Most of the popular weight loss stories out there show a drastic change between the Before and After photos. But what no one really talks about is the process and how much time passes between that Before and After. And what happens after we get to the After photo?
The amount of time between my Before photo and this After photo is approximately 12 years, but that’s because I have spent approximately the same amount of time working to keep off the weight I’d already lost.
We all start out looking for the fastest way to go from looking like the Before photo to the After photo, and when it doesn’t happen as quickly as we want it to go, many end up giving up. But weight loss and maintenance is a lifelong commitment, with long-lasting results coming about when you change your mindset — from looking for the quick fix to fit into a smaller size, to doing what’s best to keep yourself healthy.
The “Before” Photo of my weight loss
My major weight gain crept up on me in university. A combination of no exercise, over indulgence in sweets and junk food, and stress from exams saw me balloon to 140 pounds (63 kg), about twenty pounds or so over the recommended weight for my wee 5 feet 3 inches (160 cm). But I was young and in denial until I overheard my parents talking about finding ants crawling all over my things in the bathroom. Both doctors, I knew they were worried if my lifestyle went unchanged, said I was at risk for diabetes.
Frightened, I decided to take matters into my own hands before it was too late. Goodbye, daily ice cream and crisps intake; hello, lean meats and green leafy vegetables. Goodbye, sitting all day in front of the computer; hello, home exercise routines and a gym membership that I actually used!
What really helped me was to see that I needed to be consistent in making the right food choices and not just crash dieting. Having a great group of friends who went to the gym with me, pulled me into the group fitness classes, and held me accountable also helped me stay consistent in exercising most days of the week.
It took me about a year to lose 15 pounds and consistently keep it off.
Happily Ever “After”?
Even after successfully losing a big bulk of weight, I found myself in a yearly cycle of gaining weight over the holidays and then exercising and restricting food like mad starting January to lose it all again. Aesthetics was the sole aim of all my weight loss efforts. How small was my waist? How svelte were my thighs and arms? Did I have visible abs for bikini photos?
Then I tried running to jumpstart losing those last five pounds. It was then I discovered a different way to relate to food and physical activity and changed my fitness goals from aesthetics to performance. What I chose to eat determined how my body performed as I put it through its paces, and also affected how fast I recovered. Doing a workout was no longer just about burning as many calories as possible, but became a matter of building speed and strength.
I began looking for ways to challenge my fitness, from going for my first marathon to dipping my toes into triathlon before diving into ironman — things that made my life all the richer and more enjoyable. As I began to focus on how to optimize my potential for performing well in sports, my body naturally gravitated to my optimal racing weight where I could be powerful as well as efficient.
Probably the biggest motivator of why I try to stay as fit as I can be is that it has helped inspire so many others to do it for themselves so they can live better and be there for their families and loved ones.
I don’t believe I am anything special. Just as the human body is never static, my weight loss journey continues. I still can gain weight from returning to bad eating habits or just plain laziness, or a slowing metabolism due to aging (it does happen). When that does happen, though, I know I have the tools and ability to get back on track. And you do, too.