Two years ago yesterday, I woke up and stepped on the scale and saw it. After 15 months of work (and, yes, fun), I was at my goal weight. I had lost more than 130 pounds. It was a big day. I shared this before and after collage back then:
Interestingly, last night on Facebook I saw a post by Go Kaleo that said, of startling before/after transformation photos,
But what happens after the after? Where are these people 5 years later? Have they maintained (or even improved upon) their results? Or have they returned to their old habits because the measures they took to achieve their 'after' shot were too extreme to sustain?
So I'm going to tell you what has happened in my after the after: nothing, really.
I still follow the same routine I did while losing.
I still eat generally the same as I did while losing, except with a few more calories.
I still step on the scale now and then.
And I still, sometimes to my complete shock, maintain my weight loss.
I've read studies that suggest that only around 20% of people who have lost more than 10% of their body weight will keep it off for a year. Depressing, huh? But MFP is full of people who've kept it off for one, two, five + years.
I'm still a success story in the making, because maintaining for life is my goal, far beyond just losing the weight in the first place. Maybe I'm onto something, maybe I'm just lucky, but in case you're interested - here are a few things I've learned between September 23, 2012 - goal weight day! - and today.
It's not will power that sustains; it's habits
I can't tell you how often someone says, "I need your willpower!"
The thing is, I don't have that much willpower. I am a mere human. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I need to eat a brownie. Or I have a stressful day at work and spy the cookie butter in my cupboard and succumb to its cookie goodness. I can't tell you how many times I've been "good" all day only to come home and deviate from my plan and eat more than I need.
Willpower is a finite resource, my friends.
But habits - now those have staying power. While losing weight, I made a number of new habits that stuck:
- I log my food 5-6 days a week.
- I pre-log and pre-pack my food every workday without exception, and I rarely deviate from the plan.
- Exercise is not something I force myself to do. It's something that is a regular part of my day and things feel off without it.
- I walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible.
- I drink more water.
- I make decisions all the time about what indulgence is worth it, and what is not.
- When I have a fun weekend or vacation with a lot of eating, I get right back to my regular routine when it ends, no exceptions.
- Logging onto MFP every day is a habit. I haven't missed a single day since day one. I'll be at 1200 consecutive log-ins in a couple days. Even if I don't log my food, that daily sign-in is a reminder that my sights that I chose to change my path in June of 2011 and I'm still heading in the right direction.
So don't count on willpower, guys. That puddle dries up. Instead, form new habits NOW, while losing, that you can sustain for the rest of your life.
Lose weight the way you'd like to maintain
A frustrating thing people would say to me when I was losing was "how is the diet going?" or "how much bread can you eat on your diet?" or "ooh your diet is working so well!" and diet diet diet.
It was really hard for people to understand that I didn't go on a diet. The most simple way for me to explain it now is that I instead started to eat and live like a healthier person. I didn't want to be a person who ate an entire bag of chex mix at her desk, mindlessly, all day. I didn't want to be a person who got a 450 calorie muffin on the drive to work just because. I didn't want to be a person who couldn't run a mile, who worried about when she wouldn't fit in an airline seat anymore, who couldn't keep up with my kid.
So I stopped being that person.
My advice to you is to start living like the person you want to be and let the rest fall into place.
In other words, don't do anything to lose weight that you don't want to do forever. I'm not here to cast judgment on low carb, low fat, Paleo, etc - fine. If it works for you, that's fantastic.
But you don't need to go on a macronutrient-banning fad diet in order to lose weight. I'm living proof. The way I ate and exercised was so sustainable that I wasn't excited to "go off my diet" once I reached goal weight. There was nothing to go off of, and the weight loss phase was not miserable. I ate plenty, moved the right amount, and felt so amazing I didn't want to go back to my old ways. All I did was eat a little more to erase my deficit.
And that's it. The transition to maintenance was seamless. And frankly, I found it pretty easy.
It's okay to like food.
I see it here a lot. The idea that only weak people need a "cheat" day and that food is fuel and nothing more and that we need to break our emotional connection to it in order to lose weight.
Pardon me, but that's bull$hit.
I love food. As I posted on the forms recently, food is social. Preparing it is a hobby, an experiment, a delight for many. Serving food we prepare to those we care for is an act of love as old as humankind. And most of all, food tastes good. I derive a good deal of joy from a beautifully-prepared meal. Food comforts me, reminds me of places I've been and people I've shared a meal with. Food is nostalgia and community. I've been in some of the poorest villages in the world, and what did they offer me when I arrived? Food. We didn't share a language, but we communicated through smiles as we ate together.
I love a beautiful meal. I also love donuts.
This love of food made me delay losing weight for too long. I didn't want to replace the oil in a cake with applesauce, and I wanted to cook with butter. I wanted to try new recipes and new restaurants and drink craft beer. I didn't see how I could lose weight without giving up something I enjoyed so much.
Then I noticed that my healthy-weight friends...well, they liked food. And they drank good beer. And they cooked and traveled and ate out.
It turns out that you can lose weight and still love food. You just have to learn how much of that good food you can eat to reach your goals.
If anything, my love of food has only increased as I became healthier. I no longer waste my time on food that isn't fantastic. Bad french fries? I won't eat another one. Supermarket donut? No thanks. Boxed mix cake? Eh.
I deserve the good stuff
"I, for one, would much rather swoon over a few thin slices of prime beefsteak, or one small serving of chocolate mousse, or a sliver of foie gras than indulge to the full on such nonentities as fat-free gelatin puddings...."
- Julia Child
Exercise is key.
And its power has little to do with burning calories.
Nothing has changed my relationship with my body and food the way exercise has.
I've learned what I'm capable of, I've become confident, and I respect my body in a way I never did before. I've learned how amazing a hard run feels, and how equally great a leisurely walk is. I've learned that I can lift very heavy things and hold my own next to athletes in a group fitness class. I crave the stress relief, the meditation, the music, the me-time of exercise. I've learned to embrace Minnesota winters with cross-country skiing and I've discovered countless hiking trails and expansive views I never would have seen before.
Fitness has brought me happiness and adventure. It helps me keep my head on straight. I feel out of sorts without it.
Find something you like, and do it.
You are already good enough.
I am going to make this point as short and sweet as I can:
I don't care what you weigh. You are - right now - worthy of love.
If you are overweight or obese, I know what that feels like. I know what it's like to avoid your reflection in the mirror, to hide behind others in photos, to feel judgment every time you walk out the door. I know how easy it is to turn those feelings inward and learn to hate yourself.
And I also know that self-hate will not get you to the point of health and self-love.
So, if you're not already there, start to exercise self-love now. This was hard for me at the beginning because I felt so ashamed of my size. But as I lost weight, I worked on accepting my body *as it was*. I worked on recognizing what it had done and was capable of doing. I didn't put off happiness until I reached my goal weight; instead I realized that I deserved happiness now.
In the end, reaching my goal weight meant itself was pretty meaningless. What mattered, what was utterly life-changing, was the metamorphosis I experienced inside.
So work on it now. Learn to love yourself now. It's magical, I promise.
And that's it for now. Who knows that the next year will bring - illness, stress, etc could arrive at any moment and set me back. But I've weathered those storms in the past and I know that armed with habits, my MFP friends, and a strong desire to continue to live the life I'm currently living, I will manage.
So, see you in a year?
A few more pictures!
These jeans defo don't fit anymore:
Summer used to be for lazing around. Now it is for adventures:
I get to run races with this dapper guy; how lucky am I?
you guys, I really like donuts.
More things I've written in case you're interested:
I'm far from perfect and that's okay - but don't give up: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/ShannonMpls/view/eat-badly-yesterday-skip-a-workout-get-over-it-408173
My blog has a lot more of my thoughts, details on how I achieved my goal, and other ramblings:
"How did you do it?" - might be of particular interest for those curious about the details of how I eat and exercise: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/ShannonMpls/view/-how-did-you-do-it-262680
"Three years of MFP" post with more tips: