Maintenance

Part 1: The Expectations

Let me start by saying that losing 135lbs was an awakening. It was one of my greatest struggles and greatest triumphs. I am healthy, I have energy, I feel vibrant, I am confident, I live in the present, I can cross my legs, I don’t feel uncomfortable when people watch me walk away, I can get into the back seat of a two-door car easily, I can take a seat in the middle of a cramped aisle at the movie theater, I feel “red carpet ready” for any event, clothing is cheaper and easier to find, I feel unstoppable and full of life. This is the short list (if you can imagine that) of the positive outcomes of reaching my healthy weight. So much is written about the good parts but not as much about the hard parts.

Perhaps the worst part about losing 135lbs was realizing that it was just weight. It was just pounds shed from my body, not a shedding of insecurity or depression. Those still existed and without the 135 lb blanket I was so used to having wrapped around me, they were exposed. I felt very vulnerable and alone.  I was finally supposed to start living the life I had dreamed of in my thin fantasy future. Now was the time to be fun, feel fantastic, and pursue my every passion. Simple, right? For twenty years, every sentence began with “When I’m thin I’ll…” I had spent two decades pinning my hopes, dreams, and great expectations on the tail of future thinness. The saddest realization was that being thin did not bring me happiness. I was still the same person. I was just beginning the grieving process of losing food, my lifelong best friend and I wasn’t ready to live the life I had dreamed up in svelte skin. “Welcome, Disappointment, Depression, and Anxiety, so glad you could make it!”

I had to learn that thin doesn’t mean joy. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I still had to take risks, face rejection, and actively create my future. What a shame. I really might have thought thinness came with all that. Thinness is like Ikea furniture. Looks great in the showroom, but you have to get it home and assemble it yourself. Most times it doesn’t look quite like you’d hoped.

Overall this revelation made me a stronger person. It taught me things about myself and what I wanted out of my life. The process of finding what truly does make me happy and nourish me has been incredible. While it’s certainly not over, I am grateful for having gone through it.

Part 2: The Motivation

Losing weight is hard. Let me say that again. Losing weight is haaarrrd. But there’s motivation and reinforcement when you see the changing of your body and health. Each week the scale gives you a big pat on the back. And all the while, you’re telling yourself it will get easier. And it does. But when the cycle of putting in the effort and seeing the results ends and you’ve reached your goal weight you have to create the motivation to maintain.

I knew everything about losing weight. I knew how much to eat, what to eat, and how to exercise. For a year, I was determined and consistent. Arriving at my goal weight was like being given a mansion and then being told I had to come up with the mortgage. I was clueless and terrified. Would I gain every pound back if I started to increase the amount I was eating? Would I have to run every day for the rest of my life?  These were the fears that consumed me. I gradually began eating more to find out what amount worked for me to stay the same. I was still running six days a week though. I began seeing a nutritionist to help me find this balance. What I realized was that as much as I couldn’t imagine that I’d be able to eat more and not gain weight, it was the truth. I can and do eat as much as I want and maintain my current weight. At some point, I figured out that the notion that you get to your goal weight and then figure out how to stay there is incorrect. It’s only now that I see that the better idea is this: get to whatever your goal weight is (as long as it’s reasonable), assess your eating, ask yourself the following questions: ‘Are you happy with the amount of food you eat? Do you enjoy the foods you’re eating daily? Do you have to work to stay at that weight? Are you happy?’ If you can truly say that your lifestyle is what you’d like to maintain, then you are at the right weight for you. But if you are struggling, if you feel like it requires vigilance and more exercise than you want to do, then change. Gain weight. I mean this from the bottom of my heart. When I was running six days a week and I was terrified to stop because I thought it meant a return to my former weight, I learned a crucial lesson. If this was what I had to do each day to stay where I was, then that was not the weight for me. I did stop running. Cold turkey. I went from six days a week of four miles a pop to walking, not even on an incline, and not even power walking at first. And I didn’t gain a single pound. It was a lesson in trust.

I began to view food in the same way.  If I could not eat dessert, not eat things on a whim, not enjoy one cookie too many, then I didn’t want to be there. I have experimented with eating up to 2800 calories a day, all the while assessing how my body reacted. I’m happy to say that I think I’ve found my happy weight. It’s a place that welcomes oatmeal and S’Mores,  salad and pizza, fresh fruit and peanut butter cups. I’ve been here for four years.