In my 20-odd years of adult life I have tried a variety of means to lose weight, including several rapid-weight-loss diets with severe restrictions. Being somewhat compulsive, I always seemed to throw myself into these things headlong, taking the rules to heart, and following them to the letter, no matter how I felt. I would gather every resource I could find, whether food, or recipes, or books, and I would immerse myself completely. With each new diet I would think ‘if only I follow it perfectly, THIS time it will work.’
The result, of course, would be short term ‘success’ followed almost immediately by ‘failure.’ Seldom was I able to keep weight off for more than a few weeks. And the result of these severe attempts was usually to lose a lot (25 – 30 lbs) and then gain back more ( 35 – 40). Repeated enough times, I ended up hitting my highest weight ever in 2000.
When I started my healthy weight loss program four years ago, which included sensible guidelines, peer support, and moderate exercise, I unfortunately brought a fair amount of mental baggage with me. I took the elements of the program rather far, and created what I now realize were very rigid rules for myself. If variety was suggested, I would sit down and make a precise and varied list of exactly what to eat. Since calories were limited, I never once (not in five months) went over that limit. With exercise, I forced myself to walk at least two miles every day first thing in the morning (with gym workouts later on). Convinced that I was doing things ‘correctly,’ I failed to listen to my peers when they urged me to be a little forgiving of myself.
As a result, I achieved a consistent rate of weight loss, but when I reached my goal, I had still lacked the knowledge I needed to maintain that loss successfully. For quite a long time, I maintained my journals (147 weeks of them!), exercised, got peer support, etc. and kept my weight on an even keel. But in that time, I still never learned how to fall down and get back up again.
Yesterday while casually talking to a friend, who had asked me why I felt concerned about my weight, I had a realization. This past year, I have bounced around here and there on the scale, had good times and bad times, was unmotivated, highly motivated or simply in the dark. Its left me feeling frustrated.
But the fact is, I have not regained 50 pounds. I have not crashed and burned. Some of my clothes might not fit. Some of my journals are incomplete. Many of my goals were not reached. But I think I’m learning something profoundly important.
I can’t be certain, but I’m getting the feeling that I’m learning the most valuable lesson of all. How to lose weight imperfectly. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to give it my best shot.