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Posted on Jan 23, 2014 in Dear Diary | 19 comments

What’s Different the Second Time Around

Sooooo, apologies in advance that this entire week is evidently full of super heavy posts. I’m thinking it’s like 25% because I have so many feelings about restarting this whole weight loss endeavor, and like 75% because — as evidenced by the tears that welled up in my eyes during last night’s viewing of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on FX — I am PMSing pretty hardcore.

So last week I finally manned up and openly admitted that I’ve regained the majority of the weight that you all watched me lose once upon a time. And it was probably one of the hardest and most emotionally taxing things that I’ve done in a really, really long time.

I mean, c’mon, it’s hard enough having to admit you’ve gained weight… to yourself. But add in an entire internet audience, and, as I’m sure you can imagine, it becomes just a liiiiittle harder. And as if that weren’t enough, lest we forget, this is the SECOND time that I’m having to admit it. So, we take everything that was difficult about typing out my weight and then pressing “publish” that very first time, then we pile on all of the victories and defeats that accumulated in the following couple of years — wherein I actually LOST 60 pounds and was feeling pretty good about myself — and then multiply it all by the fact that everything I already went through ended up being for nothing. Because here I am again.

So yeah, it sucks.

And I’m going to be honest and admit that I’m already really struggling this time around. Not struggling to get back on track, because I’m actually doing pretty well so far: Tracking all my food, eating well, getting some exercise in, doing a lot of good things in that department. No, instead I’m struggling with all the mushy, icky, complicated emotional stuff. I’m struggling with the HOW. As in, how could I possibly have let myself regain FIFTY pounds? How could I not have noticed, how did I live in denial for so long, how could I not have stopped myself sooner, how could I have let it happen at all?

After everything I went through the first time, after all the progress that I made and all the things I accomplished and all the ways that I grew AND all the ways that I shrunk, how did I get back here?

As I explained in my post last week, I’m not really 100% sure. I think the main thing is that I stopped really caring about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I stopped prioritizing good choices over easy choices, and I just stopped paying attention to my weight. And for someone like me, someone who loves food entirely too much, someone who is oftentimes physically repulsed by the thought of exercise, someone who has a known history of abusing food, abusing her body with food, and abusing herself because of how she’s abused food… not paying attention is pretty much an automatic precursor to backsliding.

So when I try to think about what’s different now, the second time, I can’t think about how maybe it’ll be easier because I already know what to do, or how because I’ve already done it once before, that must automatically mean I can do it again. No, all I can think about it how much harder it already is. And I’m not even really talking about the actual losing weight part: the calorie counting, the working out, the being accountable. That stuff is honestly all the same, because, yes, I have, done it all before. I do know that I can do it, and while I hate all of it just the same, it really is just like falling back into old habits. It’s the emotional weight that is now attached to every pound I gained, a weight that still remains even as they are starting to fall back off.

The stakes feel so much higher this time. I’ve already failed once, after all. Who’s to say I won’t fail again? Who’s to say that this won’t just be ANOTHER huge waste of time? I mean, no, I know that it wasn’t really a waste of time the first time around. I learned a lot of things about myself, I finally started to really fight back against my addiction to food, my binge eating, my relationship with my body, with myself, blah, blah, blah… but still, when you look at the hard facts, when you break it down to the fact that a year ago I weighed fifty pounds less than I do now, it’s hard not to see it all as a total wash.

One of the most difficult things that I’m having to face is how easy it was for me to gain all the weight back. I mean, it’s not like I was going to the drive-thru every night and cramming fifty pounds worth of Baconators down my throat. I clearly wasn’t trying to gain weight. I knew my eating habits weren’t great and I wasn’t getting much exercise, but it’s not like I was going balls-to-the-walls here, either. It was a pizza night here, a pasta night there, going out for a friend’s birthday here, sharing an appetizer AND getting dessert there. The pounds came back on slowly enough that for the first 10 or 15 I barely noticed anything (since 10 pounds on my frame one way or the other doesn’t exactly make for an earth-shattering different in appearance). And after I did kinda-sorta start to think maybe I was gaining weight back, I was entrenched enough in my habits that I guess I just didn’t want to think about it.

So, yes, the fact that it was so easy to gain all that weight back — and how capable I was of ignoring the gain — is absolutely terrifying.

Because everything about this second try seems hard right now.

I’m really not trying to pull a sympathy plea here. Just like I tried really hard not to come up with excuses in my initial post, I’m not trying to backpeddle and plug them in now either. I got myself back into this situation and I’m the one who wants to change in the first place, so everything that’s happened and everything that will happen moving forward is on me. I’m not looking for anybody to baby me (well, that’s not really true, I actually love being babied, according to the still-growing collection of stuffed animals hiding in my closet), I’m just trying to be honest. Honestly trying to figure out how I got back to this point, and honest about why, even though I’m going through a lot of the same motions, it all feels different this time.

Because now, on top of the shame and guilt for having already failed once, there’s this overarching, pervasive layer of fear. Hell, maybe there always was, and I’m only just now recognizing it. I’m scared, okay? I am scared that I won’t be able to get back to where I was. I’m scared that even if I do, I’m just going to regain everything all over again. I’m scared that even if I don’t regain a single pound, I’ll never be able to stop paying attention, stop prioritizing, stop caring so damn much about my weight. There won’t ever be an end, there won’t ever be any reprieve, and I’m scared knowing that I will continue to have to fight for the rest of my life.

I’m not saying that it’s not a good fight — to fight for your health, to fight for yourself? It’s probably one of the best fights out there. But the thought of fighting, all the time, from now until forever? To have to continue to carefully portion out how much I eat, to count calories, to be mindful at all times of what it is that I’m eating and how active I’m being, not just whilst losing weight but forever afterwards as well? Find me one person on this Earth that isn’t exhausted just thinking about that.

The fact is, I will always love eating. It will probably always be the thing I suggest when there’s something to celebrate, the first thing I want to do when something’s made me sad, the way I like to bond with others. But as much as I love food, I do know — whether due to years of misguided dieting or having a bad body image or maybe just because I’m programmed this way — that it’s entirely too easy for me to take it too far.

And I definitely do not love what overeating does to me. I don’t like feeling bloated or having digestive issues or being fat. I don’t like being out of shape and weak and exhausted. I want to be healthy, I want to be strong, and, as I discussed yesterday, sure, I also want to look bangin’. The point is, I do want this. And so for now, I just have to keep going down this road, and hope that part of the reason that this second time around feels different is because it is also destined to end differently.

19 Comments

  1. This was such a wonderfully honest post! Remember to take it one day at a time and not think too far into the future. I know you can do it and I will be here to cheer you on!

  2. Firstly, I want to say ‘You did not fail’. You did damn well to lose all that weight in the first place! Dieting should not be a chore. Diet is about day-to-day what goes into your body. Maybe the first time round, although you succeeded in losing so much weight the methods you used weren’t maintainable in the long run? That you weren’t really interested in keeping them up. And that is OK, they weren’t the right ones. This time, try something different. What activities do you love to do? What healthy foods do you love to eat? How can you balance your lifestyle realistically long term so that you don’t need to constantly be thinking about counting calories and dieting, so that you ‘just do it’? I can feel the frustration in your post and my heart goes out to you.

  3. I love this post and could have written so much of it myself! In an attempt to stop some pretty neurotic and definitely unhealthy behavior, I’ve stopped tracking calories…which led to some weight gain. While I’ve made a ton of great progress in loving and accepting my body, in finding ways to move that thrill me. But I’m still struggling so hard with the weight issue. I have no idea how much I weigh right now and I don’t think I want to know. In any case, I think you’re awesome and inspiring and lovely and I can’t wait to follow along with whatever path you follow this year.

  4. I hear you! I started over again a couple of weeks ago (90 to lose this time). I’ve been depressed and am returning to school in a grad program and took advantage of the free access to a nutritionist/registered dietitian last week. When I’m eating like I want to, I eat food–as in not-processed food. I have noticed that I feel worse after eating dairy, and learned from the nutritionist that the refined carbs/dairy combo is actually addicting and your body craves what is bad for it (oh hi bags of frozen cheese ravioli).

    Based on the nutritionist’s recommendations, I’ve started eating on a schedule and have nutritional goals for each meal and snack. I haven’t been counting calories, though My Fitness Pal is doing it for me–tells me I’ve been eating around 2,000 cal a day. The nutritionist explained how a person eating a more typical American diet can gain or maintain weight while a person eating meals based on the nutritional goals can lose weight while both people are consuming the same amount the same amount of calories. I have lost 8 pounds so far (though I am really trying to focus on the mood stabilization rewards from this and generally feeling well).

    I’ll keep doing this because it’s feels really good right now. I’ll also keep meeting with the nutritionist to see how we can refine this. I’d so much prefer to have my medicine cabinet be my refrigerator at this point, and I’m hoping by treating my body well and with what it actually needs, I’ll get to the weight my body should be at.

    I hear you on not wanting to have to play the calorie-counting game and forced exercise for the rest of your life. Maybe a nutritionist can help!

  5. Hugs!

  6. I just want to hug you. I feel like I was standing right where you are a year ago. And it was hard, and I didn’t feel like I got everything done that I wanted to (aka I did not dramatically reach my goal weight nor did I even get close to where I wanted to be for the year) but boy did my attitude change. All those fears you’re feeling are so normal, and so fair. It never feels to good to feel like you let yourself down and I was always (and on bad days still am) haunted by this idea “what if it’s too late for me? what if I permanently ruined my body and I’ll never get to where I want to be?” But you already know the truth because you said it yourself – “to fight for your health, to fight for yourself? It’s probably one of the best fights out there.” It’s worth the work, YOU are worth the work. Chase your fear because it’s telling you this fight is going to be worth it.And do all those other cliche sounding things too because they’re cliches for a reason – take it one day, one victory, one pound at a time. Celebrate each step of the way, remind yourself you’re worth it, remind yourself you deserve better, and eventually you’ll get to the point where it stops feeling like you’ll be stuck with this agonizing work load forever and starts feeling like each good choice, no matter how small, is like taking a giant leap in the right direction. You’ve got this and you’ve got plenty of people here to support you whenever you get overwhelmed. I’m always just a call or text away and always up for a nice walk or cup of coffee :)

  7. Good luck! The first step is admitting you have a problem and need help with it, which you’ve already done! Now you should make a plan, follow it as best you can, and keep your head down for a slow and steady weight loss journey. I decided about 8 months ago that I needed help, and went to a nutritionist who helped me work around my schedule and preferences to come up with a lifestyle change that actually worked. It hasn’t felt like a diet at all, and I am not expecting big weight loss numbers, which is why I think it’s worked. Good luck!

  8. I really admire your honesty in this post. The last few that you’ve shared have really resonated with me. Best of luck to you and I am looking forward to reading about your journey! I don’t think you’ve failed. You recognized something needs to change, and sure it would be nice if it had happened at 10 lbs instead of later, but it happened. And you’re taking control. There’s a lot to be proud of in that.

  9. its been a great week of posting, and it does not hurt that you are a great writer too. this is a tough subject to talk about and i love your honesty. i have a different story but can relate and i really enjoying hearing yours. you got this!

  10. I’m right here with you (okay, I’m in minnesota, whatever) but I also need to re-lose weight. and its not fun. i’m not sure how I gained it back either. Although there a few habits I can point to. (potato chips and french fries, i’m looking at you). The best thing is, you are thinking about it. thats better than being in denial. You aren’t eating “baked” chips and thinking they don’t taste as good, but you’ll be skinny. You know what to do, you just need to make the swaps that keep you happy and healthy. Healthy and Happy are so much easier said than done. Don’t get down on yourself. do what you can. maybe give yourself some rewards along the way?

  11. Honey bunny you and me? Peas in a pod. I didn’t read through the other comments, but essentially, I hear you. It’s hard, it’s SO hard, especially when other people don’t have the same struggle that we do. Especially when we have to know that some foods just can’t be in our eating routine because it will throw us all out of whack.

    I realize that I’m addicted to food and so I put up a sign at work (the danger zone) to say “You know what? Don’t even offer me treats because I can’t say no.”

    Most days, it works. Yesterday, there were doughnuts on my desk, an e-mail in my inbox re: doughnuts, and the manager who brought in said doughnuts walking around to each desk with the box open wafting the scent at everyone and using the sing-song tempting voice to say “c’mon, you want a doughnut, it’s just one!” Yeah, after 8 hours of that sort of prodding, I had a friggen doughnut. I hate it. Because then I wanted starburst, and I wanted fast food, and I slept like crap, and I didn’t feel motivated to work out. And I crashed! Oh, the sugar crash… it was terrible.

    These people ACTUALLY exist who live like food is no big deal and they don’t GET or RESPECT that it’s a big deal to me.

    Part of what we need to do to “stay on track” is to make sure to acknowledge and work through the fact that this is a LIFESTYLE change, not just a temporary gig. In our house, that means no more pizza every week. No more fast food (or gas station food) every day because it’s so cheap/easy. It’s going to take planning, commitment, and a little help from the ones we live and work with. We can do it, though. One day at a time, one bite at a time.

  12. Be kind to yourself, dear Gretchen! Acknowledge the past (as you have done), but don’t dwell on it as if it’s going to somehow sabotage your future…or it will…(or at least that’s my experience).

    You’re an amazing chick, I totally heart your blog (despite being an infrequent commenter) and wish you every success on this journey :) :)

  13. I know this is difficult. I’m at my highest weight and I can totally relate to admitting to this not only to yourself but online. Have you looked into Intuitive Eating? I think the emotional stuff you’re feeling is a lot of feeling of inadequacy and those are the very feelings that are keeping you in this spiral and cycle. I know it first hand except for me, it was a cycle of up and down. I think you should check it out, it might help. Also check out Geneen Roth’s “Women, Food, and God” – it’s not religious btw.

  14. I was just posting about when I got my WW goal weight some years ago and it was wonderful…and then I regained. It is easy to see myself as failing maintenance and as being a failure.

    But, perhaps another way to look at is that I found a way of maintenance that doesn’t work.

    I think it can be helpful to look back on what you did before – good or bad – if you are using the exercise to help you NOW. When I looked back on getting to goal before what I tried to think about is what worked then. And, when I regained, what was doing that didn’t work.

    It is OK to look back at that time IF it informs me in what I am doing now. And, by regaining, I learned what didn’t work.

  15. This post…this post is so beautifully honest. You have such a wonderful sense of self awareness. Be grateful for that.

    Your story resonates with my own and you provide so much comfort to me, and I’d imagine, many others who read your blog.

    For me, I tried to look at it as having to re-lose the weight, counting cals, exercise and returning to that dreadful feeling of being stuck in weight loss mind for-ev-er.

    But that’s just not going to work for me. Instead, I try to remember to love me now, listen to my heart and show gratitude. It’s amazing how exercising your mind transforms the physical self. I’m still a work in progress and definitely have my fair share of self doubt and low days; but, it’s the struggle,
    the fight that is so beautiful.

    Your story is beautiful. You’re beautiful.

  16. Big hugs! You can do it again, for sure!

    Also…. I keep my stuffed animals on my bed.. I just moved them to another place in my room because a boy came over…. They should be in my closet? Oooops!

  17. I’m right there with you. I was just 4 lbs. away from my goal weight, met my husband, fell in love, got married and over the past five years gained all the weight back. What I’ve learned is this isn’t “getting off track” but simply part of my path- as long as I learn from it, it’s not a second chance but taking a turn in the right direction. Good luck!

  18. I am so proud of you for owning your mistakes and being up front with your readers and fans. We love you for you. I love that you can jump right back up when this weight gain has knocked you down. I love that you are ready and willing to put in the hard work to lose it again. I too feel like this will be a lifetime battle. I will always love to eat. I will always love food. I just need to be aware of my food choices and make more healthy choices most of the time. You can do it Gretchen!

  19. Hey Gretchen! Thanks for your candor. I have regained 80 lbs. that I lost six or seven years ago and it just sucks so much. I’ve been having a hard time dealing with the gain mentally and I’m trying to figure out how to move past feeling horrible about myself and angry about the gain. I just keep thinking, “how did this happen?” I think that my eating patterns shifted so gradually and before I knew it, I was overeating pretty regularly. I’m trying to break my bad habits.

    Anyway, reading your posts and what others have posted here has been really helpful to me. Instead of thinking, “holy crap, I regained so much weight — I use to weigh so much less! How did this happen?” I am going to do my best to forget all previous weights and sizes so I can move on from where I am now.

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