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: Your book, Secrets of a Former Fat Girl, inspired me to lose 40 pounds, but I’m absolutely terrified that I will gain the weight back, and I’ve started binge eating again. How can you stay on track even after the weight loss? And how do you push past those fears and self-doubts?—Anna
DEAR ANNA: Thanks so much for your note. I’m so excited that I could be a part of your journey! But now that you are where you want to be on the scale, you’ve hit the REALLY hard part–staying there. The fact is, the measure of whether you’re a Former Fat Girl or not isn’t all about what the scale says–it’s about how much you have changed your life. Are you kinder and less judgmental toward yourself? Are you able to draw clear boundaries, to say no, to put yourself and your health first rather than people-pleasing your way through life? Have you really transformed your relationship with food, so that it’s not a pacifier for pain or a substitute for a social life or a shelter to hide in so you don’t have to do the scary things in life (like go for the career you love or ask that boy out or tell your husband what you really want and need in your relationship)? Have you embraced an active lifestyle, such that some form of exercise or activity is now “normal” for you to do most days of the week?
I know how it is to feel like you’re going to slip back to where you were in a flash–overnight–after one binge. I lived in that space for A LONG time. The fact is that there are reasons why you eat, reasons why you choose to take on the role in life that you play. Those reasons, those tendencies, aren’t going to go away magically (as you have found) once you hit that number on the scale. As difficult as it is to accept this, you are never really “done”–that’s what it means when people say “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!”
So the first thing I would do is to examine the changes you’ve made in your life–to take your temperature on the questions I’ve asked above. What areas are the toughest for you to address? Accept that they will always be a challenge for you, and make conscious efforts to take them on. For instance, if your internal judge continues to beat you up for overindulging, be hyper tuned in to that voice, and develop some methods to counter it. Maybe it’s a phrase you can say over and over to yourself in response (like “I’m doing the best I can,” or “Every day is an opportunity for a fresh start), maybe it’s deep breathing or meditation or yoga. I have to say, that’s a big area of focus for me … I am constantly working on how to forgive myself and move on, and I always will be.
The other thing I would do is to look at the changes you have made in your eating plan and exercise, and make sure they are not too restrictive. The fact that you are binge eating concerns me–it may mean that you are limiting certain foods so much that you break down and binge. I would try to avoid any eating plan that contains more than a few “never” foods–you have to allow yourself some of the foods you love to be able to live with your plan long term (remember, “it’s a lifestyle!”).
Or there may be other reasons why you are bingeing. If you have a pattern of bingeing (especially if you purge), you may need professional help to break the cycle. (No judgment here–I have seen professionals in the past when I have needed them.) Bingeing can do serious damage to your health and your psyche, so I take it really seriously (and so should you). Read more about it on the Binge Eating Disorders Association website.
So, address these issues. But know that it will take a while to trust yourself. You may want to continue (or restart) tracking habits like keeping a food diary or exercise log, so you can be more comfortable knowing what you’re doing daily to support your healthy lifestyle. The big lesson, though, is to embrace this as your new life; know that it is a process, and it always will be; and be gentle with yourself, knowing that every day is an opportunity to start fresh.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here or click the “Ask the Experts” link below.