Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I have zero weight loss motivation right now, and I’m hoping you can help. I lost 100 lbs. a few years back, but gained most of it back from medications I am taking. I feel like I’ve lost my will. What can I do?—Tracey
DEAR TRACEY: Tracey, I know you’ve got the motivation in you, because without it, you wouldn’t have been able to drop 100 lbs.—that’s a huge accomplishment. But I know how distressful it is to have worked so hard, only to have all your efforts (or so it seems) undone by pills and potions.
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But let me offer a different perspective: All of the things you did to lose that weight—eating less fat, more fruits and vegetables, less junk food and more whole food, and getting regular, heart-pumping and muscle-strengthening exercise—are still working to keep your body healthy, despite your weight.
The fact is, weight is a very poor judge of whether a person is healthy or not. I had this very conversation with my 11-year-old the other day, whose eating habits have slipped in the past 6 months. He had been on the heavy side for his height, but has now shot up and is looking trim and fit. But when balked at his desire for Cheez-its rather than fruit and yogurt for his afternoon snack, he said, “Well, I’m not overweight, right?” I explained to him that eating well and exercising aren’t just important to how you look, but to how you feel and to what’s going on inside your body. We as a culture are too ready to jump to conclusions about a person’s health based on how they look, and not so much about what they do. Yes, being heavy is a risk factor for all kinds of diseases, but you can temper its effects by continuing to practice all those healthy habits you employed to get your weight down in the first place.
That said, I know how demoralizing it can be to not get the feedback we expect—in the mirror and on the scale—when we’re doing all the things that should lead to a healthier weight. That’s the problem with using our shape and our weight as the benchmark for whether what we’re doing is, in fact, worth the effort. But I also get that what you see in the mirror is important to your overall being, self-esteem and self-confidence. I’ve got some advice on how to handle all this, and (hopefully) help you find the weight loss motivation to do right by your self and your health.
Talk to your doc. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but so many people leave their physicians out of the conversation when they’re dealing with side effects of medications, thinking they just have to suck it up. If you haven’t told your doctor how distressing your weight gain is, do it. Ask if there are any solutions—a lower dose, a different medication, lifestyle changes you could make that might help reduce your dependence on whatever meds you are on. There maybe nothing he/she can do in this regard, but this is an important first step.
Keep a food diary and exercise log. Boring advice, right? But it’s amazing how enlightening a food/exercise journal can be. Keeping an honest account (every BLT—bite, lick, taste) of what we’re taking in and how active we are empowers us to make changes. It gives us a baseline from which to make changes—adding more fruits and veggies, taking away starches, increasing our workout intensity, etc. It will also help you get out of your funk and start applying some energy to looking for solutions.
Try some plateau-busting strategies. I’ve got a standard set of best practices for breaking through a plateau that may be helpful for you—everything from revving up your workout to shaking up your diet. Take a look at them here.
Brainstorm other “benchmarks.” I totally understand wanting to look great in a pair of jeans or a little black dress. But when you’re not seeing results on the scale, find some other, more objective (and controllable) ways of measuring your progress. I actually recommend this for anyone who is on their weight loss journey—I’m not a big fan of the whole “goal weight” idea. With each of these, keep records of where you are when you started, get specific about your goals, and chart your progress along the way. Some suggestions—both mundane and lofty:
- Specific health measures, such as cholesterol numbers, blood sugar numbers, etc.
- Number of workouts/week
- Number of servings of vegetables/fruits
- Number of glasses of water
- Specific athletic goals—amount of weight you can bench press, miles you can run or walk, etc., in a certain amount of time.
- An athletic/active event you’d like to participate in—a multi-day bike ride, 5k, 10k or half-marathon, mountain climb (go for it!), etc.
- Trying and mastering a new sport (tennis, skiing, rowing)
Don’t go it alone. What I love about embracing athletic goals, training for events and trying new sports is that they are often your entrée to a whole new community of people who share your goals and will support you along the way. Look for training groups, join a team, hire a personal trainer who can help support you along the way—they’ll fill in the weight loss motivation blanks when you exhaust yours.
Treat yourself well. The past is the past—what you do today is what’s important. Try not to mourn the lighter body you once had and embrace the challenge of staying healthy now. Every day is a new opportunity to make healthy choices, to choose not to beat ourselves up for poor decisions of the past or factors that we can’t control. Resist the urge to beat yourself up, and do everything you can to lift yourself up. Post your favorite motivational sayings (here are some of mine to get you started), surround yourself with people who have your back, listen to uplifting music, read powerful stories of transformation—go to church (even if it’s not Sunday), if that’s your thing. When you’re in short supply of motivation, it’s OK to lean on other sources for inspiration and motivation.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here.