Lately, I've been feeling reflective because of the time of year. Summer fun suggests frequenting the beach or a pool, and many of us may feel self-conscious because we have to get into a dreaded bathing suit! For those who struggle with weight loss, this season is not an easy time of year. A large serving of compassion and acceptance -- no matter what the number on the scale shows -- is an act of self-love that we should all embrace.
For those who have trimmed down for the summer, another issue surfaces: Once you take it off, how do you keep it off? I know about all of these experiences firsthand as I have maintained a 50-pound weight loss for over 30 years.
Here are some of the things I discovered:
When you reach your goal or get close to it and trim down, it isn't easy adjusting to a new body image. Like others who have lost a lot of weight, I was confronted with a core issue -- standing up for myself. When I was heavy, I didn't want to rock the boat so I would say "yes" too often. After losing weight, I started to ask myself what I really wanted and began to act accordingly. Even though at times I felt guilty saying "no," I did it anyway. Practicing new behavior like this can feel very uncomfortable.
Not only was this difficult for me, but it took a lot of adjusting for my friends, family and co-workers too. Some people were upset with the new, assertive me. What kept me pressing forward, despite this discomfort, is that I began to making healthier choices for myself and felt good about that.
Life without overeating boils down to the realization that we have choices. When I was overeating, life seemed to be one empty tunnel of things I "had to" do -- my free will went out the window. This type of existence was very safe. I knew where I was going -- the same place I had been yesterday -- and next week would be the same as today! So I didn't have to take any risks, because I wasn't moving forward in my life.
In putting down excess food, I chose life! Staying away from overeating allows me to face life's rewards and challenges and living in this transformed way is scary at times. I make many choices each day, some of which advance me and a few that set me back. I'm living imperfectly, but I'm showing up each day.
Keeping weight off is a big deal and can require a level of honesty that may not have been explored before. Here are some fears that people like myself have expressed. You may want to go through the following list and see which ones you relate to:
-I'll never be able to maintain a thin body.
-I'm afraid of my sexual feelings.
-How will I be able to cope with all the attention I'll get from people? I'm used to hiding.
-I've don't usually put myself first. I will create waves with my family and friends if I do.
-Will some of my relationships end?
-I don't want to face my true feelings -- how will I be able to cope with them?
-I'm frightened about getting close to people.
You probably have some of these concerns. Working these things through takes time and help from others. By reaching out to professionals, support groups and friends, you can tackle them one by one. And if you do, what you'll get in return is self-respect, which can taste very sweet.
Helene Lerner is the CEO of Creative Expansions Inc., a company that hosts one of the premier online, multi-media magazines for career women and produces Emmy Award-winning public television shows.
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