When I was losing weight, I was very focused and was able to achieve steady results. But when I achieved my target weight all of a sudden I came up for air with this new body and I floundered a bit. I know, a good problem to have but I thought I'd share - those who have achieved great weight loss should be able to relate, and those who are still on their journey can prepare themselves for success.
The definition of "target weight" is an interesting one. When I was 295 pounds and met with the personal trainer on day one, we didn't focus on a weight goal, we focused on a body fat percentage goal and figured out what I should weigh. We calculated that I had about 190 pounds of lean body mass, and approximately 105 pounds of fat. So with a healthy goal of 17% body fat, and assuming that it was good to keep the lean body mass, we figured I should weigh around 222 pounds. We rounded up to 230 pounds as a first target goal. After about 8 months of steady clean eating and exercise, I hit 230 pounds and about 17% body fat. Mission accomplished, goal achieved, right? Time to relax and take a breather?
Am I really done?
I went through a bit of a strange crisis. Since I had been overweight for so long, I really didn't know how the "fit" version of me should look, and I wasn't sure what I should do next. I figured I should keep going at a pace that was comfortable for me (and I could sustain indefinitely) and made it down to 212 pounds with 12% body fat. Thank goodness I didn't have droopy skin. I wasn't sure if I was thin or not. I still felt fat. But people told me I looked thin. I was really lost on my whole body image. My waist was around 34" and my chest 40", so the proportions were decent - you want your body to taper in from the chest, not out, right? And you should have visible abs, right? I just didn't know, and I felt like a stranger in my own skin.
How do I dress?
I also had no clue on how to dress. When I was overweight, I didn't like clothes that featured my huge belly, so I had long since only worn cotton shirts, tucked in with a tie for work and more casual ones left out for other times. When I had lost most of the weight, my wife took me shopping and I tried on a few T-shirts and polos. Again I was in this strange state where I didn't know who I was. I looked really good in the T-shirts, my arms had bulging biceps and my waist was thin-ish. The polos looked good too - I hadn't worn either of those kinds of shirts for a couple of decades. That's when I wrotemy blog entry about how to learn how to dress yourself.
Do I have to run a marathon?
So I had lost a lot of weight, and I looked pretty good. I floundered - what should I do next? I had long since stopped going to the personal trainer, but of course I had maintained my habits of exercising and eating well. I thought to myself - people who lose weight run marathons, right? That's what they all do. I started to jog more in my workouts, but by the time I got up to feeling ok with a 5k realized that I HATE running. It's boring (to me), and for me there is no runner's high. So I poured my time and efforts into learning more about clean eating, health, and exercise. That's the real reason why I formed my "Shrinkinguy" blog - it gave me an outlet to learn and document, and hopefully help others along the way. Many, many posts about how to determine goals, how to find motivation, how to eat well and live a generally healthy life.
What is maintenance?
So what is "maintenance" anyway? I like the concept of establishing healthy eating and exercise habits, and letting the weight drift to where it will. You should also be comfortable with how you look in the mirror. For better or worse, my personal trainer and I had done a great job in maintaining my lean muscle mass - which has increased since to around 200 pounds! Hmm, that's pretty big, I'm a bit bulky...is that ok? I don't know. I guess I like having big muscles and not being TOO huge. If I could choose, I'd rather be at around 195 with 12% body fat, but that means losing 28 pounds of muscle, should I do it? I don't know. People don't usually want to LOSE muscle, right? Things I need to decide for myself.
Another aspect of maintenance is just finding ways to keep living a healthy life once all the accolades from others had died down and you're just another thin person. Yes, being thinner and healthier are their own rewards, but that doesn't mean you don't still need to find ways to continue the journey. I created a "Fortress of Fitness" along the way as a way to beat the odds and not regain the weight, which has been fairly successful for a couple of years. Basically, a bunch of different ways I keep myself interested and excited about fitness.
And no, I haven't stuck at the 212 pounds and 12% body fat...that required amazing discipline which I had and was extremely focused for a period of almost a year, but when I hit my targets I let up on the gas. I figured - hey, I'm thinner, I feel healthier, I have good habits, I'm not going to be so restrictive anymore. But that has taken its toll, and I'm up to 230 and 15% body fat now. Which is still considered fit, I'm still thin and I've gained more muscle. But I still feel uncomfortable, like I should be closer to my 212 number, or lower and about 10-12% body fat. I know that it's common to rebound a little as your body finds its new comfort zone. I can't lose sight of the fact that I've kept off 65 pounds for almost two years.
A good problem to have
Am I discontent and unhappy? Certainly not. I am so happy that I have overcome so many problems that I had when I was unhealthy and overweight. And I'm able to do so much more, it's like I feel more alive and better positioned to ensure a healthy future as I head into my older years. But there are still these nagging thoughts in the back of my head - have I forgotten how to lose weight when I need to? Am I sticking to the principles that helped me achieve my goals? Am I a worthy example to follow, to inspire others?
So you see, it's a bit of a myth that you lose weight and everything becomes rosy. Everything definitely becomes better, but the work isn't over. There is definitely an adjustment period, and if you don't want to regain the weight, the work must continue indefinitely. I think we put a lot of emphasis on how to lose the weight, but don't educate people on how to deal with the weight loss when it happens. A good problem to have, I know, but still something to think about.