When I graduated college in the spring of 2007 I was 5’5” tall and weighed 260 lbs. I’m still 5’5” (not for lack of trying!) but I now weigh somewhere between 175-180 lbs. I lost weight the good old fashioned way: I steadily changed my eating habits by eating apples for breakfast instead of steak and ice cream sundaes, and by increasing my daily activity from twirling in my chair until I was dizzy to using as much energy as it would take to choke a grizzly bear.
But there is a list (albeit a small and somewhat petty one) of downsides to successful weight loss that people don’t talk about because if you heard someone say, “Yeah man, I lost 25 pounds, I look and feel better than I ever have and it fucking sucks donkey dick,” you would slug ‘em a good one right in the jaw. I know I would. And yet there are unforeseen drawbacks.
Buying New Clothes
The moment when I put on a pair of pants, strapped my belt as tight as it would go, and my pants still fell off was a great moment for me. When it happened a second time it was annoying. The third time got me worried because I realized I wasn’t going to be able to go outside because I couldn’t keep my clothes on. Sure, I could tape everything to my body, but I worked at a law firm and they would not have thought duct tape to be very professional, no matter how shiny.
It’s not about getting new clothes, it’s about having to throw out all the old ones. While you relish being able to burn those khakis that always made you feel like an animated refrigerator box, you’re not so keen on having to throw away your favorite shirt or best outfit. The few items you have that had always made you feel almost normal are now horribly frightening reminders. It’s like if you had a security blanket as a child that you had to give up when you became a teenager, only to realize afterwards the blankie was infested with lice and scorpions. It’s the bursting of a bubble you weren’t ready for.
Buying an entire new wardrobe can also be goddamned expensive, and depending on your budget you may not be able to restock your closet, which means dressing like a clown until you have the funds to replace everything because you only have enough money to pay rent and buy food.
My tip to avoid this: Buy a sewing machine and learn to tailor your own stuff.
The battle with weight-loss is ever changing. Even if you are well-educated in nutrition, your own personal struggle will take many twists and turns until you find the exact method that works for you. This struggle includes lots of research on diet and exercise, quite a bit of trial and error, and loads of time. You’ll become an expert because you will have had to build your regiment from the ground up. So when discussing weight-loss, a floodgate of information is let loose and before you know it you’ve bored everyone within earshot to death.
I don’t think I’m better than anyone else because I lost weight, I just want to share the information I’ve learned with as many people as I can. Losing weight can be extremely difficult and there are many pitfalls along the way. I had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way and if I can help someone else avoid those same traps, then I’d like to try.
But you can go overboard. The trick is to always remember that anyone asking for advice (or just mentioning the subject) doesn’t necessarily want to know how switching from rolled oats to steel-cut oatmeal did wonders for your insulin levels, or how strapping 30 lbs. of paper to your back before you went hiking helped you lose that last ten pounds, or how the only way you were able to lose 70 lbs. at all was to eat the same bare salad everyday for four years. My tip: Just say, “Eat less, move more,” until someone asks for more detail.
I look like a crazy person who recently escaped from a backwoods mental institution when I go grocery shopping. I’ll stand in the cookie aisle, slowly pacing back and forth, muttering about the pros and cons of buying a single bag of Pepperidge Farm Milanos. I will pick up and then put back and then pick up and then put back the same pack of beef. I do this because I have not been able to turn off the voice inside of my head that tells me not to eat things that are bad for me, even though I reached my weight goals. Once you have conditioned yourself to do or not do something, it is harder to break those habits. For example – I had to convince myself that all cookies were made with arsenic, and that if I took even a small bite of one I would keel over, foaming at the mouth. But now that I am done with my diet, I don’t say to myself, “I have worked hard and deserve a little more jubilance in my food. Congrats, Nic! Here, have a cookie!” Instead I become very paranoid that my former, fatter self is time-traveling and is trying to kill me with poisoned desserts. So I will pluck out the package of cookies, throw them to floor, and with a slight smirk will whisper, “You’re not going to get rid of me that easily, you fat time-traveling bastard.” Then I look up and see the worried stares of the cashier and my fellow patrons.
My tip: Use self-check out.
The Lingering Fat Mind (For people who need to lose 50 lbs. or more)
You know that voice in your head? That tiny, but very powerful one? It is persuasive, it is conniving and it is sadistic. It’s the voice that makes you believe you’ll never look or feel good; that tells you to keep eating because why fight something you will never be able to change? This is the Fat Voice, and his only purpose in life is to make you feel shitty until the day you die. This is the real reason that large people stay large. This is the voice that makes people regain weight that they have lost. It’s the “You’ll Always Be Fat And Therefore Completely Worthless” voice.
I’ve got some bad news for you. After you lose all the weight you wanted to lose, you are still going to have to take care of this asshole.
For most of my life I was afraid of my mirror. I could only look if I was facing directly towards the mirror, and even then I was only focusing on one particular area. When I lost weight that voice was still there. I had literally cut my size in half (I can now fit both of my legs into one pant leg of my old pants) and I was still having trouble looking at myself. This is where the real fight begins for people who are seriously overweight because it’s not the weight loss that’s hard, it’s convincing yourself that you are worth the effort that’s hard. By losing weight that voice is going to be threatened and will scream at you louder and harder than before. My tip: Drill it into your brain that your sense of self-worth has nothing to do with your weight. You did this to be a healthier person, not to be validated as a decent person. You worked hard to get to this point and you deserve to treat yourself with kindness and respect. And more to the point, you have always deserved it (unless you’re a dick). Give yourself a break and love yourself.
Just remember: If I can do it (and shit, I am a lazy drunk) then so can you. You’re not alone.