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“I say willpower is a muscle; the more you use it/flex it, the stronger it gets.” ~ Robyn R.
I think it’s safe to say, we all want to feel good in our bodies and be in the best shape we can.
Weight loss and how to keep it off affects so many of us today. I too have been on the roller coaster ride of losing and regaining weight many times over.
Have I lost my mind? That’s debatable. Since this topic hits so close to home, I felt compelled to cover it. It’s near and dear to my heart—and my waistline.
According to a 2013-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, two out of three adults are considered overweight in America today.
I interviewed two women, Marsha and Robyn, that were willing to speak openly about their history of weight gain and loss, their struggles along the way, and how they managed to lose weight (and keep it off). What I learned from their stories is to focus on your mindset, not the numbers on a scale.
There are no quick fixes.
I’ve followed Marsha’s recent weight loss journey through her Instagram account. Marsha has big, bright blue eyes that could light up any room, her blonde hair is shoulder length, and her lips are usually colored in red or pink lipstick. She’s soft-spoken, but confident, and self-assured. Nails always manicured.
It was in her early teens when Marsha first remembers being made aware of her shape: “I was around 12 or 13 years old when I started wearing a size 8-10.” Her family didn’t accept her the way she was. She says, “I was made fun of by my family and others because of my shape.”
Marsha never felt concern about losing weight until her early 20s, after the birth of her second child. She began to take prescription diet pills, losing more than 30 pounds in less than two months’ time.
She had no appetite and loads of energy. “The diet pills kept me in a manic state,” she explains. Marsha now has a firm stance on her previous decision: “I strongly oppose prescription diet pills.” So many of us look for that quick fix, the path of least resistance. But those quick fixes never seem to last long.
Marsha would lose and gain weight four times before finally deciding to take a different approach to weight loss. “I got my mind and spirit right,” says Marsha.
It’s your weight loss journey, be kind to yourself.
It was the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13, 2018. Marsha says she was getting ready to go to a party at her church, “When I was putting my makeup on, I could see my face for what it really was for the first time.” She goes on to say she didn’t recognize herself—all she could see was “diabetes and heart disease, but mostly an early death.”
Marsha believes losing weight doesn’t just physically change one’s body: “If you already have inner turmoil, losing weight will only make it worse.” She believes this wasn’t just about losing weight; she had to let go of things and clear her mind in order to be successful at weight loss.
Her goal was to lose 100 pounds in a year, but she surpassed her goal when she reached the 104-pound weight loss mark 10 months into her journey.
I asked her if she’s experienced any setbacks. Marsha said she doesn’t see setbacks anymore: “There are no setbacks in life, just speed bumps.” She continues, “That’s when you need to slow down, take your time, and go smoothly over the bump.”
We could all take this advice!
Marsha left me with these closing thoughts full of encouragement: “I know it sounds so cliché, but never, ever give up. Get your mind and spirit right, surround yourself with positive, loving folks, and go live life!” Marsha has managed to keep her weight off for four months now and is excited about her progress.
Resist letting society/others be your mirror.
Next, I interviewed a former classmate and friend, Robyn.
Robyn first noticed she was overweight when she was in junior high. Trips to the mall with her girlfriends ended up being a shameful experience for her: “They always wanted to go into certain stores that I could never wear the sizes that they sold.”
She remembers a particular store that only sold up to a size nine that she was always ashamed to go into because it forced her to act as though she couldn’t find anything she liked. In reality, she couldn’t find anything in her size.
The fear of being judged left Robyn never really being able to enjoy the experience of shopping with her girlfriends in her youth. “I think I was always around a size 12 through school. It gave me such a huge complex because I didn’t want them to judge me,” Robyn says.
Societal pressures of what a young girl is supposed to look like played a big part in why Robyn felt she was overweight. “You know, even 12 isn’t a huge size, but in comparison to what the majority of students are, it was plus-size.” She now reminisces on old photos of herself and realizes she wasn’t overweight at all. “I thought I was overweight—girl, you weren’t overweight—but because I didn’t fit a certain mold, society made me think I was.”
Societal pressures have only gotten worse for young girls today. The pressure to be beautiful starts as early as seven now, according to a Girlguiding UK Study.
Let go of unhealthy habits.
She first began dieting, yo-yo style, in college. “I always thought it was a quick fix—you have to take a pill,” Robyn says. She was looking for that magic potion but never looking to change her eating habits.
Nothing ever worked for long. Her clothing size increased, but she wasn’t worried: “By the time I got to the end of college I was an 18, and I know when I got married to my husband in 2002, I was a 20. It slowly kept going, going.”
By the time she had reached the age of 40, she had gained and lost weight 10 times. At the point she met her husband, she stopped caring: “He always told me he liked full-figured women, he loved the way my body looked.”
She had made peace with her body.
Don’t underestimate how good healthy feels.
Then everything changed; her brother and sister-in-law were having their first baby. She knew she wanted to be a healthy auntie since she would have no children of her own. Robyn understood the magnitude of this responsibility: “I wanted to be in her life in an active way.” She wanted to be able to get on the floor and play with her niece, and still be able to get back up.
Although Robyn’s niece influenced her decision to lose the weight initially, it would not be her final reason. She ultimately decided to lose weight for herself. Robyn also decided weight loss surgery was the best solution to help her in her weight loss journey.
Robyn took that big step to have weight loss surgery in October 2014; however, not everyone that has the surgery has successful results. Robyn shares: “I had more people who I know that gained a lot of the weight back because they haven’t changed their habits.” One thing that Robyn has always kept in her mind, “They operated on our stomachs but they didn’t change our mind.”
Robyn did have a success story. She was able to lose over 100 pounds in 10 months’ time.
Once you stop with a diet or taking a diet pill or don’t follow through after weight loss surgery with changing eating habits, the weight just comes back unless you’ve made a true lifestyle change.
What else did she do that was different and how has she managed to keep it off for three years, without losing her mind? She remained committed to the diet, totaled everything she ate, and tracked her food on a phone app. When she hit her daily macros target, she would stick to water for the remainder of the day. She learned many times when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty, so she drank more water.
I asked her what feels different about her weight loss journey this time and she said it was her body. What she didn’t count on was how good healthy would feel or how bad she felt when she was unhealthy. Her back pain is now gone. Her only regret is “not doing it sooner.” Robyn’s total weight loss was 122 pounds.
Robyn’s advice: “I always try to tell people, just think day-to-day, take it one day at a time, set the small goals.” Once you’ve succeeded at one goal, “then add another one.” Robyn also feels it’s a mental game more than anything. “This journey is way more mental than it ever was physical.”
This seems to be a running theme in both Marsha and Robyn’s stories.
As a young girl myself, I was never considered fat by societal standards, but I sure did like to eat. My mother recalls me being the child that would ask “for just one more cookie” before I’d eaten any of them. I’d compare myself to my sister and think my legs and face were chubby with baby fat, but by no means was I considered fat. In my head, I did struggle with thinking I was fat, perhaps it was the body dysmorphia I was plagued with at a young age.
My weight loss struggle began in my 20s. I managed to lose all my pregnancy weight after having my second child, but didn’t keep the weight off. Struggles in my marriage caused me to emotionally eat my way through my feelings. I started off around 140 pounds and would get to my highest weight of 265 pounds right around the time my marriage started to fall apart.
I too experienced the ups and downs of weight loss and weight gain wildly swinging from 200 to 150 pounds then to upwards of 265 pounds.
Over the years, I tried every diet imaginable from low-fat, Atkins, HCG, to vegetarian, Paleo and keto. The only food plan I could ever stick to for a significant amount of time was Paleo, but even then, it was hard to stay disciplined. I found myself initially doing an 80 percent Paleo to 20 percent non-Paleo meal plan. I supplemented this with doctor prescribed diet pills as I was also diagnosed as prediabetic.
At the time, I weighed in at 245 pounds and was able to ultimately lose 120 pounds. Once I got off the diet pills, what started as an 80 percent Paleo to 20 percent non-Paleo meal plan soon became more of an 80 percent non-Paleo and 20 percent Paleo meal plan. A 50-pound weight gain seemed to happen overnight, but in reality, happened over a seven-month period.
I had to lose the weight and become disciplined again. I went for my physical and my doctor noticed the significant weight gain and referred me to a weight loss doctor to help. This doctor prescribed me weight loss medication and soon the pounds began falling off again once I lowered my portion sizes and began eating Paleo meal plans again.
I took the magic pill and it took me on a magic carpet ride. Sure, I lost weight—but was it worth it? No. It was a hellish ride where I’d lose sleep nightly for almost two years, lose my hair, and ultimately almost lost my mind. No—it was never worth losing myself in the process.
I’m now in place where I’m off diet pills and learning to eat healthy on no set plan with no foods being considered “bad.” This is my version of self-love. I’m being kind to my body for the first time in a long time, and it feels good. I still have a ways to go in my relationship with food, but it’s a work in progress. This is what success looks like for me.
In each of our stories, we share multiple bouts of weight loss, our struggles with weight began in our adolescence, and we would ultimately have success in our 40s after discovering the mental work involved in weight loss. It is a shift in mindset.
There is no magic pill or easy, quick solution. If you don’t change yourself from the inside, what you do on the outside will not stick.