WHY IT'S DIFFERENT
7 May 2002
I had an email from a friend who is considering starting WeightWatchers. She asks a
What do you think will keep you from gaining it back? It's an innocent question,
because I know you have dieted down to bathing suit weight before and gained it back. And
I have done the same and gained it back in spades. How can we keep it off, once it is
gone? Is this physiologically possible?
I've been thinking about how to answer her. I spent most of my time on the exercise
bike this morning just thinking about this whole thing with me and weight.
She's right--I've lost the weight before. From 1984-85, I decided to lose 100 lbs. I
did it as a gift for a friend's 50th birthday. He couldn't have cared less, but I kidded
myself into thinking that it would matter to him if I put forth all this effort and lost
the weight. I didn't lose 100, but I lost 80 by the time of his birthday. I felt thrilled
with how I looked, with my new wardrobe, with success. I was so proud of me.
The day of his birthday party came. It was a swimming party and I was going to be
wearing a bathing suit for the first time in years, a humongous big deal for me.
All the usual suspects were there--all the people who had been seeing me fat for the
previous few years, and who hadn't seen me in a year, and I couldn't wait to show
them all my new body.
Nobody noticed. Not one single person. My friend never said "look how good she
looks!" I was devastated. I was so depressed that I started eating again that night
(lots of crab dip--I even remember what I ate!) and I never dieted seriously for more than
a few weeks again after that.
Now--in retrospect, I know that I'd done everything wrong. I was losing the weight for
someone else, I was "dieting" (and a "diet" is something that you are
either "on" or "off of"). When you reach your goal weight after a
"diet" you then think that you can finally eat all those things you've been
craving all that time and sooner or later, all the weight comes back, and usually then
some. The more diets you've been on, the faster the weight comes back. (I should
know--I've been dieting since age 10.)
Will this time be "the one" that finally works, that finally gets me to where
I am supposed to be for my health and keeps me there?
Well, this time I'm doing things differently, so I sincerely hope so.
First of all, I'm not doing this for anybody but me. I've looked at all the reasons why
I hate being fat, I've heard the doctor give me all the health reasons why I need to lose
weight, I've had people tell me it doesn't matter whether I'm fat or thin--they love me
anyway. So when I decided to lose weight, I was doing it for nobody but me. If I stop
doing what I'm doing, the only person who really cares is me. I'm the one who has to deal
with airline seatbelt extenders, chairs that come up with you when you try to stand up,
stairs that you can't climb, theatre seats that dig into your hips throughout a show,
restaurant booths that you wear rather than sit in, etc., etc., etc.
Second, I'm being very public. How much more public can you be than a web site that
talks about it, posts weight loss, tracks activity, etc. When I've tried losing before,
I've always decided I wouldn't say anything because if I fell off the wagon, I wouldn't
have to feel embarrassed. No--this time I'm up front and very open about what I'm doing.
And the support I've received from everyone, both in my real life and in my cyber life,
for it has been a wonderful incentive.
Third, this isn't a diet. I keep saying that (though in reality, I admit that I have
gotten into the 'how much have I lost?' mentality). As I've said, a "diet" is
something you go off of at a certain time, whether because you've lost all the weight or
because you've suddenly dived into a bowl of chocolate chip cookies and never want to
leave. A new lifestyle is something for life. It also is something you live, not something
you are waiting to abandon when you see certain numbers on the scale.
To that end, what I'm doing has to be something that I can live with. Learning how to
eat differently, because this is the way I'm going to eat for the rest of my life, no
matter what weight I am. Central to this is recording everything I eat. I've made
halfhearted attempts at this in the past, but always stopped after awhile, keeping kind of
a mental tally of what I'd eaten during the day. Journaling food is the best way, I've
found, to keep me on the program. It works two ways--it tracks how much I can have in a
day, and if I absolutely positively can't pass by McDonald's without giving a
contribution, I dutifully record it, count the points, and work the rest of the day around
it. I don't feel cheated and I adjust the rest of my day or week to take care of that
thing I simply had to eat which I know is a high point thing. (My WW leader lost 100 lbs
eleven years ago and has kept it off--and still writes down everything she eats.)
Everyone who has made food the center of their world has those moments when they
absolutely positively can't live without such-and-such. In the past, losing control and
eating such-and-such has generally spelled the beginning of the end for any weight loss
program for me. "Might as well quit. I blew it big time." Here's where
journaling is essential. OK--so I ate a whole bag of potato chips. Well, let's see exactly
how many points that is. OK--so it's 15 points (or whatever). OK--I'm allowed 28-33
points, and I add 4 more points for having worked out this morning. So if I watch what I
eat the rest of the day, I can end up in my point range anyway, even though I've lost
It may be a crutch, but it's effective for me. It's very forgiving and gives me
something positive to think about rather than a whip to beat myself with for having
In this, going to WeightWatchers meetings is, for me (I'm discovering), also essential.
I've lost weight on the WW plan before, but it's different when you have the weekly
reminder--the weigh in, the words of encouragement from the leader and everyone else. I've
made fun of this whole thing before. I could do it on my own and I didn't have to attend
the damn meetings. Well, now I see where that got me. There are people who have the
self-control to do it without help. I am now willing to admit that I am not one of them.
Paying a small fortune to be weighed each week and attend a meeting that I pretty much
hate is the price of learning how to live this new lifestyle. (It's the Catholic in
me--I've "food sinned" for so many years and now I have to do penance before I
can receive absolution!)
And finally there is that four-letter word: "exercise." Throughout my life
I've found a bazillion reasons to avoid exercise. And when I've been dragged out for a
walk or something, I've almost always hated it. I've avoided going to the doctor for years
because I knew that I would be told "exercise." As I've said many times before
since February, never in my wildest dreams did I realize I would enjoy anything which
remotely resembled exercise.
So I have to thank Joan, who encouraged me to check out the club, and Olivia, who said
we should go biking. The combination of those two things has made all the difference. I
discovered that it's really true, all the things people have been saying all my life--I do
feel better. I not only feel better physically, but I feel better emotionally just from
the sheer joy of finding myself moving, the pride of knowing that I'm doing it and
that I've stuck with it for nearly four months now and see it becoming a part of a
Will I put back the weight that I've lost, and am continuing to lose? I am not even
thinking in those terms. I am living this thing day by day. Today I'm doing it. I've
exercised, I've gone for a bike ride, I've had a "good" breakfast, I've recorded
my food, I've planned--sort of--what I'm going to eat for the rest of the day, and
tomorrow will just have to take care of itself.
At my age, with a diagnosis of Diabetes II and borderline high blood pressure, I am
risking my life by continuing to be so blasť about food and exercise. (I read this this
morning: "Diabetes means making a life style change that you are happy with or
slowly dying." Something to think about!) There are things in my life
that I want to do, people to see, places to go, things to accomplish. It's taken me a long
time to reach this point, but I really want to give myself a chance to do all that stuff.
And that is what makes me
hopeful convinced that this time it will