This is the big lie of weight loss, that once you lose a lot of weight, you become a “new” person. In American-speak, “new” generally means “better.” So, we who have managed to drop some tonnage are encouraged to think of ourselves as improved versions our former selves. We are changed in some fundamental way that makes weight regain impossible. Yet, the statistics show the exact opposite outcome. The vast majority of people who lose a large amount of weight regain all of it (and maybe more) within a year or two. And then the cycle starts all over again, with a new resolution.
Here is what I’ve experienced since reaching my goal weight five years ago:
Your old, fat self never goes away. Never. It is said that there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes. Whoever said this never met my Inner Fat Girl. Inner Fat Girl is indestructible, much like the way roaches are immune to nuclear radiation. Even if She has been kept at bay for five years, She is always in ready position, poised to strike. The only way to defeat Inner Fat Girl is through eternal vigilance.
I know what you’re going to say. Eternal vigilance? Are you nuts? That sounds too hard. Well, you know what? It is hard. And ironically, admitting that it’s hard makes it easier. Another reason it’s easier than you think is because you don’t have to confront Inner Fat Girl head on. You see, Inner Fat Girl is quite sure of Herself, which makes Her vulnerable to attack from the side. You can change one small habit to be healthier, maybe have an apple with lunch instead of chips. Or decide to start taking a ten minute walk every day. Over time, the small things add up and Inner Fat Girl will be too busy to notice, focused as She is with admiring Her own image in the mirror.
The key is to never allow yourself to be lulled into false complacency. Or worse, false pride. The moment you begin to think of yourself as a permanently thin person is the moment you are most vulnerable to regain. Inner Fat Girl will be a permanent companion for the rest of your life and you should be glad of that because She will keep you honest in your efforts to be as healthy as you can be.
There is also something else that disturbs me about this idea of becoming a “new” (read: “better”) person when you lose weight. It implies that there is something wrong with the heavier person you are now. In my view, what is really wrong is our food culture, one that glorifies and celebrates excess consumption, then turns around and blames those who suffer the health consequences.
Here’s a resolution for the New Year: Learn to love your “old,” “unimproved” self and vow to do one new and healthier thing every day. Inner Fat Girl won’t thank you, but She’s like that.
Happy New Year!