I lost 120 lbs. I had worked my butt off for the last 21 months and it showed. I was in amazing shape. I felt incredible. I finally had the body I always wanted. Nine months later, I had gained back nearly 45 lbs.
What the heck. What happened?
This wasn’t the first time this had happened. I had lost over 80 lbs. three different times in my life. Seriously, that’s not a typo. Each time I would slowly put the weight back on. I had decided this time was going to be different. I did all the right things, made all the right choices, and finally hit my goal. It felt so good. Then “life happens”, as we all say. One thing led to another, my routine got disrupted, major changes happened, and so on. I started falling back into my old patterns. Even though I had built up great habits that were the major contributor to my success, I still found myself reverting to what was “comfortable”.
Something else was going on here. Something that kept pulling me back to where I started. Something much deeper than I realized at first. I had to get to the bottom of it. I knew it wasn’t just me who struggled like this.
You see it on weight loss shows. The contestants gain back the weight two years later. I’ve seen it with friends and family, too. In fact, it happens a lot. You can find some science to explain all of this, but ultimately the culprit is that squishy organ between the ears. We choose to eat certain foods, quit certain habits, not work out, etc.
In my experience, there are three traps that we often fall into after we’ve lost the physical weight.
Let’s dig in.
1. After losing the weight, you still believe you are “fat”.
Even though I had lost over 100 lbs. I was still fighting against an old pattern of thinking, an old “normal” that I had mentally established over the course of my life. I was the chubby kid from the time I was in the second grade until my junior year in high school. I lost weight, made the basketball team the next year, and stayed in good shape until a year after I graduated. I slowly gained 80 lbs. over the next few years. Then I got a physically demanding job with long hours. I lost 90 lbs. over the next two years. Then during my senior year in college, I gained over 100 lbs. in less than a year. Yeah, I know.
After I got married, my wife and I decided to get healthy. I lost 120 lbs. over the next year and nine months and my wife lost 75 lbs.
Even after I had lost so much weight, I still feared being fat. I struggled with who I saw in the mirror now and the person I had seen in the mirror for most of my life. I still did things that the 300 lb. me would do. I sometimes forgot that I had lost the weight. I had to consciously remember it.
When your brain thinks you’re fat, it will gradually feed your choices and actions to pull you back to a physical state that matches your thinking. It happens in the subtle moments. It happens slowly. Before you know it, you’re doing things you used to do before you lost the weight.
You revert back to what was always comfortable. You fall back into familiar patterns. Your brain reinforces the thought of “I am fat”, because you keep thinking it. That has to be fixed.
2. You want to lose weight so you can “eat whatever you want” again.
I’ll be honest, a big motivation of mine each time I lost a lot of weight was to get to the point when I could eat whatever I want again. I wanted to get to a place where I had “plenty of room to work with.” When you’re 180lbs. and fit, you can feel better about eating at a buffet or having a second bowl of ice cream. You know it might set you back a little, but no one will notice and you won’t feel as guilty.
Eating whatever I wanted was a big reason I got so overweight. Anytime I was bored, stressed, sad – any negative emotion – I would eat. It was comforting to me. It made me feel better for a little while. The most normal response I had to cope was to eat. I had to change that pattern of thinking.
So, using food as a goal was only reinforcing that destructive way of thinking. Often, my goal for reaching a weight loss milestone or doing good for a set period of time, was to celebrate with a “cheat meal.” I was basically saying, “my reward for changing how I think is to think the way I used to.”
It’s crazy. But I did it all the time. Many people do this. It wasn’t just me. Food has a powerful effect on the brain. It’s hard to break its control. We don’t like “missing out”.
Food cannot be your “goal”. You need to get rid of thoughts like “I’ve earned it” and “I’ll start again tomorrow.” Those thoughts are reinforcing the same way of thinking that created the probem.
3. You didn’t really know why you wanted to lose weight.
I didn’t like being overweight. It sucks. I wanted to change. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror. I wanted to “look good”. That was my motivation. I wanted to be accepted. More than accepted, I wanted to be thought highly of. I wanted to be attractive. I wanted to be someone others admired.
So, I lost all the extra weight. I actually did it.
I bought new clothes – all the ones I wished I could where. I ate a celebratory meal. I looked good. I had what I wanted. But…
I had no idea what to do from here. Once I got over the excitement of reaching my goal, I was left with a strange sense of emptiness. I thought losing all the weight would completely change me.
I felt a little lost. So, I got comfortable. I slowly reverted back to my old patterns. I slowly started putting weight back on.
The problem was that my goal was always to lose weight…and nothing more. Countless people make this mistake. They think they want to lose weight to finally look good enough to be happy. Once they get there, they don’t know what to do – and they aren’t quite as happy as they thought. They eventually gain the weight back.
What all those people and I really needed was a goal in which losing weight was just a side effect.
The real goal can’t be tied to what others think about you. It has to be tied to your identity. It has to be something bigger than just losing weight.
To begin fixing all these ways of thinking that trap us, we have to get to the root of the problem. We have to go back to the beginning and figure out what went wrong when this all began.
At some point you started to believe the mirror. You slowly forgot the person you used to be, before things went wrong. You think the overweight version is just who you are.
You need to get the “real you” back. You need to fix what was broken back when the weight gain began. You need to heal. You can get there. Start the journey today.
For real this time.
If you’re ready to take the journey and finally lose the “real” weight that’s keeping you from losing the weight on your body, then grab a copy of For Real This Time: Lose Weight. Quit Starting Over. Become the Real You. It will help you discover the real problem, and how to fix it. It’s time to finally lose the weight and become you again. Don’t put it off any longer. Start today.