Oy, sorry for the long read, folks. But I love it when someone just hands me the topic for the day. Actually, your wonderful birthday messages gave me at least a couple of topics, and I thank you for them, as always.
By the way, I wish I could respond to every email I receive, but they really do come in quickly, and I just don’t have the time. Please know they inspire me and touch me and give me lots to think about. So if I can’t always respond, I hope you understand, but know I read every one and am touched by the time you take to read and respond to these posts.
Today, a message from CompassRose on the 3FatChicks board. A great question:
“JuJu, are you ever afraid? Do you ever think “this has to be a dream?” Do you ever struggle with terror, thinking one wrong move will put you right back where you were? Do you feel as though failure, at this point, would be terrible — like Oprah Winfrey on a small scale, with everyone pointing and laughing — “See! she got fat again! I knew she would!”
“I ask, because that’s how I feel. As though I am less happy NOW, now that I’m half the woman I used to be, than I was then. As though my entire life revolves around exercise, food, exercise, food — do this, don’t do that, how could you do the other, don’t even think about it, you horrible person, do you WANT to be fat again?
“How have you found a balance? How do you live comfortably in your skin? How do you accept that you truly HAVE changed, and not wake up in the night panicking over the square of chocolate you might have eaten that afternoon? How do you look in the mirror, and accept that stranger as — yourself, really yourself? And not see the old fat you standing like a monster behind, waiting to pounce?
I really wish I could figure it out.”
That’s just the best description of the fear of the formerly fat that I have ever heard or read anywhere.
Sure, Rose. I have been very afraid. That fear begat my self-inflating rubber raft metaphor: You know, in any old sitcom or movie, that if a self-inflating rubber raft is introduced in an early scene, that raft is going to accidentally inflate at the most inappropriate time, in the car, in the elevator, inappropriately. It’s the loaded gun problem. Introduce a loaded gun early in the story, and it’s just got to go off before the story can end.
Well, losing a significant amount of weight can feel like carrying around a self-inflating raft. Or a loaded gun. Or, sure, like a monster waiting to pounce. Yes, people do wait for you to put the weight back on. Yes, it’s scary. Yes the food monitoring and exercise can get old. And if you’re depressed, blue, grumpy, stressed, these concerns weigh more heavily.
I sometimes wake up in the morning, and have a quick panic. I have to run my hands over my body to make sure the raft didn’t inflate while I slept. When I step on the scale, and I’ve put on a couple of lbs. overnight, I have to remember that it’s not likely that I overate by more than 6,000 calories the day before, that my body’s just doing strange things with fluids.
Sure I get scared. But then I remember I’ve CHOSEN to stay here, at this weight. And I’ve decided that whatever it takes to be here is what I want and need to do. You may choose a different path, Rose. Maybe you were happier as a heavy person. Maybe being a little heavier or a lot heavier WILL give you a happier life. That’s a question you really need to answer honestly for yourself. You need to make your own choice about your own body.
But if you choose to stay at the weight you have achieved, then know that it’s your choice, and own it proudly. I have to say that the fear dissipates faster and faster as time goes on, particularly if you have made your own mind and are not maintaining a weight dictated by someone else.
You will manage fear better when you learn to go easy on yourself, not berate yourself for overeating now and then, never, ever consider yourself to be a “horrible person” over matters of eating or exercise. You will learn that you can, in fact, overeat now and then without any effect on your weight at all. You’ll eventually learn to trust your body’s self-regulating metabolism more.
This particular thing, learning to give yourself a break, to trust and not judge yourself and your body, to not knock yourself down when you’re low, to not ridicule, berate, belittle yourself in any way, this is hard to learn for a former fat person. It took me a long time to recognize this language going off in my head and replace those thoughts with more helpful ideas. Kinder language. Gentle, encouraging self-talk. This takes practice. Daily practice.
The worst thing you can do is to buy into the myth that the weight will come back on no matter what. That’s crap. If you change the way you eat and make exercise a part of your daily life, you can maintain your loss. If you build muscle, eat differently and more often, you can increase your metabolism so that maintenance is just not as hard. It’s maintenance, is all.
Everybody has to maintain their own body.
So, Rose, yes I can be very afraid at times. I try to take an interest in this feeling, write about it in my journal, take a bath, calm down, try to figure out what got that feeling going again (usually it doesn’t have anything to do with diet or exercise, but with stresses elsewhere, or feeling more vulnerable and exposed than before).
And time, time, time. Your body is still changing. You’re still getting used to it. Keep looking at yourself. Look at your arms and legs. Your new face. Give yourself plenty of nice massages with a terrific body lotion. Get to know the new territory, understand what it can do. It will still surprise you now and then and for a long time. But it gets easier.
The folks who are waiting for you to regain your weight? Do we have to spend any of our precious energy thinking about them at all? Of course not. They are insignificant fools unworthy of our attention. Even if they are in our faces every day.
So in a nutshell:
*We each need to decide for ourselves what body we are happiest owning and maintaining. It’s certainly possible to lose more weight than you can happily maintain. Try a different, more easily manageable weight if you choose. (That does not have to be the same thing as gaining it all back.) Make your own choice. Understand what your choices mean about your future. When you’re grumpy, cranky, hungry, bored, review your choices. How? Well, you wrote them down, right?
*Every day, practice kinder, more supportive, self-talk. Let the voice in your head be a kind and understanding one. Self-berating simply doesn’t help. Ever.
*Time eases fear and shows the jerks a thing or two.
Rose, thanks for a great, honest question. I don’t know if any of this helps. I suspect you know it all already, lovie.
Everybody else, if you’re facing a significant weight loss, just know you’re likely to be plagued by similar feelings, fears, questions as you approach your goal weight. It’s better to lose weight slowly and conservatively for this very reason. Even stop losing for awhile, “trying on” different weights to decide what sort of maintenance you can comfortably manage. It might not be the weight that your diet program, your insurance chart, or your BMI calculation suggests. It might be somewhere between here and there. It’s your body and your choice.
Hugs for all your bodies and hearts,
Want to discuss today’s Post? Vist The Skinny Daily Forum at 3fatchicks.com