I'm about six months shy of the five-year anniversary (five years!!) of starting my whole lifestyle turnaround. I don't quite know where time goes, but there you have it. I've learned a lot in that time, most importantly, that when it comes to the question, "How do I lose weight and keep it off?!" I have only one answer that rings true:
I have no clue.
Oh, of course, there's increasing the workouts while decreasing the junk food, and there's counting calories and limiting certain foods while making sure you eat a ton of veggies and fruits. From that standpoint, it's pretty simple, but in practice, it's harder than it looks. How do you live your life, and learn that it's okay to enjoy food, when you're constantly hyperactive about what you're putting in your mouth?
Since I hit goal weight, I've allowed--maybe more often than I ought--a little more living back into my life. This means my weight has fluctuated between that "magic" number of 130 and about 138, depending on how active I am, and how my overall diet is. At any of these weights, my clothes fit, I feel good (though definitely more fierce at 130), and my health is excellent. I know I feel my best when I'm pushing the workouts and putting the best fuel in my system...but I'm not entirely willing to give up the "bad" foods forever. I'm learning to walk that fine line between, "Yeah, have that slice of birthday cake" and "Okay, you're buying this chocolate because you're feeling down."
I have found myself being asked for advice a lot. Recently, I've received two private messages from friends on social media asking for advice and support. There's little I can really do except encourage them to find a plan that works, and stick to it. Move more. Eat less--not starve yourself, but just eat less crap. Instead of sweets, grab some fruit. Stuff like that. I can offer encouragement all the time, but I'm not a doctor, I'm not a trainer, and I don't know these people closely enough to know what their needs are.
This all leads me to one thing I've been wanting to blog about, but I've been hesitant to touch--fitness/diet blogs. As I reached my own goals, I started following a lot of people on Facebook and Twitter who had similar stories to my own. I loved being part of this awesome club, but I've learned that it comes with a rather disturbing price. Once you lose the weight, there are always people waiting in the wings for you to fail and gain it back--and fitness/weight loss bloggers are the first to throw a bit of guilt your way just by posting about their own lives.
"I turned down cookies at work today," one will brag. "Someone said, 'Can't you just have one?' No, I can't just have one, I'll want more and more and more. So I had no cookies." He says it with pride, as though no one can succeed in weight loss if they have that cookie--and I get that he's not really saying that, that it's his personal demon that eating one will lead to more and more. I understand that he's not judging anyone else, but the little demon in my brain that helped me get to 220 pounds in the first place does see it that way, and it starts whispering nasty things to me.
Another blogger weighs herself daily, never letting the scale move over a certain number. I'm not sure how much she takes into account water weight and all of that, but her near-obsessive need to control the number on the scale also triggers that little demon in me. Maybe I ought to weigh every day, and worry endlessly that eating that bit of chocolate will undo all the hard work I put in to losing weight. I try to weigh weekly, but even then, I mostly try to go by how I feel. My clothes are tightening--watch what I'm eating, plan my food better, run a little more. I'm trying hard to maintain some control over that demon, so that I don't end up living and dying by a number on the scale.
A fitness guru added me to his friends list on Facebook around the time I got to goal. I was flattered that this guy, who makes highly-watched YouTube videos about working out, was so impressed by my story...but I noticed, over time, that his method of "inspiring" people was to heap on the guilt. "Inspirational" sayings about how that cookie won't look good on your butt were his preferred method, and he even resorted to massive fat-shaming at times, implying that overweight people should not be allowed healthcare.
I can look back over the last five years and see the times that I have been obnoxious to some degree--but I also see that as I shared my successes, I honestly inspired many of my friends to think, "Hey, if she can slowly but surely get there, why can't I?" And I have learned, through listening to friends who have done it differently, that everyone has a different path, different needs. My own needs include a no-guilt method, which is why, perhaps, B. the Sadist and his total elimination of good fats from my diet didn't work in the long term, while Matt the Reasonable's...reasonable...expectations of how I would eat did. I knew I could go to him the day after Thanksgiving and say, "I had some pumpkin pie," and he would smile and ask, "Was it good?" He knew that I understood one simple thing: you can eat the slice of pie. You can even top it with some whipped cream. But the next day, you eat your healthy eggs for breakfast, and get your run in. You live your life, enjoying it, not hiding from the pleasure of food.
If I'm going to maintain my weight loss and the fitness level I've achieved, it has to be free from guilt. So I've stopped following most of the fitness and weight loss bloggers whose community I felt so proud to be part of, because I cannot allow their demons to goad my own.
Last night, I ate a bit of the apple crostini that Mom backed. This morning, I'm having my usual healthy breakfast, and heading off to the gym (which I enjoy, actually) to get a great workout.