I’ve been maintaining my weight for roughly 23 years.
It hasn’t been right on the money all that time. There were ups, but the ups have stayed within the healthy range.
Learning to manage my weight is a process I started about 3 months after I returned to Weight Watchers as a Lifetime member 40 pounds over goal.
I had more weight to lose to return to goal than I originally lost at my first time around with the program.
- I was a Weight Watchers Lifetime member
- I dieted to lose weight
- Dieting isn’t the same as weight managing
- Dieting is something I did only as long as needed to get to goal
- Managing weight is a lifelong activity
- Dieting is incompatible with my life
- Managing my weight makes my life better
I went back to Weight Watchers planning to diet until I got back to goal.
Once I got to goal, that would be the end of going to meetings and of dieting. I would no longer need either of those things.
After my first night back and subsequent first official weigh-in I was off to a great start. I was “just saying no” to all kinds of foods and loving how the number on the scale kept getting lower and lower with each weekly visit.
Sometimes it was hard to say “no” so I didn’t. It didn’t seem to mess up the declining number on the scale. I wrongly assumed those little liberties weren’t making any difference to my success.
Then it happened. The little liberties started happening more often and they started to become larger liberties. Eventually I stepped on the scale and I saw them all reflected in the number. Back in those days Weight Watchers had the old balance scales in the meetings. The leader would start by putting the counterweight on the member’s weight from the previous week. Then It would get nudged left, if you lost weight or right if you gained. She nudged right, then a little harder nudge to the right!
Instead of losing weight, I was up by almost three pounds! I considered quitting and not coming back the following week, but I stayed for the meeting as was my usual habit.
That night the leader asked us if we had any challenges.
That question came up every week and I was not one to publicly ask for help. Nobody raised a hand. The leader just stood there scanning the members seated in front of her. She didn’t say anything – she just waited.
With my heart beating hard, and my voice sounding weirdly strangled to my ears, I said, “I have a challenge.”
She just nodded at me to continue.
The same weird voice said, “I have four daughters and we dine out fairly often. The girls never finish their meals and I end up cleaning their plates for them.”
The leader asked me a few questions to understand the problem. I explained that I hated wasting money and tried to get the kids to share a meal. They refused to cooperate and all insisted on ordering something different. Bringing home doggy bags was not always an option because it could be hours before we would be home and meanwhile that food would be sitting in an unrefrigerated car.
My challenge got tossed out to the members. “Who had a similar challenge? What did you find that is working for you?”
I had an objection (in my own voice again!) for every suggestion.
Member #1: “Stop eating out so much.”
Me: “That’s not going to work. We’re on the road a lot. We travel from Maine to Rhode Island every weekend.”
Member #2: “Pack meals and snacks to eat on the road.”
Me: “I have my hands full just packing stuff for the kids and getting them in the car! I don’t have time.”
Member #3 “Make them share!”
Me: “That doesn’t work. They refuse!”
Member #4: “Don’t order a meal for yourself. Just eat off of their plates.”
Me: “Uh, thanks, but I don’t think so….”
Then another member raised his hand to offer his suggestion.
This guy was clearly as unlike me as possible in every way. He was somebody whose path would have never crossed mine if not for our Weight Watchers meeting. We had nothing in common except we both were struggling to lose weight. I fought to keep from rolling my eyes! He can’t have anything intelligent to say!
If we weren’t in this same meeting I may never have had the epiphany that changed me from dieting victim to empowered weight manager.
“What stupid thing is he going to say? This is all such a waste of time,” I thought.
“Look at it this way,” he said, “you are making yourself the human garbage can. The food is paid for and your kids had all they wanted. You can throw their leftovers directly into the garbage or you can eat it yourself and eventually drop it into another “can.” One way or the other what your kids don’t eat will be ‘wasted’.”
“Wow! Wow! Wow! Holy moly!
That’s true! It actually will cost me more to eat their leftovers than to throw it away because I’ll be paying Weight Watchers longer to get back to goal!”
The epiphany wasn’t that I turned myself into a human garbage can.
The next time we ate out, I threw away their leftovers. I didn’t like tossing what felt like money into the trash. The time after that when we ate out I insisted they find something they could share. That was when I realized they would have shared all along had I made it clear that it was their only ordering option. I actually wanted them to each order their own meal so I could “clean up.”
When I became aware I used my kids as an excuse to eat without being responsible, I realized that was a pattern. There were many ways I created excuses for regrettable actions or to avoid doing what I didn’t want to do in the first place. I looked for excuses to allow me to continue to eat as though I wasn’t dieting while insisting the behaviors weren’t my fault.
This bit of insight was a turning point. It was my catalyst to stop dieting and begin to build a new relationship with food and physical activity.
There were more things I learned in this journey of self awareness. I learned more about me from people who were totally unlike me than I ever learned from my inner circle of family and friends.
I did the work. I made the changes. I’m still working on making changes and sustaining the ones that work for me.
I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I tried to lose weight on my own!