Health · Maintenance · My Lifestyle · Weight

The Same But Different

Me, not Dieting.
June 2013

I think the weight loss, weight gain, yo-yo dieting cycle is kind of like that movie, Groundhog Day (1993), except that instead of 1 day repeating, years repeat.  And you don’t really know it’s happening.  Or if you do know, you don’t understand why.

Plot summary, from IMDB:
“A weather man is reluctantly sent to cover a story about a weather forecasting “rat” (as he calls it). This is his fourth year on the story, and he makes no effort to hide his frustration. On awaking the ‘following’ day he discovers that it’s Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. First he uses this to his advantage, then comes the realization that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing EVERY day.”

Around 2001-2003, I lost over 100 pounds by eating as little as possible and walking all over the city of Philadelphia.  The smallest I ever got was around size 8.  (Same as this time around, in 2011)

Then things get a little fuzzy, but I have the distinct memory of having gained some weight back and not fitting into my size 8 jeans anymore.  A friend, who fit the jeans perfectly begged me to give them to her because she adored them.  I remember arguing with her that I would fit into them again soon, really I would!  In the end I remember giving them to her and she wore them for years until they were a completely different faded shade of blue than the original deep indigo.  I didn’t put on a size 8 again for almost 10 years.

I also have a distinct memory around this same time, maybe a little later, of feeling really good about my body after having regained some weight.  I was waitressing at a mexican restaurant and I remember that one of the other bartenders who was also a little pudgy around the middle saying something like “But don’t you feel uncomfortable?” and grabbing her stomach fat despondently.  My reply was something along the lines of “Hell no, I don’t give a fuck!”  I was feeling good and totally over the whole dieting thing.

My weight stayed in about the same region for a long time after that.  Size 16ish.  Same size I was when I graduated high school. I walked a lot, didn’t own a car.  I had active jobs, including a waitressing job where the dining room was on the second floor and the kitchen and bar were on the first floor.

But when I moved to Massachusetts in 2007, I bought a car, started a desk job, and all the sudden was not broke anymore.  Therefore I could afford to buy a lot more take out and convenience foods.  Mixed together, I gained weight at a record pace, until, in 2009 I started losing weight again by calorie counting and exercise and ended up losing 125 pounds and the rest is history…

And so it goes, the Groundhog Day phenomenon continues.  It’s 2013, I’m “obese” again according to the BMI chart, wearing size 14/16 jeans, and I honestly feel like I don’t give a fuck about weight anymore.

However, much like the movie, I can learn new things with each repetition of this cycle.  Last time, I simply put it all out of my mind.  This time… well, I’m this online weight loss/healthy living personality so I’m still engaged.  If it wasn’t for this blog and facebook page, I think I probably wouldn’t have any interest in talking about weight or weight loss ever again.  But I’m glad I’m here because I have learned things this time that are maybe going to get me out of this endless cycle.  I have other things to share.  I hope someday I can never talk about my weight again, but with so many people following me and asking questions about weight loss and weight maintenance, they need to know what I really feel about it right now so they can decide if they want to keep reading what I have to say.

I’m sure to some people, gaining weight and being okay with it disqualifies me from talking about health.  I am totally okay with that.  I’ve always said, I can only be me.

When I stopped weighing myself last October, I accepted the possibility I may gain weight.  I felt it was quite likely, to be honest.  Reading Health at Every Size opened my eyes about a lot of things.  The binge and diet cycle I had been on for the past 15 years was never going to be maintainable.  I realized I only had two choices: engage in diet behaviors for the rest of my life, keeping a keen watch over my weight or give up and focus on living my life the way I want to live it and letting the scale say what it may.

I chose option 2.  I don’t know if I was mentally capable of choosing option 1, frankly.  So maybe the movie is over now.  Maybe I can move forward and put Groundhog Day behind me.  The endless cycle of losing and gaining weight.  I have a better idea.

How about if I accept my perfectly healthy size 16 body as it is and was always meant to be.  I’m not talking about anyone but myself here.  I have my own unique life history, as we all do.  My body is as is should be.  It is doing what it was naturally made to do.  How about if I continue to focus my energy on making sure I maintain good cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility.  I adore the way I eat.  I wouldn’t switch back for the world.  Cooking my own vegetarian meals from the freshest produce I can get is an ingrained part of my life now. 

There are other aspects to having good health I focus on.  Getting a good night’s sleep is a priority to me and I make sure it always happens.  I know that reducing stress is very important, and for that reason I choose activities that relax, rejuvenate, and relieve me.  Hiking and yoga are my primary forms of exercise.  I’ve also made a pointed effort to spend time every day sketching.  That has been a really amazing new habit for me this year.  And I’ve read several books of fiction as well.  Life can’t be all about work, exercise, and eating.  That’s how I was starting to feel before this change happened.

I know there’s nothing I can do to convince everyone that my lifestyle is “healthy enough” and my body is still not as small as “they” say it should be.  But I don’t need to convince anyone.  I know and trust myself.

I believe in Health at Every Size.  But with a really strong focus on health.  I don’t mind what other people want to do, but for me, I’ve proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that being mindful of practicing healthy habits improves my life immeasurably.

I feel better now than I did when I was my thinnest.  I don’t get dizzy anymore.  My back pain is almost completely gone.  I’m not cold all the time.  My hair is growing in thicker.  I feel like I have a lot more energy to give to things other than food and exercise.  I feel more attractive.

It takes courage to give up dieting, but I don’t want to live the rest of my life reliving Groundhog Day over and over again.

It’s time to move on.

20 thoughts on “The Same But Different

  1. YES!!! I feel like I’m still in the groundhog day cycle, and I have this goal of losing the “grief weight” and getting back into my size 14s I was wearing when Mom died. But if I have to do anything unhealthy to get there, then I may end up accepting my size 16s, too. Thanks for writing this. I’m going to share this post right now…

  2. You are an inspiration. I hope to one day make peace with my body in the same way. However, each day is a learning experience and the daily and yearly fluctuations are just going to be a part of life. I appreciate you sharing this part of your life with us.

  3. This is perfect for the state of mind I am currently in. I want so badly to be happy with my body, as in 2011 I was 363 lbs, I got down to 230 lbs in 2012, and in 2013 I am teter tottering between 235 – 240 at a size 17/18. I have plateaued and often I am ashamed of myself. My wife and I have adopted a full vegetarian and 75% vegan diet (all but cheese) and I feel good about what I eat. I have been trying to get back to an hour of good cardio a day and burn anywhere from 500 – 900 calories when I work out. however, I feel as if I am plauged by the neverending fat girl I was two years ago, and she scares the hell out of me. I hope I can get to a point to where I do not have to talk about my weight anymore either, but that will be very hard for me. I want to feel confident, healthy, and happy, and if that’s not meaning thin, then I guess I will have to take that in stride. Thank you for this. It made me feel better about myself.

  4. Brilliant. I am nearly there, so close I can taste it, but I still have to talk myself off the ledge sometimes.

  5. You’re amazing. This is what I need to hear and what I need to say. You’re fucking awesome as you are, and I am too. Let’s do this, girls. No more playing mind games with ourselves. Enjoy life! Take care of yourself! No more arbitrary numbers dictating our self-worth!

  6. I’m totally crying reading this. I’m 100% with you. Really, I am. Here is a quote I found recently: “It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” – Wendell Berry
    I woke up about 6 months ago (mid-40’s now) and wept. Wept HARD. I woke up feeling fat and disgusting and realizing that I was right back where I had started so many times that it made me feel sick. Totally sick. And suddenly, as I cried, I realized that I didn’t want to do ONE MORE FRICKEN thing to stay in that horrific cycle. That I wasn’t willing to charge forward into weight loss again (AGAIN!) and succeed ALMOST and then 6 months later find myself right back here. And so I felt STUCK! Like wtf can I do now? And I told my husband (God bless that man) and he said “what does HEALTH mean to you?” and I literally couldn’t answer. I mean, I went to a woman’s college, I”m very educated, I know what “health” is supposed to mean – but what did it mean to me? I had NO CLUE. And he said, why don’t you think about that for now instead? And suddenly, I was on a new path. I refused to do anything about my body until I felt I could trust myself not to be even accidentally in that cycle again. That felt old and painful. So even though I felt stuck, I decided to refocus. I read an amazing book called: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” By Robert Sapolsky (about the impact of stress on our bodies – brilliant and accessible and truly eye-opening) and then I picked up “Coming To Our Senses” by Jon Kabot-Zinn (I’m still in the middle of it) and my mind/heart is going through a total transformation. Realizing that nothing is promised – really, all we have is literally this singluar moment – and the future is nice to think about but right now IS the future of days/weeks past – so the only REAL moment I’m alive is now – is THIS how I want to feel about me right now? No matter what I weight or eat? NO. And so I started to unravel a web that I felt trapped in. I”m still doing it. I’m going for a walk when I’m done writing this not because I want to strive to walk more in 4 months and have to “build” towards that (like always before) but because if I walk today, I’ll be treating myself better a bit today – not ideally better but enough better – and it is good for me. I know that. So anyways, I’m with you. I wish I could hug you right now. But since I cannot, I send you HUGE hugs and you are right, courage is what it takes to cast off these old, useless, self-harming ideas of what we’re supposed to be and have the guts to step forward into the less familiar mindfulness in the moment and try to just be ourselves now and try really hard to accept where we are and what we are now. But if we don’t, we could end up dead having never tried and that is just too much for me to bear. Thank you for your post.

    1. Hi, I just want to say thanks both for the post and the reply. I feel like I vow to start over every Monday. I just had a physical recently and realized I am FINE. Cholesterol, Glucose, etc. I have been caught up with being “skinny” for far too long and quite frankly I am DONE. If I am healthy, enjoy eating healthy foods, and love things that taste good why I am concerned that I have some curves in certain spots? I love to run and although I don’t fit the normal runner mold, I am trying desperately not to care. I appreciate what you are doing on this blog. Trying hard to be content!

  7. Thank you for your honesty and healthy attitude! I think sketching is a great idea too. When I get totally in the zone with artwork eating (as habit or boredom reliever) is never an issue. Mindful activity (exercise and art-wise) seems to go along with mindful eating. Keep up the great work on all counts!

  8. Thank you so much for this. I am in the exact same place as you; I lost 100+ lbs. in 2003-2004 by counting every calorie in every crumb, immediately started gaining it back when I hit my goal, gained back 40+ by 2006, joined a boot camp program and started exercising obsessively, ran 4 marathons, and between 2006-present I have gained and lost the same 20-25 lbs. over and over again. Now my thyroid is a mess and I am feeling stuck because none of my old “tricks” are working, and I’m just tired. I’m tired of fighting with my body and never being happy with how I look. I’m tired of having my self-worth being wrapped up in how much I weigh, and I’m tired of how much of my brain’s real estate is taken up with thinking about my weight obsessively. I recently started thinking “what if I stopped counting calories? what if I just listened to my body’s needs? what if I just went for long walks and quit the gym?” It scares me to let go of my old rules; it makes me fear losing control. But I just can’t do it anymore. A voice like yours is like fresh air…the voice of reason!!! Thank you for being brave enough to be so open.

  9. “I’m sure to some people, gaining weight and being okay with it disqualifies me from talking about health.”
    This actually makes me want to listen to you and follow what you say MORE!!! 🙂

    “How about if I accept my perfectly healthy size 16 body as it is.”
    YES!!! I’m a size 18 and am really trying hard to love my body as it is. 🙂 If I were eating healthier, I would feel better about myself and my body even if I stayed a size 18, I think… 🙂

  10. I so needed this. My weight has gone up and down for a few years, although for quite a while, it only went up when I was pregnant. But we’re done having kids and my youngest is three and I got so tired of counting calories and restricting. I read HAES and Intuitive Eating and I’m trying to focus on that. I run a facebook page about health and fitness and sometimes I feel like I somehow failed, because instead of being 140 and a size 6, I’m back up to the high 160s and a size 12/14 (nearly obese for my height). I’m trying to focus on moderation and just listening to my body – and I think that my body is just trying to find a new normal after all the ups and downs (which also include a recent TIF procedure and hiatal hernia repair that necessitated 6+ weeks of no exercise and a liquid diet). It’s hard, but I know I eat a pretty balanced diet and I exercise 4-6 days each week. I’m trying to make sure that a weight/size I’m happy with doesn’t come at the expense of my health, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental.

  11. OMG!! Do I hear you, now!!!! I am finally understanding that this constant mind set I have of binging and restricting is literally zapping any and all joy out of my life..It really has ruled my life in such a negative way for over 25 years..Somehow I feel like I am finally getting it..20 pounds up or down is absolutely insignificant to my life..I am a bigger girl I am 5’10 and about 180 pounds a size 10/12…But once I was a size 8 for a year..So, I have been chasing that size 8 for the last 8 mos…up down and all around..I cannot even do it again..I work out strong 5 days a week. I am fit, I am healthy I am sooo all done!!! Thank you!

  12. Yes, it sounds brilliant, but do you have a plan not to gain more and more? Or size 18-20-22… will be also good? Til when is it the question of aesthetic and not a question of health? I don’t want to be offensive, it’s also a question for me.
    (Sorry for my poor English.)

    1. Nope, no plan. I trust that I will be the right size for my activity level. And if that’s 18 or 20, ok. I accept that. But it doesn’t seem to be happening. I think I’ve actually lost a little this month, not sure. One thing I do know: I will never diet again. It doesn’t work. Period.

  13. Your post and many of the replies are very moving and useful to me. Thank you to each and everyone who’s shared their heart and their experience here. I’ve been on the same yo-yo for years – but not even admitting it to myself – pretending that I wasn’t dieting, pretending I was just trying to get healthy, or become a more conscious eater. But underneath it all was this shame, this big ugly shame about my body. And it didn’t matter what size I was, I felt ashamed. And it didn’t matter what I ate, or how much I exercised, I felt ashamed.

    I’m in my early 40s now, and my shame is finally starting to get worked out. I live near the ocean and yesterday, I went swimming. The waves were amazing and as I jumped and danced and sang and whooped and hollered, I was totally in the moment. Not thinking about my bathing suit, or what I looked like. It was a very healing moment.

    I think one of the things that is really helping me is that I have moved to a rural community, near where I grew up. People know me here, at the size I’m at. I’m valued for who I am: a creative, helpful, sharing, loving person. People look at me and see me, not some anonymous body to pick apart and judge. I feel like a whole person, more often. I’m getting to really know who I am and I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of.

  14. I’m so grateful I found your blog and this post today! I have been yo-yoing for the past 15 years! The last two years have been rounds of HCG and very restrictive Paleo eating. I’d do a 23 day round of HCG, get to my goal weight (165lbs at 5’8 and large boned), follow Paleo for a few months and then the weight would start creeping back on. Cue another round of HCG…rinse and repeat!

    My ideal is a size 12 but realistically I’m probably more a 14 (and a 16 in heavier times). The interesting thing to me is that I look at that picture of you at a size 16 and I said “I think she looks GREAT!”. Then I asked myself why I am SO much harder on myself than I am on others. I would NEVER look at picture of myself at a size 16 and said I looked great–never. I also am was recently divorced in the past 4 years and my ex left me for a woman who is VERY small and thin (under 100 lbs no doubt). I’m sure this is some of why I am striving to “look good” and I need to let go of this right now. Even just typing that just now brought tears to my eyes. To realize I’ve been obsessing over my size for HIM…what a waste of my time and energy! LOL

    So here I am making the decision to just eat the food. My body temps are very low right now (97.0 average) and I know this is a sign of a messed up metabolism (thanks to the writings of Matt Stone). I need to heal my body and replenish what it’s lost. I will eat wheat again (but I will soak it and prepare it myself so it’s a healthy form of wheat) and I will even eat SUGAR from time to time! I won’t get on my scale and I won’t hold a certain size (12) as the holy grail. Thank you!

  15. That’s at the state that I’m in right now, reading this post was like reading my own experience. Almost four years ago I lost a lot of weight and became quite small (about a size 4). I loved it and felt like I was on top of the world, but I quickly started developing unhealthy habits, such as obsessive exercise and binge eating episodes. Sure enough, I slowly started to put the weight back on. Panicked, I tried to diet and exercise even more to lose it or at least prevent future weight gain. But it seemed like the harder I tried, the worse it got. Over a two year period I gradually gained more and more of the weight back, despite trying what felt like everything. I was miserable. I forgot how to live and be happy and carefree. So six months ago, after my wedding, I hit my breaking point. I said “fuck it”. Nothing I tried was working, so I decided to let the dieting and exercising go and just let my body “be”. I bought bigger clothes to accommodate a weight gain, quit weighing myself, and let myself eat to my heart’s content. I did eventually weigh myself and I had put on about 12 lbs since my wedding. But I can’t even describe how much happier I am now. Yes, I miss my size 4 jeans, but I have to remind myself that even though I was skinnier, waking up every day wondering how the day was going to go, obsessing over my next workout, and praying I wouldn’t binge, was hell! I was not healthy. I was obsessive and stressed. I am SO. MUCH. HEALTHIER now. Health has nothing to do with being a certain clothing size…it’s physical, but it’s also emotional and mental. I’m still active, although I no longer do the grueling workouts I used to do, and now that I no longer diet my eating is much more balanced and I haven’t binged in months. It’s wonderful, and I will never go back.

    So thank you for this post! I can completely relate, and we need more people being true advocates of health!

  16. I have just found this blog and am feeling a mixture of trepidation and excitement. My overheating and lack of portion control is a secret to my two young sons. My husband thinks it is lack of self control. I have a high powered job where people think its the baby weight failing to shift but really, it’s like you said, it’s years of using food for a purpose other than for fuel, albeit tasty fuel….I was just much better at starving myself and hiding it when I was younger….I used to eat leftover sandwiches from the dustbins of the school classrooms when I was 17, but I looked pretty good as I could also starve pretty well. I was a fat kid eating two Big Macs and a milkshake in one sitting, but no one told me that it was unhealthy (yet my parents are doctors !). I then went on an apple diet when I was 11 after discovering my mums weight watchers magazines and learnt the calorie content of just about every food on the planet, priding myself that my waist was smaller than my head circumference…and I stayed slim by eating green beans with ketchup or other such low cal foods, in between binges of cereal, cakes, peanut butter etc, stealing my flat mates food…anyway, 20 years later…
    No pressure, but your blog may just be be the trigger to my being ready to tackle this.
    Thank you

    Reply

  17. Thank you Nicole for your comment and thank you Kate for this blog. I’ve been on countless diets and was about to go to a presentation about a HCG diet “boot camp”. Cancel that! Your experience confirms what I suspected – that it’s just more of the same. But people swear by it so I thought, maybe……

    After gaining weight from autoimmune thyroid disease, Lyme Disease and toxic mold exposure, I am desperate to lose it because I can’t stand how I look – and it’s not just the weight. Hashimoto’s changes the shape of your face and I don’t recognize myself. So I need to shift this focus on size and the harshness I have with myself (my mother’s voice in my head – she put me on my first diet at age 13 when I weighed 112lbs at 5’5″ because my stocky thighs were too big for the beauty pageants *she* wanted to me to be in. I’ve yo-yo’d ever since). I know society’s and my mom’s tapes that run aren’t true but it *feels* true. At 5’5″ I wear a 14/16 and feel horrible in my body. I’ve started exercising again after several years of inactivity and that has made me more comfortable in my skin. My eating is for the most part healthy and supports my healing. But then I look in the mirror…..

    I will continue reading your blog and would love suggestions of resources on how to shift this torturous body image issue.

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