As the 3rd year anniversary of this weight loss process has come and gone, I found myself struggling more now than ever with all that goes into weight maintenance. My weight is up about 15 pounds from my lowest goal weight but I’m finally in a better mindset to work towards getting it back down. It’s unsettling to be so far from where I want to be but, physically, I’m stronger and in better shape than ever. I finally went and visited Dr. Ziltzer last week and caught him up on the ups and downs of the last four (!) months. I had gained 5.5 pounds in that time, which considering how off track I had been with my eating, was fortunate.
So, I’ve had some thoughts rumbling around in my head that I wanted to get down in my blog. I’ve spent some time over the past few months with others that have walked (or run) this journey alongside me. I’ve learned from them and tried to help others along the way myself. A handful are doing really well with their weight maintenance but, by far, the majority are struggling. It scares me. I absolutely know how it happens though. I understand what a monumental task it is daily…in good times…and know how easily it can get pushed aside when life throws a curveball.
I think it is safe to say that having 100 extra pounds on your body is a result of something going wrong emotionally. It could be a number of things that have added up – combined with a lack of time, energy, illness, injury, medication, etc. weight can be put on slowly – creeping on over time until one day you don’t recognize yourself any more. And, as Dr. Ziltzer reminded me yet again this past week, this is the disease of obesity. Once you have it, you will always have it. No 20 week, 12 week, 30 day challenge…whatever… is going to change that. We will lose that 100 pounds, have a healthy BMI, run half marathons, and STILL have the obesity disease. This is a fact that is really hard to comprehend, but I think regaining these 15 pounds has proven that to me.
I read a lot of posts on Facebook in weight related groups and so many of them are stories that go something like … “I lost 50 pounds doing (insert diet and/or exercise) and was doing really well until (insert emotionally charged life event or injury) and now I’ve gained it all back and ….” Those of us with the disease of obesity are just one life event away from being obese again. Always. And, unfortunately, life is full of life events. Our ability to plan for and do the emotional work to weather these time periods is a life skill that must be developed. Will it be perfect? No. Will it always be successful? Probably not…but I guarantee there will be ample opportunity to practice in our life time. I find that thinking ahead a little bit about how to handle potential crappy situations can help – not to be all doom and gloom, but think about how you could create a healthier environment food-wise by, for example, keeping protein bars or meal replacements in your car, purse, etc. to eat instead of turning to fast food. Or maybe starting off your day with a head-clearing walk or run before tackling the stressful event.
If you are going to lose 100 pounds, get ready for weight loss related thinking to occupy a good-size chunk of your mind space. Initially you’ll probably be doing some research, reading up on whatever plan you’re using, etc. At some point you’ll probably add in some form of exercise and you’ll spend time and mental energy on that. You may very well meet some new friends along the way too. You’ll read books, attend classes, maybe some meetings, etc. If all of this just stops when you reach your weight goal then , I think, it becomes pretty easy for the weight to start creeping back on. Plan on weight loss “continuing education”. Your needs nutritionally and physically are going to keep changing. If you are a woman, your hormones and metabolism will keep things interesting, to say the least, as you enter your mid-40’s.
The more weight you lose, the more you will have to fight to keep it off. Let that soak in a minute…the higher the % of body weight lost, the more energy you will have to exert in your efforts to fight back against the pull to return to that weight. And here is where I believe I got into trouble. After 2.5 years of weight maintenance, I wanted a break. I didn’t have the 95% focus energy in me for a month or two. I knew this and gave myself permission (but still with a lot of guilt) to let up a bit under the condition that I would NOT be buying any new clothes. Maybe it helped because I think it has allowed me to refocus. I was far enough into weight maintenance and kept enough of my “scaffolding” in place that rebuilding (or I guess re-losing) will not be daunting. And, keep in mind, that this “scaffolding” has included working out with a trainer 2-3 times per week, running 8+ miles on the weekends, a Ragnar trail relay and a half marathon. Also, very little fast food or large restaurant meals were involved either – and I was still consuming a couple meal replacements every day. Whatever “letting up” I did in between all that has added these 15 pounds. This is the reality of maintaining. There is no”end” to this process, mastery maybe, but it is very fluid.
OK, well all that might have been super depressing so I wanted to finish by saying that these past 3 years have been some of the best in my life. For all the work and emotional energy that goes into this, the self-discovery, health, mobility, strength, life experiences, connections with people, confidence … and, to be a little shallow, new clothes…have made it all so worthwhile. A gift. A huge gift. Cherishing this gift with all the respect and responsibility it deserves is now part of my life…for life. I wouldn’t change any of it.