Losing Weight: You’re Only Mostly Doomed

Kate Orenberg
May 15, 2016 · 10 min read

If you are a person who has both a) struggled with their weight, and b) access to the internet, you have probably read about the study done on the Season 8 Biggest Loser contestants. To summarize, six years later and their metabolisms are wrecked. All of them need to eat amounts of food equal to people who weigh far less than they do just to maintain. They are doomed. All of us who have ever been significantly overweight are doomed. And I don’t disagree.

Bear with me here, because while we are most likely doomed, we’re not doomed in the way you think. And it’s not hopeless.

Just to get this out of the way up front, I am a ranking member of the completely doomed weight club. Standing at 5'4", I went over 200 lbs at 18 years old, and maxed out at around 250lbs somewhere in my mid-twenties. My weight then fluctuated between 220 and 240 until about nine and a half years ago when something massively shifted in my brain. Over the next year and a half, I lost 100lbs and have more or less stayed there ever since. No bypass surgery, no special diets or programs.

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Me in my mid-twenties; me now.

According to the article, I’m one of the rare special unicorns who has been magically gifted with the ability to overcome all primal urges, hunger, and brain chemistry to maintain the low calories my metabolism challenged body now requires to not gain all the weight back over the long term.

My mom would’ve argued with this, but I don’t think I’m a rare special unicorn. At least not about this. And I don’t think I have any more will than anyone else, should they choose. What I do think, is that after years of losing and failing to maintain those loses, I made an uncommon realization and, without even being fully aware of it, came to a deep acceptance of the aforementioned doom. And that was key.

I believe one of the two worst things our commodification of the diet industry has done is to sell us on the idea that losing weight is easy, fast, and painless.

I believe one of the two worst things our commodification of the diet industry has done is to sell us on the idea that losing weight is easy, fast, and painless (the other being that you have to be thin to be happy). Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight and keep it off knows, deep down, that this isn’t true. But we want to believe it is. They tell us it’s easy, because selling a difficult diet program is, well, difficult. If we fail, it’s just because we haven’t found the right thing. Maybe it’s the low carb, or the high exercise, or the liquid diet, or the next thing. Because when we find the right thing, gosh, it’ll be effortless.

This is the lie that’s dooming us. Studies are now, more and more, showing us that those of us who are or have been significantly overweight are, indeed, different. Our bodies want to weigh more, sometimes a lot more, and employ all kinds of completely unfair methods to get and keep our weight high. Our bodies have clearly never read the bathing suit issue of any magazine. It is, completely and utterly, unfair. Doomed.

Still there? There’s hope. While we are doomed to fighting our bodies, we are not doomed to being massively overweight, which is what everyone is assuming. I mean, here I am, still maintaining eight years after spending my entire adult life being obese. How I did it is I accepted the doom. I accepted the unfairness of all of it and made it my new normal.

I know, because it’s been voiced many times to me, that people think it’s easy for me. Easy for me to walk past the cookies, easy to say no to extra helpings, easy to cut added sugars, easy to exercise regularly. I’m telling you now, it is not easy. It is hella hard. I’m hungry to some degree ALL THE TIME. I have cravings. I battle with binge eating disorder. I deeply, passionately love sugar. Hell, I have a blog devoted to pie.

After eight years I’m still counting calories (old school, on a calculator and in my head), tracking macros, measuring portions, and weighing myself weekly. I’ve taught myself how to recognize a reasonable portion logically, even if I can’t do it emotionally. I don’t let myself skip a workout unless I’m sick or injured, although I don’t kill myself with workouts either. And I have accepted that eating less than everyone else is my normal.

Is it unfair? Yes. Very. But life isn’t fair for anyone. My mom died from brain cancer. People are made refuges by war. Others struggle with poverty or disease. If this is my particular slice of unfairness, I’m okay with that.

And, surprising even to me, I’m happy and I enjoy food a lot more than I used to. While I have to eat less, and forgo sugary treats most of the time, I still eat well. I come from a family of foodies, and I know how to cook. I make pasta, and pizza, and falafel, and burritos, and chocolate muffins on the regular. I’m forced to think creatively, but that’s probably for the best. My doctor’s pretty happy with me too after having elevated blood pressure at only 24 — now 100/60, booyah. There’s definitely a massive upside to any sacrifices.

You are doomed to the struggle, but not to losing the struggle.

I think, at least until science figures out a pill or something, this is what you’ve got to do if you want to maintain any weight loss. Accept that it is unfair, hard, slow, and never-ending. You can take some time to grieve the loss of that fairness, that’s ok, I certainly did. But the hard truth is that being angry or sad about it, isn’t going to change it. This is where you are, and this is what you’re up against. And you can, if you want to, choose everyday to fight and move forward. I have. I did today and I will tomorrow. You are doomed to the struggle, but not to losing the struggle.

And because this wouldn’t truly be a weight loss article without tips, here are seven things, in no particular order, I’ve learned along the way that have helped me and could apply to almost anyone (Caveat: If you have a medical condition or are on a medication that makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, these tips are still good, but you need to work with your doctor. Your normal is a yet different one.).

Stop blaming yourself for any lack of success with your weight. The diet industry, and our profound misunderstanding of our bodies carry the only blame here. If you need and want to be healthier, you can achieve it (again, those with medical conditions can have unique challenges, consult with your doctor). You are strong, you are good, you are worthy, and you are beautiful. I wish you the best of luck with everything.

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