|Suzi Storm & Me at the Weight Watchers Success Story photoshoot in February, 2011|
Recently my pal Suzi Storm received a tweet from a follower who seemed surprised to hear that people at goal or lifetime might still have challenges with food or weight issues. Suzi & I both replied to her, but Suzi suggested that both she and I cover the topic more in-depth. Since we have both been at goal for about a year now I thought this was a great idea! Here's my experience/opinion... (You should also read Suzi's take on the subject here)
I did not expect to reach goal last summer. I just didn't see it coming. Even though I had been on plan for nearly 4 years when it happened, I simply wasn't expecting to drop that last few pounds so quickly. But on July 27th 2010, it did. I weighed in at 135 pounds - a weight I had never been as an adult. (Note: since I get asked often, my goal weight is 137, which is the top of the range for my height of 5'2")
Despite numerous attempts to be a healthy weight since age 8, I had never succeeded before last year. I always gave up before I reached that ultimate goal weight (and I only got close to it once, at age 21). Unsurprisingly, every time I gave up, I also always gained the weight back and had to start again.
I spent nearly 3 decades in that cycle.
Think about that for a minute: Prior to reaching goal, I had been struggling with a food addiction and was overweight or obese for the better part of 30 years. That's a really long time! In that time, I had engaged in many unhealthy behaviors and patterns of food abuse - I ate a mostly processed diet, was a sugar addict, a binger and a closet eater. I had a severely dysfunctional relationship with food and extreme hatred of myself and my body.
Of course, since 2006, I had been working on all of those things along my journey. I made some drastic and amazing lifestyle changes along the way, but the fact is that I was not suddenly cured of my old triggers, temptations or unhealthy habits just because I weighed in at a certain number that particular night.
I think this is true for any member who reaches their goal - just because you see a number on the scale, it doesn't mean you have it all figured out, it doesn't mean things magically become 'easier' and it doesn't mean you're immune to setbacks.
With that in mind, and when you consider how long I lived unhealthily vs how long I was living healthy, it should not come as a surprise to know that I am, and always will be, a work in progress. Because the triggers and temptations still exist, they always will. And the choices I used to make are part of my history. I am fully aware that the habits that made and kept me heavy for most of my life are just one decision away at any time. I am aware that I have to choose better than I used to. I would not call it a struggle or a battle or anything so negative and dramatic. I would simply say I continue to assess situations and make the best choices possible at the time.
The good news is that having been through the process, I am now better equipped to manage those situations. I now ask myself what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. As my wise Weight Watches leader Melanie (who is running the Queens half today! You go, girl!!) once said, "it doesn't get easier, but we get better at managing it". And she's right. Everything I experienced along my journey (the good and the not so good - feedback, not failure, remember?) are what help me with decision making. Everything I've been through - every triumph and setback - affects the choices I make now.
Remember - this is is not a quick fix. This is not about making changes just until you reach a certain weight. This really is about permanent lifestyle change. And somewhere along my journey I realized and accepted that - that I would need to do this for the rest of my life. Personally, I'm ok with that. More importantly, I think you have to be. That's why it's imperative to make changes you can live with. Because you will be keeping them for the rest of your life - literally forever - to help you manage your weight.
If that seems too overwhelming right now ("I can't believe I have to do this forever!"), think about this: you can spend your forever (however many more days you are fortunate enough to be alive) being overweight and unhealthy and dealing with those challenging situations in a way that negatively impacts you OR you can spend it infinitely happier and healthier at a more appropriate weight while managing those situations, making better choices. Remember, it's your choice - everything is your choice - choose as well as possible as often as possible.
So even though I will encounter challenges and setbacks at Lifetime, I'd much rather be dealing with them here - with the knowledge I've acquired in this much healthier body, than dealing with them at the start of my journey. The point is - don't let the fear of setbacks or challenges at goal deter you from getting there. I promise you, it feels so amazing that it's worth it.