“So, Are You Going To Stop Dieting, Now?”
I hit my goal weight this weekend – actually, I dropped three pounds below it. I’m now 172, a weight I haven’t been in probably 14 years. My pants are 32s and loose, and I might be able to get back into 30s, which I haven’t been able to do since I got married. I’m stronger, healthier, and fitter than I have ever been in my entire life. I feel great. Now, I’m being asked a seemingly innocuous pair of questions fairly often: What Now, and When Do You Get Off Your Diet?
I understand the questions to a degree. Generally, weight-loss involves setting a goal and then reaching it (hopefully). The diet industry does a wonderful job of selling us things to “help” us through the process. There are a ton of websites that are designed to help people lose weight, lots of advice from all sorts of “experts” (I love that term – one that we accept blindly as soon as someone is presented as an “expert” in something, like there are black belts for subjects or something) about how to lose those unwanted pounds.
Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t seem like much attention is paid to life after the goal is reached. I think a lot of people don’t give it much thought, the actual day-to-day life after the weight loss journey is over. Many people never reach the end, it’s true, and so continue the battle over and over, for decade onto decade, always fighting those “last ten pounds” with the air of a friendly rivalry. It’s a tough journey, no doubt. There are so many obstacles – an injury, illness, or traumatic life-changing event can derail anyone at any time. The battle over the weight is so all-consuming that the idea of wondering what to do when you reach your goals is more of wishful thinking or fond hopes – going on a cruise wearing brand-new killer clothes, a non-shame-filled trip to the beach, things like that. Rarely does the thought of what one will do during the everyday work-and-family-filled life when the weight-loss battle is over come into play.
Some people I’ve talked to tell me the things they are going to eat when they reach their goal. I always take it as a bad sign when someone talks about “rewarding” themselves with a 12-scoop sundae from Friendly’s when they’ve lost the weight. I always feel like they are going to “reward” themselves right back into the horrible shape that left them upset in the first place. It’s for that reason that I generally believe that “diets” as we know them won’t work. A “diet” designed to take you from one weight to another that ends with you going right back to what you ate before the “diet”… well, that’s just a recipe for going right back to the weight you started with. I’ve been there – done a bunch of diets, including Atkin’s. I love the Atkin’s diet, did well with it, but always regained the weight after I stopped. I mean, OF COURSE I did. It seems pretty logical now.
This time, I didn’t go on a diet. I tracked everything I ate or drank. I worked out diligently. I ate things that I like to eat (oh, sweet delicious cereal, how I love you so), only I made sure that I didn’t eat more than I should. Lady Aravan and I started cooking more, just so we knew exactly what went into our food and exactly how many calories we were dealing with. I ate butter, and bacon, and pizza, and cereal, and peanut butter, and cereal, and pancakes, and cereal, and so on. I did make changes, of course: sweets that weren’t Atkin’s Endulge bars were dropped completely, we generally stopped going out for meals completely (Subway was one exception, although I’ve been to a couple of other restaurants as well, but only ones that post their calories online). Thing is, I haven’t missed those changes. Instead, I’ve done things I didn’t know how to do, like make homemade tortillas that led to the single greatest Mexican food experience of my life, all in our humble kitchen.
I try to explain, when I get the questions, that I never went on a diet. I changed my diet. For good. This is my diet from here on out. Will I occasionally have a donut? Sure, if I think it’s worth it. But I don’t see it happening very often. My workouts will only increase in intensity from here, since I want to keep getting even healthier and stronger and fitter. What am I going to do now? The same things that got me here, because I want to be this strong, this healthy, this confident for the rest of my life. Otherwise, in a couple years I’ll find myself back in exactly the same shape I was, the one that had me looking at the mirror in despair and loathing. Screw that.