Losing the Fat Doesn’t Equal Losing the Weight.
We love transformations. We see before and after photos and we imagine the feeling those people have is something akin to winning the lottery. Pure joy and elation. It’s the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan. It’s the beast turned into a prince. It’s wishful thinking fulfilled. It speaks to something deep inside all of us – something we can’t quite put into words, but we feel with our heart.
So, we buy the workout program. We order the supplements. We look into the surgeries. Our interest is piqued and we want more than anything what the after picture is selling. We want to lose the weight. We want to become the person we see in those after pictures.
Because in those photos we see something more than a thinner person. We believe they are happier. We believe they have stepped into a life we’ve only dreamed of. We believe that they’ve captured it - that losing the weight is somehow the answer to the thing we want most – a fulfilled and happy life.
But there’s something about those photos we don’t know.
Things are not what they seem.
Here’s (part of) my story.
I did it. I made it. 18 months after beginning, I had lost 120 lbs. I was so happy to see that ever-elusive number on the scale. I had defied the odds and lost the weight – all of the weight.
I celebrated. I indulged in a congratulatory meal. I bought all the clothes that I used to wish I could wear. I went to special events and knew I looked good, now. I was finally the person I always wanted to be…on the outside.
Something wasn’t quite right, though. That euphoria of reaching such a lofty goal started to wane. Real life settled back in. People got used to this new version of me and it became normal. Life was still fine, but I expected to feel different…better.
Even though the outward weight was gone, I still felt the subtle pull of being weighed down. Something deep inside wasn’t as it should be. There was still a weight present that didn’t feel right. It was a familiar feeling. It was something that had been there for a long time. I thought it was just part of being overweight, but now that the weight on my body was gone, it was more present than ever. I somehow thought losing the weight would make me lose this as well, but I was wrong. I had to come face-to-face with the real weight. To do that, I had to go back – back into the ever-avoided story leading up to the before picture.
Gaining weight was not just a case of bad genetics. It wasn’t just a result of bad habits. It happened slowly. It was the side-effect of a way of thinking, a belief system that I had developed to cope with the hard parts of life – the parts of life I couldn’t control.
I had slowly changed my beliefs and thoughts to makes sense of my life. I lost myself along the way. I created a new version of me that avoided pain and disappointment at all costs. I became someone else – a confident imposter.
Any inkling of pain and I treated it with an influx of dopamine – that pleasure producing chemical in the brain that’s released when “feel-good food” is consumed.
The more I used this self-prescription, the more my brain adapted. I needed higher doses to get the same effect. Years of reinforcement went by and the brain changed, along with the body. I no longer looked like me anymore. My reflection in the mirror showed a new identity, one that I loved very little. I knew it wasn’t me.
I had to get “me” back. I had to become the real me again, no longer this other version.
But I didn’t know this when I started the journey to lose weight. I wasn’t aware that this is what I was really after. I just knew I hated who I saw in the mirror and I hoped there was a better, more attractive, more lovable version of me underneath all the excess fat.
So, I lost the fat, but the weight was still there – more present, more exposed now than ever.
Losing the “real weight” was my new goal. But it was also much more elusive. I couldn’t measure it with a bathroom scale. It’s required a process. It took a consistent diet of forgiving myself and loving myself. It couldn’t happen overnight.
The before picture is telling us a story, too. It’s the story of something gone wrong. Something (or a lot of somethings) happened along the way in this difficult journey we call life. Something changed that person. Something shifted internally and caused things to be “off”. Years went by. The pain settled in, deep below the waves of conscious thought. It’s affects slowly seeped into the mind, subtly shifting the thoughts into a new normal. A new message became dominant.
“Avoid the pain.”
So the brain did its best to follow that request. It created clever ways to avoid the pain, to lessen its effects. It created a new version of that person – one who is just fine, not hurt, and not able to be hurt on a deep level. This seemingly harmless defense system started to affect the way the brain processes information. It found ways to “cope” with the unexpected stress of life. It created a new way to interpret stress, a new story about stress. This new way of thinking concluded that stress was something to be avoided as much as possible.
So, a prescription was needed. It had to be something that would simply provide a better feeling, and it had to be something that could be controlled – something available whenever needed.
The choice becomes easy and obvious: food.
Food seems to help relieve the feelings of stress and pain. Exercise feels stressful, too. It must also be avoided. These unconscious decisions became normal. Time went by and the side effects of this new normal became more and more evident, excess fat on the body being the most obvious.
Then something clicked. Something made that person decide to finally come to grips with what was going on. Something caused that person to want to change. Lots of people start on the path to change, but few actually become the “after picture”. There’s a reason why.
The problem is that the goal becomes the “after picture”. After even just a few days of trying to change, whatever it is we thought we would get at the end doesn’t motivate us enough anymore. It doesn’t quite resonate deep enough.
But that after picture is not really what you’re after. It’s just what you think you’re after. You’re after whatever you think the “after picture” will give you. Yes, you need to lose the weight, but more than anything you need to become the real you. (After all, isn’t that what you’re hoping the weight loss will reveal?) You need to be the person you know, deep inside, you really are – that person underneath all the excess weight, both external and internal. You need to be the version of you that is happy because you love yourself – your true self. You'll lose the weight when that person is in control again.
It’s time to become the real you. It’s time to lose the “weight”.
For real this time.
If you want to discover HOW to do this – to become the real you again – then read For Real This Time: Lose Weight, Quit Starting Over, Become the Real You. It’s time you stopped struggling with the excess weight and became the person you know deep inside that you really are. Make the change. The world needs you to be the real you again.