NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
For most of my adult life, I’ve either weighed too much or too little. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at a happy, healthy, and comfortable weight. Although I really want to believe that I can turn this around and find balance in this area, it’s sometimes difficult to remain optimistic…
This post focuses on my struggle to maintain my weight and looks at some of the potential reasons for this phenomenon. I also explore ways we can all achieve balance in terms of our weight and self-image.
An Elusive Moment in Time…
I am currently at a very good weight for my age, height, and shape, so this is one of those elusive moments I mentioned above. I reached this optimal weight as a result of a health challenge that has made it difficult for me to eat much for a number of weeks. Now that I seem to be getting this issue more under control, I find myself worrying what will happen with my weight. I’ve had to change my diet considerably, so I might be able to remain at this weight without Herculean efforts, but that remains to be seen.
During my adult life, my weight has spanned a range of close to a hundred pounds! Depending upon what was happening with my eating disorders at any given time, I’ve ranged from deathly thin to more than a little chubby. In recent years, as I’ve moved into recovery from my eating disorders, my weight hasn’t swung as widely. My weight fluctuations may now only be noticeable to myself and the especially observant around me. We’re talking about ten pounds up and down, maybe fifteen at the most. Although this is not extreme, it can result in a size change or at the very least, tight and uncomfortable pants.
Consistent Body Weight – Realistic?
I know I’m not uncommon in terms of my weight ups and downs. In this land of jam-packed day planners and fast food restaurants on every corner, many people struggle to keep their weight at a stable and healthy level. However, I have known people who were able to maintain a fairly consistent body size for many years. So I know it’s possible for me to maintain my optimal weight for more than a few weeks at a time. Hope springs eternal that I will finally be able to do this, even if it hasn’t actually happened since puberty.
I have a tendency to sabotage myself in terms of my weight. Once my weight is at the lower end of my range (the aforementioned 10-15 pounds), I start to relax a bit and find myself eating a smidgeon more here and a tad more there. These extra bites add up over time, despite my reasonably high activity level, and the pounds pile back on. Because I rarely weigh myself, I don’t catch the weight gain until my pants are tight and my spirits are deflated.
Unrealistic Goals and Expectations?
One may ask if I have unrealistic goals and expectations surrounding my weight, especially since I toiled in the hell that is anorexia for a number of years. It’s definitely possible that I may be trying to maintain a weight that is too low for me, especially at the advancing age of 44. Perhaps I need to adjust my ideal weight number up a few pounds to make it more sustainable. Alternatively, I may need to overcome my scale phobia head on and face the music about my weight before I find myself buttressed against the upper limit of my weight range. Definitely something to consider… I can also use a particular pair of pants as a sort of “benchmark” of my weight and modify my diet when I find them becoming a bit snug.
We all know how to lose and/or maintain weight. It’s a matter of shear mathematics. Our energy output must exceed our input in order to lose weight, and the two numbers must remain basically equivalent for weight maintenance. We can eat less, exercise more, or do some sort of combination of the two. As the old saying goes, “It’s not rocket science!” Although the equation isn’t difficult, we all know that adhering to it is easier said than done. I am aware that I’m not the only one who is searching for balance in the weight department!
Healthy Attitude – Some “Bottom Lines”
I may or may not maintain my optimum weight this time around. That remains to be seen. I will do my best to sustain a healthy diet and exercise routine and practice moderation as much as possible so that the needle on the scale doesn’t creep up again. But more important than the actual number is my attitude about it. In that regard, I have come up with some “bottom lines” for myself to help me in maintaining a healthy and balanced attitude about my weight. Perhaps my “bottom lines” will be helpful for you as well.
Don’t Place Too Much Importance on Weight!
I am so much more than a number on a scale or a clothing size tag! We all are, and we would be well-served not to base our value and worth as humans upon such small data points. It is beneficial for our self-esteem to look at a number of aspects of ourselves when we are considering our value to the world. It is doubtful that we would be a better wife, mother, friend, or employee if we lost those proverbial last five pounds. Don’t allow your weight to define who you are! While it’s healthy for us to eat well and exercise, obsessing about these things isn’t good for us.
Health Over Appearance
For much of my life, I risked my health for the sake of being thin and looking good. I am now paying a large price for my past behavior in that I have a serious digestive disorder and a number of other health complaints. I have learned the hard way how critical health is to living a happy and fulfilled life. I have steadfastly vowed not to jeopardize my health for thinness moving forward. Health comes first now and I approach eating in terms of what will help me to feel better and be healthier instead of on what tastes better or is lower in calories.
Love and Accept Yourself at All Weights
It’s okay to want to lose weight, especially if it will benefit your health. It’s also okay to want to look better in clothes and feel lighter and airier. However, you need to start from a place of kindness and compassion. Criticism and self-hatred do not produce lasting change. Changes that are grounded in self-acceptance have a much greater chance of becoming permanent.
Focus on Other Things
Don’t place too much focus or attention on what you look like. Beauty fades and weight often fluctuates, but we are valuable and capable human beings nonetheless. It is helpful to focus on our goals, the people we love, and the contribution we can make to the world.
We feel good about ourselves when we accomplish things which make us proud and when we do good things for other people, including those whom we’ve never met. The people you help don’t care about the size of your thighs, and when you place your focus outside of yourself, you will care less about that, too!