I have struggled with being overweight my entire life, and losing weight is the biggest thing I have wanted to change about myself. I have read books chronicling individual tales of success, I have read testimonials from people who found success in specific programs, and I have put to practice many programs myself to lose the weight.
Though I have had many successes and periods of great health, one thing has been consistent; the weight has always come back.
Here is a list of different strategies I’ve tried (these are not endorsements, just chronicles of my experiences). Some have worked; some haven’t:
- When I was 8 or 9, my Mother thought it would be a fabulous idea to get me a Get In Shape, Girl! cassette tape. Since my health was never discussed, this was an immediate blow to my self-esteem and led me to wonder what was wrong with me. I listened to the tape for about ten minutes, and that was that. Feel free to check out a vintage commercial for the “program” below:
- In high school, I decided the best course of action was to limit myself to one small meal a day. When I couldn’t sleep at night because the rumbling in my stomach was so loud, I would eat a single slice of bread. I lost about 30 lbs and was the smallest I had ever been, still to this day. I was also extremely weak, unable to concentrate, and experienced regular dizzy spells. This was extremely unhealthy and definitely not something I would ever do again.
- In my early 20’s I joined the YMCA which was my first experience with a fitness center. I was pretty sure I was going to die during my initial health assessment of ten minutes on the cross trainer. I barely finished, and at the end of ten minutes, my face was beet red and sweat was pouring down my face and body. After four months I lost about 20lbs and was able to complete 30 minutes on the cross trainer without feeling that death was coming to get me.
- Around the time I joined the YMCA, I joined Weight Watchers for the first time. I had always heard that the key to weight loss was eating right and exercise, so I decided one program for each area would be best. These both lasted approximately four months.
- About a year after ending my YMCA and Weight Watchers memberships, I joined a new facility; The Wisconsin Athletic Club. I chose it for the convenience as it was located in the building I worked in. I attended a spinning class at least 3 days a week, which was 50 minutes of hardcore biking. A far cry from the 10 death defying minutes on the cross trainer. My first few classes, the instructors asked me not to push myself too much. They saw how red my face was, and with how overweight I was, I’m sure they didn’t want me to drop dead in class. I should mention that I had the best success during this time, not just physically, but mentally as well. Weight doesn’t just make physical activity a challenge, it bogs down the mind too. I probably lost about 35 lbs and my energy level increased significantly, as well as my self-esteem. I should also mention that it was not unusual for me to get a double cheeseburger and medium fry for lunch.
- During a financially difficult time, I cancelled my WAC membership and the weight came back with a vengeance. After a year I rejoined the YMCA, and discovered the South Beach Diet. I was more committed to the South Beach Diet than I was to working out at the YMCA. I liked the three phases of the South Beach Diet. In the first phase, you spend two weeks cutting out sugar cravings; the second phase is the weight loss phase (one-two pounds per week); and the third phase is the maintenance phase (to maintain weight loss). I lost about 40lbs in three-four months and for several months after, the weight slowly continued to drop.
Then, I got pregnant. Everything went out the window and it was a shake and french fry party every day, and an ice cream party every night. Nine months (ten really) and 75 lbs later, I gave birth to Tristen. While my son was the best thing that happened to me, I was left with the weight from the shake, fry and ice cream parties, and I felt completely worthless.
I attempted to get back on the South Beach Diet, but every attempt failed. I experience severe postpartum depression, and instead of eating good food, I made chocolate cake at least once a week and ate as much as I could before my husband could eat any.
- While being treated for my postpartum, I felt enough energy to try something again but nothing too ambitious. I ordered Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home DVDs. I liked walking and figured this would be my ticket. I still ate like I was pregnant though. I did not lose weight and became quickly discouraged.
- I started to notice that people who ran were thin. This, I thought, was where it was at! I started a program of walking/jogging. I could not jog a significant distance though, so mostly walked. I completed a 15K in about two hours and forty-five minutes. Four months later I completed a half marathon in three hours and forty-five minutes. I lost about 20 lbs but still could not get a handle on my eating. I attempted juicing, but got lazy and purchased juices from the store which just led back to eating poorly.
- About a year later I was at my highest weight ever (besides when I was pregnant). I talked to a close friend about my life struggles with weight and the deep-rooted feelings behind why I continued to sabotage myself. At this time, I had just started the Alli program and was following the meal plan along with taking the pills. Again, I was convinced that this was my ticket. I had a free trial membership for Curves and went there a few times. I had a friend who ran a Curves several years before, and I read the book and was curious, but I hadn’t tried it.
- I joined Snap Fitness because it was a 24 hour facility and it was not as overwhelming in size as the YMCA. Also, it was a mile from my house, and it did not take an additional hour of travel time to get to and from the facility, as well as locker room time. About a month into my Snap membership, I stopped the Alli program and began eating healthier and fewer calories. I sent a daily food and exercise log to the close friend I shared my struggles with earlier. I felt good. I lost about 45 lbs.
- Again, because of financial difficulties, I left Snap. I continued to go for walks and bike rides. I talked to someone about running, and told him that I could never run for longer than a minute. He made a small suggestion – slow down! The next day, I went for my first one mile jog. I did not walk at all; I jogged the entire mile. I was incredibly proud and pretty shocked at this accomplishment. Within a couple of months I was able to jog three miles without stopping. I had big hopes for myself; however, like every other time, I stopped doing what was working, and the weight came back to where it was before I joined Snap.
- I decided to turn to the Raw Food lifestyle. I wanted to complete a juice fast to clean out my system before starting. Needless to say, I didn’t complete more than two days on the juice fast, and I never made it to eating raw.
- Then I ordered P90X, convinced this was it (notice a pattern?). I was committed for about two weeks, and then I just completed the DVDs when I felt the urge.
- I returned to the South Beach Diet for about three weeks several months ago. I lost a few pounds and regained a little bit of hope.
- About two months ago I ate raw for twelve entire days. They were extremely challenging days and I wasn’t sure how I would get through each day. After a couple days of the scale not moving, I decided that I needed to add exercise which led to approximately a pound of weight loss each day.
- For the past month and a half, I have been involved in several different forms of physical activity; kayaking, canoeing, painting, biking, and extremely long walks. I have also stayed away from sweets (for the most part) and have made a conscious effort to eat a well rounded and healthy diet. I am down about 20 lbs yet again and am still hopeful yet nervous considering my countless experiences with failure.
The main thing I have learned over the past decade of trying and failing to maintain a healthy weight is that …
it does not matter how you lose it, what matters is why you gain it.
I can be extremely strict with myself. All of these programs took will power and control. However, there seems to come a point when the negative self-talk overpowers my commitment to change, and these are the times I give up.
Fear plays a big roll here. Some of my fears include becoming a mean-spirited and unkind thin person, actually succeeding, and letting go of the comfort I have long associated with food. These are the issues I need to work through before any program I attempt can be successful.
I am again talking with a close friend about the reasons behind the gaining: the low self-esteem, the negative self-talk. This is a lifelong journey of healing that has little to do with finding a magic program to “cure” me, and everything to do with my self-worth. Each day I remind myself that I am worth it and that I deserve to be treated well, and this starts with healthy feeding of the mind, body and spirit.