QUESTION: I have school, I have work, I have a social life. But sometimes they conflict with my journey to stay healthy and keep off the weight I’ve lost (almost 100 pounds!). For instance, I am often asked out to business lunches, but I would rather stay in, eat a healthy homemade lunch, and leave work at a reasonable time so I can make my exercise class. The lunches aren’t mandatory, but I guess it would be good for me to network a bit more. I am totally committed to my healthy lifestyle but these speed bumps keep coming at me. Does it get easier with practice? —Heather
DEAR HEATHER: There is a kind of push-pull between my Former Fat Girl life and the "Otherworld” — even now, more than 20 years after I lost the weight. We have to make choices every day about where/what/how to compromise, and really be tuned into what we absolutely won't give an inch on. It's a constant conversation for me, and I have to push down doubts about my choices, feelings that I'm disappointing people, etc. For instance (and at the risk of your thinking I'm a bad mom!), my husband is out of town tonight and tomorrow, and my son is giving me a hard time about going to aftercare after school — he wants me to pick him up at 3 p.m. If I do that, I can't justify working out at lunch … I'd have to work straight through — and I didn't work out yesterday. So I am holding the hard line, and it's not fun. My workout is more important, today — and I know my son will have fun at aftercare anyway. But the voices in my head are telling me …"BAD MOM!" And those are WAY harder to deal with than "BAD FRIEND" or "BAD DAUGHTER" or "BAD EMPLOYEE" (all of which I deal with too). I think the reason why it's so hard is that many of us Former Fat Girls have problems with boundaries. We have to work harder than most not just to resist food, but to keep a little bit of ourselves for ourselves … to keep our need to please others from leaving nothing for ourselves. We have to keep a running list of where we won’t compromise, and we have to constantly take our temperature on what is acceptable and what is not. I wish I could say there was a switch to flip on and off, but the fact is that it's a process. So hang in there, accept that this is the way it’s going to be, and try to keep your eyes on the prize: a healthy, happy life in a real, imperfect world.
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.