I've successfully maintained the bulk of my own weight loss for over 12 years but every winter, every single winter I put 10-15 pounds on. Come spring, every single spring, I'd take it back off. Basically, I've had a summer body and a winter body and my summer body is about a size smaller than my winter body. Why this cycle? I like to eat more in the winter and I've always felt enormous pressure to have a perfect bikini body to show off in the summer. After 12 years I'm not sure I ever even managed to attain that, what is a perfect body anyway? But I damn sure almost killed myself trying.
But I digress, at any rate... it really is that simple.
For a lot of years, I hated myself for my winter body. I was so ashamed of gaining a few pounds and afraid of being judged for it that I'd basically hide all winter. But then one year, it was like I woke up. I just realized, I'm happy eating the way I'm eating. I don't care about the extra weight. The ONLY problem I had with it was fear of what other might think. How ridiculous and disempowering is it to go through life giving other people that much power over you?
If, outside of the fear of other people's judgement, I'm actually happy in my skin and feel good why am I abusing the hell out of myself just because my belly as an extra roll or two or my thighs are wider?
Why am I letting fear of judgment destroy my self worth and peace of mind?
Because it is sooo easy to fall into this trap.
Weight gain is feared, hated, and seen as failure by the world we live in. People are bullied, discriminated against and fend off comments about their bodies on a daily basis because of being in larger bodies. So much so that studies have found that most people claim they would rather be dead than gain weight.
That's horrifying. But I can relate.
People around us comment on their own bodies all the time, and everyone else's. I know we like to blame the media but ladies, we're making things way worse for each other than the media ever could.
"Did you see Susan, omg the weight she gained! She really let herself go... so sad."
"I'm so disgusting... look at these gross rolls."
"Wait, let me hide my belly (thighs/double chin/whatever) before you take the pic." "Omg, how can Sally walk around wearing that at her size?!"
Etc, etc, etc... we do it all day long, every day.
Comments and judgments about bodies, non-stop -- our own and others.
And we think it's okay because we'd never tell Susan that we were judging her for letting herself go, we just tell the person sitting next to us. But Susan knows what we're thinking because Susan just heard someone else saying the same thing about us. So, if we're hearing all the women around us judge themselves and others, how can we NOT feel like they're thinking the same thing about us when we're not around and then worry about judgment?
We naturally internalize those messages, judge ourselves as failures and fear everyone else's judgment. It ends up being our default setting and for some perverse reason we're also taught that berating ourselves is the key to forcing change and creating confidence and happiness. (Spoiler alert: it's sooo not)
It took me over 30 years and almost killing myself to live up to expectations to recognize the damage we're doing to each other and ourselves with all this body judgment -- because it's just THAT normalized.
But just because something has become normal, doesn't mean it's okay and while admittedly, I know I've participated in those very conversations in the past, I bust my ass to consider my words before I speak now -- because if we EVER want to get to a place where our daughters don't live the same body shame we've been programmed with, we NEED to stop.
I grew up being taught to walk around with my stomach sucked in. I don't remember when or by who, but some where along the way, I learned that's just what we do. I also learned that thinner is always better, beauty is pain, being seen was more important than being heard and looks were to be prioritized over everything -- comfort, health, and well-being.
When I took a step back and fully understood why I was hating myself over the few extra pounds — fear of not looking perfect and what other people would think — I decided "nope, not doing that to myself anymore". So, I just decided to stop. But every spring, I'd still make sure I took it back off again so my summer clothes would fit. It was okay to allow myself to just live in whatever size I wanted as long as it was winter and I didn't need to be on a beach in a bikini.
While I learned to accept my winter body, I wasn't ready to let myself just be that size in the summer when more flesh was bound to be exposed. Part of that also came from the enormous pressure I always felt to "look the part" when I was a trainer.
But this spring came and went, we're almost at summer and so far this year, I've done absolutely nothing about "building my summer body".
For the first time in over 12 years.
It's both terrifying and exhilarating all at once.
So, why haven't I this year?
Simple. I just don't care to.
I let my waist size and my ass size literally rule my life for DECADES — always believing if I just got it small enough I'd be happy, I'd feel worthy enough and be accepted.
But changing my size never did any of those things. All it really ever did was distract me from growing and from learning to know, accept and love my authentic self.
Also, hear me when I say this next part because if you've been struggling with feeling like you "should" be losing weight, this may speak to you: I really just don't want to eat calories less right now. I'm finally, for the first time since that first miserable low carb diet I did at 16, at a really good place with my relationship with food and I'm thrilled about that. The amount I'm eating every day is enough to maintain the body size that I am and I simply don't want to worry about eating less calories right now.
Because here's the thing that diets leave out — no matter how quick and easy they make their magic plan sound, the bottom line is, you have to eat less calories than you're currently eating if you want to lose weight. That's the reality of it. And most people (me included right now) just simply don't want to lose weight badly enough to eat less consistently enough to make weight loss happen. If we're otherwise happy and healthy, why is there anything wrong with that?
I say all of this in case you're doing the same thing to yourself that I used to because I think sometimes we need a little dose of reality to help us make sense of the silly stories we're telling ourselves.
And here's the other thing the diets don't tell you — the reduction that's required to lose weight is actually required to keep it off. When you lose weight, your body needs less calories to survive. There's not a diet in the world that changes that reality.
That means if you do eat less consistently enough to lose weight, you cannot just go back to eating what you eat now to maintain your new smaller body. You'll always have to eat less cals.
Let's say the size you are now requires 2200 cals a day to maintain. If you lose 40 or 50lbs that number is going to drop significantly because you're now in a smaller body — perhaps by 400-500 cals a day. So you don't just have to eat less in order to lose weight, you have to continue to eat less forever if you want to maintain it.
So the question you need to ask yourself isn't, "what diet should I be trying next?" it's ..."realistically, is my weight making me unhappy enough that I want to eat less cals than I'm currently eating from now on?" and "why on earth am I letting it rule my life?"
Here's the best thing of all about that — there's no wrong answer!
It's your body and your life!
You get to decide! You get to decide if you're happier chasing weight loss and some idea of what you think will bring you happiness OR if you're happy eating the way you're eating and want to just be at peace in your life and your body for perhaps the first time ever.
Contrary to what we've been taught, weight loss is not the magic answer to everything that we think it is and carrying extra pounds isn't the worst thing in the world to happen to us.
I would argue that spending our entire life hating what we see in the mirror and living in the guilt, shame, restrict, overeat crap, or binge cycle is far more unhealthy than simply just enjoying life and treating your body with love and care at a few pounds heavier.
During much of the time I was my leanest and the picture of strength and health externally, I was an absolute time-bomb of mental health dysfunction inside and punishing myself with food and exercise. Weight loss at the expense at mental health and our relationship with ourselves is not health and yet many people are living that every day chasing physical health — or at least the outer appearance of physical health.
Not me. Not anymore.
"Being a healthy woman isn't about getting on a scale or measuring your waistline. We need to start focusing on what matters - on how we feel, and how we feel about ourselves." - Michelle Obama
Now none of that is to say that at that some point in the future I won't decide that I do want to take few pounds back off.
And I'm not saying that wanting to be smaller is necessarily bad and that I'll be happy at this size forever. I may wake up tomorrow, decide I don't want to have to buy new summer clothes and peel it off in a few weeks.
Or I may not.
The point is, at this particular stage in my own journey I'm working on just being happy, feeling good, treating my body with love and compassion and not allowing fear of judgment dictate the choices I make for myself.
This way, I'm learning to tune into my own wants, needs and priorities and tune out the fear of judgment from a very broken society.
After 12+ years of busting my ass to have the perfect summer body, it's just not even registering on my priority list so far this year and there is a certain level of peace and pride that's coming with that realization.
And you can too. You can learn to tune into your own truth. Why do you think you should be smaller? Is it for the same reason I did? Fear of judgement? Desperation to have a "perfect" body so you'll feel worthy?
Those are terribly unhealthy reasons to want to lose weight. At least for me they were.
Does your body ache from extra weight? Does it impact your day, your energy, your performance, your ability to live your best, most fulfilled life? Those are better reasons and maybe if you give up the fear and judgment you'll start realizing that you deserve to feel better than you current do in your body and maybe weight loss will help with that.
The point is, you get to decide for yourself whose voice it is that's telling you you need to lose weight (yours or the fear of judgment) and if it's important enough to YOU.
You can do it, if you want to bad enough but maybe if you stop and listen to your heart, don't even really want to.
Maybe those extra 10lbs don't matter one little bit in the grand scheme of your life. Or maybe it's more than 10, impacting your life in a negative way and listening to your heart will help you find your bigger why and you decide that you do want to.
Either way, be cool with your choice because it is always your body and your choice. And if you hear nothing else I tell you, hear this: you deserve to feel confident, happy, free, beautiful, and amazing this summer no matter what you weigh and you can choose to stop playing the body judgment game with everyone else.
I'll tell you, those extra ten or so pounds don't matter one bit to me right now, I kinda really love that. :D