Four years ago I lost 55 pounds and since then I’ve been maintaining my weight. That’s a staggering assertion for me. I’ve never maintained my weight in my life. I’ve either ignored it and eaten what I wanted, which was fine until I was 17 because I was growing and who knew from weight? But then I went to boarding school, one of the happiest times of my life. Less happy was the boarding school regimen of stodge, stodge and more stodge, with a bit less during Lent (it was a Catholic boarding school).
When I look back on my life now, it seems like one long battle to lose weight. Yet, in the moment I never saw it that way. I’d lose ten pounds, or twenty as the case might be, and keep it off briefly. Then once again the ounces would assemble, generally on my thighs. At 25 I did a lot of walking—about a thousand miles—and discovered a trick: if you stop eating once you’re no longer hungry, you won’t gain weight.
This worked for me for 15 years, in conjunction with smoking. Smoking. How I miss it. Then at 40 I quit drinking and began eating to compensate and weight-control became a battle, and once I quit smoking, a rout.
I discovered a diet online when I was fed up with feeling fat but couldn’t face the cold, hunger pangs and outright misery that I associate with dieting. Over about six months I lost the weight I’d been struggling to lose for years. During the following year I maintained and found it relatively easy: I’d weigh myself once a week and ramp the so-called diet up or down. I began to say I’d licked it: that I had a new diet that really wasn’t a diet but a change in eating habits and now I’m in control of my weight.
But last Christmas I had a bit of a battle in that regard: just couldn’t get stabilized. The pounds would creep back up; I’d cut out this little treat or that one, but it never seemed to be quite enough. Eventually, I came to recognize the wisdom in Robert Fulford’s words. He said keeping lost weight off isn’t rocket science: “It’s a delicate question of self-management, involving pride, shame, ambition, family history and many other difficult themes. It’s much more complicated than rocket science.”
It’s a bit like alcoholism: it’s always with you.
That said, just having a fighting chance of controlling my weight is a major step forward, and I’m achieving it by recognizing that weight maintenance is far less painful when you’re not cold and plagued by hunger pangs. And you’re not suffering hunger pangs if you restrict your carbs. That for me was a light bulb moment and makes me quite sanguine each time I have to hew closer to the original diet than I want: I won’t suffer unduly, and therefore I’m able to look on the prospect with something like equanimity.
Do I miss my carrot muffins and danish and pizza, and orange juice and bananas? Sure and sometimes I’ll have them. And I’m crazy about Lay’s and still enjoy the occasional binge (I love their family-size pack: from the side it looks just like the regular one).
But I like feeling thinner and not feeling hungry. So this morning, when I discovered I have 6.2 post-Christmas pounds to lose, I had no special urge to open a vein. It may take a month—maybe two—to lose it, but I won’t suffer unduly. That counts for a lot. That counts for everything, really. Almost everything.