Monday, May 6, 2013
AIM: Through Thick and Thin
Or, is weight gain inevitable after a large loss?
Well, for me it always was. Call it yo-yo dieting, call it the diet roller-coaster, call it a merry-go-round, call it whatever - the fact is, every single time I went on a diet and lost weight, I always gained it back. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. If you think about it, I wasted a lot of my time, energy, and money dieting when I always regained the weight. Of course, I never made a true lifestyle change until my last diet, so that might have been the problem (sarcastic inner self: ya think??). But this time, I went into my diet knowing that I did not want to play the lose/regain weight game, and luckily, I found a few bloggers who were maintaining big weight losses; reading their blogs helped to remind me that I needed to not only diet to lose weight, but that I also needed to change how and what I ate so that I could keep that weight off.
I think it's pretty common when you've been 100 pounds or more overweight to not really know what your goal weight should be. For me, the last time I was a normal-sized person, I was in my early twenties, and hadn't had any children yet. The forty-something me who was now trying to lose weight was a differently-bodied person, and I knew that getting down to 120 pounds (which ironically used to be my "heavy" weight) wasn't going to happen...plus, I also knew that I wanted to be able to maintain my weight without having to practically starve myself, which would have been the case at that weight. I randomly chose 138 pounds as my goal weight - I think it was on the upper end of what Weight Watchers recommended for someone of my height (not that I was doing Weight Watchers, but at the time, an actual goal weight number seemed important). I also think that it's pretty common to lose a bit more than necessary; I know that for me, it was fascinating to see how small I was getting. However, I never got close to that 138 number - my lowest low was 146. And I was pretty tiny - I fit into size 6 pants, my collarbones were getting quite prominent, you could see the bones across my chest, and I got a lot of comments from well-meaning people that my face was looking gaunt. And yet I still hated my stomach (but that's a post for another day).
I was working out pretty hard, three days a week, plus I was running several days as well, when I hit my lowest low. However, I was aching and sore all the time from working out, so I stopped that and just concentrated on running - that's when I started training for my half marathon. I gained five pounds, but it only showed on the scale - my clothes still fit, and I felt OK about it. But less than two months after I ran the half, I found myself with an ankle injury that meant I couldn't run, and shortly after that my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and I went on the Coconut M&M's Stress Diet (not recommended, as it neither cures cancer nor heals ankles). I gained some weight - how much, I don't know, as I wasn't weighing myself by then. But my pants were getting tight, so yeah, it was a reality.
Eventually (I'd say after about five months) I was able to stop with the stress eating (honestly, it was mostly sugary things that I was reaching for whenever I started feeling funky about everything). And then came the not so fun part of having to actively try to lose some weight again - argh!
The thing that helped is that I didn't let myself get totally out of control. Most of my healthier eating habits stayed with me. I didn't go back to Taco Bell, I continued to eat my Greek yogurt/fruit/homemade granola for breakfast, I still split a burger with Jeff on Friday nights. And once I cut out the sugar, the cravings stopped and slowly the extra weight has left me, without my having to stringently diet like I did to lose the weight in the first place. I know I'm not back to my lowest low based on what clothes I can fit into. Would I like to get that small again? Sure. But am I willing to work super hard to get there? Not right now. However, I am willing to eat healthy most of the time and exercise regularly, and I know that in time, doing these things does make my weight drop, little by little.
So I wonder - was my weight gain inevitable? Even though I didn't regain everything I lost (not by a long shot), I did put some weight back on. Would that have happened had I not been dealing with the stressful things that came up? Who knows? What's done is done. On the other hand, since that time I've had other stressful things come into my life, and I haven't turned to sugar like I did back then, so maybe as I've gotten further along with this healthy way of living, my good habits are more ingrained now and food isn't the thing I instantly turn to in order to cope. No one starts a diet with the intention of regaining the weight they worked so hard to lose, but if you look at it as a temporary way of eating, I do believe weight gain is inevitable. You have to make some permanent changes if you really want your weight loss to stay permanent.
AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you'd like us to address!