Someone recently asked me “If you worked so hard to lose weight before, why did you gain it back?”
Because clearly that was what I had in mind. And the answer was: “I just didn’t know any better.”
That’s pretty much how I’ve felt over the past decade and change. I was almost good enough because I succeeded, and then, failed.
When I lost the weight before (back in the late 90’s), it was like a switch went off in my brain. I saw this picture of me from when I had been on vacation. I weighed about 220lbs give or take. (This is circa 1998.)
I was disgusted with myself and embarrassed that such a photo even existed! (I have never been a fan of having pictures taken, I always feel like I look like a cow.) I had just started a new job and decided to join a gym.
From that day on, until about 2000-1 I worked out nearly every day doing a combination of treadmill/elliptical, Tae Bo class, resistance training class, aerobics, or circuit training. This took between 1-2 hours per day on top of my already long day (I commuted about an hour and 15 minutes one way to work at the time). After I lost some weight I began running. For fun.
I also changed my eating. I stopped eating ridiculously portioned restaurant meals out every weekend. I stopped excess snacking. I stopped eating anything that was “junk.” Instead for breakfast I had an egg white omelette with whole wheat toast and coffee. For lunch a huge salad with tons of veggies and sometimes hard boiled eggs. (I was a vegetarian at the time, and a picky one at that!) If I was hungry in the afternoon I had fruit, or a handful of nuts. Dinner was whole wheat pasta with faux mince and sauce. I never counted calories; I just ate the same thing every day. I never cheated. I never enjoyed the process. And I was miserable and hungry every moment of every day.
I lost a lot of weight quickly and then I plateaued. I started working with a trainer who took measurements and helped me find ways to get more protein, even if it meant having an extra coffee with skim milk. (I said I was picky.) I was also scared of eating more and thereby not seeing progress.
About a year and change after I began, I lost 85 pounds and weighed around 140. By then, my entire life had changed. I had received a promotion and a raise. I had a new boyfriend. People talked to me and treated me like a human being. I thought I was invincible. But I looked hot, and that was what mattered, right? That was my goal, to look good. (Sorry about the pic quality, this was pre digital!)
And since I looked great, I figured I could go back to eating “normally.” And I’m sure you can guess how that worked. I pretty much gained 20 pounds instantly. But I was ok with it since my size 6 clothes still fit and I looked ok. I still worked out and even ran a few 5K’s.
Then, things began to change in my life. I was in a very bad and stressful relationship, that I finally had to end. I had gotten my second Masters, but had moved back home in the process. By then, I had gained about 40+ pounds back.
Between 2004 and last spring, I tried various diets including Weight Watchers (where I gained and lost the same 3 pounds each week) and VLCD (very low calorie diets) including Optifast and Dukan. I managed to get down to about 185 before I moved to Scotland in 2010, with 5 pounds being courtesy of my breast reduction.
My first few months here I gained about 40 pounds- dealing with the stresses of being away from home, the pressures of university, and then, my mother’s death. I hated myself and hated how I looked and what I had become. All because I hadn’t known better a decade prior.
I didn’t know the following:
- You can’t outrun/out-train a bad diet.
- Once you lose weight, you have to work even harder to maintain it.
- Protein is important. (I had never, ever eaten enough of it.)
- Weight lifting is just as important (if not more) than cardio.
- Pick a lifestyle you can live with and LIVE IT. Don’t call it a diet. A diet is temporary. A lifestyle is forever.
- Constant yo-yo dieting can really mess up your metabolism.
- What works for a friend/celebrity/someone else, may not work for you.
I also didn’t have the weight loss blogger community and the plethora of resources out there that can help you live healthily without restricting yourself crazy. I’ve also learned that I don’t want to live a lifestyle where I don’t get to enjoy birthday cake on my birthday and an ice cream on a hot day.
I also know that it is going to take time for this to happen for me. It isn’t going to take a year. I am way older, and I have a chronic pain issue that can make my life unpleasant. I just have to enjoy the process and believe I can do it.
What I’m doing now.
Have you ever lost weight, only to gain some or all of it back?
What advice would you give someone who has just started or has just begun their journey to healthy?