The Commitment of a Lifetime

Goal. Maintenance. Lifetime. The three-word process Weight Watchers uses for the next phase of my weight-loss journey. Losing weight was the easy part. Keeping it off? Well, that’s a whole different beast. 

As of this week I’ve lost 153 pounds, more than half myself, and instead of a size 32, I am an 8. I still have a few pounds to go, but I’m not sure how many since my goal is based on my waist size, not a number on the scale. I’ll explain in a minute.

It’s taken me two years to reach this point. Two years of forgiving, accepting, not accepting, and learning. A lot of learning. I could earn a Ph.D. from everything I’ve learned these last eight months. Yet the education of Lynn continues.

When I look at photos of me from my highest weight and compare them to photos now, I get defensive. I want to protect the morbidly obese me from the thin me smiling in a recent photo, as though the thin me is a culmination of the people who looked at me with disdain or treated me differently when I weighed nearly 300 pounds. This thin me is not that kind of person because I really don’t care what other people look like, but I keep a critical eye on the woman who was me two years ago, and with good reason. The statistics are stacked against me: 90 percent of people who purposely lose weight gain some, all, or more of their lost pounds back within five years. While I accept and love the person I was, I don’t want to be her again.

The physical transformation of anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight pales in comparison to the psychological transformation that must take place in order to maintain weight loss. Committing to losing weight was easy, and as I marched down the scale, I embraced new eating habits and new foods, and I learned all I could about nutrition. Then I met some people from Weight Watchers who had recommitted to losing weight after gaining back most or all of the weight they’d previously lost. I asked them what happened and they all said they didn’t commit to maintenance. They went back to their old sedentary ways, eating more and moving less. Successful weight loss, they realized, is a lifestyle change, not a temporary diet. It’s more than food. It’s how our bodies move and feel. It’s about strength and metabolism. So I started to think of the program beyond food, and my goal morphed from the scale to the body.

Just because someone is thin does not mean they are healthy and fit, the same way that being overweight doesn’t mean you can’t have excellent cholesterol levels and strong muscles. The scale is not the best gauge of fitness. Waist size and body fat levels are much better indicators. I’ve met my body fat goal of less than 25 percent, but I’ll officially be at goal when I lose one more inch off my waist.

I’m not a joiner of anything. I even do the Weight Watchers program online because I’m more comfortable doing things alone. But I knew if I didn’t want to be a statistic I’d need to commit to an even greater level of fitness than my walking routine. This meant I needed access to gym equipment. I don’t have the room or the cash to have it in my house, so with some trepidation I joined the Clarion YMCA.

The feeling most engrained in my head from my days at 300 pounds is embarrassment. That didn’t disappear just because the weight was gone. At the Y, I wanted to be an invisible entity – slap on my headphones, hop on a treadmill, maybe lift a few weights. I would slip in unnoticed and leave unnoticed. Within a few weeks, however, a new feeling emerged. Confidence. I became comfortable in the physical space of machines and bodies and equipment. People were kind, and the staff gently encouraged me to reach beyond my original fitness goals. When I started developing muscles I didn’t know I had and finding hip bones and rib bones I’d thought were hidden away forever, I tried to thank one of the staff for his help. He simply smiled and said, “It was all you.”

I began to protest, but then it hit me: I’m the only one who gets me up in the morning, throws my bedhair back in a bun, and schleps off to the gym. I’m the only one who makes my legs pump the elliptical or the bike. I’m the only one who lifts my body into a chin-up and muscles my way through butterflies and pullovers and tricep pulls. And finally I realized that I was the only one who lost my weight and I’m the only one who can keep it off. I needed confidence to see that, and with confidence comes trust. The next step is for me to trust that I can keep this journey going for a lifetime.

I’m still surprised sometimes when I look in the mirror. It’s not easy wrapping my brain or eyes around 153 pounds gone, but it’s not so hard that I will forget the me of two years ago who was embarrassed and lacked confidence. She’s a part of my past now.

Goal. Maintenance. Lifetime. Bring it on.

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