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I have an Anniversary to Celebrate!

It’s a personal one, and it’s a health-related one, and I am very happy about this, so you are going to get a long and rambling post. Or two.

Exactly three years ago today, I stepped on the scales in the morning, and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I was in the “normal weight” range. And now it’s three years later… and I feel like writing a bit more about all this. Which means you’re getting a post about weight and health stuff today and on Monday – in hopes that it might be interesting to you, or maybe even helpful.

First things first, though: Pictures.

This is me, a little less than three years ago, in September – that is shortly after reaching goal weight:

And this is me, last week. I tried to get a similar body position, and, of course, I mostly failed. So there’s a blurry pic that is sort of similar:

and a not so blurry pic that is even less similar:

As you can see, there’s not much obvious change. I am about 2 kg above the goal weight that I had set, which doesn’t make me tremendously happy, but I’m also not motivated enough at the moment to do a serious calorie reduction stint (which, for me, means I have to measure and weigh the things I eat to closely track calories, because I’m still not good at estimating stuff to eat under maintenance).

The not so obvious things are these: Both being overweight and then obese and finally seriously obese for years, and doing the hardcore weight-reduction diet for nine months have left their traces, physical as well as mental. I have stretch marks on some spots of my body (I actually got a few stretch marks from growths spurts when I was a teenager, my connective tissue is not top of the pops, it seems). I still have some excess tissue and skin in the places where I carried most of the fat, though my impression is that this is still improving, albeit very, very slowly. I don’t mind it too much; I look decent when dressed and decent enough when not, and with 40 years I am not going to have the body of a 20-year-old, even without the overweight years. My food intolerances have gone away with the excess weight, the asthma and hay fever has improved a lot, and my general fitness is much better as well (though I still don’t have enough raw strength for many of the bouldering things, and I will complain about that muchly).

The mental things are a little harder to pin down, and they will also fluctuate more. First thing to mention: If the excess weight comes from eating as a coping mechanism, there’s a definite need for a different coping strategy to keep the weight off. I had a mild case of using food as a reward, or as consolation when things did not go well, but it wasn’t too hard to put a stop to this for me. Food was not connected to a lot, or to very bad, underlying different issues for me, which made – and makes – things a lot easier. Losing weight will not miraculously cure all problems. It will cure the stress of the excess weight on the body, it will alleviate hormonal issues coming from the extra fat (which is a hormonally active tissue), it will lessen joint and respiratory problems and generally improve health and fitness. It may alleviate depression or depressive moods, but it will not cure problems of self-esteem that come from different, deeper places, or any other mental issues. These might come up harder, in fact, if eating more was the coping strategy that used to hold them at bay.

So these days I try not to slide back into having food as a reward for something, or as a consolation. Most of the time, I manage. Sometimes that emergency chocolate does come in, though. I’m usually not very happy about that, but well, that’s life, and I try to do better the next time something like this comes around.

One of the things I struggle with a lot more is irrational fears of suddenly balloning up again to my highest weight. When thinking about it with a level head, it’s really absurd – you just physically cannot add on several dozens of kilograms in the space of a few days, even if you eat all the time. But tell that to the little part of my brain that insists on being stupid! I tend to retain water when I get stressed, when I don’t have enough sleep, when I travel, when I have an illness or tweaked a muscle, when I have done more or different sports than usual, for hormonal reasons, and when I have changes in diet. So… basically for anything not in the very relaxed and normal plan. This means that my weight can shoot up a few kilos if several of these things come together – and even though I do know it’s just water weight, at times I will get into some kind of irrational panic that I’m going to re-gain all the weight I lost now, no matter what I do or how much or little I eat. (This is not helping, as it adds more stress. It also takes a long while for some of these water retentions to ebb off, sometimes several weeks, which adds to the stress from these irrational things… which doesn’t help. You get the picture.)

Sometimes I can handle the weight fluctuations pretty well, and sometimes I get really panicky, which totally sucks. Same with estimating how much I eat – sometimes I do well, and everything feels under control and relaxed and stable; at some stages, though, I feel perpetually hungry and could eat five elephants in a day, which is not a good thing. Occasionally, something in the other direction happens, and I eat too little for a while, which has its own not-so-nice repercussions. So I am trying to keep things in balance and not overeat even if I have the desire to just stuff my face all freaking day long, and not eat nothing or next to nothing even if I am not feeling really hungry. It works, mostly. Sometimes I just fail. Then there’s nothing to do but pick myself up, take a deep breath, and move on, aiming to do better next time.

Losing the weight was simple in the sense of “just eat less, and maybe move a bit more”. Sometimes that felt easy, and sometimes it felt like the hardest thing in the world. There were days when I was super motivated, and days when the only thing keeping me at it was sheer stubbornness, and the knowledge that there would be an end to this at one point, and the more I veered off track the longer it would take.

Maintaining the lower weight is just as simple in the sense of “track your weight, keep an eye on how much you eat, and make sure you don’t eat too much or too little for extended periods of time”. It’s not always easy either, and there is no end to maintenance mode, so replacing a lack of motivation by stubbornness can be even harder now. In both cases, however, sticking to it has proven to be totally worth the time and effort I put into it.

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