DEAR FFG: I have never been a small girl—I’ve always been overweight. At age 20, I entered into an abusive relationship. I thought he was the only guy who would ever love me being as large as I was. After 17 years, I finally got out and started feeling better about myself. I joined Weight Watchers and lost close to 100 pounds. Unfortunately, the new, skinny me partied all the time, had a string of relationships with younger guys which never lasted and finally gained the weight back again. So here I am today, sad and lonely. The past year has resulted in three surgeries to repair my feet, which almost completely collapsed because of the excess weight. I know I need to do something but it’s hard right now to be active with a cast on. I reached my goal at Weight Watchers, I was a lifetime member and I blew it. I just don't know how to get back. I could use some encouraging words to help get me through. — Tara
DEAR TARA: Thank you for reaching out to me and sharing your story. I feel your pain (with apologies to Bill Clinton) through your words. I'm hoping mine can help, even just a bit.
You may feel like a failure for gaining your weight back, but here's my take: For one thing, you shed, successfully, a relationship that was probably more harmful to you physically and emotionally than your extra pounds could ever be. If you doubt that during times of loneliness, think about how you felt about yourself and what your life was like day to day when you were with that guy. No one deserves to be abused in that manner. No one. And it's impossible for anyone to move forward in their lives when they're trapped like that.
But I will say that even though you reached your goal weight, you probably didn't get where you needed to be emotionally. Partying and moving in and out of relationships is another form of abuse. Superficially, it may have seemed like you had "arrived," but inside, it sounds like you had some healing to do. I have said this time and time again: It's not all that difficult to lose weight — the hard work is keeping it off. And to keep it off, you have to work on the inside. You have to start nurturing yourself, stop judging yourself, start forgiving yourself. Permanent weight loss isn't just a matter of exercising and eating right — if it was, there'd be no need for plus-size jeans. It takes real, emotional transformation. It's not about working out, it's about working in.
So. Here you are, in a cast. You may be physically immobile, but you can start working on the inside. I would start by seeking out a counselor who specializes in domestic abuse and/or eating disorders (of which overeating is one). I have found that counseling can be great at helping you maintain perspective, something I think is constantly a challenge to maintain for us Former Fat Girls and Future Former Fat Girls. Start directing your energy toward healthy activities — following through on a hobby you've always wanted to take up, or volunteering. When you're healthy enough, you can set your sights on recovering physically from your surgeries, but you don’t have to be in a holding pattern until then. Getting into a better place in your head — now — will lay the groundwork for your journey to a healthier body when you're ready to begin it.