When do you celebrate your weight loss success? When do you declare yourself “cured, and fit, and whole?” We’ve all read the many stories of regular people and celebrities who have lost significant amounts of weight, and then gained it back. And the poor celebrities like Kirstie Alley lose and gain weight over and over again and everyone feels they have to comment about it.
This is a question I struggle with myself, because while every pound lost is a victory, should there be a measure of “wait and see” before we celebrate in earnest? I don’t have the answer to this question, but Mary Hartley, a registered dietitian who I met when I spoke at the New York Health and Fitness Expo said something along the lines of : “So you’ve lost weight. Great. Keep it off for 5 years and then I’ll be impressed.”
There are people all over the world who have lost both small and large amounts of weight, and then gained it all back.
Sadly, for a long, long time, I was one of those people. Not until my final attempt at weight loss did I have any success either losing a lot of weight or keeping it off. Now to be fair, there were times during my years of dieting that I temporarily lost 20 or 30 pounds. After I lost the weight, I celebrated my success, and then saw myself regain the weight. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but it always came back.
So when do you celebrate? Is there the perfect amount of time that needs to pass before we can declare someone an “expert” (if there is even such a thing) at weight loss? Let me tell you a story that happened right after I lost my weight.
I had reached my goal weight, and at the suggestion of my pastor, wrote a workbook and developed a weight loss class. We advertised the class, and a room full of women showed up. I got up, introduced myself, and told my story. The first class went well, and then at the very end of class a tall attractive lady asked this question: “How long has it been since you got to your goal weight?”
I said, “Three months.” She nodded knowingly and when class was over she left. She later called me, and told me that while she was very impressed with my weight loss; she felt that I should have maintained the loss for a longer period of time before I taught a class. I told her I understood, but after I hung up the phone, I got upset.
I had lost the weight. I was cured. I had changed.
But was that too soon to declare myself changed? I’m still not sure how I feel about that. For yes, I have been fortunate enough to maintain for a long time, but was I completely changed right after I lost the weight? Honestly, no.
For a period of time after my weight loss, I had to undergo a process of finding my way into weight maintenance. I still had to figure out what maintenance looked like for me. How much more food should I eat? How much exercise was enough? How much should I let my weight fluctuate?
Looking back, the lady in my class was probably right. It probably was too soon for me to say, “Yes – I can teach you. “It’s true that I could show them how I lost weight, and encourage them on their journey, but it was also true that I hadn’t proven to them, or myself, that the lifestyle change was real.
I think that every pound lost, and every healthy change should be celebrated. I always got excited every time another piece of clothing fit, or the scale moved in the right direction. But those celebrations of losses is not exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the declaration of long-term success.
I’m seriously unsure about this. What do you think? Diane