A Long Term Approach to Managing Weight

July 27, 2010

Time Marches On

For me, one thing I’ve learned in life is that Time Marches On.  Sh*t Happens.  Life continues.  Good stuff happens.  Life continues.

It’s not much different for weight.  You lose some.  You stabilize.  You gain a bit.  You lose a bit.  You gain a lot. You lose some again.  Time passes.

A few weeks ago I went back over my weight history again.  The overarching pattern of actively thinking about my weight for most of my adult life is what jumped out at me – the graph was not so dramatic, despite a 60 pound loss and despite major periods of feeling like I was at war with my body.  I realized, yet again, that the time will pass regardless, and if I take my past history as any indication, I will likely be involved in managing my weight in the future.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: fnf_crilix

What I now know, is that this is a never-ending road.  One of many in life, in fact, but one that can be navigated sanely, calmly, steadily.  Like the image above, there will be hills and valleys but the main point is that it goes on, extending out into the future.  But it’s not an unknown route, nor a particularly dangerous one.  I don’t need excitement in this area of my life – a long steady vista of gently rolling hills is just fine for me.

The Journey IS the Destination

One of the things that’s lead me to this quest for “low stress” weight loss is the realization that the time will pass regardless of what I do about my weight.  And that it really makes no difference at all what precise number is on the scale.  If I reach a certain mile marker today or next month, or even later than that it doesn’t really matter.

Fundamentally, it’s the mindset that “The Journey IS the Destination” that I’ve come to accept.  I might be at a goal weight or size, but I’ll still need to actively manage my weight.  [pullquote]If you have the same problem for a long time, maybe it’s not a problem. Maybe it’s a fact. -Itzhak Rabin[/pullquote] I’ve done the lose-regain cycle too many times to not have learned that lesson.   I can’t lose and then go back to paying no attention.  I need to always pay attention, whether it’s enough attention that I’m actually losing (which is what I’m currently doing) or just enough attention to hold the line (which is my plan for maintenance, holidays & vacations).   Ultimately, what matters overall is that I’ll be actively engaged in managing my weight for the long haul, not the number on the scale at any particular point.

What matters is staying on the road

What does matter is staying on the road, and in the drivers seat.  For the Long Term.  I don’t use the word “Forever” because it’s big and nebulous and abstract and scary.  If there is one thing that a brush with cancer will teach you it’s to take things one day at a time and not worry too much about the distant future, because you can’t control it.  I can focus on today, I can think about tomorrow, next week, next month, next year even.

I don’t know what I’ll be facing on Thursday, September 27, 2046.  I do know that on September 27, 2010 I will still be actively managing my weight.  I can reasonably assume the same to be true in September 2011, although hopefully that weight number will be lower than today.

Letting go of a timeline can lead to more success and less stress

By letting go of any timeline for losing weight, and just committing to being engaged in managing my weight for a long period of time, I believe I’ll be more successful.  And much less stressed.  Suddenly my chances of being in the minority who succeed at long-term weight loss shoot way up.   If I know I’m managing this long-term, I don’t have to worry about “falling behind” because the process is the point.   My weight on a given day, or year, doesn’t particularly matter as long as it’s actively being managed.  Fast weight loss, or slow weight loss, if “the journey IS the destination” is true, it doesn’t much matter.

I don’t buy the statistic that 95% of dieters fail, but I suspect the strong majority of people do, and I accept the point that most of us won’t maintain at the weight we aspire to.  We spend a lot of mental energy on the “losing” phase, but do we plan for after?

There is this weird mystical world in weight loss, called “maintenance”.  You know, it’s covered in the last chapter of every diet book, that marvelous land where the rules are looser and the foods on “list 3” are now open to you.  In Weight Watchers they get meetings and weigh-ins free.  It’s always been as obscure a thought to me as Atlantis, however, and I never paid much attention to “maintenance” because it was always so far off, what business did I have with it?

But what successful maintenance always entails is a process of checking in with yourself regularly.  Keeping eating in check, keeping exercise in the routine, keeping an eye (or at least half an eye) on the scale.  Making small corrections as needed, to keep everything on track.

And those are things I’m doing NOW, things I’ve been doing for a long time, things I’m quite willing to commit to doing in the future.

That means I’m in the driver’s seat, and already on that road.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: fnf_crilix

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