Weight Loss: The good, the bad, the ugly

Ohhhh… I remember well the days of New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight. I’d set a goal to make permanent changes in my lifestyle. Exercise more, eat less, change the type of foods I was eating. I wasn’t a fad dieter. Not ever, really. Except once in the mid 90’s I did the cabbage soup diet along with everyone else. lol It works because you’re starving and have the runs. Diets are never sustainable!!! Lifestyle changes have to be sustainable, too. Something so many people seem to forget.

I can tell you that even at 352 pounds, I was not a weak person without self-control. Far from!!! I got to be that weight after starving myself for about 6 weeks while exercising til I was ready to drop daily and losing 90 pounds. Food is control. There are very few things we can actually control in life. What we put in our bodies along with when and where they come out are among those things. Think about a very young child. Eating and toileting are the only things they actually have control over. This persists into adulthood. We gain a little more control over our lives, but never fully. That’s wishful thinking at it’s best.

We all know what “diet” food consists of. Enter good food/bad food thinking. It’s different for all of us, though some basics cross pretty much every individual. Guilt, shame, judgment and eventually giving up because you “slipped” and had food X. Most people on a weight loss regimen do the same with exercise. This isn’t healthy thinking!!!

When I was able to finally lose the weight I wanted and keep it off long term it was through slow, steady steps. There was nothing, I repeat, NOTHING radical in my changes.

Because of my history with compulsive, unhealthy exercise, I didn’t exercise outside of normal day-to-day life physical activity. I did little stuff like park my car farther away and walk my cart back to the front of the store. I did a little more cleaning around my house. Not obsessive, but my home was cleaner and neater than I’d kept it before. These are not radical or big lifestyle changes at all.

The main struggles I had were not snacking all night. I worked graveyard shifts in a residential setting. Food was readily available for my munching convenience and way too much down time. I started by changing the things I snacked on. It was a slow process. I didn’t get overweight with unhealthy choices over night, so I can’t expect them to change over night. It took a few months for me to stop the night time munchies. I found activities that I could do during those down hours at work. I started knitting and crocheting with regularity again. Extra tasks at work. I watched videos. Mindless nibbling in front of the TV was not one my habits.

I remember the day well. I was standing in front of the fridge, bored, looking for something to eat. Out loud… “No! Shut the door, Jodie.” I walked away and I found a new strength along with the desire to eat out of boredom drop away.

Here’s a HUGE thing I did, though simple. I threw my scale away. The numbers are arbitrary. How much I weigh don’t change my value as a person nor does it affect the size of my clothing. I started going by how my body felt. Less bloated with healthy food choices. The need to purchase new clothes in a smaller size from time to time. Increased flexibility and movement. Energy levels rising and better sleep. Aren’t these the REAL reason for us to lose weight?

I promise you that being smaller will not, in any way, make your life better. I had to do some radical inside work to lose the weight and feel safe and happy inside my body. It started long before I started losing the weight. It had to in order for the weight to start coming off and staying off. I had panic attacks as I lost weight. Suddenly I didn’t feel invisible. People looked at me. I was getting sexual attention. I was smaller than I’d been since my late teens/early twenties. I saw myself for the first time in decades not hidden under layers of fat. There was no place to hide.

Along with making lifestyle changes and adapting my food intake, I learned a whole new set of coping skills. Food was no longer an option for sadness, stress, anxiety, boredom, rage, fear. When life happened and feelings were present… I took food off the table as a choice for coping. It hadn’t served me in the past and it wasn’t going to fix it now. I learned to cry, write, get hobbies, be honest about what I feel and the hardest of all… reach out to others and ask for help when things feel to big and hard for just me. These are the only radical changes I made in order to maintain the weight loss.

I’ve gained 10 pounds since Daddy moved out here. I don’t like it at times, but I see it as a part of life and being happy with myself. I’m maintaining at this weight, just as did when I was 10 pounds lighted. I have a 2-3 pound variance in my weight. I don’t allow it get beyond that in gaining. That was another part of learning to maintain a big weight loss. When you’re nearing 300 pounds, or over, 10-15 pounds seems like nothing in the realm of fluctuation. It’s a lot!! Shifting my thinking about what maintaining my weight looked like.

Years later, my food choices and habits are significantly different than when I began the journey. They had to be. I was one to either eat non-stop whatever I craved or starve myself til I was in medical danger. I’m aware that most people with weight to lose don’t fall into this extreme category.

Eating out is a treat rather than the norm. I’m picky about the sweets I eat. If they’re not good I won’t waste my time. The extra calories aren’t worth it. I don’t count calories or weigh and measure my food. Counting calories plays into ED for me. After all these years, I’ve learned to eye ball portion sizes. This was so not true when I first began. I had what the dietician called “Portion Distortion”. One of the biggest changes for me? I no longer have an expectation to be thin. I don’t struggle with my body size any longer. Being 150 pounds at 5’8″ and 47 years old is totally unrealistic. I’m a size 16 and I’m more than OK with that.

I have a million stories about learning to be in a smaller body. Seeing myself the way others saw me on the outside. Learning to pick up the correct sizes in the store and not shooting 2 sizes up to start. I didn’t date much when I was young and didn’t learn the art of dating and dealing with sexual attention like most other women do. I had the coping skills of an inexperienced teenage girl at 35 years old when I was suddenly attractive to men and needing to deal with flirting and being asked out. I was expected to deal with this as an adult and judged harshly for being overwhelmed. I mentioned earlier that I had panic attacks a few times as I started dressing in a new way. The first time I wore a strapless sundress out, I had to go home immediately, put on sweats and hide myself for several days. These are things people, sadly, don’t talk about in the weight loss process.

If your goal is to lose weight, make small changes which you can maintain. Keep moving forward and making new changes. It doesn’t matter if you’re losing 20 pounds or 75 pounds. Sustainable lifestyle choices are how you’re going to succeed. Get yourself a healthy minded support system along the way. The only other big piece of advice I have for you. BE KIND AND LOVING TO YOURSELF. You’re special and lovable no matter how big or small you are.

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