I have been gaining and losing the same 15-25 lbs over and over again throughout my entire adult life. Whenever I start gaining the weight back I always promise myself that I’ll get back on track, I won’t let myself keep going astray. But inevitably I end up breaking those promises to myself, over and over again, and my weight keeps going up and up… Eventually I get a rude awakening when I realize just how many pounds I’ve packed on and all my biggest size clothes start getting too tight. So I finally get my act together and get back in shape again… for a while… until the cycle starts over again.
I always feel so silly that I keep doing this. I know how to eat healthy, exercise, and get to a healthy weight that I’m comfortable with - I’ve successfully done this many, many times in my life! So why don’t I just get to a weight that I’m happy with and stay there? Why do I keep letting myself get caught up in this cycle of gain/lose/gain/lose?
In September I was 142 lbs, after very slowly losing 17 lbs from a high of 159 last spring. Then the school year started, I had a messy break-up, and I became overwhelmed with stress and anxiety preparing for my qualifying exams. Over the last several months I slipped back into habits of emotional eating and binging. Periodically I would vow to myself that I was going to stop and get back on track, but it would never stick. I could feel the pounds piling on, but I kept telling myself that it wasn’t that bad and would push it out of my mind because I had too many other things to worry about.
Last Monday I finally decided to face the scale after many months of not weighing myself. I knew it was going to be pretty bad, but I was still shocked when I saw the number. In fact I actually burst out laughing because I was just so surprised and flabbergasted.
18 lbs gained in 4 months.
I had gained back all the weight I lost last year, plus an extra pound for good measure.
I couldn’t believe it. I stepped on and off the scale several times thinking maybe it was a mistake. Nope. It was real. Of course I felt pretty terrible about it. How could I have let myself undo all the progress I made last year? For a few brief moments, I was beating myself up about it pretty badly.
But then a thought occurred to me. Obviously this cycle of gain/lose/gain/lose is not ideal. Obviously it’s not good to keep making promises to myself to stay on track and then keep breaking those promises and regaining the weight. But another very real possibility is that instead of cycling through gain/lose/gain/lose, I could just as easily have been steadily gaining weight all these years. I have some pretty major issues with emotional eating and binging, and if it weren’t for that bit of ‘oomph’ that I periodically get, when I get my act together and lose the extra weight, at least temporarily, then I absolutely would have just kept gaining over the years. And this would have led me to be in a very, very different place physically than I am now. And getting down to a healthier weight would be a much bigger and more daunting task.
So I’m keeping things in perspective. I’m far from perfect, and of course I want to ultimately work through my food issues and break the gain/lose cycle. But I’m not going to beat myself up about regaining the weight. I’m not going to keep reminding myself of where I was several months ago and feeling bad about undoing all that hard work. Feeling guilty and indulging in self-flagellation won’t make the situation any better. My current reality is what it is, and the only useful thing to do is to focus on going forward from here and getting my body (and my life) back on track.
The weigh-in debacle last Monday was the kick in the pants that I needed to find my motivation and dedication again. All week I’ve been eating very healthy, and only when actually hungry. I’ve been getting back into an exercise routine at the gym. And today when I stepped on the scale, it said:
Down 4.5 lbs from last Monday. Mostly water weight, obviously, but some of it is definitely real and it’s good to see. I’m happy about my progress and will keep on going. No looking back and letting regret about past mistakes tarnish my current accomplishments. I’m going forward with a clean slate.
p.s. Of course I realize that weight is not a definitive measure of health or fitness. But for me personally, it happens to be a very useful metric. All the times in my life when I’ve been strong, fit, eating healthy, taking care of my self, my weight has been in the 135-140 lbs range. All the times in my life when I’ve been eating crap, not exercising, not taking care of myself, my weight goes up into the 150+ or 160+ range. So for me there is a very strong correlation, and working towards a weight loss goal goes hand in hand with working towards a healthier lifestyle and a fitter me.