“I made it.”
However long your journey to becoming healthy takes, with persistence and perseverance, you will reach your weight goal and you will be able to say those words. It is a powerful moment, especially if, like me, you have a lot of weight to lose.
In the past, every time I reached a weight goal I celebrated—usually with something to eat that had been on my “forbidden” list. But, on October 1, 2018 when I said those words, my first thought was: “now I have started Phase Two.”
I always understood when I started this journey that this would become my way of life. I deliberately never said I was dieting or I was trying to lose weight. Instead, I always told people that I was working to become healthy. That work doesn’t stop when one of your health goals has been achieved.
I found that the best way to go to Phase Two was to ask myself an important question: What have I learned?
I learned that I can eat the same foods I feed my family as long as I keep my portion sizes small and eschew some of the offerings on our table like bread or other starches. If I give myself a very small portion, I won’t get up from the table to give myself more unless I am still hungry. That works much better for me than telling myself I will only eat until I am full, even if my plate isn’t clean. I learned to put down my utensils between bites, to let conversation be the center stage of a shared meal, and to stop eating for a bit when my plate is half empty. I learned to savor food and appreciate quality over volume.
I learned that I could be flexible in my food choices on occasion and that this was actually an important part of my healthy eating. I could enjoy an indulgence from time to time without paying the price of weight gain and a guilty conscious. I eliminated my “on/off” switch that told me I either had to restrict everything that went in my mouth or go on a free-for-all.
I learned the power of exercise. I learned that it didn’t matter if I was a klutz or not, and it didn’t even matter what my starting point was: I got stronger. Yes, I still had muscles in that body of mine even though I had long assumed that they had atrophied out of existence. I learned that I liked being stronger, that it gave me the gift of energy and a renewed zest for life. I learned that I could overcome pain.
I learned to like and appreciate myself. I learned that I am a valuable person with a lot to contribute. I learned how to set aside an inferiority complex that kept me in its grip for sixty-plus years.
I learned that I needed to go back to the basics if I gained weight—keep a food log and measure portion sizes. I learned that the best way to get on top of weight gain is early on, before my jeans get a little tight.
That’s a lot of powerful lessons, learned over the two years and two months it took me to lose 151 pounds. Reaching my weight goal allows me to flex a little bit more than I did when I was working to lose weight, but little else has changed. I no longer have a personal trainer, mostly because I don’t have new fitness goals, and just want to maintain my progress. I also know that, personal trainer or not, I am going to go down to the basement five days a week and start my day with cardio and strengthening exercises. I am going to do that because it is important to me.
I honestly don’t believe I could have maintained my goal weight if I hadn’t had those two years to figure all of this out. The work I did rewired my brain and drastically changed my relationship with myself, with food and with exercise. That wouldn’t have happened if I had done meal replacements or had a surgical intervention.
Your journey is your own. What is important to you could be very different from what is important to me. When you are able to say those magic words—“I made it”—I wonder what you will have learned?