Maintaining For A Lifetime

We were flipping through a stack of snapshots my Mom finally got back from my sister’s wedding. My Mom had bought two disposable cameras, one for each of my nephews, to take pictures of the wedding. Somehow the cameras ended up in my purse, and since the reception was at a bar (i.e., the nephews weren’t allowed to attend) I’d started snapping pictures at random to use up the film. My Mom was super excited to show me the pictures of Bryan and I. “Aren’t they great?” She was so happy to finally have pictures of us together.

Ugh! I can’t believe I’m that fat!

Unlike in my teens and twenties, when I thought being a normal weight was fat, at this point in my life, I truly am: My 5’3 frame is medically considered obese at my current weight of 178 pounds. Honestly, I’ve struggled with weight and body image issues my entire life; My pediatrician warned my Mom that I was already showing signs of an eating disorder at age 4. I’ve spent my entire life yoyo-ing between too thin and curvy. But even when I considered myself overweight, I never was really overweight. That is, until I reached my 30’s.

I can blame it on the age, but it really has more to do with activity level. I’ve never been one to consistently work out, but in the past, I’d always had jobs in a restaurant or retail environment. I’d spend all day on my feet, running from place to place, carrying heavy items. Sometimes I was thin, sometimes I was curvy. There was even a short stint where I was incredibly toned. Through it all, I mostly stayed within a “healthy” weight range for my height (I have to admit to a few years in the “underweight” category). But when I left management to pursue accounting, all of that changed. Suddenly I was chained to a desk for 9-12 hours a day. It didn’t take long for the numbers on the scale to start creeping upwards.

Along with weight, my 30’s brought a new-found comfort with my body. For once in my life, I didn’t mind being a little plush. My family encouraged me, perhaps out of fear I’d swing back to the other extreme. They’d constantly tell me how good I looked, how I looked curvy, not overweight. I’d look in the mirror and see what I wanted to see; Sure my thighs were a little too big, and my arms were thicker than I’d like, and let’s not talk about the pudge of my belly. I could see my flaws, but overall, I still saw me. But pictures have a way of telling another story, and I’m always shocked at what I see in those glossy prints. Looking at pictures is always a shock to my ego.

In the past, looking at pictures I considered unflattering would have been the catalyst to pushing me over the edge into less-than healthy behaviors. This time, it was a reminder to keep doing what I’m doing.

I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m busting my ass and making dramatic changes to my diet. But, then again, dramatic for me has never been sustainable. For once in my life, I’m working on being realistic. I’m watching my portions. I’m making healthier choices. I’m not denying myself anything, but I’m only indulging when it’s truly worth it to me. I’m trying to fit long walks into my schedule, which is actually something I’ve always loved doing. I’m making an effort to stay busy, especially on evenings and weekends, instead of lounging around.

I haven’t made astounding progress. But when I start to get frustrated, I remind myself that I started the year at 194 pounds. In the back of my mind, I know how far I have to go. I try not to look at the big picture; After all, having 40-50 more pounds to lose is an overwhelming thought, especially when you’ve only lost 16 pounds in the last 9 months. Instead, I’m concentrating on two things as keys to my success. The first is to maintain. For every plateau I’ve hit, for every day I’ve fallen off the wagon, I remind myself that the most important thing right now is to maintain. In the past, every setback would have pushed me towards giving up, and gaining back every pound I’d lost (and then some). The road to 194 pounds was paved with years of countless weight loss efforts. I remind myself every day that so long as I’m not gaining, I’m succeeding. I tend to be one of those people who will plateau for what seems like forever, and then suddenly drop all at once. I may not have lost any weight today, or this week, or even this month, but if I can keep pushing ahead, eventually the loss will come. And the overall goal is to keep losing more weight, not losing and gaining the same weight over and over.

From there, I’m concentrating on increments. My goal right now isn’t to lose 50 pounds, or 20 pounds, or even 5 pounds. Eventually I’ll make it there. Right now, I’m taking things in increments. When I weighed 194, my goal was to solidly establish myself in the low 190’s. After that, it was the high 180’s. Then the mid 180’s. Now that I’m at 178, my goal is to make it into the mid 170’s. It isn’t an exact number, but once I’m 176 or below, and can maintain that (because my weight fluctuates a pound or two every day), I’ll consider that goal met, and start looking towards the next increment.

At this rate, it may take me years to get back to a healthy weight range. But then I remind myself that it took about 5 years for me to get this far out of the healthy weight range. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying every fad diet that comes along, trying to lose the pounds as quickly as possible, only to gain them right back. I’m finding a life of moderation that I can stick to for the long haul. In all likelihood, I have a very long life ahead of me; Does it really matter if I’m still losing weight in my late 30’s, if it means maintaining a healthy weight into my late 80’s?

After the initial shock wore off, I looked at the pictures again. Sure, the image didn’t match what I look like in my mind. Seeing reality is a good reminder of why I need to stay the course. Losing the weight is important to me. It’s also important that I lose the weight in a healthy, sustainable way, so I don’t end up right back where I am now. And, after a minute, I was able to look past the weight, and see how happy we both were. It was a reminder that this really isn’t about being skinny, or being fat; I’d like to be healthy, so I can enjoy the life we’re building together for many years to come.


  1. I love this post! So much of life is easy to take out of context. Weight, money, whatever. We make it an idol, and bow at its alter. Yes, we need to be healthy in many areas, but we don’t have to worship health.

    Have you read, “It was me all along.” Big ups on that book, it sounds like you would get along with the author.

    1. I’ll definitely have to check that out! Thanks for the suggestion!

      I definitely tend to be a person of extremes, so learning moderation (in all things) is a struggle for me. I’m learning to cope with “good enough”, and not to let the desire for perfection turn into procrastination. It’s a work in progress!

  2. Hi! First of all, I loved your Sunshine answers. I’ve been barely keeping an online presence the last few weeks (work stuff) but I just did some backreading.

    Second, oh boy, I feel you on the weight thing. I’ve had a weird year with weight, first dropping to my lowest adult weight of 147 without really trying, then climbing again to a weight I hadn’t seen in a long time, 165. It was a long sugary weekend and as of yesterday, I was so ready to start focusing on healthy eating again. Today was really good. More than anything, I just want to feel better; I’ve been more tired and uncomfortable in my clothes the last month or so as my weight crept up above my normal resting place of the low-mid 150s. It’s really time to work on recapturing that steady routine I had for the last few years.

    1. I feel like I’ve always either been on the way up with my weight, or on the way down. I think my expectations at this age are more realistic than they were in my 20’s; I don’t need to be skinny, I just need to be healthy and comfortable. I’m hopefully that once I reach that place (whatever number it ends up being), I can be happy with just maintaining. I no longer feel the need to be a size 4. So maybe if I’m not constantly chasing a 4, it’ll be easier to stay a stable size?

  3. Love this post, Cindy. You are so right about how setting huge goals can often be the precursor for failure. Either you never attain the huge unrealistic goal and quit or you do something unsustainable to get there and collapse and regress at the end.
    Good luck to us all – let us all be healthy and fit and have enough money in the bank for our todays and tomorrows too – lol

    1. Thanks Debra! I’ve definitely had a lifetime’s worth of regressions. No fun at all! Hopefully taking a more maintainable approach will create a life time of good; Both in weight and money!

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