What I’ve learned during 10 years of weight-loss and maintenance.

What I’ve learned during 10 years of weight-loss and maintenance.

To start out, a disclaimer that a huge chunk of the information I’ve absorbed has come from Reddit, so nothing I have to say is revolutionary. Also, weightloss and health are not things that I feel I’ve absolutely got a hang of. I am forever a work in progress.

I am Female, 26 years old, 5’7” and 135lbs. My highest weight was 196lbs.

This is my (long) story about imperfection and bad habits and how I’ve learned from them.

Let’s back up about 10 years:

My Junior year of high school, I stepped on my mom’s scale to see the number hit 193lbs. I couldn’t believe it. I knew I wasn’t exactly right when I said I weighed around 150lbs, but I couldn’t believe I was almost fifty pounds off. I was devastated. I wasn’t a lazy person- I was super active in many extra curricular (like newspaper, theatre, etc), had good grades, and a fierce appetite for both books and carbs. And suddenly, those sedentary activities and love of pasta and peanut butter were staring me in the face as I realized my 5’7” frame was carrying nearly 200lbs. That night, I decided to go on a run. I didn’t make it a full block before feeling totally out of breath and at risk of collapsing. The idea of going to college feeling this uncomfortable in my body scared me but the idea of going on a diet was terrifying also. Especially in a family filled with athlete boys, my house was packed with pasta, bacon, potatoes… everything that I loved eating tons of. And having such limited control over the food I had available to me made “trendy” diets like Atkins, South Beach, etc. totally unavailable to me. Not to mention, hot lunch at my high school was not exactly what I’d call “healthful.” I felt really lost. For the two months or so, I spiraled a bit, feeling totally unable to take control of the weight and my lack of fitness. I binge ate after trying to eat “well” all day. I cried while prom dress shopping. I realized my size 12/13 pants were not really fitting anymore. I was aware of how winded I got just going up a flight of steps. And two months later, when I got on the scale, terrified of what I’d see, I looked at the number settle at 196lbs and just absolutely broke inside.

I had a YMCA membership, and I had Reddit. And those were really the only tools I had to work with. Even after taking a health and physiology class in high school, I really didn’t know what I was supposed to be eating, or calories mattered or how to begin to look at the food I was consuming critically. I started by simply eating the recommended serving sizes of things and not going back for seconds; eating one frozen burrito instead of three, eating one bowl of Mac and cheese, etc. and I did lose about two pounds in a month, but I didn’t feel any more aware of what was really going on with my body or what I should actually be consuming.

So, I found a few weightloss subs, and while Reddit looked very different a decade ago, LoseIt was still here and most of the info I got then is the same spread now. I read about counting calories, not relying on exercise for weightloss, what a healthy rate of losing is, and haphazardly dove in.

It was really hard at first. I had to completely re-evaluate a lot of my ingrained habits, like ordering Venti lattes, eating hot lunch every day, grabbing bags of Gardettos and eating them as single portion snacks during after-school activities. I started by bringing lunch every day. Either yogurt, fruit, and a cheese stick, a turkey and cream cheese sandwich, or soup. Every day. I cut back on snacking almost entirely, ordered all my coffee with skim milk, and tried working out at least once a week. And… it worked! The pounds were slowly coming off, and I felt really good. I could run more than a block before stopping, my clothing fit a little more loosely, and the migraines I tended to get very often came less frequently.

I kept it up, keeping that lie of 150lbs as my goal. I wanted to be able to say that and be absolutely telling the truth.

By the end of my senior year, I was comfortably in the 150 range. My senior prom I fit into a size 8 dress. I could wear mediums. I wasn’t so tired or gross feeling always. And I said to myself, “this is it! This is my lifestyle now!”

And, it kind of was. I went to college and luckily our dining hall had a really good salad bar. I got my first smart phone and downloaded MyFitnessPal. I occasionally utilized the campus gym (only ever really doing an elliptical or a bike). I maintained pretty well, but I was also in a pretty easily controlled environment. I didn’t have tons of spending money, so I wasn’t going out to eat or buying tons of extra food. I walked around campus a lot because my classes were pretty far apart. The Freshman 15 didn’t curse me.

After college, I moved back to my home town, and ended up working as a server. My weight fluctuated. I had constantly access to food (especially the free bread). I would go months without working out. I had turned 21 and anyone who was worked at a restaurant knows that restaurant people socialize after hours by getting drunk together. I didn’t own a scale, but when I felt my clothes not fitting well, I’d do a crash-cycle if tracking calories and working out again. Luckily, the job kept me on my feet so I think that did help a bit in keeping major weight gain off.

And that’s the cycle I got in. I never gained all the weight back, but I’d get in ruts of old (bad) habits creeping up, gaining about 10lbs, and then freaking out and losing that 10lbs. I also realized how easy it was for me to binge. If I was tired, sad, or otherwise not feeling great, I would just eat. I became ravenous. I could eat almost an entire pizza if I was feeling bad enough. And, even though those instances were never close enough together for me to really suffer with major weight gain, I realized I was using food as a crutch to help with my lowest points.

So, At 22, I had to re-evaluate my relationship with food again. I was about 152lbs, so not overweight by any means, but I was stuck in a cycle of doing really well and doing really poorly with food. I decided I would cook more (as a food Network junkie, this was actually tons of fun). I learned to cross stitch. I switched jobs. I made a conscious effort to save money and consume fewer calories by not going out with my friends as often. I cleaned my apartment more frequently. I went to therapy to deal with some latent anxiety and PTSD that I felt contributed to a lot of my negative habits. I found a friend to go to the gym with so I felt accountable. And slowly, my mental state in regards to my body was not “do not get fat, do not get fat, do not get fat” but “do what’s best for you in the long run, not what feels great right now.”

I decided that I’d ultimately like to be fitter and further away from the “overweight” BMI. I figured 135lbs would be a decent goal, right in the middle of my healthy weight range. I learned to love bike rides and black coffee, and then I fell in love. I met my current husband, who was a marathon runner and a fervent skier, and it felt like our lifestyles really meshed, not just our personalities. We loved long hikes, we learned to snow shoe, and we both started gaining weight because we loved baking and cooking together, and I did NOT want to tell him about how I was trying to count calories still. We went to breweries, drank wine with our pasta, I suddenly had to buy one size larger than I usually did, and my scale hit 157. My migraines were slowly returning, I was feeling more sluggish, I was cleaning less, and I realized I was going in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be. I was devastated. I had no idea how to tell him our wonderful life together was really negatively impacting my health goals.

Then he proposed. And I was so happy. We celebrated. And I hit 160lbs. Which put me right up against the line between a healthy weight and being overweight. And I knew I had to do better.

We talked. I cried. He said he loved me and he was also uncomfortable with his slight weight gain. I started running, started tracking again, and set my sights on being 135lbs and running a 5k in under half an hour. I utilized everything I could to keep myself in check. I listened to the Half-Size me podcast. I started walking on my lunch breaks. We ate out much less and when we cooked, I made a point to be aware of the ingredients and track them (and laid off the olive oil)

I got married a year later. September 28, 2019. 135lbs. 5k time at 26 minutes. Sleeping well, feeling well, and feeling very very happy.

That’s a long story, but here is the TLDR takeaway:

  1. You’re never not in control of what you’re eating. Even if you feel like you aren’t, you are. Portion sizes, snack choices, etc. are all up to you.
  2. Exercise helps, but really does more towards health goals than weightloss goals. Exercise anyway.
  3. Goals can change, that’s okay.
  4. Bad habits can creep up on us when we aren’t looking. Always be willing to re-evaluate what you’re doing and if it’s working for you or against you.
  5. Sometimes we gain weight because we are sad. Sometimes we gain weight when we are happy.
  6. Health is not a number on the scale. If you’re only looking to lose weight, you can do that without actually taking care of your whole self. You deserve better than that.
  7. Be willing to advocate for yourself, both to yourself and to other people. This takes lots and lots of practice.
  8. Your value is not your weight, but by treating our bodies with respect we remind ourselves of our own value.
  9. If you’re stuck in a cycle of weight loss and weight gain, break the cycle however you need to. Start a new habit, work on losing an old bad habit, set a new goal. Any change from the pattern can be very helpful.
  10. Educate yourself and surround yourself by positive influences. Find podcasts, use online forums, find gym buddies. The more entirely you approach finding a more healthy way to live, the more it sticks.

I am a work in progress. I am someone who needs a goal to keep myself in line. I’d like to run faster and be stronger. I’d like to watch my nutrition intake and hit macro goals. I am still counting calories. I sit at about 1400-1600 at maintenance, and allow myself wiggle room when I need it.

Whoever needs to hear this- keep going. The journey doesn’t have a destination, but it will change you. I am so grateful for the body I have now. And I am looking forward to giving it the best shot at a long, healthy life that I am able to.

EDIT to add before/after photos in case anyone is interested.

before + after

submitted by /u/beautyisabeast

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