Some things about weight loss are pretty obvious; working out, changing your diet, buying new clothes, yadda yadda. However, throughout the course of my weight loss, I soon discovered that there were some things I didn’t know to expect – many of which aren’t often spoken about. So, let’s talk about them now. (Always keep in mind that no two journeys are alike.)
IT WILL LIKELY TAKE LONGER THAN YOU HOPE
Be steadfast about your goals, but flexible with your timeline. Anyone seeking to lose weight or change their body typically wants it to happen as quickly as possible. When I first set out to lose 60 pounds, I wanted to be able to do it in 2 months. 2 years later, I now realize how unrealistic, unhealthy, and unattainable that time frame was. Setting goals is important, it can keep us motivated, and give us something to work towards. However, setting timelines or rigid deadlines isn’t always practical.
Weight loss is a process, a process that isn’t always linear. And while you may want to lose a certain amount of weight in “x” amount of weeks or months, it doesn’t mean that things will happen in that exact sequence. Often things take longer than you had hoped, you may hit a plateau, or temporarily fall off the wagon. If you talk to anyone that has ever lost a significant amount of weight (and kept that weight), the chances are they’ll tell you that it took longer than they had hoped it would. My point isn’t to discourage you from setting goals, but to remind you that weight loss is a process, a long one at that, and trying to force yourself to lose weight in “x” amount of time can be defeating and unrealistic.
CHANGE CAN WARRANT (UNWANTED) OPINIONS
Anytime you undergo a change in physical appearance, especially a change in weight, people will take notice. Some people will compliment you, others may criticize you. Some people may question your lifestyle change, or tell you that you looked better before. You’ll likely hear comments about your eating habits, or your workout schedule, and you may be questioned for making the changes that you have. Everyone has an opinion, and some people feel more comfortable expressing those opinions outwardly (even the opinions that should be kept to themselves.) Surround yourself with positive, supportive people, and remember that outside opinions are not facts, they are simply subjective opinions.
YOUR RELATIONSHIPS MAY CHANGE
As your lifestyle changes, so too may your relationships. In order to lose over 60 pounds, I had to completely overhaul my lifestyle. I stopped eating out multiple times a week, I traded in my weekends at the bar for weekends lifting weights, and I stopped focusing so much on what everyone else was doing, and instead focused on improving my physical and mental health. Because I cut back on drinking almost entirely, this meant that friendships that were widely based on drinking together and partying every weekend, eventually grew apart. And that’s okay. Sometimes in life we grow together, and sometimes we grow apart. I certainly am not implying that weight loss is a death sentence for your relationships, but as your hobbies and lifestyle changes, you may notice that some of your relationships change as well. In fact, some of your relationships may even strengthen. You may find your friends and loved ones to be incredibly supportive of the changes you’ve made, or you may meet new people at the gym or in a fitness class who share similar interests.
YOUR “DREAM BODY” WILL NOT (ALONE) BRING YOU HAPPINESS
Your “goal weight” or “dream” body will not bring you the happiness, confidence, and self-love that you’re seeking. I remember thinking that the second I hit my goal weight, I would instantly feel confident and secure, because I thought the reason that I didn’t feel that way was because of my physical appearance. When I finally reached my goal weight, I realized that I was still struggling immensely with self-confidence and with my self-esteem. Why? Because our self-worth is not contingent upon our body, weight, or physical appearance. Should I say it louder for the people in the back? YOUR SELF-WORTH IS NOT CONTINGENT UPON YOUR PHYSICAL APPEARANCE. Nor will your self-worth or self-love instantly appear out of thin air once your body changes.
Self-love, self-worth, and self-confidence are internal. They are things that need to be learned, and often times re-learned. They need to be worked on the same way that we work on training specific muscles at the gym. They don’t happen overnight, and they certainly don’t happen when you reach a certain weight or look a certain way. Don’t believe me? There are women who weigh 250 pounds and beam confidence and self-love, and women who weigh 130 pounds and feel insecure. Why? How could women with two completely different bodies feel so differently about themselves? Because self-love and self-worth isn’t measured by the scale in your bathroom. Work on yourself internally just as diligently as you work on yourself physically.
THE SCALE IS (OFTEN) UNRELIABLE
You can exercise, eat well, stick to your goals, and sometimes the scale will still go up (or fail to budge at all.) It’s incredibly defeating to be doing everything “right,” only to have your weight increase. This is where non-scale victories come in. Let’s start with why the scale can be unreliable. The scale measures the weight of your body. What it DOESN’T DO is differentiate between muscle mass, skeletal mass, body fat, or water weight. It knows no difference. It also doesn’t factor in daily/weekly weigh fluctuations that occur due to sodium intake, water intake, fiber intake, or time of month (ladies…) Which is precisely why you shouldn’t rely solely on the scale to measure your progress.
(How can you track your progress without jumping on the scale every week? Take measurements and progress photos, take note of how your clothing fits, and pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel stronger? Like you have more stamina? Are you sleeping better? Less anxious? Do you have more energy? Less digestive upset? Do you feel more comfortable in your own skin? These are all non-scale victories. And they will see you through any weight plateaus that you may encounter.)
THERE IS NO FINISH LINE
A lot of people set goals in terms of weeks or months. Sticking to a diet for “x” number of months, or committing to a training program for “x” number of weeks. However, a healthy lifestyle has no end date or finish line. In order to maintain your health and weight loss, you need to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. If you want long-term or lifelong results, you need to implement long-term or lifelong changes.
What may start out as a lifestyle “overhaul”, eventually becomes your lifestyle. What may start out as a diet or a “12 week workout program” will eventually become a lifestyle. The goal isn’t to find what works for you for 4, 8, or 12 weeks, the goal is to find something that works for you long-term. Does this mean you’ll have to train just as hard or eat as restrictively as you did when you first set out to lose weight? No. The optimal goal is to find balance in your diet and with your training. And the goal overall is to have your “diet” or “12 week exercise program” become a part of your regular, day-to-day lifestyle. There is no end date.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: LOOSE SKIN (*CROWD GASPS*)
If I had a dollar for every time someone messaged me asking whether or not they’ll have loose skin following weight loss, I would be writing this from a private villa in Bali. Unfortunately I’m not in Bali, and unfortunately we cannot prevent or avoid the presence of loose skin following weight loss. Some people are left with some loose skin, whereas others are not. It really comes down to two factors, the first being how significant your weight loss is, and the second being the elasticity of your skin. For example, it’s highly unlikely that you would have loose skin following a 10 pound weight loss, but after a 100 pound weight loss, it is quite likely that you would have some loose skin. Because our skin responds and adapts to weight gain by stretching, this means that it’s ability to tighten following weight loss is limited. (More on this can be found here: https://www.mensfitness.com/weight-loss/burn-fat-fast/can-you-get-rid-loose-skin-after-major-weight-loss).
Here’s the bottom line: No, your body may not look “perfect” after losing a significant amount of weight. Gravity happens, loose skin can happen, and stretch marks don’t disappear after losing weight. While I haven’t really had to deal with loose skin, I know that my body does look different than the body of someone who has never been overweight. But my body has been through a lot, and though it’s far from perfect, I appreciate how far it has come. Should the fear of loose skin stop you from wanting to make a lifestyle change? Or stop you from setting weight loss or health related goals? Absolutely not.
Weight loss is a process, some days it feels rewarding, other days it’s a pain in the ass. There will be ups and downs, milestones and plateaus, and some days you may walk a fine line between pushing forward and throwing in the towel completely. While everyone’s journey is different, we all experience similar physical and mental tribulations throughout the process. It’s grueling, it’s far from glamorous, but it’s worth it. Keep pushing.