The Curvy Road to Weight Loss (and Back)
- 2 Minutes Read
Losing weight is not about pounds or goals. It's much bigger than that, and harder to do. Find out what it's really about and how to expect the unexpected.
There is a lot of advice out there for losing weight, from meal plans to mini-sizing everything from plates to portions, and there are countless exercise regimens to follow for fitness, weight loss, muscle mass, or getting off the couch and running your first 5K. There are a host of labeled food plans to follow, and the list of what not to eat seemingly grows by hour.
However, there are two very important factors that play into losing weight that should not be forgotten, the second of which is what to do (and think) when you finally reach your goal.
Recently, CNN documented a story about Matthew Shack, a 6-foot-3, 35-year-old who weighed 500 pounds in June 2009. He began tracking calories and by September 2010, Matthew lost 265 pounds. For the calorie tracking service he used (not MyNetDiary), he was touted as their "biggest loser ever."
Once he hit his goal he stopped tracking calories and instead tried eating a healthy diet without monitoring. Over the next two years he crept from 235 pounds up to 300, then up to 340 pounds. In the meantime in his personal life, he and his wife became foster parents. Together, they had six children and life was very busy.
Matthew once again realized it was important to lose weight. He set a new goal to train for a 100-mile bicycle race. Through training for this ride he lost 100 pounds and completed the race. Afterwards his weight went back up and down and up again, and then he started gaining weight consistently after losing his job.
What Matthew said he has learned so far is he hasn't "been able to find my magic bullet. There's usually some motivation point that makes me want to lose weight. Once I hit that goal, I kind of lose my motivation."
The commentary in the CNN report says that no one's weight loss story has an end and the real goal of a healthy lifestyle is to "avoid ending the tale too soon." This is it. Our goal really isn't to lose X pounds, is it? It's to live our best, healthiest lives for as long as we can - to maximize the time we have while in the best condition we can be. As Matthew realized, goals can be met - that's the easy part - but what we do with ourselves once we meet them is the struggle.
What do we do when we meet our goal and go out for our celebratory dinner or buy those new clothes we wanted?
In an article in New York Magazine, best-selling author, Geneen Roth, states, "It's a fantasy, that when we lose weight, everything wrong in our lives is going to be right... we're going to feel completely different about ourselves... People are shocked to find out that this thing that they've been longing for and waiting for and working for is not what they thought it was."
In the article, Dr. Judith Beck, a psychologist who specializes in applying strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy to weight loss, explains that we're all easily motivated when we're dieting and seeing the scale go down, but after we see no change on the scale for months and months there is little motivation to keep stepping on the scale, and when we stop doing that it's also harder to see that we're again gaining weight. Again, there is no end point for this journey. Instead it's finding happiness in being able to take the steps in the first place.
An article in the New York Times estimated that more than 90 percent of people who lose a lot of weight will gain it back, for a variety of reasons. This shows that almost every one of us struggles with keeping off lost weight and living our "new" lives. It also means that we're not alone in this struggle.
In the face of these documented experiences and knowing that there is no "magic bullet," it would seem that the only thing that could help with long-term healthy living (aka. keeping excess weight off and regularly exercising) is not setting a new goal every week, not ditching the scale or calorie tracker, and not assuming that our weight goal was the perfect number to unlock happiness. What it might be is that we focus on the new things we have in our lives; focus on the small things that bring us happiness instead of the big, theoretical ones; keep trying new things, new foods, new exercises; and we stop telling ourselves that "we're here" - but instead, we ask, "Where can I go from here?"Weight Loss->Goals & Monitoring Weight Loss->Motivation Weight Gain->Unwanted Weight Gain Weight Maintenance->Behavior Weight Maintenance->Motivation