Yesterday marked my two-year anniversary of being on Weight Watchers. I am more than 45 lbs. down, and less than a pound from leaving the “obese” body-mass index category for simply “overweight.”
Like I did last year, I can’t help but pause and reflect on where I was weight- and food-wise, and how far I’ve come. I shared things I learned last year, and I’ll do the same in the 20-10. This time, I’ll do it in the form of what I would say to my heavier self about losing weight, in the spirit of a recent hot topic on Twitter, #notetomy16yearoldself. Here goes…
You. can. do. this. It is absolutely possible to lose weight and keep it off. Don’t say this too loudly in the future, but it’s actually not that difficult, if you stay the course and don’t let anything derail you. (Pay attention to the part that follows “if” in the sentence above. No “get thin quick” schemes will work, just the discipline of a daily routine and the discipline of separating emotions from eating.)
There comes a time when what has worked for losing weight won’t work anymore. Be patient (and gentle) with yourself during this time. You’ll achieve different weight loss milestones in an amount of time that you’d never dream possible right now. Though you’ll lose weight by rigorously following Weight Watchers rules, there will come a time, at the 40-lbs-lost mark, when your old motivations no longer hold your attention, and it will be clear to you that it will take more to lose weight than going through the motions on Weight Watchers.
You’ll became frustrated with yourself, but never give up or allow yourself to be too critical of yourself for too long. Instead, turn your inward dialogue toward your motivations when it comes to eating. (You won’t have everything figured out when you’re where I am now, but you’ll know enough to to get back on track again.)
“I think, therefore I eat” is real. Discover ways to overcome this. You’ll learn that eating and weight gain has a huge mental component for you. When there’s a storm raging in the distance in your mind–something troubling you that you can’t identify, or a problem that you can’t (or won’t) own up to–you invariably smooth things over with food. I know you’ve heard that when you have an overwhelming desire to eat poorly or overeat that you should engage in activities to distract yourself, but that advice never works for us, does it? You, and I, in the future, can justify countless reasons why we deserve to eat something, using some pretty shaky logic.
What will help you is to really dig into your emotions. Why does food equal pleasure? Why do unresolved emotions equal pain? What is the root of the feelings that are causing you pain? Sometimes this self-examination will go down after you end up eating something you later felt you shouldn’t have. (Even in the future, I can’t always stop myself from succumbing to my desire to eat my way through something, though those episodes happen less and less frequently now.)
Don’t feel bad if you experience a situation where you are powerless to stop yourself from eating. When your head is clearer, think it through, and as you increase the time you spend in reflection, you will eventually gain the insights that will help you break the cycle of negative emotions leading to eating.
The rest of your life is the time table for weight loss. Don’t let anyone else set that clock for you. In today’s world of gastric bypass, Biggest Loser, Master Cleanse Diet and other strategies that promise and/or encourage fast weight loss, you may feel pressured to fit some size 2 jeans yesterday. As encouraging as the Weight Watchers meetings and message boards can be, they can also foster an unspoken sense of competition for many. Don’t fall into this line of thinking. The only standards that will help you to successfully lose weight is your set of standards. From where I stand in the future, you have made about two-thirds of the way toward your original goal, and I don’t know how long it might take to go the rest of the way (or if I will change that goal post at some point). Relish every second that it takes for you to lose all the weight you want to lose. There will be so much you’ll learn along the way–and so many things you’ll discover about yourself that will pleasantly surprise you. And trust me, you’ll need to arm yourself with knowledge so you aren’t tempted to fall back into your old patterns again.
Heavier self, I want to congratulate you on having the courage and initiative to embark on the weight loss journey that we are on. I don’t know what made it different for us on November 18, 2008, but you will stick with it, and you will be proud of how far you’ll go! I know I am. Let’s keep up the good work.