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Moderation is Key

In Weight Loss:

My biggest mistake was extremity. I approached weight loss with an unrelenting and unwavering impatience; I wanted to lose as much weight as I could, as fast as physically possible. I knew on some level that rapid weight loss wasn’t exactly “healthy,” but at 300 pounds it’s impossible to feel like losing weight with any method and at any speed could lead to anything but a promising future.

Because I just wanted to get it all over with, I started to see the world around me as being full of things that either helped me achieve my goal or things that set me back; a life full of black and white. It made everything simple: eat the things that are allowed, don’t eat the things that aren’t. I know it’s a rare case, but I didn’t deal very much with temptation – you can’t really feel tempted to have something that has been deemed completely off limits. I made rules based on minimal nutritional knowledge and I refused to break them. Or even so much as kind of, maybe, only a little bit, bend them.

I called this “breaking the pizza fast.” It had been over a year since I allowed myself my favorite food!

This pattern is what led to my healthy weight loss to become disordered eating habits. I didn’t have enough patience with weight loss to consume as much food as I should have; I didn’t have patience with weight loss to workout any less than I did. Because I didn’t know any better, I just restricted my calories and worked out as hard as I could every day until it all resulted in significant illness. I followed the perpetually prescribed rules of eating less and exercising more until I took it too far and ran straight through the weight loss finish line into the arms of malnourishment.

Upon hitting starvation mode, upon feeling my body’s inability to properly function, it all became so unfortunately clear to me: What I needed was gray, the beautiful result of mixing the black with the white. I shouldn’t have framed everything as inherently “good” or “bad” and “right” and “wrong.” I should have taken it slow, mixing a moderate diet with occasional splurges and allowing for a forgiving attitude.

In Maintenance:

They always say maintenance is the hard part. Sure, you lost weight, but can you keep it off?

After being exposed to the truth about how unintentionally harmful and self-destructive my way of life had become, it was time for me to strike a healthy balance in regards to food and exercise. My restrictive lifestyle couldn’t be maintained; even if I wanted to continue restricting myself how I was, my body wouldn’t let me. The process began by forcing myself to reverse the habits I created. This required my following instructions to exercise less and eat more, a prescription opposite all of the ones I had ever previously received. Throughout my childhood, I ate too much; as a result of my weight loss, I ate too little. It wasn’t that I had to find a way back to moderation; the struggle was that I had never even known moderation.

Only through making some miserable mistakes did I learn that moderation should have been the mantra for weight loss. Now that I’ve kept my weight stable for more than a year, I know firsthand that moderation is the key to long-term success. Skipping days at the gym and eating meals with substantial amounts of calories initially filled me with fear of immediately gaining weight, but the only way to realize how necessary and beneficial these requirements for health were was to fight through my worry and trust that my body would respond appropriately if I treated it correctly. It wasn’t easy, in fact it was exponentially more difficult than weight loss, but it worked. I’m still making my way back to feeling totally comfortable around foods I once considered banned, but I now recognize the power of flexibility and leniency.

Above all else, thinking about my long-term future helped me through it the most. I realized that if I didn’t let myself eat anything but the foods I became comfortable with during my diet today, this week, or this month, I’d be imprisoned by my restriction tomorrow, next week, and next month. I realized I didn’t want to be afraid of food for the rest of my life, I didn’t want the rest of my days to be determined by my workout schedule, and that my obsession with controlling my diet and exercise was getting in the way of living my life. Surrounded by typical college lifestyles centered around food and alcohol, I recognized that continuing to excessively limit my food intake also meant excessively limiting my experiences.

I once lived with a pervasive voice telling me that skipping one day at the gym or taking a single bite of any dessert would make me gain weight. But it was only after skipping one, then two, and then three days, at the gym and having one, two, three bites of dessert, that I could begin to trust that I was able to live the life I once had in the new body I now have. If you learn only one thing from my story, let it be the number one essential truth I wish I knew earlier: moderation is key. I’m even getting comfortable with the occasional indulgence, which reminds me to share one of my favorite quotes: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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