The number on the scale is finally right. What you've been eagerly awaiting, what you've been working for is a reality at last. Nothing could make you happier. You feel your work from now on is like a walk in the park. You managed to shed all those pounds. How much more difficult could it be to keep them away?
After all, you're prepared! You have a brand new set of eating habits and plenty of fitness activities that you enjoy doing. You've managed to deal with binges and emotional eating successfully and you have your strategies ready for all the temptations that will be thrown your way.
You feel you have it all figured out. Being overweight or obese is a thing of the past.
When suddenly - actually not so suddenly but that's what it feels like - things take a wrong turn. The scale starts going up...
And this triggers a series of attitudes that I'm sure many of you will recognize as the lead-in part to the sad story of weight regaining.
First, it's self-reassurance. "Oh, come on. There's nothing to worry about. I'm doing everything right. I'm sure my next weigh-in will be back to normal." And we rest assured. No action.
Then, there's denial. "It can't be my fault. I haven't been overeating or anything like that. I can't have gained weight just because I inhaled the smell over the freshly-baked cookies!!! There must be another reason. Maybe water retention!" And we find something else to put the blame on. Still no action.
After that comes confession. "The truth is I didn't just smell the cookies, I tried one. Or was it two? Now that I think about it, I ate half of them in front of the TV! And that pizza we ordered that night, I just couldn't eat just one piece!" And suddenly the memories come back. And the realization hits hard!
At this point, two things could happen.
The first one is panic. We want to fix everything and we want it done fast. We maximize our cardio activities and we starve ourselves hoping that the scale will go back where it was. And this starts an endless vicious circle of deprivation to over-indulgence and vice versa. And little by little, day by day, wrong choice by wrong choice, the pounds creep back up.
I know this sounds frightening but most of us have been there and have felt the despair of this experience. Thankfully, things can be different.
We take full responsibility for our actions. We can't keep up trying to find someone or something to blame - unless of course there is a medical reason present, in which case we should talk to our doctor. What we put in our mouths, though, is something we have full control over. A number of reasons, different for everyone, led us to the wrong path. But we are still in control and that's what we have to realize.
WE decide when this stops. A little damage was done. Shall we undo it or make it bigger? Our choice!
I am currently at those dark days of maintenance. The ones when you realize you're not maintaining anymore but you've started gaining. The damage is still small. I can sit around pretending that nothing happened and wait for the situation to resolve itself in a magical way. I can start blaming everything and everyone around me, like my stressful life, my mom's delicious cooking, the holidays' delicacies which have started making an appearance or my new intense fitness program which mistakenly led me to believe I could eat more of anything.
Or I can accept my responsibility, assess the damage and strike back. Reverse the process and correct everything.
I choose the latter. And if you're dealing with something similar, I encourage you to do the same.