(Please note comment policy at end. Content note: weight loss, weight regain, with discussion of specific weight loss methods.)
I lost weight the right way.
I lost the weight slowly, about a pound a week. I cut my daily calories — but not drastically. I counted calories — but I didn’t stress about getting them exactly right.* I dialed up my exercise — but not to an extreme. I enjoyed food, ate yummy things, and didn’t go hungry. I didn’t go on any fad diets or crash diets; I talked with my doctor first, and got info from reputable health care sources. I had a support system. My motivation was a specific health concern: I had trouble with my knees and feet, I wanted to alleviate the stress on them. And the weight I stopped at wasn’t super thin.
If there’s a “right” way to intentionally lose weight, a method that’s healthy with a good chance of success, this was it.
And I still gained all the weight back.
In fact, I gained all the weight back — and then some.
My experience is ridiculously common. Weight loss often works in the short term and almost always fails in the long term: about 95% of people who intentionally lose weight eventually gain it back, and about half of those gain it back and then some. For a wide assortment of reasons that aren’t very well understood yet, human bodies strongly resist weight loss.** But there’s a general perception that people “fail” at losing weight because they’re not doing it right: they’re doing unhealthy crash diets, constantly switching diets, not “sticking with it,” whatever. So I want to clear that right the fuck up. I realize I’m a sample size of one. But if anyone had a chance of losing weight and keeping it off, it was me. I did it “right.” And importantly, I had the privilege to be able to do it “right.” I could afford “healthy” food and a gym membership; I had time to do my own food prep; I had the physical ability to work out three days a week; I had the mental and emotional capacity to stay on top of it all.
And I still gained all the weight back. And then some.
I’m writing this for a couple of reasons. I wrote at length about my weight loss, in this blog and elsewhere, and I want to set the record straight. I don’t know if people are still looking at my blog archives,*** but if anyone is, I want to get it on the record: I gained the weight back.
And I want to acknowledge that I fucked up.
I wrote at length about my weight loss. And that means I contributed to diet culture. I contributed to anti-fat bias. I may have contributed to some people’s eating disorders. I tried really hard to not do any of that, to acknowledge that weight loss isn’t for everyone and it’s fine to be fat. I tried to walk a tightrope between describing my personal experience and acknowledging that my experience wasn’t universal. But diet culture is too prevalent, anti-fat bias is too powerful and deeply ingrained, for that balancing act to work. There was no way for me to write positively and at length about my weight loss without dumping garbage into that trash fire.
I fucked up. I’m sorry.
I don’t regret losing the weight. Or I mostly don’t regret it. If for no other reason, I now know that I gave it my absolute best shot — so I no longer have a judgy voice in the back of my head telling me, “If you only tried this, or that, or the other…” And I did have a specific health problem (bad feet and knees) that my weight loss alleviated for a few years. I knew going in that long-term weight loss was a long shot, but given the info I had at the time, I thought it was worth trying. I still think that. I mostly don’t regret losing the weight.
But I deeply regret being so public about it. So I’m setting the record straight. And I’m doing what I can to heal the harm I caused. Which starts by saying:
I fucked up. I’m sorry.
* To be completely accurate: I was a little obsessive when I first started counting calories, but once I got the hang of it it became more of a guesstimate.
** I’m not telling you not to lose weight, or how to be with your body. You do you. Bodily autonomy is super important. Get information — actual information, not just the prevailing wisdom — and do what works for you.
*** I don’t track my blog traffic anymore, for the same reason I don’t track my calories anymore. It’s not healthy for me. I’m trying to write for my own reasons, without stressing about my popularity or career.
COMMENT POLICY: I’m not going to argue here about whether weight loss works, which methods “really” work, whether weight loss would work if only people “stuck with it,” or whether being fat is unhealthy. There’s lots of other writing about all that: my favorite author on this subject is Aubrey Gordon, who’s written a couple of books and whose podcast Maintenance Phase has been an invaluable compass for me on this topic. So please don’t bring that here. Any comments along those lines will be deleted, and commenters may be blocked.