March 2020 marked one year since I’d started a long and arduous weight loss journey. It’s never been about being skinny so much as feeling good and showing a healthy example for my kids. I’d lost 30 pounds between March and September and maintained that loss through holidays and vacations thereafter.
There’s No Trick
There was no magic pill or colorful drink. There was no special diet where I could only eat four foods at any given time. There was no subscription service or MLM. I researched and read and got help from a nutritionist and at the end of the day it was simple – calories in versus calories out. Tracking, weighing portions, balanced diet. That’s what it all boils down to in most cases where an underlying health condition isn’t involved. While it wasn’t easy, I stuck with it. Even when the weight came off slowly. Even when I got derailed and had to start over. Even when I was tired of spending so much of my energy thinking about food.
As much as I swore I was a new person who understood my relationship with food and vowed to never put myself in a position to have to lose so much weight again, I could never have seen what was to come. Even playing fast and loose with restaurant food at times and having a few drinks out with friends was manageable. I’d reel it in the next day and reset my focus.
Fast forward to March 13, 2020. School is canceled. The world is thrown into tumult. We are staying home all the time. The way we support small businesses is by ordering takeout. We make a sourdough starter and learn to bake bread. We try new recipes. We pull back from our on-the-go lifestyle of too many extracurriculars and relax more in some ways than we have in years. And as much as some of us thought this would be a few weeks, maybe a month, we now know how wrong we were.
Despite all the extra bread and takeout and wine, we participated in long walks and family workouts. We rode our Peloton and streamed workouts on YouTube despite not having access to a gym. The particularly mild spring weather made driveway workouts the norm. We even bought a Tonal. Those first several weeks felt idyllic in some ways. But despite all of that, as the death toll rose and my gray roots grew in and vacation after vacation got canceled, the darkness crept in. The kids got bored. The days got long. We all started to feel as though we had little to look forward to.
As this feeling settled in for me, I gained the newfound ability to justify anything and everything. Should we open a second bottle of wine? Of course we should; homeschooling. Should we order takeout again? Obviously we are doing our part to support small businesses. Grocery trips resulting in the purchase of Little Debbie snack cakes and ice cream? I mean, the amazing 15 year anniversary trip my husband surprised me with has been canceled so why should I deprive myself of these treats?
And if this had carried on for a week or even a month, perhaps I could have gotten the train back on the tracks. Perhaps I could have reigned it in and kept my promise. If only I could have made the commitment not to let the circumstances unravel all the hard work I’d put in over the last year.
But I did. It didn’t happen overnight. And even as it was happening I was aware of it. I just couldn’t stop. We’d lost so much and because of those losses I gained. And gained. And gained.
I know what I’d say to a friend in my position. “Give yourself some grace, we are all dealing with unprecedented times.” But somehow, as I suspect many of you know for yourselves, it’s never easy to extend the grace we reserve for others to ourselves. Instead I sit here almost a year after the start of the pandemic and I gained back all the weight I worked so hard to lose plus a few extra pounds. And I hate that I let this happen. In some ways I’m not ready to tackle the herculean task of losing it again.
There IS a Path Forward
I know exactly what I have to do. I know exactly how to do it. I know I can’t exercise it away without changing my habit of finding comfort in food. I know “Dry January” won’t fix it. I know a New Year’s resolution won’t do the trick. It comes down to a recommitment to doing things the hard way and knowing that I didn’t get where I am in a day and I surely won’t get back to where I was that quickly either.
But it starts with one step. One step that turns into a habit. One step towards a goal that doesn’t require motivation nearly as much as it requires discipline. And as I’m sure I will stumble I intend to keep going. It likely won’t be a linear path, but it’s a path I’ll walk again. In the meantime, I’ll try to give myself the grace we all deserve without mistaking that grace for permission to move my health in the wrong direction.