Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Do I Keep Going?

I recently acknowledged that I have accomplished almost nothing in terms of weight loss this year. On November 17, 2009, I first hit 28.8 pounds down. This past Thursday (6/17/10) I weighed in at 29.2 pounds down. .4 of a pound is not a lot to show for more than 6 months of effort.

Yes, I did gain some weight in December and entered 2010 on January 5 at 26 pounds down. On March 30, 2010, I reached 33.2 pounds down and felt like 35 was just a week or two away. In actuality, it was a start of a couple of months stalled in a two-pound range between 31 and 33 pounds down that was broken by a two-week trip to California where I gained 5.2 pounds. On May 25, 2010, I was just 27.4 pounds down.

I need to figure out what I can do to continue to lose weight, but that is not actually the point of this post. I'm more interested in what keeps me going. Why am I still putting in all this effort when I can make a valid argument that I've barely lost any weight since last summer when I first hit 20 pounds down on June 23?

The brilliant group leader of my typical Weight Watchers meeting always says we need another reason besides losing weight to keep attending meetings and keep putting in all this effort. He often mentions that a lot of people actually lost weight at the last meeting they attended with the implication that success was not enough to motivate them to keep trying. Why do I keep going?

Promises and Planning: In my post Plan and Prepare for Success, I mentioned that I ask myself every so often: What kind of support systems and habits can I build into my life that will help me lose weight and ultimately maintain a healthy lifestyle? These support systems, habits and commitments I've made have saved me from the temptation of considering quitting or losing hope.

The diet and fitness promises I made to myself in the beginning of 2009 and renewed in January of 2010 to attend 45-50 Weight Watcher meetings and work out at least 100 times a year
ensure that I can't ever give up for long stretches of time. In August of last year, I started to blog at least weekly at the Healthy Writer blog, and that forces me to confront the emotions that may be holding me back on a regular basis. I'm also presenting a workshop on being a Healthy Writer with Tawny and Trish at RWA National in Orlando July 29th, and I want to be able to feel like I'm giving it my all and have accomplished a lot when I talk about my journey.

Clothing: I've blogged a lot about the total joy I feel when I can fit into smaller sized clothing and how I have donated all my plus-sized clothing and most of my size 16 and 14 clothing to charity. Whenever I gain some weight or even start longing for some of the outfits I've given away, I can start worrying about what will I wear if I go up a size. There's no way I'm going to buy a whole new wardrobe in a size I've eliminated in my closet. I can't go back. I can just keep moving forward wearing my newer, smaller clothes and perhaps dream about getting even smaller. I love the fact that I am now in regular sizes and can go into any department store and find flattering clothes that fit. I'm not going to lose that, and I'm fairly confident that if I gave up on my journey to becoming a healthy writer I would start gaining the weight back.

Appearance and Positive Body Image: I like how I look and feel better. I'm becoming more comfortable with the fact that my changed appearance can inspire a lot of reactions from people I've know a long time. The majority of the attention is positive, and I am better at handling it all now - even the negative reactions such as jealousy. It's not necessarily right that people are nicer and more interested in me now - particularly men - but that's how the world works, and it has its benefits.

I also like the fact that I am developing the ability to appreciate and even rejoice in my body. I spent a lot of years feeling guilty for being able-bodied, wallowing in the typical, female body image issues that can go over-the-top when you are overweight or worse, or just numbing myself out/being totally unaware of my body and what it was feeling. In the past 6 months to a year, I have gloried in what I've been able to do physically at the gym and have caught myself admiring how I look from the neck down in the mirror. It's very new, and it's nice. It's also something I don't want to lose.

The End of Self-Destruction: I know when and why food became an issue for me. I know why I first developed this coping mechanism that has me overeating to ignore or repress emotions or to comfort myself in a way that in the end does much more harm than good. I want to stop this pattern. It is ultimately so self-destructive, and I don't want to do that to myself anymore. As we've discussed before, self-destruction is not the best reaction to tragedy.

One of the many promises I have made to myself on this journey is to learn to treat myself as well as I treat others. This has meant I am to encourage myself as opposed to judging harshly or criticizing how I'm handling stuff. I may have occasional issues with food and eating for the rest of my life, but I want to make these healthy changes permanent. I need to follow my new healthy lifestyle for all its many rewards. I am fairly confident that I will eventually reach a healthy weight, and I plan to do my best to stay there for the rest of my days.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep trying - in your healthy living efforts and in your writing? Any advice for me?

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at


Sally Kilpatrick on June 21, 2010 at 8:00 AM said...

I think you should celebrate. I've lost weight, and I always put at least part of it back on because I still haven't figured out all of my triggers. Celebrate maintaining your weight. Celebrate that great feeling of being physically fit.

I have to get back on the wagon, myself. More importantly, I have to figure out the whys so I can keep from falling backwards again. As for breaking a plateau, I know I used to add a few extra workouts--something different--to each week. For example, I used to go for a hike when I lived in Knoxville. Recently, I went to PoleLaTeaz and tried the pole dancing class. Or treat yourself to Just Dance for Wii or something like that. Anytime I can find the joy in moving, it helps me up the ante.

I say, congrats!

Elise Hayes on June 21, 2010 at 9:08 AM said...

I'm with Sally--I think you should celebrate. You can describe the past six months as a "plateau"--or as "maintaining." I have a five-pound range within which I regularly fluctuate--and that sounds like what you've been doing over the past six months. That's a pretty healthy six months you've just logged in!

Ok, maintaining might not have been your goal, but I actually think it's really important to know what it *feels* like to maintain a weight that you're happy with for six months. Having experienced that is going to help you with your long-term goal of a healthy lifestyle--maybe giving you a good sense of what life will be like when losing weight is no longer your goal?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on June 21, 2010 at 9:26 AM said...

Michelle, I've been in this type of pattern for several months too. I'm determined to break it this summer. In fact, I have on my exercise clothes now and will be headed to the Y after I finish typing this comment. I think our bodies get used to a certain amount and types of exercise and certain calorie intake amounts and assume that is the new normal and will stop losing weight. We have to do something to shock it our of that "new normal" mentality -- more or different exercise, change in diet, etc. I'm looking for that right now because I'm determined to get to a certain goal before our workshop at the conference.

I do think the others are right that you need to glory in what you've accomplished so far. And not gaining is an accomplishment in and of itself because it's so darn easy to gain.

Michelle Butler on June 21, 2010 at 10:44 AM said...

Thanks, Sally, for the congrats and encouragement. :)

I do like to construct triumphant narratives/be optimistic, but I also do not want to lie to myself. I did like it better on 3/30 when I could say I had lost 7.2 pounds in 2010 so far. I do need to figure out how to get back to making forward progress. I probably just need to suck it up, work harder - or at least as hard as I was at points in 2009. I do know I framed the 2010 weight loss in the least positive way possible in this post - but again, I like to confront stuff instead of ignoring it.

Michelle Butler on June 21, 2010 at 10:49 AM said...

Thanks, Elise! At my most philosophical, I can tell myself that this weight loss journey is taking as long as it is taking for me to learn the lessons I need to learn in order to be able to reach and stay at a healthy weight. (Instead of losing it all quickly, freaking out at my new weight and gaining it back.)

I can say that the getting comfortable with my new body and attention/reactions from folks has been pretty intense at times the past 6 months or so. Perhaps now I can be comfortable with getting smaller and the continuing reactions, etc.

Michelle Butler on June 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM said...

Thanks, Trish. Not gaining is an accomplishment. I need to recognize that.

I hope you enjoyed your workout!! I have heard that mixing it up (food/exercise) can be very important for continued weight loss. I do think I need to experiment some more this summer. :)

Sally Kilpatrick on June 21, 2010 at 3:19 PM said...


I was just telling Trish earlier that I'm reading Master your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels. She's advocating getting rid of all sorts of artificial sweeteners and processed foods--have you tried a purge, of sorts, like eating nothing but whole foods for a day or two? I haven't finished reading the book yet, but I think there's definitely something to excessive artificial sweeteners (guilty!) and too many "healthy" processed foods, i.e. protein bars, etc.

Just a thought.

Michelle Butler on June 21, 2010 at 3:35 PM said...

Thanks, Sally, for sharing that tip. Do you recommend Jillian's book? I'd love to hear more about it.

I actually try to eat little to no processed food and focus on whole foods (to use Michael Pollan's term) or filling foods (to use Weight Watchers term). I know I need to renew my focus on whole foods though, so I will keep that in mind. I'm going to try to do a cooking one day for the month this weekend or next, and I'm going to focus on whole/filling foods.

I know I've gotten a little sloppy with my diet and exercise and need to renew some of my healthy habits - such as the whole foods, veggies, more intense exercise, etc.

Sally Kilpatrick on June 21, 2010 at 4:58 PM said...

Michelle, I only mentioned it because sloppy does not begin to describe the debacle of a diet I have down here. So far so good with Jillian's book--I checked mine out from the library and would so far recommend that. I'll let you know if business picks up. She spent the first half of the book scaring the beJesus out of me, but I've just started the practical application part.

Michelle Butler on June 21, 2010 at 8:32 PM said...

Any and all tips are appreciated, Sally. I'm glad to hear that Jillian's book is helpful. I know I've said it ad naseum, but 2 books that helped me tons last year were the zen of eating and Kessler's book the end of overeating - taming america's insatiable appetite.

I don't know why it is when I get stressed or want to pay less attention to my diet - I start to default to larger portions and unhealthier choices. Best wishes on your efforts!

Keri Mikulski on June 22, 2010 at 7:36 AM said...

It's great how you're truly thinking about what keeps you going. Good stuff..

Right now what keeps me exercising at this busy point of my life is health and hope. I have to keep my health right in order to have any hope for a second child. :) As far as writing goes, it keeps me sane. :)

Great post!

Michelle Butler on June 22, 2010 at 9:22 AM said...

Thanks, Keri! Best wishes on your health and hope.

Elise Hayes on June 22, 2010 at 10:28 AM said...

Speaking of Kessler's book--My mom DID read it and got a lot out of it, so many thanks for this recommendation, Michelle. My mom was at a much healthier weight when I saw her about a month ago--whoo-hoo!

Michelle Butler on June 22, 2010 at 11:26 AM said...

Great news about your mom, Elise! So glad the book was helpful for her. :)

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