I wiggled into my only pair of jeans that still fit, draped a shawl over my upper body, and anxiously headed out the door.
It was the best I could do to hide my larger size—besides not leaving my house at all, which was what I had been doing.
As I rode the train downtown to meet a few past coworkers for tea—friends I hadn’t seen in a year since I was laid off from the company we all worked for—I thought about all the ways I could justify my weight gain.
It felt important that I acknowledge it first before they had a chance to jump to any conclusions.
My life had changed drastically over the last year. There were so many things I could point to that would possibly explain my fuller face, bigger belly, heavier hips and thicker thighs.
Afraid of What They Might Think
Despite what may have sounded like valid reasons for my body changes, more than anything, I was afraid my friends would think what I was thinking about myself: That I was a failure. That I was weak. That I had lost control and let myself go.
I feared my reputation as a super-disciplined healthy eater and exerciser—who was applauded for losing a lot of weight a few years prior—was now tarnished.
I feared I would now be the topic of water-cooler gossip.
I felt so embarrassed and ashamed.
No Longer a Success Story
When I had shed all those pounds, I truly thought I had finally cracked the weight-loss code.
With arrogance that I now mightily cringe at and regret, I strutted around believing I had conquered the one thing so many people struggle with.
I had successfully lost weight.
And now I had regained it.
I was no longer a success story.
The Body Fights Back
Sadly, if I had known on that train what I know now, I could have saved myself from a lot of unnecessary pain, isolation and suffering.
Unlike what’s so commonly believed, rebound weight gain is not due to a lack of willpower or self-discipline. Nor is it from following the wrong plan or program.
When you deprive your body of food, it thinks it’s being subjected to a famine and will do everything it can to survive.
This means triggering numerous physiological and psychological changes, like increasing food thoughts, intensifying cravings, boosting appetite and decreasing metabolism.
When you understand the compensatory measures a body makes when it’s restricted of food, you can understand why an estimated 95 percent of dieters regain the weight they lose, and up to two-thirds gain more than they lost.
It's not because they fell off the wagon!
If I Only Knew Then
If I had understood that my body was simply trying to keep me alive, I might not have felt ashamed for not being able to maintain my weight loss.
I wouldn’t have blamed myself and viewed my weight gain as a personal failure and character flaw.
Nor would I have wasted so much time and energy strategizing about how I was going to fix my body and being stuck in a vicious restrict-binge cycle for the next few years.
I wouldn’t have avoided events, activities or friends who love me regardless of my size.
Instead of being mad at and mean to my body, I would have been grateful for how smart it is!
Ideally, if I knew everything I know now about how damaging dieting and diet culture are on both an individual and collective level, I would have never attempted to achieve the impossible thin ideal in the first place.
I would have better understood my internalized weight stigma and respected my genetic blueprint instead of trying to force my body to be something it was never meant to be.
A New Success Story
Thanks to everything I’ve experienced and learned, I’ve redefined what a success story is when it comes to food and my body.
For me, it means having a peaceful, trusting, nourishing and intuitive relationship with both—one that’s completely shame-free.