Last year, the holidays fell conveniently during a major lapse in my weight loss efforts, where I regained half of the weight I had lost over the course of 10 months.
This year, I was .4 pounds over my goal at my Weight Watcher’s meeting, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. By then, I had been a member of WW for 21 months, and I had worked with a therapist and a dietician for two years prior to that. I was determined to reach this milestone, holidays or not.
I rolled over 4 weekly points everyday, and brought fruit trays to both of the Thanksgiving gatherings I attended on Thursday. I happily enjoyed reasonable portions of all of my favorite foods, and ended the day having eaten a respectable 45 points, while enjoying fun, stress-free times with my friends and family.
If this were my final exam, I passed with flying colors! On December 3, 2019, after 3 decades of restricting, then binge eating, I reached my weight goal.
I knew this was a huge personal victory, but what surprised me was to learn how rare of a victory it was. My heaviest weight had put me in the category of “obesity,” and I now have a BMI of 20, which puts me close to the lower end of my healthy weight range. I lost 60 pounds and went from a size 14 to a size 0.
My research showed me that .8% of women with obesity, ever reach a healthy weight. Of those who do, the statistics for maintaining that weight are significantly better, with only 78% regaining the weight they lost.
So I did, in fact, do the nearly-impossible.
My journey and eventual success have provided me with some unique observations on the obesity epidemic and our cultural attitudes toward weight loss and diet.
Here are some of my thoughts:
1. We need to separate “weight” from “worth.”
Weight is a weighty topic. We all assume that somewhere out there, everyone else is thin and staying that way effortlessly, while we are the lone fat kid in the corner of the room. This is not the case. Most Americans are overweight, and this is the case in most other western nations as well. It is a societal issue, not a deficit in one person’s willpower or character.
For me, one of the biggest turning points was when I could weigh myself without judging that number. Weight is a data point. Being overweight causes healthy problems and shortens life expectancy. It is a health issue.
However, that does not mean that a person can not be beautiful at any size. It does not mean that a person is not worthy at every size. We need to stop judging ourselves and everyone else and band together to get to the root of this problem that is affecting our society as a whole.
2. We need to ditch the thinking that a quick fix even exists.
Everyone wants to lose weight. But here’s the catch: They want to lose is FAST. Like now. In time for Christmas. In time for the class reunion or wedding. We don’t want to diet forever.
But it isn’t about temporarily depriving ourselves, using willpower, then going back to our old patterns. The way we eat now, has made us gain weight. Going back to the way we eat now, will make us gain more weight. Trying a quick fix might lead to some water weight loss initially, but sustaining such a way of eating is really not possible over the long term.
Losing weight meant changing my habits permanently. It meant making changes I could live with, which meant that the weight came off slowly. It meant getting back on track the multitude of times I slid back into my old habits. It meant dealing with my tendency to emotionally eat. It meant changing the situations that led me to have those emotions in the first place.
I quit my job and found another. I left my closest friends and chose to spend my time with different people. I quit drinking. I changed my patterns of communication and interaction. This wasn’t done overnight.
3. We need to remember what a healthy weight looks like.
At my WW meeting tonight, I learned that most people quit either in their second week, or 10 pounds from their goal. The latter might surprise some people, but I did not find it surprising at all.
As soon as I approached my healthy weight range, I began getting “concerned” comments, that I had “lost enough weight.” The comments only increased in their frequency and intensity as I approached my goal. Strangers and barely-known acquaintances began to voice their concern that I was losing too much weight.
But here is the thing. I am not underweight at all. In fact, I could lose 7 more pounds and still be at a healthy weight. Because everyone around us is overweight or obese, we have forgotten what a healthy weight looks like.
4. We need to change our negative attitude toward weight loss.
Yes, you know I am not a fan of memes. But the ones about weight loss are the worst.
While it is true that we all have a collective frustration at the difficulty of losing weight, simply reinforcing that negativity does nothing to change anything. The truth is that we can do hard things. We can do seemingly impossible things. But we don’t get there by constantly repeating that we can not do it, even if our repetition is under the guise of humor.
Another theme in our memes and in our conversations, centers around the notion that eating healthy means deprivation. Yet through most of my weight loss journey, I ate ice cream everyday at lunch time. Whenever there is cake in the lounge at work, I help myself to a small portion. I eat tacos. I eat pizza. But I do not overeat these things. There is nothing luxurious or self-care related about overeating. It is an addiction and a coping mechanism. True self-care will make overeating seem ridiculous.
So those are some observations I have made on my journey so far. I am sure that as I continue into maintenance and work on other aspects of my personal growth and development, I will have more lessons to share with all of you.