When I started with Weight Watchers in July 2002, I weighed 323 lbs. I had a goal of losing 65 lbs before chairing a national conference in April the following year and was highly motivated to stick to the Winning Points plan and do whatever I needed to do to get there. It didn’t actually seem all that hard – I went to my weekly meetings, journaled faithfully, went to the gym for cardio and strength training, and buckled down to just doing it.
I didn’t feel good in my extra-large body. I was tired of being tired all the time, of having no energy to walk even a few blocks, of having to ask for seatbelt extensions on the plane and go to shop online to find clothes that would fit. I was a round, soft, Pillsbury Doughgirl in flowered dresses and short graying hair. I knew I wasn’t taking care of myself and it was time to change.
I made it manageable by first setting a 10% goal. 32 lbs was still a lot but it was more realistic than constantly looking at the 65 lbs I wanted to reach. I also had someone that I checked in with by email several times a week – and a buddy in NC who started at the same time I did, with as much to lose as I did. We were at the same place in our journeys, learning the plan, finding recipes, figuring out how to move and think differently.
I achieved that original goal of 65 lbs in the time I wanted and lost an additional 50 lbs over the next 12 months. I felt like the Weight Watchers poster child. I was even asked by my leader to be part of a news segment on a slow news day when they were talking about weight loss tips for a holiday weekend. It was nervous-making but fun and I was looking very svelte and feeling happy with myself.
But I got tired of being the poster child, of being the one that everyone else looked to to do the program right. I didn’t feel that I could make a mistake. Every time I had a cookie or a piece of pizza or anything, even if I was counting it, people were watching me and it started to make me very very squirrely. Were they paying attention, or thinking it looked good, or figuring the points and condemning me for eating something that tasted good?
I found myself going back to old habits, the ones of secret stress eating. Though it’s hard to imagine eating secretly when you live by yourself in the first place and no one is there to watch. One of my really bad habits was to stop at CVS on the way to work and buy some food as well soda – and find a big bag of whatever it was gone before lunch. I never went back to the “1 lb bag of M&M’s” which I used to eat without really flinching, although they did sort of made me sick. But I would buy them to “share” by filling a little desktop candy machine in another office – and then find myself running in and helping myself.
It wasn’t pretty and it didn’t make me happy. I gained back 50 lbs. No one thinks of me as a Weight Watchers poster child anymore, so I guess I got what I wanted.
But I’m not happy with myself now, either. Other people are the poster children and I miss the attention of being noticed for my success. People around me in my real life don’t see that I’m doing anything different because they didn’t see me eating in secret; they just saw my face get rounder and my clothes get tighter and then move up to a new size. It’s been too soon in my “new year’s resolve” for there to be any physical transformation that anyone can see. It will take at least 30 lbs before they see anything.
So I need to rely on my own self-motivation and I don’t trust it. It feels fragile and on little wobbly legs, not the strong, focused way I started this originally. I know it’s not a contest with others of You who have the energy and clarity about what you’re doing and why. I read blogs and sometimes feel energized but other times just get, not depressed, but bitchy and whiny that you are in a place where I used to be but am not right now.
The only thing I can do is to just do it. Looking at the long haul, focusing on my failure to maintain the loss I once had, isn’t going to get me there. Small choice by small choice. Trips to the gym when I don’t feel like going – even to do do just a small thing, just to make sure I go – because exercise will make a difference. Online journaling will make a difference. Making sure I leave work on time at least three days a week.
The goal is not just losing weight. It’s reducing physical stress and taking better care of myself. I know how to do this. Now I just need to do it, one step at a time.