cook, and she was the one who hosted Thanksgiving dinner (at our parents' house). I've never tried anything she's cooked that I didn't like. This was going to be a challenge, in particular, because of my mother's Death by Potatoes and my husband's creamed potatoes (his own mother's recipe). 

I'm on a low-fat diet because of gallstones and pancreatic issues, so I knew I had to be particularly careful with any and all dishes that included high-fat ingredients. I elected for a small portion of white-meat turkey, one spoon of stuffing, one spoon of my sister's amazing sweet potatoes, and two scoops of my husband's creamed potatoes. (In the picture below, I had also included my mother's Death by Potatoes, but too much came off on the spoon and I didn't ear nearly all of what was there).

I stopped when I was no longer hungry. This is getting easier for me just in the past month or so, because my brain is sending the body signals when I've had enough to eat.

Unlike some people, I hate the feeling of being full, but often it comes only after I've gone too far. The key, I've found, is to slow down when eating.

This was my Thanksgiving Plate. I didn't finish it and I didn't go back for more!
This was my thanksgiving plate. I didn't finish all of it, and I didn't go back for more. 
I'm not an expert at this -- yet -- but I started this blog so that I could share with other people what my process is and how I'm doing all of it. It's going to take a long time for me to reach my goal weight (after all, it's about 170 more pounds to lose!), but my readers are going to keep me accountable, right?

I hope so!

Anyway, these are the things that I did yesterday (Thanksgiving) to help avoid over-eating. Right now my own process involves eating less more than it does moving more -- but I'm getting there!

5 Tips for avoiding Holiday Overindulgences
These are my five tips for avoiding holiday overindulgences!

1. Be Prepared

Go into the holiday meals with an understanding that there's going to be a lot of food and that most of it's going to be particularly rich food. Don't try to deny the situation and pretend that it's going to be easier than it is. 

I've found that if I tell myself that something is going to be difficult, I find it easier to cope with. Four natural childbirths and quitting smoking have taught me that this strategy generally works for me. It might also work for you: It seems to for many women.

You know your family (or whoever you're spending your holidays with) better than I do, so you should be able to prepare yourself for the typical holiday fare with the people you spend the holidays with. 

Alternatively, if you're uncomfortable letting someone else control the menu, have your holiday meal at home with your own family, and prepare something you're comfortable with.

I like to eat with family because no matter how healthy I choose to eat, my husband prefers higher calorie, higher fat foods that leave me at a loss for healthier options. If there's going to be unhealthy food on the table, I might as well spend the holidays with family and friends!

2. Tell Your Friends and Family

I realize that not every family is as supportive as mine is, but I still believe that you should inform your feasting companions of what your plans are before you sit down for the meal. That way everyone goes into it with the same expectations and you (hopefully) don't get as many questions about what you're eating as you might if you didn't say anything.

Beside which, they can't support you if they don't know that you're working on your nutrition. 

Be prepared for friends and family to argue the nutritional value of the food that you're eating. Many of the foods we eat at holidays are nutritious, if eaten in moderation, and depending on your nutrition plan (note that I didn't say "diet" because the word leaves a bad taste in my mouth).

At the end of the day, you have to make the decision for how to feed yourself, but I chose to make the most of this Thanksgiving by eating a little bit of everything.

3. Eat before Dinner

Try eating something (healthy) before leaving for your holiday meal with your family or friends, and make sure that it's filling enough that you don't reach the meal hungry. If you're not hungry (and you pay attention to your body's signals), you'll eat less and you're less likely to over eat. 

My strategy for the holidays is (as I've said) to eat well and in moderation rather than to avoid the holiday meals altogether, so this works well for me. 

A snack that's high in protein will help to keep you naturally full and help you to avoid eating more than necessary at the holiday feast. 

I had an egg.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

I failed at this one, I'm afraid, but I'll be following it at Christmas.

Drinking water helps to fill you up because much of the time if you're hungry, you're actually craving water and you need to hydrate. In addition, drinking water will help you to avoid other holiday drinks such as beer, liquor, wine, or soda. It's better for you, more satisfying, and will help you to avoid stress and headaches.

In fact, you probably ought to drink plenty of water every day.

5. Taste, Don't Feast

I believe that moderation is the best way to lose weight, because it allows us to indulge in some of the things that we love while weaning ourselves off of the things we shouldn't be eating. Even when I quit smoking (which led to 70 pound weight gain!), I eased myself off of the cigarettes a bit at a time by breaking bad habits. There's nothing wrong with moderation, especially in the beginning!

If you can't avoid eating everything (for whatever reason, but often because you don't want to offend the cook), take a little bit of everything and just taste

This has worked amazingly well for me, because I can indulge in food visually. It's tougher if I can smell it, but I love Pinterest for looking at awesome foods without having to eat them. Check out my boards for some beautiful food photos (and the recipes that go with them!).

5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Overindulgence
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