While easy to understand, the above maxim above is difficult to execute. I’m five pounds up from my usual weight. Eating too well and too much, I’ve rationalized the extra calories by noting my vigorous lifestyle—running around with grandchildren during their summer visit and lots of tennis.
After putting on clothes that felt surprisingly tight, I couldn’t kid myself any longer. The scales were truthful—I was the one who was engaging in deception, self-deception at that. Fat, not retained water, was the culprit.
Am I happy about backsliding? Do I love where I am? Let’s just say “love” isn’t the first verb I’d pick. Quite the opposite. Instead, I berate myself for losing the ground I’ve worked hard to gain.
My first instinct is to become punitive towards myself—to go on a strict diet. Wrong! This solution comes out of the same box (the yo-yo cycle of deprivation and decadence) that created the problem in the first place. Instead, I accepted the situation I found myself in and began looking around for opportunities to make positive changes in my life.
With acceptance came a kind of excitement. For me, facing a challenge and conquering it is emotionally satisfying. I had now turned on an important mental switch. Instead of hating my situation, I was embracing the opportunity to recover lost ground and get back on track.
The first step was to return to basics.
I resumed the practice of making entries in my food diary for everything I eat, a habit I’d dropped during the busy summer months. I do so knowing that not keeping track of what I eat is as foolhardy as writing checks without recording the amount in the checkbook.
Next, I removed calorie-dense and nutrition-poor foods from the pantry and refrigerator. I also cooked more consciously—removing extra calories without compromising taste—and monitored portion size.
To prevent making regressive decisions under the influence of hunger, I prepared several low-calorie, nutritious entrees and desserts to keep handy in the freezer. I made daily personal meal plans, eliminating “empty” calories (candy, wine, etc.). To give myself perspective, I set weight loss goals (2 pounds a week) until I reach my regular weight.
Realizing I was distracted from my fitness goals by having too much to do, I finished a sewing project, organized my house and exited from an extraneous project weighing heavily on my mind.
Instead of being in a state of freefall, I’m back in charge of my regimen. By taking a few practical steps and resuming former good habits, I’m once again grounded. My body is my friend instead of betrayer. Food is back in its rightful place—enjoyable but not at the center of my universe. Exercise, especially tennis, continues as a source of healthful entertainment.
Weight maintenance, I’m discovering, is a different skill than weight loss and perhaps a harder one to master. In light of its difficulty, what’s surprising is how little attention it receives.
One remarkable exception is Weight Loss Forever, a program developed Dr. Henry Chang, a Sacramento physician. Dr. Chang doesn’t let his patients lose weight until they have learned how to maintain their weight.
Only then are they are allowed to lose 5-10 pounds. Repeatedly and intentionally, he interrupts the weight loss process so the patient can stabilize before resuming. Success stories by the dozens speak for his effectiveness in teaching the maintenance skill first.
In retrospect, my weight loss period, while demanding, was like a honeymoon—lots of drama, excitement and attention. Maintenance, on the other hand, is like marriage—great moments, for sure, but mostly regular life.
Can I be happy while I’m busy recovering lost ground? Can I transform the threat of failure into useful insight? Can I learn to love where I am, even when I am struggling?
What helps is to remember that there is no destination on the path to fitness. There is only the next step, and then the next, and then the next.
you and I are fat or fit, progressing or regressing, can we love
where we are? Ironically enough, admitting an unpleasant truth sets
us free to make the changes we need to make.
Yesterday’s lower weight on the scale is gone and tomorrow’s numbers are out of reach. Today and now is all we have.
Only through accepting, embracing and loving our condition are we able to move forward to realize our fitness and weight loss dreams. And if you think about it, learning to love where we are is a skill we can apply, not just to weight loss, but to all areas of our lives.