The Hardest Part About Weight Loss Is…

When you’re just starting out with any kind of weight loss goal, it pretty much looks like you’re the next star of a Mission: Impossible movie. You’re asking something so absurdly difficult, you might as well not even start because the failure rates are so high.

But then you start running or going to the gym. You start seeing results. You can lift more weights, run farther distances. Your clothes fit differently, your taste in food changes, and you get in a groove that makes you think you’re invincible.

Before you know it, you have lost so much weight you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror. Your friends and family are oohing and ahhing you for your accomplishment. Instead of Mission: Impossible, it’s Mission: Accomplished.

Only it isn’t. Yes, just like the crew of the Serenity, you’ve done the impossible, and that makes you mighty. But the fight isn’t over.

The hard part about weight loss isn’t losing weight (though that’s hard enough). The hardest part about weight loss is keeping if off. Whether that’s for a few months to a few years or (hopefully) the rest of your life.

Statistics, Shmatistics

When we’re talking about pure statistics, weight loss is a fight most of us can’t win. You can go anywhere online and look at studies in tons of medical, nutritional, and scientific journals and the results all point in the same direction: many people can lose oodles of weight, but very few can keep it off.

Just looking at charts like this make my stomach churn:

Part of the interpretation of data, though, shows that the more weight you lose, the more likely you are to keep it off for successive years. Which is great for me since I lost way more than 18% bodyweight.

But for folks who don’t need such a drastic change in their lives, the results can be pretty disheartening. I mean, most people gain their weight back. It’s an empirical fact, backed up by pretty much every study I’ve ever read.

But why? Why does it have to be that way? Isn’t weight loss hard enough without having to be slapped in the face and told you’re likely wasting your time.

Why, Oh Why?

Because…goals. Just like I said about New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy (easier?) to keep up with when you’re working toward something. It’s pretty easy to not eat that cake or have seconds when you not doing so gets you specifically closer to your goal. 350 fewer calories eaten is 10% of a pound, which is that much closer to your weight loss goal.

But once you’re there, what’s keeping you going? Once you’ve reached your goal and crossed the finish line and accomplished what you set out to accomplish, what’s one piece of cake? What do you have to look forward to…other than a life of not having a slice of cake or second helping of deliciousness.

It is much, much, much harder to maintain weight loss because “staying right here” is a lot harder to do than “go over there.” As an object lesson, try to stand in place for 15 minutes versus walking a circle around your living room. Which is easier, both physically and mentally?

The same is true of weight loss. As long as you’re moving, you’re good. You have momentum keeping you going.

The hardest part about weight loss is recognizing that weight gain is incredibly likely, that no matter what you’ve done, you’ll fluctuate up and down. The hardest part about weight loss is knowing what to do when you start creeping back up the scale.

Gain Happens To Everyone

I lost 155 lbs since 2010. That’s great. I’m happier than Jayne Cobb with a loaded gun about that. But I didn’t hit my goal weight until 2012. That means that I’m only two-and-a-half years into maintaining it, which means statistically speaking I will end up gaining weight again.

But I won’t. I know I won’t. For two reasons:

  1. I’m scared to death of being fat again. I felt bad and unhappy, and I will never let myself feel that way ever again. No. Matter. What.
  2. I’ve already regained a bunch of weight and had to lose it again.

Whaaaaaat?, you ask. Whaaaaaat?

When my dad died in 2012, I (understandably) went through a pretty depressive phase. I had lost down to 200 pounds a few months before that, and a few months after, I weighed close to 240 again.

I ate my feelings pretty well during that period. It wasn’t until I recognized that my new clothes weren’t fitting anymore that I did anything about it.

I started eating better again. I started using adipex for the second (and last) time, using the energy it gave me to start cycling and running.

It was hard. So hard. So unbelievably hard. Not only that…it was disheartening. Because I had already lost that weight. I had to re-lose 40 pounds I’d already lost.

So by that count, I haven’t lost 155 pounds, I’ve lost 195 total because of that regression.

And that sucks. I didn’t get any of the feel-good accomplishment from the loss because I felt like a failure. Which is why so many people don’t re-lose weight they regain. They see it as failure, and that doing it again would be a waste.

Let me be the first to tell you, folks, it’s not. It’s not a waste. And you’re not a failure if you regain weight.

In fact, the weight loss after my little spike was so drastic I lost from 230-240 in May of 2012 to 175 by September, and I’ve lost to 155 pounds in the past couple of years.

Because I knew at that point what worked for my body and what didn’t.

Maintenance Mode

Think about your post-weight-loss body like Blizzard’s Battle.net servers. Every so often, you just have to go down for scheduled maintenance. You’ll gain a few pounds here and there.

But, like Blizzard’s engineering team, you know what it takes to get back into shapes–whether it’s a hotfix (not eating that second pieces of cake at dinner) or a rolling restart (something like the #Whole30 or #MeatlessMonday programs to get yourself back on track).

The hardest part about weight loss is accepting that regaining some or all of your weight is possible and probable. The hardest part about weight loss is accepting that regaining weight is not failure.

It’s normal. It’s a struggle that we all face. With the right toolbox, mindset, and support system, it’s a struggle that you’ll eventually get past.

I haven’t made it to the 5-year-mark to be considered a “weight loss success story” yet, and that’s okay. Honestly, I don’t know when that 5-year mark will hit anyway. Should I count from when I initially started trying to lose weight in 2010 or from when I regained 40 pounds in 2012?

The answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that my life is better. I’m healthier. I’m happier. I’m fitter. I have more energy.

That’s what I want you to focus on. The numbers on the scale are fine and dandy. They’re a good indicator of your progress. But they aren’t indicative of your success. Weight loss is a tool to making your life better. It won’t make your life better by itself.

So if you regain some weight, that sucks. You can still lose it again. So you regain all your weight that you’ve lost. Sucks more. But you can still lose it again. You can still lead a happy, fulfilling life. You have lots of time to find what works for you to keep it off–for me, it’s a whole, mostly unprocessed diet with daily running and/or cycling.

For you, it could be anything. Just know that the numbers and the scale don’t define you, and they sure don’t define your happiness.

Whether you’ve lost ten pounds or a hundred (or any number in between), good for you. If you’ve regained a few here or there, so what? Just remember, you’ve done the impossible, and that makes you mighty.

Stay shiny.

B.J. Keeton

B.J. Keeton

B.J. is a geek, gamer, podcaster, and livestreamer. He has been the co-host of the Geek to Geek podcast since 2016, and he helped start the Geek to Geek Media Network. His biggest pet peeve is when someone spells Wookiee with only one E. One time, he told his friends he liked vegetables maybe more than he did Star Wars, and they made him put a dollar in the jar. That should tell you everything you need to know about him. Find him on Twitter as @professorbeej or on Discord as @professorbeej#1337.

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13 Comments

  1. Diatta @ Femme Fitale Fit Club

    It sounds trite but everything in moderation. Weight fluctuations will happen but that doesn’t make any of us failures – it makes us human with hormones. You look great and awesome job maintaining.

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      Thanks for stopping by, Diatta. That’s a very good point about the moderation. I have a friend who is trying some pretty extreme stuff for weight loss, and I explained how if she’s unhappy and doesn’t like the idea of “I can’t have this,” then that’s not the right approach and needs to just look at how much of certain things she eats. No cookie is going to kill you, but a couple dozen a day might come close.

      Reply
  2. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    This was so inspiring to read! Congratulations on your weight loss success, and I love that quote that you tweeted. In general when you have a healthy lifestyle, there is no finish line–you’re constantly working to maintain for the rest of your life….and it’s worth it! I am definitely sharing with my friends! #wowlinkup

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      Thanks for sharing, and I completely agree. It is for life, and it is hard work. But if you do the groundwork well, it can be much easier in the long run. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Cassi

    Any healthy loss is considered to be a weight loss success story in my book!

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      Aint that the truth! 🙂 I am right there with ya!

      Reply
  4. The Frugal Exerciser

    First congrats on your weight loss and I agree it is a ride not a race in the weight loss and keeping it off game. I love your post and I’m sharing it with two clients that weigh over 400 pounds.

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      Thank you! For the well wishes and for sharing. I hope your clients the best of luck, and please let me know if i can help in any way.

      Reply
  5. Joy

    Congratulations to you on all that hard work! It is truly impressive.

    The way I viewed food changed drastically after I read the book “It Starts with Food”. The struggle I’d had previously didn’t disappear, but I was able to understand it so much better–it finally made sense. Being able to logically look at my relationship with food helped me to take a step back from the emotional “EAT ALL THE FOOD” reactions I would have at times.

    Don’t allow the stats to scare you. You are in control of yourself, and the longer you embrace moderate, healthy eating, the more comfortable you will feel at your current weight.

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      The emotional aspect is the hardest part. I still emotionally eat, but I try to do it with better choices. Like massive amount of grapes or other fruits to get something sweet. I still get to munch all I want but not feel bad about it.

      Reply
  6. heather @ divas run for bling

    Moderation is super important. I find it helps keep the weight in check. Oh and continue doing your favorite fitness activities #wowlinkup

    Reply

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