November 27, 2009. After over a decade of illness/infection and a net 130-lb weight gain because of them (plus medications, plus hopelessness), I embarked on a weight loss journey to lose 100 lbs. On that day, I bought an elliptical, and later met with some friends for ice cream (a propitious beginning, yes?), and learned about intuitive eating from one of them. Three years and three months later, after many trials and frustrations, I hit my 100-lbs-lost goal. And even though my weight loss journey didn’t really begin until January 2011 – having made little effort, and therefore little progress, in the year before – I’ve always counted November 27 as my weight journey anniversary.
Until recently. Last year, after working hard to lose what I’d regained over the summer, I managed to get almost back to that 100-lbs-lost line for my fifth anniversary (99 lbs), but the celebration felt fraudulent. Before then, my progress had been down, down, down, then steady. Suddenly, I’d had to re-lose the weight. But, you know, I was still close enough. One little blip wouldn’t break my anniversary. I was still on the same journey, I told myself.
I’m not on that same journey now. In the year since then, I regained 50 lbs, and my weight only stabilized recently as I’ve transitioned off my anti-depressant. I’m higher in weight now than I have been in any previous anniversary celebration (since I didn’t celebrate the first year). I have a long way to go. I’m starting over. And I was tempted to simply put an end to my original journey. Cross it out. Done. Start from scratch, with a new date to celebrate in the future. But then I read Elena Vanishing, with that wonderful quote about recovery being a path and not a destination.
And you know what? I may have regained weight, a lot of weight, but that doesn’t mean I’m “starting over.” It means that I’m having to work, again, on something that was already part of my path. I didn’t “decide” to lose weight this time. I “decided” back in 2009. Sure, I may have had times when I’ve fallen off and fallen apart. I may have seen failures in addition to successes. I may be on a new leg of my journey – but it’s still the same journey. Six years now, and dammit, I’m going to celebrate. Because I could have given up any time in there. I did give up several times in there, and yet I’m still here, fighting. I may not be at my best today. It’s a process, one I once naively thought I could just be done with. I can’t be, and so it goes. On Friday, it’ll be six years. Happy anniversary.
This whole post is like a confession. It hurts to say that after six years, I’m still down 50 lbs total but I’m 50 lbs heavier than my anniversaries in 2013 and 2014, and 45 lbs heavier than in 2012, and 15 lbs heavier than 2011. It feels like I’ve gone nowhere, though I know I have – especially on the emotional/mental part, and the body positivity part. More on this in future posts. This, too, feels like a confession, to say that I’m healthier at this heavier, obese weight than I was at a healthy BMI. It feels like coddling, or condoning failure, and I know, logically, that it isn’t. But knowing something and feeling something are two different things. I’m working hard on internalizing the logic.
Dear younger Manda,
The problem with being an overachiever is that you don’t see a lot of setbacks. This may seem like a good thing – until you finally have one of those setbacks, and don’t have a clue how to process it emotionally. You decide that it means 100% failure, when really, it’s the giving up that’s failure. Keep going, even in the face of setbacks. You’re good at continuing on in the face of adversity, and good for you on that. But you need to learn this skill, too.
When things fall apart and you mess up really badly – regardless of whether or not it’s your “fault” or “responsibility” – you can still learn to pull yourself together and struggle on. It does not mean “failure.” It’s just a different kind of adversity, and as I said above, I know just how good you are with adversity. You can do this.
Love, modern-day Manda