What Comes After Weight Loss?

At the start of this year, I was nudging up against the epidemic of our times: Obesity.

A couple of years of soul-crushing depression had ended up with me being put on a medication cocktail that had the glorious upside of giving me the will to live, but the rather unfortunate downside of turning me into a human version of the Cookie Monster.

You know when you get up in the morning, and you don’t have enough time for breakfast, and then you’re busy alllll morning, and by lunch you’re so hangry you could eat your own arm? Well it was like that, every single minute, of every single day.

I ate. And I ate.  And then I ate some more. I went from being one of those dickheads you read about who can eat what they like and stay looking like a willowy-wisp, to someone whose daily binges were starting to show up in weekly belt notch expansions. I’d never really thought about my size before, but suddenly I had to meekly ask the shopgirls for increasingly bigger sizes, until finally nothing fit. And when I looked down, I couldn’t see my feet anymore. 

But there are worse things in life than being fat; I was alive, I was working, and I was happy.

It  wasn’t until the start of this year that I felt well enough to reassess my medications and widen my focus from mental wellness to the state of my body.

It was huge shock, the day I finally took the plunge and stepped onto the scales. I’d been studiously avoiding the scales for over a year, but I optimistically guessed that I couldn’t be more than 20 pounds above normal, and that would be easy enough to bring down.

Nope. I was carrying an extra 45 pounds around my middle, and my body fat had soared up to 39% percent.

So I overhauled my life. I started tracking my calories, I exercised like a madwoman for an hour each day, I binge-read health articles, and I drove my long-suffering Manfriend mad with my constant preaching on the gospel of superfoods.  And bit by bit, those changes saw me slowly sail on down from the cusp of obesity to the land of the slim.

And everyone is just delighted for me.

Don’t get me wrong: I am delighted for me too. It was hella hard losing all that weight. Some days, when I was so hungry I wanted to cry, all I wanted was to bury my face in my comfort of choice: food, and lots of it. But I didn’t. Because losing that weight was part of taking back control of my body. It was proving to myself that I was still in charge.

So now here I am, in my old and yet brand-new body. I look in the mirror, and I feel content. But at the back of my mind, there is this fear now. I’m not the same person as I used to be. I worry about the calories in food. I worry if I haven’t exercised today. And I feel the weight of people’s expectations.

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I am scared that I will put all the weight back on. I am scared that I’ll lose control, that my inner hunger-beast will take charge again. And I know that the odds are stacked against me. Nearly 95 percent of people who lose weight on diets go on to regain the weight, and most of them will end up even heavier. Is that my fate, too? What will people say, I wonder, if I am reunited with my plus-sized body?

The good news is that it’s possible to keep the weight off. The bad news is that you need to work at it—you can’t go back to the lifestyle you were living when you packed on the pounds. If you’re unlucky, your body weight might have reset to stay at your higher weight—and if that’s the case, you’ll have to really work to stay at your new slimline setting.

So for what it’s worth, here is what me and the research world say about keeping your weight down once you’ve reached the terrific and terrifying moment of goal weight:

  • Notice what you’re eating, and how much of it. If you’re like me and you have the memory of a goldfish, that will probably mean tracking it.
  • Exercise for about an hour a day. I’m not talking boot camps, I’m talking whatever you actually enjoy doing—seriously, there is no point being a lower weight if you’re not having much fun there.
  • Keep an eye on your weight. If your weight goes up, eat a little less for a couple of days.
  • Adopt a lifestyle you actually want to live, every day. If your life is unbearable without chocolate cake (no judgement here, I am ready and waiting for someone to invent a chocolate cake cleanse), accept that that might mean carrying a couple of extra pounds, or just buying a slice at a time.

Basically, just stay in tune with your body.

Oh, and if you manage to keep the weight off? Congratulations for doing a really hard thing.

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