So you’ve finally dropped all the weight you wanted to. You hit your goal weight, had a party and rocked the skinny jeans. You posted your before and after pics and even wrote a testimonial in your favorite fitness magazine. You threw out your fat clothes and bought a sexy wardrobe of classic pieces to last you a lifetime in your newly svelte body. You are now the go-to girl or guy for healthy advice. Congratulations, you have officially entered the Shangri-La of weight loss. You’ve made it to The Last Chapter of every diet book. You are… in maintenance mode.
Theoretically once you have reached maintenance, you should be at your happy, healthy weight – one your body easily maintains (with healthy eating and exercise, natch) within one or two pounds. I’m going to ‘fess up: I’ve never hit maintenance. Part of it is my dedication to a weight that is probably too thin for my body. It’s the classic eating disordered mindset and I know that and I try not to listen to the crazy voice that tells me there’s no such thing as too thin.
But the other part is that I can never seem to stay at one weight for very long. I’m always either losing or gaining. I don’t think I’ve ever stepped on the scale and seen the same weight as I have the day before. The past 6 years have been regulated by my multiple pregnancies with gains and losses following a predictable, albeit, frustrating cycle. But even before that, it was always feast or famine. I was starving and losing or I was “being bad” and gaining. There was no middle ground.
I do understand that a certain amount of weight fluctuations are normal, especially when hormones are involved (seriously, why did society ever do away with The Red Tent concept?) but my weight fluctuates more than a pound or two. In fact, it goes up up up until I freak out, take drastic measures and then feel temporarily soothed as it goes down down down.
Last month was a down down down month and I happily watched the number on the scale trickle downward. That is, until Gym Buddy Megan casually mentioned at the gym, “You’ve lost too much weight.” Gym Buddy Allison agreed, “Yeah, you’re starting to look scary skinny again.” To be honest it’s usually a minor intervention like that one that jerks me out of the down phase of my fluctuations. They were right, of course. They always are. My chest bones were starting to come through and my collar bone was too prominent.
So I relaxed my eating a bit, gave myself a few treats. But I swear that sugar is a gateway drug for me and once I crack open that first bag of Nerds jellybeans (that weirdly look like those models they make of the Influenza virus) it’s game over. So this month has all been on the upswing. Every day I watch the number climb and try to talk myself out of a panic.
It’s downright crazy-making, is what it is.
Normal Person Theory holds that eventually my weight will settle out where it is supposed to be. And perhaps this is how it works for normal people. But I wonder if it will ever be that way for me. Have I messed up my body’s signals to the point where maintenance will forever elude me? Or is there hope for me yet?
I really don’t know. I do know that I’m not the only girl on this roller coaster though. Reading TokaiAngel’s blog, Off The Scale: Zen and the Art of Maintenance, is like reading my own journal sometimes (except she’s wittier and uses all sorts of adorable British sayings). In addition to many of you, I also know this from my Grandmother’s journals. A life-long bulimic, the only time she was ever at peace with her weight was when she was sub-100 lbs because of an illness that caused her terrible and unremitting pain. And yet the weight loss was what she recorded in her journal. She was not unaware of the irony either. Even in the depths of her pain she could see the humor. But then she died in a car accident, never having truly figured out how to be happy with her body.
It’s comforting to know that other women struggle with the ups and downs of “normal” weight fluctuations and yet manage not to revert to their previous eating disorders. But it also makes me wonder how anyone gets it right. This issue has caused me more tears and self-flagellation than I feel comfortable admitting. It has led to some of the ugliest breakdowns I’ve ever had. And yet. It’s not supposed to be this hard, is it? Is it?
Are you able to maintain your weight? How do you do it? Or are you caught on this endless ride like I am?