Obviously, that previous sentence suggests I lost a lot of time feeling self-conscious about a body that was really pretty fine the way it was. Old pictures of myself document that until my junior year of high school, I was a pretty average kid with an average kid body. I just never thought average was good enough. I sometimes wonder if I would have ever developed any kind of weight problem if I had learned to love my body the way it was.
I first decided to try running in an attempt to lose weight. Despite the fact that at times, I used running as a way to punish off the pounds, I still think running is pretty great and I'm now careful to set limits and avoid taking advice from people who have problems understanding the limits of a normal human body. I had the same progression with triathlon training -- I started out loving it and finding that it helped me control my weight, then I overdid it and burned out, and now I'm doing it again but being careful to be realistic and kind to myself.
I was a pretty picky eater as a child and I carried into adulthood a revulsion for almost every vegetable (corn, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and lettuce were the few exceptions). I used to pick out just the chicken and rice when I ordered Chinese food and throw away the veggies. I first started experimenting with new ways to cook vegetables as a way to cut calories. Now when I'm at a restaurant, I tend to choose veggie-heavy dishes not because I want to be skinnier, but because I love vegetables so much.
I have tried a lot of different types of exercise: Spinning, yoga, strength training, etc., at first because they could help me get skinnier, but stuck with them because they felt good.
I have read a lot of great books in my quest to learn the magic trick that would lead me to healthy, happy weight loss. Geneen Roth's books (which share a lot of the same techniques of HAES but with weight loss still acknowledged as a goal) come to mind. Passing for Thin, which was a great memoir of finding a bigger life in a smaller body.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I'm not sure that the pursuit of weight loss itself has been the problem, it has been the punishing thoughts that have gone with it. The pursuit of weight loss has led me to try some pretty amazing things that I might not have discovered if I were pursuing "less sexy" goals like general health. The pursuit of weight loss is a powerful motivator. Health is really important, but it doesn't have the same kind of motivating force for me.
Is there a way to strive for a fitter, and dare I say it, thinner body in a joyful, rather than punishing way? That's what I'd really like to know.