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My Imperfect Fairy Tale

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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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I love the depth of your self-knowledge - your insight is inspiring and has given me many clues to reasons for my reactions to life when the going gets tough! Thanks and congratulations on completing your second year of maintenance!
    1479 days ago
    Great post! My journey really just began and I'm constantly reminding myself to only do what I can do forever. Sounds like maintenance, but so far it's working. .....your entire blog is inspiring and helpful. emoticon
    1486 days ago
    You must be a teacher or in some profession where you don't have to work in the summer as I do, because I can totally relate to not being under stress = more motivation and energy to carry out eating healthy and exercising more. I also relate to some days calories are higher than I want them to be but there are days when i can maintain the calorie range I want to be in... and the sooner I can rebound, there is usually no or little weight gain to lose. Thanks for these well-written, well thought out blogs... you are truly an inspiration, and you give me hope that I don't have to be super strict with my diet and exercise to get to my goal.
    1491 days ago
    Perfect is boring. And totally not inspiring. :D You, on the other hand, are neither boring nor not-inspiring. :D
    1492 days ago
    Thank you for telling us like it is -- maintenance isn't the END, it's just the beginning of the balancing act. I'm struggling in the binge/restrict cycle but I know intellectually that it ALWAYS ends badly! I'm going to try to learn from your example and try to live happily (but imperfectly) in the middle.
    1492 days ago
    1493 days ago
    Great post! Your #1 and #5 really resonated with me on so many levels. I think many of us "preach" moderation but then forget moderation doesn't equate to perfection. Moderation means some days you're a little over on calories; some days, you're under. Moderation means you go to the gym a few times a week, not every day. It's very hard to let go of perfection. Good for you!

    Regarding resiliency, I admire your ability to acknowledge and internalize this. When I was reading what you wrote, I thought, "Hey, I've done that, too," but I consider myself wholly un-resilient. Your post has inspired me to re-think that. Maybe I'm more resilient than I think.

    Congrats to you on reaching your two-year anniversary! Thanks for inspiring all the rest of us.
    1493 days ago
    Really enjoyed and appreciated this blog. Your attitudes very much mirror my own: not perfection, not "lowest achievable" weight, not vigorous exercise 7 days a week -- but what I can sustain in the long run.

    Congrats to you on reaching that all-important 2 year maintenance milestone!!
    1493 days ago
    You have come a long way, and you're helping a lot of us to follow after you. Can't wait to have you hit that 2 year mark! Well done!
    1493 days ago
    This is so great to read! I really appreciate your honesty in sharing your journey.
    1493 days ago
    I loved the part about you learning to live in the now, and not force yourself to be the person you were two months ago, a year ago, or two years ago. I'm finding this to be one of the things that consumes my thoughts the most these days: that we're constantly changing, and it's okay, and we always need to appreciate who we are today as well as who we were yesterday. Remember the past, live in the now, hope for the future.
    1493 days ago
    Wow, this is really inspiring. I love to hear your honesty and how much acceptance you have about yourself. And it really is alove story, isnt it? Not a fairy tale. Because you have learned to love yourself. Thank you for sharing your story, it has really touched my heart. emoticon
    1494 days ago
    Woohoo! So proud of you!
    1494 days ago
    Tina -- once again you inspire and amaze me! Congratulations on hitting another milestone! You have learned and demonstrated just how much of a mental challenge this is as opposed to just a physical one. You can't maintain one without the other!! While I'm far from the maintenance part of the my journey -- I will keep coming back to you and your wisdom because you are the genuine real deal!!

    Congratulations! and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with all of us!!!

    Spark on!
    1494 days ago
  • KARENE10
    emoticon Job! Great Blog! I maintained for a year and half and THEN gained back the weight:( I didn't know that 2 year statistic emoticon . emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1494 days ago
    You are AMAZING! I can't thank you enough for sharing your story with us.
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    1494 days ago
  • LAURIE5658
    Tina, YOU are my hero. Get it, girl!!!!!

    1494 days ago
  • KANOE10
    Great blog, Tina. You are only two weeks away from your big milestone! I like the way you say you have not only stabilized your weight, but have stabilized your habits. I think that is key to maintenance. We have to keep following our successful habits for health. also forgetting about perfection and giving yourself a pass shows compassion for yourself and realism! Developing grit and resiliency is important. Those hard times can be worked through..but they are not easy..and thank heavens for the support at Spark.

    I look forward to celebrating year 3 with you! You are an inspiration to all of us.

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    1494 days ago
    Thanks so much for sharing your story and giving us some perspective!
    1494 days ago
    I think probably 99% of us on here have lost weight in the past. We all know now that maintenance is the hardest part about weight loss. It's where most of us have failed. Permanent change is the only option. You've mastered it and you certainly should be proud of that.
    1494 days ago
    Congratulations on your milestone and thanks for the inspiration!
    1494 days ago
    Congratulations and thank you for being such a great leader on the Maintenance Team. I credit finding that team and the motivating maintenance ticker with helping me stay on track.
    1494 days ago
    Great blog, Tina! Those of us who *do* succeed in maintaining have to learn all those lessons for ourselves, however they apply to our particular mental quirks... but we all have to learn them! emoticon emoticon emoticon

    p.s. CONGRATS on your upcoming milestones!
    1494 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/19/2014 6:36:04 AM
    Congratulations on the big milestone!
    1494 days ago
  • POPSY190
    You have definitely earned that glass slipper! and have been transformed! An excellent blog with plenty of food for thought and guidance for others. Congratulations on your anniversary.
    1494 days ago
    Congratulations on your nearly 2 years!
    Not in maintenance yet but found your blog interesting and encouraging. Growing beyond the scale is important to me and you helped me see some areas I can work on as I lose. Thank you!
    1494 days ago
  • RUDITUDI2000
    Love the blog! How exciting to be at the two year mark! I am very encouraged by your insights, Thank you for taking the time to share them. It really is awesome to stop by and refuel here today. emoticon
    1494 days ago
  • DALID414
    This year I decided my motto would be: I'm an adult. Just to keep my inner chid and her tantrums at a minimum, as I work towards my second year of maintenance.
    1494 days ago
  • KONRAD695

    You have one amazing story. I think maintaining is harder than loosing, and I applaud you on your success. I'm finding it much harder without the momentum to help push me in the tough times. I think that is one on the main reasons I started reading your blogs. You let the rest of us know that it is possible, and we can all come through it. Thank you for another dose of inspiration. emoticon

    emoticon Konrad
    1494 days ago
    That is great! I bet alot of us want the maintenance insights that you have discovered. I still have weight to lose before then, but I'm heading your way!
    1494 days ago
    Wow! What an awesome blog! Thank you so much for sharing your story! Way to go girl! I am so proud of you!
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    1494 days ago
    Maintenance takes a lot of work, maybe even more than the actual weight loss part of the journey! BUT I am in yr. 3, almost 4 of maintenance and each day is a little bit easier. If I ever get discouraged, I just look back a little and see how far I've come. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
    1494 days ago
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