The blogsphere and diet book world are full of stories of what people have gained by losing (weight). Heck, I've probably written a post or two about it. But seldom does anyone ever write about the process of regaining weight, unless it is with a firm resolve to start back on a path toward smaller-ness. Or sometimes there is a confession about eating too many seconds and not enough minutes on the treadmill. Such reflections are often filled with guilt and remorse and a question: how did I fail again??
But I'd like to take a different path. What have I gained by (re)gaining? Yes, about 18 months ago I did what I thought was impossible and lost a bunch of weight and kept it off for a good 9 months. Then slowly I wasn't nearly so militant about my meals. One thing led to another...but I'm here to say it isn't all bad. Here's what I've gained:
1. An appreciation for those who have struggled with weight maintenance. I always figured "how hard can it be? If you lose weight you should be able to keep it off." Yet 95% of people who set out to lose weight either never get there or are unable to keep it off. Why? Part of it is old habits dying hard. Part of it is biology kicking in and amping up hunger hormones. I never understood it, but now I get it on both an academic and a personal level. And I finally understand all those people who desperately want to get back to their high school size. My high school size was nothing to aspire to, but now I have pictures of a smaller me that taunt me.
2. An improved body acceptance. Yup. This body. Right here, right now. The one that no longer fits into my cute jeans but has more energy to go out and play with the kids. The one that is worrying less about each and every bite of food and more focus on those I share my meals with. At my smallest I really was a slave to food and exercise even though I was eating very little. Every thought was an obsession over how each and every part of my life would affect the scale. It made me pretty self-centered and unable to devote myself to things that really mattered. And I was never accepting of my body at my smallest. I'm now actually more accepting of my body here and now.
3. A final commitment to getting out of the dieting trap. In the book "Intuitive Eating" the authors describe our first diet as being similar to a first "love"...intoxicating. We always look back at that first diet with longing, thinking if only we could rekindle that same magic we could find ourselves back into smaller jeans bliss. But most of us (see #1) are going to be stuck on the dieting roller coaster. I would say every single diet plan out there claims to be a "lifestyle change", but we are often unable to keep up with that lifestyle for a variety of reasons. I saw it in myself and I see it all around me, people either constantly on a diet or looking for the next big one that will work. All that paired with times of overeating before the "lifestyle change." I don't want to be always looking at the next diet or be a slave to the scale. I want to live.
So does all this mean I've thrown health, fitness, and nutrition in the garbage? No, eating nutritious foods helps my body and mind feel better. I just no longer beat myself up if what I consume isn't nutritionally perfect. I still exercise for my mental health and for lifetime health. And I'm actually finding I enjoy both nutritious foods and exercise more when I'm pursuing them out of health and enjoyment rather than out of guilt.