While I received this letter almost a month ago, I purposefully saved it until today because as you all know today is New Year’s Eve. Today and tomorrow are traditionally the days on which we make promises to ourselves that we promptly abandon within a week or two. Maybe this year can be different…
I was divorced a few years ago and although I was already heavy, I put on lots of pounds. I had four kids and that really wrecked my figure. About a year after my divorce, I started to get excited about dating again (I met someone at work I really liked) so I threw myself into an exercise program and started eating right. I ended up losing almost 70 pounds and damn, I looked great!
I kept the weight off for almost a year, and then I’m not sure what happened but I just started gaining again. Now I am probably five or ten pounds heavier than my last highest weight. I’m not sure because I can’t bring myself to get on the scale. I feel awful, both mentally and physically.
What can I do to get inspired to lose the weight and keep it off? I haven’t had a date in years and I’m not dead yet! I want to find a partner (don’t really care about getting remarried at my age) but I am not going to meet anyone at this weight. It’s not just that I feel unattractive, it’s that I am depressed about how I look and I am not the best company as a result.
Any advice about how to get started and follow through?
Depressed in Dallas
Dear Depressed in Dallas:
Thank you for writing to me and for allowing me to postpone answering your question until today. Thank you also for being honest with me in our several email exchanges over the past few weeks. You fully admit that you don’t exercise and you eat like shit. That’s truly the first step in changing your life in this regard: taking an honest look at your behavior and owning up to it.
The only thing I think you should reconsider is blaming the fact you had four kids for your current weight, because you told me your youngest is almost 30. Come on now. That’s like blaming JFK for the housing bubble.
Since you have already lost a good deal of weight, you clearly understand what it takes to get the job done so I won’t go into weight loss methods here. What you need now is:
1. Advice on how to get your motivation back; and
2. Advice on how to maintain your weight loss once you achieve it, which is MUCH harder than losing the weight itself.
Let’s start with motivation. I am more of a carrot than a stick person, and my conversations with you lead me to believe you are the same. In other words, while some people (stick people) may motivate themselves with negative thoughts, such as posting a really unflattering photo of themselves on the fridge to ensure that door remains shut, others (us carrot types) respond better to positive methods.
(apologies to my parents and Miley Cyrus)
There are many ways you can create images of your goal online via weight loss simulators (www.modelmydiet.com), or you can simply do some photoshop. I asked my friend Mark Elias, photographer extraordinaire, to create these photos of me for comedic purposes. However, as I recently noticed a few pounds are creeping up yet again, I am using them for motivation to get back to where I was not too long ago.
I am also using photos of me at my recent best, so I suggest you dig some pictures out that were taken after your 70 pound weight loss and look at them every day, especially when you don’t feel like working out or when you feel a Cheesecake Factory binge coming on.
Other forms of motivation:
1. Think about your kids. You said they don’t have children yet but they likely will soon. At your weight, you may be at risk of serious health problems. You told me you can’t wait to be a grandmother, so don’t rob yourself of this experience. Even if you are alive to meet your grandchildren, you may be too heavy to pick them up. This in turn robs your children of free babysitting, and that’s just rude.
2. You said you want to date. While there are plenty of men out there who have no problem dating heavier women, you are almost surely correct that your attitude about your weight is inhibiting your social life with members of the opposite sex. Who wants to fall in love with someone who doesn’t even like, much less love themselves? Also, prospective dates may balk at asking you out in fear the dinner check will be too large.
3. Start today. Not tomorrow: today. Put down that burger I know you are snarfing and go for a walk. Because I know you work VERY part time, you have no excuse not to start this journey now.
4. Involve others. With obesity rates what they are in this country, I am betting you have a friend, co-worker or family member who could benefit from a weight loss endeavor. Studies (look it up, I’m tired) show that people who attempt difficult tasks do better when they are supported by and accountable to others.
Even if you don’t have any heavy friends, everyone could do with more exercise. Get a walking or gym buddy/buddies and make a date for three days a week or more.
“Motivation” is somewhat of a false concept, because it implies a force outside ourselves is required for us to take action. The very fact you wrote to me shows me you have the motivation to get back on the horse, but what you are really looking for is support.
That’s a good reason to take this point to heart and find others who can support you and whom you can support as well. Giving encouragement is often as or more valuable than receiving it.
Maintenance is your next challenge, and the reason why the diet industry is a multi-million dollar one in this country. Losing weight is tough, but it’s also kind of fun because we get the positive rewards of a shrinking body, compliments from others and new clothes.
Once the weight is gone and those factors have dissipated, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns and gain it all back (and then some). While some fluctuation in weight is normal for mo
st of us, dramatic gains and losses over and over again are actually very bad for your health. Some doctors (again, Google is your friend) actually think it is healthier to just remain fat than it is to yo-yo.
Here is some advice I was given and totally ignored when I reached my goal (thus resulting in my current state of “soft”): if you want to maintain your weight loss, weigh yourself once per week and write that weight down somewhere you can’t avoid it. For me, that would be in the wine fridge (hence, the softness). You live alone so you can pretty much keep this piece of paper anywhere…on the counter in the bathroom where you keep your scale is probably a good idea.
It’s pretty hard to not take action if you see that number creeping up again. In addition, remind yourself how hard you worked to get where you got and how much easier it is to lose 2 pounds than 20.
White wine is my achilles heel when it comes to over-indulgence, so I simply need to get it out of my house when it’s time to reduce.
if you have a similar drink or food that you know contributes to your weight, ban it from your home or keep very little on-hand.
Finally, donate all your “fat” clothes to charity so they won’t be hanging in your closet, promising you an escape if you gain the weight back. Your new clothes, like your scale, will be your guide as to when you need to address weight creep. If you find yourself purchasing pants in a bigger size, get your shit together and do what you did before to lose the weight in the first place.
Because 2014 is MY year and I plan to become the best person I can be, I will be ramping up my fitness and nutrition program too. I have already sworn off more than 1-2 glasses of white wine per day. I am on day 4 and I can already feel my body getting smaller. I also plan to take up yoga with my husband and to stop doing exercise that hurts (running and weight-lifting) and to replace it with effective activities that don’t take a toll on my aging body (swimming, more sex and fencing).
Let’s face it: I am going to become famous this year, and I don’t want to be walking the red carpet with back fat squeezing out of my Armani gown. So who is with me? Anyone want to start a program for this year? My 45th birthday is in April and we plan to celebrate in Palm Springs.*
How’s this for accountable? If 20 people agree to join me in a fitness program (I am the arbiter of the rules because it’s my damn blog) OR if I get 20 new followers of this blog by the end of the day today, I will post a photo of me in my bathing suit on my birthday, April 8. I too need some motivation, and the idea of having people see me in a bathing suit is about as good as it gets.
Who’s with me? Depressed in Dallas, let’s do this together!
Happy New Year, everyone. Here is to a fantastic 2014. If you believe in your dreams and you work hard to achieve your goals, you can be or do anything.**
*Palm Desert, actually. Anyone want to come and party? We will be there April 4 – 9th.
** Except Advice Goddess. You can’t be that because that’s my deal. Try to be original, please.