Tuesday, February 18, 2014
In just over two weeks I'll the first of the big maintenance milestones: two years, when my odds of regain drop to 50% from that awful 80%-98% range where it's stood since I reached goal. I've long dreamed of a time when I could say I lost the weight and kept it off and I'm happy to say I currently stand more than 110 pounds below my all-time high weight of 260. These past two years have been filled with many learning experiences and challenges--many more than I ever would have expected in maintenance--but I think I've come a long way on this imperfect journey and have made great strides in several areas that I hadn't given much thought to in my previous efforts.
1) I've Begun to Stabilize Not Only My Weight, But More Importantly, My Habits
Although I'm still a work in progress in this department, I think I've made some good progress. Having spent many years trapped in a binge/restrict cycle, I've worked hard to even myself out. I'm far from perfect, but am generally doing much better in this department. I rarely eat to the point of being completely stuffed anymore and I seldom dip below 1,500 calories, even when trying to drop a few pounds. As a result, my binge episodes have been greatly reduced and I generally feel satisfied. I've also moderated my exercise habits. I no longer put pressure on myself to hit the gym every day and try to incorporate as much natural activity into each day as I can. I still hit the gym a few times a week, but I try not to let it cut into sleep or be a source of stress. I do it because it makes me feel good. Likewise, I still enjoy a good challenge, but understand the difference between the occasional extra push and what's sustainable long term.
2) I Forgot About Perfection
I have NOT been the perfect maintainer. I haven't stayed within two pounds of my goal weight, there have been many days when my eating has been far from ideal and lots of times when I've chosen to be sedentary over getting up and moving. I try accept that there will be times when my motivation will be lower than others, give myself the occasional pass to skip working out if I really don't feel up to it and the flexibility to eat a little bit more if I feel like I need to. I've tried to stay realistic about the goals I set for myself and remain mindful, but not obsessive, about my eating and exercise habits. I still slip a bit more than I'd like, but I know that as long as I don't horribilize the situation and regroup as quickly as I can, the damage will be minimal and easily undone. I've found that my motivation actually ebbs and flows and that if I ride out the low points, I eventually come back around to the higher ones.
3) I Learned to Focus on the Now
Where I was ten years ago, two years ago, one year ago or even one month ago might not be realistic or relevant in the present. I've learned to focus on doing the best I can given my current circumstances, which change frequently. This means I'm constantly assessing and reevaluating where I am and whether my goals are realistic in the now. Is it realistic for me to hit the gym five or six times a week and eat perfectly during the school year? Absolutely not. Can I get closer to that ideal when I'm on summer break. Usually, yes. Low stress = high motivation and high levels of compliance for me. This also means the expectations I have for myself need to be adjusted and flexible depending on the time of year and what I've got going on in other areas of my life.
4) I Came to Terms with My Goal Range
I now more fully understand where I can get with a significant amount of effort and where I can stay with a reasonable effort. Although the former may be my ideal, I can accept that I will likely be closer to the latter most of the time. I understand that this journey is not a sprint, but a series of marathons and that I need to be able to enjoy the ride. Constant restriction does not equal a pleasant journey for me, so I've worked towards what I think is a healthy balance between my weight, my habits, my health, my happiness, my overall sense of well being and aesthetic considerations.
5) I Developed Grit
Tough times have come and I've soldiered through. Not perfectly, but as best I could. And guess what? I discovered that I am resilient! I didn't give up when life threw me a few curve balls even if I didn't always manage every situation perfectly. I've had some moments where my inner child seized hold of me, which has resulted in a few temper tantrums and other childish moments, but when I've been able to step back, collect myself and put things in their proper perspective, I've found that I'm perfectly capable of moving on and pushing through the difficult times.
I'm very proud to say that I'm still here nearly two years after reaching my original goal. It hasn't always been pretty or perfect, but it has been worth weathering all the ups and downs. Thanks so much to everyone who's supported me on the teams I'm active on, especially the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team, and to everyone who's read my blogs, left comments and helped me to push on. I no longer feel like long-term maintenance is some distant fairy-tale dream, but that it actually is attainable because I'm living it. There will be no going back to the hearth for this Cinderella--I'm staying at the ball after midnight even if my dress is a bit tattered.