Instead of writing up my thoughts on last week's topic, I hope you'll indulge in a little self-disclosure.
It's now August 2012. Most of us are wondering where the last eight months have gone, but I'm sitting here wondering where the last fifteen years have gone! Because in August 1997 I reached my weight goal and became a Lifetime Member. FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY, Y'ALL.
I remember sitting in my meeting a few weeks into joining, and the leader celebrated a woman who had reached her eighteenth year as a Lifetime member at goal. Those of you who have been members for years might remember that we used to give out ribbons for ten pounds lost, and embroidered stars for each additional ten pound increment. Then, when you became a Lifetime member, you received a white ribbon. And on every anniversary you received an embroidered shooting star. So here was this woman with her white LT ribbon virtually covered in these shooting stars. She was happy, she looked vital, and if I hadn't known her history, I never would have guessed she ever had a weight problem. I remember thinking "someday I want to be her." Doing the math, I am now 83% of the way there!
If you had asked me back then whether I'd have kept my weight off this long, I'm not sure that I would have said yes. Even now, I wonder if I would have been able to remain at my weight goal if I hadn't immediately started working for Weight Watchers (where my weight is monitored monthly to make sure I remain a good role model).
So what have I learned in the past 15 years?
Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not. While I have remained at or under goal the entire time, my weight has fluctuated almost ten pounds. Some years I have a really good cushion, other years I am right at goal. (In full disclosure, recently I have been in one of those "right at goal" years, something which I am trying to change!) Just like when I was in weight loss mode, sometimes I had it dialed in, other times I got a little lax.
Weight maintenance is a different mind-set than weight loss. In maintenance, you have to learn to not freak out over a 1 pound gain. Your weight never stays exactly the same, so fluctuations up and down are a part of the process. If your behavior is consistent, a gain this week will likely be followed by a loss the next. If it doesn't, check your behavior.
My habits have evolved. The way I lost my weight isn't the way I'm maintaining. I was not a runner when I was losing weight. Fifteen years later I've run five marathons and countless half marathons (the next one is coming up next month!). When I was losing I ate lots of prepared, frozen and canned food, and rarely ever cooked. Today, I'm buying staples in bulk and cooking them myself, loving every step of the way.
My life has evolved, and so my habits have had to keep up. When I hit goal, I was married. I still am, but it's to a different fellow. A lot of things happened in between. I've had four different full-time jobs during the last 15 years, each with their own set of hours, overtime demands, and corporate culture. Currently I'm in a "free food all the bloody time" environment, and trust me, that's a challenge!
What has been constant the whole time is the notion of regular weigh-ins to keep an eye on things. Regular tracking of food intake so I don't relax too much. Sometimes I track more than others, but I do still track. Regular physical activity is a must (although what I do for it has changed many times, and likely will continue to change).
Part of my success in this journey have been people like you. Yes, you, reading this. Whether you are in one of the meetings I lead, maybe you're someone I've weighed, maybe you just found me through Blogger or Facebook - you make the difference to me. Helping you to change your habits and reach your goal gives me a feeling that no other job I've ever had has given me. It inspires me to keep this going, to keep on track, so that I can continue to work with you and see how you shine.
So thank you for reading this. And here's to another fifteen years!