A Biggest Loser Challenge. The 6-Week Jump Start. New Year, New You Competition at the office.
I get that most of these programs are well-meaning and intended to inspire you and put you on a long-term path to something else, but let’s call them what they are. Deprivation for six-weeks to win a title and then a countdown on your calendar until you can enjoy beer and pizza again. At least, that was my approach for a couple of decades.
So I ask. What’s the point of these challenges, because this approach causes big problems for people that need to lose a serious amount of weight – like me.
Here’s my beef (yes, everything I say and do usually has to do with food):
- Diet equals deprivation.
- You build a temporary attitude. You only have to do this for a while, then you go back to eating what you want.
- Outside of the “challenge” environment you build unrealistic expectations that the scale should move drastically and linearly down each week.
- You’re motivated by reasons outside of yourself.
If you flip to the other side of long-term, lasting weight loss (insert long exhale here). And take it from someone who has lost and kept of 115 pounds after 20-years of struggle…its not sexy. Not sexy like a 6-week challenge with friends. Its more like a hike through knee deep mud and you dropped your Chapstick and water bottle at the beginning of the trail.
For most of us who have a decent amount of weight to lose, we didn’t gain it overnight. So the expectation that it will just fall off by wishing it so is nothing more than a pipe dream. We want to so badly and we think that if we are “good enough” it will melt away. But we aren’t going to shed it overnight. And as we all know, putting the weight on is much easier than taking it off. And not just taking it off, but taking it off and keeping it off? Truthfully. How many people do you know who have done that successfully? In my experience its the minority.
I did not seem to have any role models around me showing me it was possible. I watched the Biggest Loser only to see many of those contestants gain their weight back. And most of my friends that lost weight always gained it back too. There is comfort in not feeling alone in that, but it WAS frustrating. Why is it so hard?
So how did I do it? Well, let’s break down my reality. I lost 70 pounds in year one. Which on the surface sounds pretty good, right? I think if most people knew they were guaranteed those results in a year, they’d be good with it.
However, when you are in the middle of a freaking long-haul weight loss journey, that equates to a 1.35 pound average weight loss per week. And when you are in the midst of it, a loss of 1.35 pounds per week feels almost like failure for some reason. Its not sexy, its grueling. Its full of ups and downs. Its full of questioning yourself. “Why can’t I do better? Why isn’t it coming off faster? See? I can’t lose weight. Its my genes. My hormones. My willpower. My metabolism is shot. I’m doomed. I can’t do any better than this.“
Looking back now, its silly to think that at the time it didn’t feel like I was making progress!
But I had two awesome coaches that told me if I did the hard work, it would pay off. So I put my head down and did the hard work. I didn’t enjoy it, but every now and then I would look up and go “huh, well look at that.” And I had people that talked straight with me, but yet were totally understanding for the first time. Told me I wasn’t crazy. Made me understand what was going on in my head, my heart, my stomach. Somewhere along the way, I got real with myself. I began to be more honest with myself about how I was using food. In fact, I kinda got pissed that food, a complete inanimate object, seemed to have so much control over me. I was over it. I stopped with the excuses. I started doing. AND, in doing so, stopped being so hard on myself.
But I could only do those things when I began to be “OK” with a week where I didn’t lose weight. I had to be ok with a week where I gained weight. I had to be OK with not being perfect (shocker right)? I had to be OK with the occasional binge. The nights where I lost control. I had to forgive myself. I had to learn to get back up. I had to get away from the all or nothing thinking.
I had to figure out how to fill those “empty” or “hungry” moments with something other than food, which meant confronting what was going on inside of me. I had to discover and proclaim for the first time – I AM ENOUGH.
I had to break every neurological pathway that was feeding me misinformation on a regular basis. I had to fight. I had to fight for me.
I had to be OK with slow and steady. I had to chill the f**k out and trust my coaches who kept telling me to chill out. In the midst of it all there were some days where I wished it was only a 6-week challenge so I could bail and go back to my best friend pizza delivery and drive-thru. That was easier.
But, I made the more important choice. Me.
xoxo – jxj