I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I am (still) fat, and why I am not at goal (yet). You'd think after more than a decade of working on it, I'd have it narrowed down to *the reason* or *the issue*. But you know what? The longer I am at this, the more complex it becomes.
Sure, it is simple on the surface. The problem is that I consume more calories than I expend. Period. I eat too much, sometimes, and the wrong (unhealthy) kinds of foods, sometimes. I don't move enough, sometimes. Easy to understand. But I believe there are also mental/emotional stages we go through during weight loss. They are drivers, in a sense, and can lead us to regain (a little or a lot of weight) in order to quell the uncomfortable feelings OR they can lead us to make internal changes consistent with our new weight. Whether we work through these uncomfortable things determines, I believe, whether we do eventually lose the weight and get to goal or not. One cannot live in an emotionally distressing state for long without the body and mind doing what it can to get one back to a state of comfort, even if that means regaining weight.
Some of the stages of weight loss I have gone through (and am going through):
I am too fat! This sucks. I am going to lose weight!
Wheee! I lost some weight! Success!
Oh cool, I can see changes in myself and I like how my clothes are a little looser! This is fun!
I am starting to really love the taste of vegetables!
Wait, I can't have that ice cream? That sucks.
Hey, um, what am I supposed to do with my sadness and stress if I can't EAT it??
This is kind of hard.
Oh man, I love to bake but if I bake I will eat it. But I am a great cook! Who am I if I lose that part of me? I have always been a great cook!
Wow, I am really doing this! I feel awesome! I am so proud of myself!
My fat clothes don't fit anymore! How cool! Um, wait, what am I supposed to wear??
Buying new clothes is freaking me out.
I am sad that my old, comfortable clothes are too big for me. I don't want to stop wearing my favorite sweater!
Hey, these new clothes look great and I love having a smaller size!
I miss having candy bars and cookies. They were yum.
I cannot even look at a salad or a plate of broccoli right now. I am so sick of vegetables!
People are starting to comment on my weight loss! I am excited!
Wait, men are starting to look at my body. This is not comfortable!
People talk to me more and are friendlier to me, how cool!
But... why are they treating me differently, just because of my size? I don't like that.
Hey, my new, smaller clothes are getting too big. I just got them! I liked how they fit. I looked good and now they are getting too big already and what the heck am I going to wear??
Wow, look at how small my waist is getting! I look fantastic!
Holy crap! My skin is sagging off my body and looks horrible! I totally do not like the way my skin is hanging!
My double chins are gone! Yay!
Some creepy guy made a sexual comment to me when I was walking today. I did not like that at all. Men did not bother me when I was fatter...
I am getting kind of nervous. Maybe I am light enough now that a stranger could abduct me, or drag me off, or rape me. I felt safer when I was bigger because men didn't look at me and there is no way anyone could carry me off. I feel sort of vulnerable.
Why are all my larger-sized friends treating me differently, and not wanting to hang out anymore? I miss my friends.
I feel normal and it is so exciting to go out and about and just "be" a regular sized person!
People who don't know I was fat talk about fat people in ways I have never heard before. I cannot believe how people talk about obese people outside their hearing!
I want to eat a cake. Can I just eat a cake, just one more time? A whole cake, just for me.
My body is losing weight disproportionately. I have a thin middle and obese legs. I don't like how I look. I don't look like me anymore.
I got to shop in the regular sized clothing section! How exciting! But... it was kind of stressful. I don't know how to wear that kind of clothes. I kept waiting for someone to point me to the plus sized section.
I love how I can move and fit and do things I couldn't do before! Life is so much richer!
Wait, I don't have morbid obesity as an excuse to check out of life anymore. So, like, if I don't want to go to the park and play, or walk the dog, or mop the floor... even though now I can... does that make me a bad person??
People I haven't seen in ages don't recognize me anymore.
Wow, everyone is raving about my weight loss. I am getting an awful lot of attention. Why is everyone looking at my body? I don't like this...
People tell me I am going to gain it all back.
I should exercise but I don't feel like it.
Meh, I am fine the way I am, I can just cruise along and wait 6 months and then try to lose some more weight later.
Oh my gosh, I am still fat! I really need to get this weight off!
I wonder if everyone is watching and waiting for me to gain it all back.
Crap, my skin is starting to look like crepe paper where the fat is disappearing. I think it makes me look old. I don't want to look old.
I wish people would mind their own business. I hate how people are looking at me to see if I have lost or gained.
I am so proud of myself for learning to feel my feelings instead of eating them.
I am so sick of feeling my feelings. It is exhausting. I just want to eat a bag of chips and zone out for once.
It was easier being fat.
All of these things, I have gone through. I have worked through many of them and am continuing to experience and learn to cope with others. I think it is *essential* to understand your journey, your feelings (positive and negative) about weight loss, and how to be comfortable in your *new life* in order to get to goal and keep it off. I firmly believe that NOT doing this mental work is the main reason so, so many people gain back all the weight. Just look at the blogging world, for example. So many bloggers lose a ton of weight and then gain some, most, or all of it back. I have been reading blogs for 4 years now and while I have seen many folks go from morbidly obese to a normal size, I have also seen most of them regain. Keeping it off is HARD. If you just crack down and focus madly on the physical aspects of weight loss, sure, you can get the weight off at an inspiring speed and get to goal and it's all confetti and cheering, but then you have ALL that mental/emotional work to do at once! If you ignore your feelings on the way down the scale, you might find yourself dealing with them on the way back up. Take it easy. Lose the weight, focus on the physical but also pay attention to how you *really* feel. Usually, a regain, even a small one, is a sign of some underlying discomfort that one needs to acknowledge.
All those thoughts and feelings are not excuses to stall or regain. They are true, deep emotions that are perfectly normal when going through such a huge, life-changing experience. If you don't think about them and feel them now, they will crop up later.
I am happy to say that while I have thought and felt ALL of the things I listed above, I also have worked through 90% of them. How? Just by thinking and feeling. You might need to grieve some things or talk about them with people or just think them through and let yourself be sad or mad or frustrated or whatever. If you don't stuff them down, eventually acceptance comes. And with it comes healing.
I hope this is as helpful to you as it has been for me. Try making your own list or timeline of emotions as you are losing weight, and stay aware of what is *really* driving your eating. Success will come.
Food on the Brain
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