I have achieved my ideal weight! I’ve never reached my goal weight before, though I’ve been this weight (and lighter!) plenty of times. I know you’re dying to hear my secret (and explain that last statement), but let me give you a little bit of background first.
I’ve lost a significant amount of weight over half a dozen times since graduating from college 17 years ago. Call it a yo-yo or a roller coaster, it’s been a lot of up and down and up again, and the pattern is always the same. I start off with a bang and lose 20, 30, or one time even 50 pounds! And then it stops. Usually right around the same weight, I just stop losing.
There’s no mystery involved, I know why I stop losing: I stop trying. I go back to enjoying happy hour, or lunch buffet, or ordering pizza. And then comes the shame, the doubt, and the guilt. I look at myself in the mirror and say, “Why do you do this? Why are sabotaging all your efforts? Why are you eating bad food when you know you shouldn’t? Why can’t you just stick to your plan? Why can’t you achieve your goals? Why do you always fail?” And then I eat and drink, because that’s how I cope.
And then I wonder how I can stay in a weight loss program when I’m not losing weight. So inevitably, I quit. And I gain back 10, 20, 40 pounds. And I’m back where I started, or worse.
Last time (before this time), I had an epiphany. Courtesy of my weight loss champion at that time, we had a discussion about motivation. How it’s easy to be motivated at the beginning because you’re moving away from all these negatives of being overweight. For me, there were never negative physical health consequences, but I hated the way I looked and felt. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and always so tired. My depression is also much worse when I’m too heavy. It’s easy to be motivated to move away from that. But, as we discussed, you reach a point where those are no longer as prevalent in your life. You’ve moved past that, those reasons are not looming over you every day. So you need to find new motivation. You need to find something positive to move toward. “Yes!” I agreed, “It makes perfect sense! Now I just need to find that new motivation and I can move forward, past this hump that stalls me every time!”
But I didn’t find the motivation. And I quit. And I gained back 30 pounds. And I started again. And I reached the point where I always stall. But then a lot of things happened within a matter of weeks that may change my life forever.
First, there was a conversation with my kids in the car. They said something about trying to get skinny. “No!” I corrected immediately, “Skinny is not the goal. Skinny is NEVER the goal. Healthy is the goal. There are a lot of skinny people who are unhealthy, and there are a lot of healthy people who are still a little overweight – like me. We want to eat more healthy, and stay active – THOSE are the goals.”
This is a critically important distinction for me because my daughter will never, ever be skinny. She is not built for skinny. She is strong. She is fit. She is perfect. But she will never be skinny — and if she tries, she will fail miserably. I know because I was once strong, and fit, and perfect, and I wanted so badly to be skinny. I remember conversations with my own mother as she tried to convince me, but it didn’t work. I may not be able to convince my daughter, but I have to try. I have to.
Shortly after that conversation, I read this blog post: What I Miss About Being 300 Pounds. And while I’ve never been to either of the extremes described by Ms. Coffey, #3 on the list really hit me. I like to joke that I could lose 5 pounds by sneezing and gain 3 back from walking by a bakery. This doesn’t bother me. And I don’t ever want it to. There is nothing about “obsessing over Every. Single. Pound.” that appeals to me. Nothing. I just don’t have time in my life or space in my brain for that kind of worry.
Then I discovered Taryn Brumfitt and her Body Image Movement. And I fell in love with her and her message, and it sent me deep inside of my head to do some serious evaluation.
All of this was happening when I sat down with one of my current weight loss champions. I explained to her what I knew from the last time (before this time) — that I had hit my point of no motivation. “I feel good,” I explained. “I can run miles at a time. I have lots of energy. And when I get dressed in the morning, I think I look pretty good.” But I am in a weight loss program, so I continued, “I know that when I hit my goal, I’ll feel even better, but I’m having a hard time finding the motivation right now.”
I wanted her to give me the answer. The cure. The magic pill. The solution that would finally get me to my goal. But what she did instead was even better than that. “Well, let’s take a look at why you wanted to lose weight in the first place,” she said as she pulled out my folder. “You wanted to feel better, have more energy, and be more active.”
“Yes, yes, yes! I have all of that.”
“Ok,” she said, about to change my life forever. “Well, if you’re happy, we can transition you to maintenance now. You don’t have to get to your goal weight.”
Did she just give me permission to be happy with myself just the way I am?
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Think about it and let us know next time. We can start your maintenance plan any time.”
And so I thought about it. And I thought about my daughter. And I thought about Taryn. And I thought about achieving some arbitrary ideal number, and what I was willing to sacrifice for that. And I thought about a life where I am active enough to run a 5k or 10k without stressing about every workout. And I thought about life where I can still have beers with my friends, order pizza, or go to a lunch buffet. And I thought about how I feel when I get dressed in the morning, and the compliments I get just the way I am today.
And I realized this is the life I want. The one where I’m comfortable in my body, and my body can do amazing things for me, and together we can enjoy every aspect of life.
So I’m here, at my goal weight, but I do still have some work to do. I still need to prove to myself that I can stick to a plan, even without that negative motivation looming over my head. I still need to work on getting healthier. I want to build strength (for injury prevention more than anything – I’m no spring chicken!), and get into a consistent (not obsessive) routine for my mental health (I yell so much less when I run more). I want to explore more whole foods and vegetables and natural treats (but we’ll still get chocolate cake too).
And I still need practice. I need to practice loving my body because it is mine and it is healthy. I had a chance to do that this morning when my daughter got out of her shower.
“You are beautiful,” she said (mostly referring to my hair because of the way it was mid-style).
“I am beautiful,” I replied. Then we both did a muscle pose. “Look at how beautiful and strong we are.”