What we talk about when we talk about weight

Yes, I nicked that title and changed it for my own purpose. Sneaky, but I like it. Big Nathan Englander fan here, and he nicked it first! True his allusion was for a loftier piece of writing, but still. Anyway, I saw my chance, and I took it. J

Seriously though, weight talk is tricky. Trickier after you’ve lost weight. There are a couple paths you can take on the subject. The first is obvious, and if you’re savvy or famous, it could even be lucrative. I’m talking about the ‘expert’ path. You could walk around calling yourself an authority on weight loss since you’ve actually done it.

But if you choose to do that, you better do it fast, because if there’s one thing that’s almost certain with weight loss, and that’s the likelihood you will regain the weight. Almost everyone does.

The percentage of people who have lost a substantial amount of weight and have kept it off for at least two years is ridiculously small. It’s unbelievably small. If I hadn’t read about its smallness over and over when reading about successful weight loss, I wouldn’t believe it. Here’s the depressing thing. If you actually do manage to lose a lot of weight after months or even years of a concerted effort, you are probably going to gain most of it back and probably even more than that. If you’re lucky you’ll just gain some of it back. I use the word ‘lucky’ somewhat facetiously here. Well, duh you may say. But I did feel lucky the second time I regained weight and stopped myself before I regained it all.

I can count myself as a real authority since I’ve been in that sad and frustrated majority of people who’ve lost weight and gained it all back and then some. I’ve also been in the large group of people who have lost weight and gained some of it back. Now I’m in that tiny minority who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off for more than two years. I’ve been at basically the same weight for five years now. I can’t exactly explain how I’ve done that. If I could I would have a very nice secret to sell. Sadly, I don’t have the secret, but I do have a lot of experience.

That experience has led me erroneously to have the feeling that I know how to lose weight. That’s a dangerous feeling, because it has led me to make the mistake of advising others on how to lose weight. I advised, and they didn’t lose weight. They tried to do exactly the same thing I did, but it didn’t work. I tried to explain why they weren’t losing weight to them and to myself, but I couldn’t. People are different. That doesn’t get taken into account much except in the teeny tiny print at the bottom of products promising weight loss. (Note: you should definitely read that unreadable print if you get one of these products, because they all say they’re only effective less than 5% of the time. So that’s a thing.)

It’s possible my method didn’t work because they didn’t do exactly the same thing or because it just didn’t work for them. I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to go around accusing people of lying about what they’re doing. I cannot see myself checking other people’s calorie counts and making sure they don’t put an extra couple of Doritos in their mouth than they’ve recorded. It’s hard enough to do that for yourself. Plus, that’s just stupid, because I know the research out there says that people who say they are dieting are mostly following strict rules even if they don’t lose much weight. It’s maddening. It’s more than a formula. Once you’re fat, it’s just really, really hard not to be fat anymore.

Anyway, the important thing is that I learned my lesson. I will never make all the money that’s out there for people to make who can help people lose weight even when that loss only lasts about a minute. I will not hold myself up as an expert. I have experience but no expertise. I’m glad I know that about myself.

If someone asks me how I did it, and they always ask when they know my past history, I tell them in broad strokes what I’ve done. But when they ask me if that’s what they should do, I say honestly that I don’t have a clue what they should do. Very few people have a clue. Eat less. That one seems to work for a lot of people, but even that doesn’t work for everybody. And even if you do hang on for a few weeks on a low calorie diet, most can’t do it for long. Eat better. It’s good for your health, but doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight. Sorry. No easy answers here. But at least my answers don’t cost anything!

I used to think that exercise was the key. It has been for me. My body responds to vigorous exercise by losing weight and maintaining the loss. I’ve never been able to stick to a low calorie diet for long so I’m lucky that exercise has picked up the slack. But not everybody responds to it in the same way. For a lot of people exercise doesn’t help much with weight loss. It does a lot of good things, but often weight loss isn’t one of them.

That brings me back to talking about weight loss. I like talking about it, not giving advice about it, but just talking about it. Talking about it with people beats the internal conversation I have nearly every day. And people call me obsessive for some reason. Don’t quite understand…

The problem is that I’ve lost my ‘fat cred.’ When I was actually overweight or even going through the process of losing most of the weight, I could talk about it, and people would understand and give me encouragement.

But now a lot of people just think I’m either bragging if I talk about weight or I’m obsessive. Which is sometimes followed by a gentle suggestion that I may have a problem or am teetering on the edge of an eating disorder. I’m not. But I am somewhat obsessive. But so what? I do obsess about things that worry me. Weight is one of those things.

But just because I like to talk about it, doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear me talk about it. There are certain people I can talk about it with. A few people. Friends who know I don’t have an eating disorder and accept that it’s something I like to talk about once in a while. And they don’t mind talking about it either. So it’s a safe zone.

Otherwise, weight is kind of a closed book. People can ask me a question, but since I’m not in the advice giving business, I have learned not to bring it up unless someone else does first.

Here I have to circle back to the fact that I have regained all the weight before and I’ve regained some of it before too. Five years at my current weight is a long time only when you think of how few people manage it. But really, it’s not a long time. If I sustain an injury that keeps me from exercising I’ll gain weight. It’s so easy even with exercise for me to gain weight when I stop paying attention to what I’m eating even for a week of two. I have been able to get back on track pretty quickly when I catch myself (another reason I weigh myself every day!) but it’s a struggle.

I used to think most people who are thin don’t have to worry about weight gain, and maybe that was true for some people in their 20s, but from all the women I’ve talked to (and I almost exclusively talk to women about this subject) it’s not true. They have to watch what they eat. They don’t gorge themselves on cake and cookies and fries, etc. The real difference is they don’t think about food as much as I do so it’s somewhat easier for them not to fall into those bad junk food deep dives than it is for me and a lot of us with weight issues.

I accept that. I have a good memory, and I’m a fast reader. We all have our strengths. Mine isn’t discipline with food. So I keep trying. I read books about what to do. I read every stupid Facebook post with tips about how to avoid temptation. But I know those things don’t work that well for me. So I keep trying. But for me, talking about it with other people who also struggle with it helps me feel better about things. Knowing I’m not alone helps. But since I can’t talk about it with everybody, I talk about it here. Anyone who doesn’t care to hear what I have to say probably won’t be reading it either!


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