When I weighed 307lb, almost everything I'd heard and read about weight loss was shallow and simplistic (the short version: Fat Bad Thin Good #Period and Eat Less + Exercise More = #Winning). Since it all sounded so simple, I fantasized that life in a thin body must look and feel like a Mentos commercial.
Then I lost more than 150lb, and discovered the reality was more complicated. Reality? Complicated? Shocking!
There was actually very little that didn't surprise me after I lost my weight, like...
I hardly recognized myself
I'd gone to great lengths to avoid mirrors when I was big. After I lost a bunch of weight, I couldn’t stop staring at my new, unfamiliar face, and more than once I realized that the chick I was checking out at a party or in a store was actually my own reflection. HA!
How it looked was nothing compared to how it felt
I'd internalized the belief that people lose weight to look better, but being "pretty" was nothing compared to how good it felt to run up stairs or to get into and out of my tiny Saturn coupe. Just walking up the hill from downtown without having to stop to catch my breath felt like a religious experience.
I froze my ass off
Without all the extra fatty insulation, I froze what was left of my ass off in the wintertime. I live in New England, so I needed to completely reimagine how I dressed in the cold. Buh-bye mid-length coats; hello floor-length quilts.
Some people seemed out to sabotage my weight loss
There were family members, friends, and co-workers who had no problem with me, but had a hard time being supportive after I lost a bunch of weight. I've learned to say, "No, thank you," with the same pep and speed as I used to say, "More, please!"
Two people never stopped pushing me to lighten up, to skip workouts, or to eat the kinds of Frankenfood absurdities that, while probably delicious, are also probably not that great for keeping the weight off. Sticking to my plans in spite of these people helped me develop a sense of ownership over my new lifestyle. Really, I owe those asshats a debt of gratitude.
I got pissed at my doctors
I endured a lifetime of heavy sighs from every doctor I ever went to, from my pediatrician to my gynecologist. Then I lost weight, and all the smiles and the kudos and the congratulatory nicey-nicey made me ragey. Still, I behaved myself -- when my primary care doc went in for a high-five, I kept my fist open.
There was a major disconnect between my body and my personality
Large women often get to be louder and funnier than thin women because fewer people feel threatened by a large woman (and heaven forbid a gal make anyone feel uncomfortable). After I lost weight, I was aware of this disconnect between my big personality and my thin face and body. It’s been over a decade, and I’m happy to say the identity crisis has (mostly) passed.
My other addictions flared up like a forest fire
Turns out addiction is migratory, like birds and crabs. Food was my first addiction, but when I stopped compulsively overeating, my instinct was to act out more with booze, drugs, and sex. I understand now that my obesity was a symptom of a deeper problem, and not the problem itself. Dealing with my addictive bent has helped me maintain my extreme weight loss.
The real work began AFTER I lost the weight
The credits didn't roll the day I buttoned a pair of size 6 jeans. I still had a bunch of unresolved problems and a real life to live. Coping with my thoughts and emotions in a healthy way was -- and still is -- hard work, but like anything else, it's gotten easier with practice.
The odds are pretty good that I'll gain it all back
I'm one of the few people who lose a ton of weight and keep it off for a decade or more. The vast majority of people who lose a bunch of weight gain it all back and then some. If I get complacent, if I think I’m "cured," or if I fall into the trap of trying to act and eat "like a normal person," I’ll be back to 307lb in no time.
Losing a bunch of weight can be great, but like any other major life event -- getting hitched, having a kid, starting a business -- it's anything but simple. If you want to know what to expect and how best to handle it, talk to someone who’s been where you are, and who’s gotten the results you want.
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