Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Vote of Confidence in Myself

I’ve struggled with my weight since elementary school, and it became a much bigger issue in college – pun intended. I first joined Weight Watchers (WW) in 1995 and have made many attempts since then to get back to a healthy weight range. My current effort is the most successful ever. Part of that accomplishment is due to the fact that I took the time to figure out what lessons I could learn from my past failures and semi-successes.

In 2004 or 2003, a colleague organized a Weight Watchers at work program that started the week before Thanksgiving and ran through mid-Winter. I participated and lost around 15 or so pounds. For the first time in my life, I did not regain all of the weight I had lost during one of my WW attempts. Furthermore, I hadn’t even started at my highest weight ever. After I moved from Texas to DC, I lost about 10 - 15 pounds because I drive less and walk more here in my day-to-day life.

How was I able to maintain this loss of 10 – 15 pounds? Part of it was the increased activity from living in a walking-friendly environment, but there is one other tactic I took that I highly recommend. At the end of the Weight Watchers at work program, I went through my closets and drawers and removed all the clothing that was a size or two too big at that point and gave it to Goodwill. Most of my size 16 plus clothing, all of the 18 plus and the most-hated, it-was-so-hot-in-Texas, and I-had-no-shorts-that-fit-and-I-was-desperate, size 20 plus shorts were gone, and I vowed never to buy clothes in those sizes again. Whenever the remaining clothes got tight enough that I started to long for some of the very nice clothing I had given to Goodwill, I got motivated enough to do something and lose 5-10 pounds. Part of this motivation came from my frugality, but some of it came from stubbornness.

The value of drawing this clear line in the sand was a very useful lesson, and I’m turning to it again. Yesterday and earlier this summer, I went through my closets and drawers and pulled out all of my clothing that was too big. I have a mountain of clothes on my loveseat that includes the following sizes: 16 plus (not a lot – most of it went the last time I did this), 14 plus, X and even some 1X, 16 regular (including several fabulous Jones New York suits), a few 14 regular, extra large, very few larges and a few men’s sizes and other stuff so random I almost don’t know how I accumulated it. Looking at that pile makes me very happy, but it is tinged with a little fear.

Even though this has worked in the past, it’s still scary. I’m giving away a lot of very nice clothing – stuff that would be very expensive to replace – and it’s been so long, more than ten years, since I’ve been in my size range – a pretty solid 14 with some “small” size 16 stuff and “big” size 12 stuff. I’m also more of a large or a rare medium on top instead of an extra large. Is this just a temporary fluke? Can I stay here or even get smaller? I’ve been fat most of my adult life, and for years, I accepted that as what I was meant to be.

Some of you may notice that I said I cleaned my closets earlier this summer. That too-big summer clothing has been sitting on my loveseat for more than a month because I couldn’t find the courage to bring it to Goodwill. It was good stuff, and I couldn’t completely convince myself that I wouldn’t need it again. The pile has now doubled. I need to believe in myself and that my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer will be a success. I need to acknowledge the fear holding me back, confront it, and get over it.

This morning, I sent an email to my local writer’s group offering this clothing to anyone interested (some of it really is very nice) and gave myself a deadline of next Sunday to get the remaining clothes to Goodwill. This is my vote of confidence in myself for the next four months – and beyond.

What kind of “vote of confidence in yourself” can you make for the next four months that will help you along your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer?


Diane Gaston on September 7, 2009 at 10:48 AM said...

Michelle, this is a brave and self-affirming thing you are doing! Good for you for believing in yourself.

I've been flirting with weight loss for the last month or so, but have not yet "committed." At least I have my eating in control again. For a while I was binging on chips and candy.

My husband is doing GW's fasting weight loss program, which means having virtually only protein shakes. He's doing great!

Michelle Butler on September 7, 2009 at 10:58 AM said...

Thanks so much, Diane! Best of luck with your efforts - and your husband's! This getting healthy and controlling your eating is hard, but it can be done. I think just getting it under control is a good start. Actually, it's a huge start that you can build from. I really am trying to make a lifestyle change and look at it as a long - or even endless - journey. Like any journey, it'll have ups and downs, but overall, I mean to make it a positive one. And, yes, I seem to be waxing philosophical on Labor Day. I hope it's a good one for you!

Tawny on September 7, 2009 at 6:58 PM said...

Michelle, that's such a smart thing to do and I totally get your worries. After I lost 40 lbs of baby-gained weight (ha, as if, I was still carrying it when she was 18 mos old) I gave away all of my larger clothes. All. I didn't even keep them for just-in-case. I told myself I refused to ever be in that size again. Right now I'm pretty darned close and those clothes would be mighty comfy to have. But I know if I did, I'd be much more comfy staying here instead of struggling to motivate myself to get the weight off.

Hugs on the stress of giving them away - but you're kicking butt with your success so I'm betting that you'll never regret it.

Michelle Butler on September 7, 2009 at 7:49 PM said...

Thanks so much for the words of encouragement, Tawny! I'm going to stick to my goal of getting rid of all the big clothing by the end of next weekend. I really am in territory I haven't been in for a decade, so it's a little scary, but like you said, it's way too easy to get comfortable in big clothing.

Re: baby weight

I've not had a baby, so I'm no expert, but how long is it supposed to take to get rid of baby weight? 18 months doesn't seem that long. I've heard women talk about baby weight decades later in WW meetings, but 18 months doesn't seem so long.

Best wishes for your efforts!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on September 8, 2009 at 11:00 AM said...

Great post, Michelle. This is something I'm planning to do once I get to the 15 pounds lost stage. I should then be firmly in the size below the one I've been in for awhile (14 instead of 16). I've already bought two pairs of size 14 pants even though they were a little snug when I bought them. But I'm happy to say that when I wore the size 14 jeans over the weekend, they were comfortable. Yay!

My vote of confidence is that when I buy clothes, I'm going to go with things that aren't lose and baggy (bigger sizes) but rather things that are fitted or perhaps even a little snug, determining that I will lose until they aren't snug anymore.

Michelle Butler on September 8, 2009 at 11:50 AM said...

I went a lot crazy when I first began fitting into size 14 stuff - which had long seemed an impossible goal. Luckily, there have been great sales, but I spent a lot of money. When I went through my closets, I realized that some of this nice, new summer stuff was already on the loose side and probably won't fit next summer. (How is that for positive thinking!) My advice would be not to go crazy buying the size 14 stuff since you plan to keep going and reach 40 pounds down. That may be hard to do, but I'm trying to do that as I move forward in this journey.

Actually, I'd love any hints on how to best address this. I really find wearing clothing that is too big demoralizing in a couple of ways - like Tawny said, it's easy to be too comfortable in it and stop working so hard - and I feel a little slobby. I don't get as much of a self-confidence boost from wearing nice clothing. I'm trying to be a lot more conservative in what I buy in terms of new clothes as I see how far I'll go in the next year - the rest of my life. I do tend to buy on the snug side since I'm fairly confident I'm going to keep moving forward, so that does extend the wear a bit longer.

Michelle Butler on October 2, 2009 at 3:55 PM said...

Update - I took all those clothes pictured above to Goodwill on Saturday, Sept. 26. I was too sick to leave my apartment the weekend of my self-imposed weekend.

Theresa Ragan on October 5, 2009 at 4:22 PM said...

Oh, I was wondering about this Michelle. That's great that you got rid of those clothes. What a great idea. You seem to be full of great tips. I think I'll clean out my closet, too. I was wearing my bigger sized pants this weekend and I can hardly fit into the pants I bought only a month ago. I am exercising but I am eating more fattening foods lately and I'm not sure why... I think I'll look through the archives for a blog on healthy snacks and then fill up my kitchen with them. Thanks!

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