I Lost Weight The Right Way. I Still Gained It All Back.

Toledo scale dial

(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.

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I Lost Weight The Right Way. I Still Gained It All Back.
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3 thoughts on “I Lost Weight The Right Way. I Still Gained It All Back.

  1. 1

    Thank you for this.

    The part I really struggle with is feeling out of control with my body. That I desperately want to be able to look, or more importantly, *move* differently, and I can’t. As an AFAB person, gaining weight badly sets off dysphoria in me as everything gets rounder…and parsing out which parts are gender dysphoria and which parts are internalized fatphobia is really hard.

  2. 2

    Thank you. This is a worry for me, because I’ve recently lost a large amount of weight. And it was also for medical reasons, in my case I really needed a hernia repair, and they wouldn’t do it until I got down to a sufficiently low BMI. So I had a specific motivation for reaching a specific goal. But now I’ve reached the goal, and recently had the repair done, and am at the point of “now what?” I do physically feel a lot better at the weight I am now. I’d really like to drop some more, or at the very least stay where I am. But I’ve been heavy most of my adult life, and it took a huge motivator to get me to lose weight over this past year. Now without that huge motivator, will I be able to maintain it? I really don’t know yet.

  3. 3

    I’m sorry you feel that way – but I don’t think you fucked up, at all.

    You did write sensitively about the topic, and went to great pains to make it clear you weren’t fatphobic and weren’t advocating fatphobia. And you said some things about the fat acceptance movement that needed to be said – particularly the tendency of some FA activists to be aggressively intolerant of any attempt to lose weight, no matter the motivation.

    Your basic message was one of body acceptance; it was a good message then, and it’s still a good message now.

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