Up and down the scale goes, where it stops, no one knows. That is the life of most of us chubby girls and boys out there. Every diet and weight loss gimmick has been tried. Count calories, juicing, grapefruit diets, paleo, vegan diets, Atkins, you name it we’ve tried it. You probably have a stack of tapes and CDs, maybe even a fitness subscription for your tablet, for Jillian Michaels, Taebo, P90X, yoga, Zumba or some HIIT thing or another. I know I do.
Back in December 2016 I had finally had enough and knew this was probably the last time I could go from fat to fit and succeed. I had to. It hurt my marriage, it was hurting my health, and overall I was a miserable person.
In eight months I lost 35% of my body weight and am in my sustaining phase (its been a month as I write this – September 25, 2017). The odds are against me, which I knew from the start. So I’ve looked back and how I go here and what will keep me going.
Which gets me to the main point, the only way you will get to your desired weight, get healthy and stay that way is to just make it happen. Sounds simple, right? Is it really? Yes, it really is. No lie. The only thing holding you back is you. Really.
Getting to a healthy you is a grieving process. You will enter the seven stages of grieving over and over as you hit milestones, plateaus, and the dreaded set backs. Know the stages and what you will face and it will be easier to push through. Here we go…
- Shock & Denial: You just got the message that your weight is your mortal door bell. The scale, your BMI, cholesterol level, blood pressure, sleep apnea and snoring, and/or signs of diabetes are telling you that you have a problem. If you were like me, the revolt on fat shamers is a welcome cause. Your look around and everyone is heavy. There are bigger models showing proudly their curves. The action, you accept your weight and look to see how others have not only accepted but embraced their state.This is the shock and denial stage and can last a few days or weeks, or its been years. The thing you have to recognize is: you don’t have a hormone problem, this isn’t a metabolic disease, its not hereditary. Your medical issue is too much eating, eating in an unhealthy way and not getting off your a$$.
Snap out of it: Own up; you are making excuses. For every excuse, argue against it. No time to exercise? Get on the treadmill instead of sitting on the couch watching your TV show. No time to cook? When you do, make extra to heat up later. Taking the elevator to your car in the garage? Take the stairs. Everyone has time when there is a priority in their face. Make YOU your priority.
- Pain and Guilt: You are recognizing how your habits have impacted your health, your family, your relationship with your partner, and may even see its impact on your work and career. You feel bad about yourself and what you’ve done to yourself.Pain and guilt will always come back on your fit to fat journey. It happens in the beginning when you wake up to your bad habits. It comes when you were doing great and then splurged at the Super Bowl Party with that tray of wings. It comes back when you realize its been a week and you didn’t get to the gym.
Snap out of it: Break the paralysis that pain and guilt have on your momentum. Allow yourself 15 minutes of violins at the pitty party. Get it out through a journal or blog. Talk to your dog or cat. Hold a conversation with yourself in front of the mirror. Put a message in a bottle and throw into the ocean. Anything. You need to find a way to let this go and move on. It’s okay to have these feelings. The goal is to cut them off before they derail you from your mission.
- Anger & Bargaining: You will get pissed off. The first week of your new lifestyle will be like detox. Hunger, headaches, edginess, and rage will hit you like waves as your body goes through an adjustment with food it isn’t used to eating (your gut bacteria are in revolt). And, remember those calorie counting and point systems you tried in the past? You are probably spending an awful lot of energy looking at ways to game the system so you can still eat everything you always did and still not put in the time to workout.Anger and bargaining are your coping mechanisms to change. This stage is the one that if you don’t beat it back it will derail you. Your inner rebellious teenager is going to give you what for. You will hit frustrations at hitting a plateau for three weeks and getting so angry you just want to throw the scale at the wall.
Snap out of it: Here is where retraining strategies will need to kick in. If you haven’t yet, get reading or watching programs about what is making you angry and the grand negotiator and find answers to solving the challenge. Or, re-educate or re-acquaint yourself with what you learned. You need to keep reprogramming yourself to stay on and adapt to your new lifestyle. Don’t like boring eating anymore? Hunt down healthy recipes. Can’t finish your first 1-mile outdoor run after months on a treadmill and walks? Check out the Couch to 5k plans. This is the time to solve problems, not let your anger and bargaining turn into excuses.
- Depression, reflection, loneliness – You will find that it is easier to find comfort in food and loungewear than working toward your goal. Your family and friends may not be supportive and try to sabotage your efforts. You have seen too many people in your group meetings for weight loss try and fail. Everything is pulling you down even as you see the scale decreasing and the clothing getting bigger on you.The depression, reflection and loneliness stage can be a dark place. You are grieving for your old you which may now feel like a different person if you are smaller and living in ill fitting clothes. Even if you have support around you it can seem like no one really knows what you are going through personally. It’s important to recognize that this stage is either a normal low point or genuinely a medical issue.
Snap out of it: Everyone has low points. You will need to tap into your resiliency or learn to create it. Get into the community forums and lurk, finding stories that talk about the things you are experiencing and thinking. Then engage. It’s much easier to do across the internet than face to face. A little anonymity at times is useful to share (but not too much!). Reach out to local groups where there are others experiencing what you are experiencing. There are yoga classes, running clubs, cycling clubs, whatever where fat to fit people are finding each other and encouraging each other. If you are in a weight loss program and still feel alone, speak up. Talk to the group leader and they can help you.
Depression can be more serious and clinical. If you can’t kick the blues after 2-3 weeks, feel immobile or feel suicidal, then it is time to get some help. Your former coping skills that got your into your chubby state may have helped to push back things that are hurtful or difficult to handle. What you are eating and how you are eating may be unbalanced and cause depression due to nutritional deficits. Or, if you have been taking medications, losing weight may be interfering with the prescription dosage and you could be taking too much. Your doctor can help you work through this – call them immediately.
- The Upward Turn: “Isn’t this the point when it gets easy?”, you say. Well, yes. However, this stage can bit you in the a$$. I call it my stage of hubris and pride. You’ve reached your half way point to your goal. Your clothes don’t fit to the point that even a belt is no longer an option. And, that outdoor run or boot camp is more enjoyable than work. You even crave going!This success can make you start to think you can take an extra slice of pizza, add a beer to your dinner, or take that cupcake with the mile high icing at the company gathering. You’ve earned it. The cost is that your mind has shifted from lifelong healthy living to, “I see an end!”
Snap out of it: Start to ask yourself why you are craving those sweets or more food. You may not be eating enough or have deprived yourself too much in the race to the weight bottom. Rethink your meals to make sure they are tasty and satisfying. Use the time to adjust your calories and macros to reflect your lower weight and activity level. Lower weight means fewer calories – hard to get your head around that, I know. But, the increase in activity may mean you might be able to get an extra 50 – 100 calories. Or, your macro for Fat is under 30% leaving you with little energy for your exercise level. Lastly, revisit your goals for life long healthy living. It was never about the number, it was about what you could achieve and hold onto. You’ve come a long way, but if you don’t keep it up, the habits won’t be engrained making it easier when you do hit that weight goal to keep it off.
- Reconstruction & Working Through: Getting beyond half way is your point to get acquainted with your new healthy life. Up to this point it has been hard work and at times an obsession. You’ll begin to try new things. Maybe you wanted to get on a paddleboard, hike up a mountain. or start training for a half marathon. Or, maybe it is the time to get comfortable with your new look as maybe there is a person in the mirror you don’t quite recognize with the slimmer face.Reconstruction and working through is when you’ll begin to modify your eating and exercise to something that looks like your future normal. This is the time when plateaus can figure in again creating frustration. Or, by making these changes it actually accelerates your weight loss as your body is experiencing something different. Either way, the ups and downs during this period can either keep you going or sabotage your efforts depending on how you internalize the results.
Snap out of it: This is the time to develop your sustainability program. If you are a scale obsessor and weigh in almost every day, stop. This is the time when your scale can fluctuate by a pound or two in a day. Shift to a weekly weigh in and keep your weight losses within a pound or at least hold steady. Let yourself slow down. Take a hard look at your activities. Are you diversifying or only hitting the pavement for longer and longer runs? Are you getting in exercise that you actually enjoy? Start to build an activity portfolio for different weather and seasons so that even if you are a running junkie (like me), there are other options to incorporate to keep activity levels high.
- Acceptance & Hope: That chubby girl or boy is still inside you and always will be. That is a fact and something you will live with. While that part of yourself can bring back moments of pain, fear, frustration, and regret, it is also something to be celebrated. Why? Because regardless of where you were at that point, there were still positive things about you. The strength you found to overcome an unhealthy lifestyle was always there and is always there with you.
Moving forward, accepting all of you, not just the new you gives confidence and hope to keep on this healthy living lifestyle. Staying at this stage can be hard, especially if you treat this point the way you did when you hit your upward turn. Or, maybe you’ve coasted at this point for several months and the holidays hit or you experience a life challenge. That’s when you will come to terms again with your various stages of grief and put all that you’ve learned to work.
Snap out/into it: Do the things that feel good and remind you why you embarked on this journey. Go back and relive your milestones to remember how good it felt to lose that first 10 or twenty pounds, run that 5k, hike up that mountain, or break through yet another plateau. Challenge yourself to new experiences, even if it is just taking a pottery class, joining a book club or traveling to a new country. New situations that you enjoy will reinforce the urge to maintain your hopeful state and sustain your progress.
I’m in acceptance and hope now and take each day as it comes. I look for things that keep me going, and that includes planning on bringing home a puppy that will become my loyal running partner. Each day gets easier and easier as my actions feel more natural, routine and habitual. I know come winter the shorter days, holiday meals, and cold weather will be my next hurdles and throw me backward into previous stages. My strategy? Taking the advise I just gave and reusing the techniques that worked before.