What to Do When Your Weight Starts Creeping Up Again
Many years ago, I lost 125 pounds the old-fashioned way: with a balanced diet and regular exercise. It took me more than a year to lose the weight, and it was such an emotional struggle, that after it was over and I was at my target weight, I swore I would never put on another pound again in my life.
I kept my word for a long time, too. Nearly four years passed and I hadn’t changed size at all. My weight had a five-pound range where it fluctuated, which is normal, and I convinced myself that my weight problems were over and I would never have to worry about being obese again.
It was sheer arrogance that caused me to stop paying attention to what I was eating, thinking that I was past the point where I needed to be vigilant anymore. I’d have a piece of pie or some ice cream, just as an occasional treat, and I didn’t give it a second thought. Perhaps I started having those treats a little more often. I gained a couple of pounds, maybe five. No big deal, right? Then it became ten pounds. Still, I didn’t think too much about it. After all, considering how much weight I’d managed to lose before, I knew losing ten pounds would be no problem whatsoever. I casually put off thinking about it.
The truth is, chronic overeating has something in common with alcoholism: it’s there for life, always lingering in the background. You may get in control of it, you may overcome it, but that doesn’t mean you can get lax afterward. The tricky part is, unlike with alcohol, you can’t just cut food out of your life completely and avoid situations where you might come into contact with it. In order to live you have to eat, several times a day, and if you’re not paying attention, it’s very easy to start eating the wrong things again, or to keep eating well past the point when you should stop. This is true whether you adopted a healthy lifestyle two weeks ago or two decades ago.
When I finally woke up from my fantasy world, in which I believed I’d automatically stay an effortless size 8 forever, I had mysteriously put on 40 pounds. How did that happen? Food can be so comforting and reassuring when we have it in front of us, that we let those feelings lull us into a false sense of security. “Oh, it’s just one fatty meal,” becomes two and then three fatty meals; a day becomes a week becomes a month… and next thing you know, you’re back where you started, with the doctor warning you about heart problems and high blood pressure.
Re-losing that 40 pounds took me almost as long as the 125 pounds did the first time. It does not get easier to drop weight just because you’ve done it before. It would have been so much simpler not to gain the weight in the first place, but I let my emotions choose foods that my brain knew weren’t good for me, and delusion convinced me that it wouldn’t be a problem. I knew that this time, I was going to have to be my own drill sergeant when it came to food.
Keeping a food and exercise diary is a great idea if you know you’re the kind of person for whom a single brownie can snowball into a weekend of binge eating, or if missing one day at the gym can turn into a month of not going. Before I started writing down my daily food intake, I had no idea just how much junk I was shoving into my mouth, sometimes hardly realizing it. Boredom eating, premenstrual eating, skipping my workout — these were all things I didn’t figure into the equation, until I started forcing myself to write down all my food and all my activity. After I saw my erratic eating and exercise habits on paper, all of a sudden it was no mystery where that 40 pounds had come from, nor the 125 before.
Nowadays, I know better than to let a gain of five or ten pounds go by unnoticed. If I’ve been eating badly or too much, I see it in my food diary, where it can’t be denied. This is my cue to get into gear and cut down on sweets and fats. It may sound like a hassle to have to be constantly diligent about maintaining a healthy weight, and to be honest, it’s not easy. The alternative, however, is being high-risk for major health problems, and not being able to enjoy your life to the fullest. Healthy eating and exercise does become a natural way of life, but if you take it for granted, old habits can still slip back in and cause problems. If you have a safety net like a diary in place to catch yourself when it first starts going wrong, your chances of staying in the healthy zone will increase dramatically.