Confessions of a Yo-Yo Dieter
I know how to lose weight. I’ve done it before. I also know how to gain weight. I’ve done that too. I’m at the beginning of another weight loss journey and this time I want to lose and maintain my weight. This requires taking a look at my history of success and failure and reflecting on how I’m ready now to take this step.
Albert Einstein has the famous quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As a yo-yo dieter this certainly questions my sanity. I’m going to start with a brief history of my weight loss struggle including programs I’ve used. Then I will write about why those diets have failed. I will end with tips on how to overcome being a chronic yo-yo dieter.
My Diet History
During my childhood I was considered chunky. I never felt athletic except when it came to playing baseball and horses. I was extremely self conscious and quickly turned to eating my emotions. The first successful diet I remember was in the 5th grade. Then I entered Middle School and suddenly the small group of loyal friends I had throughout grade school were gone. I was shy and it was hard for me to meet new friends. I was lonely and turned to food.
All through Middle School and High School it was a battle. I finally embraced that I was just curvier then others and that worked for me. Out of High School I focused on my nutrition and exercise. I was thinner than ever but still felt overweight. Adjusting to college life, moving away from home, and returning home led me to emotional eating again. I remember when I realized it was time to check in and do something about my weight. I was working in a Call Center for Hotel Reservations. I remember sitting at my desk and I looked down at my thigh. It seemed unreasonably huge. I drove straight to Jenny Craig.
Jenny Craig worked great while I ate their food. I was losing weight in time to be in a close friend’s wedding. I felt awesome. I lost about forty pounds. They had a maintenance program I was supposed to follow. By this time I was sure I had everything under control. I never followed through with the maintenance programs and quit buying their food. I still worked for the Call Center and they had amazing food in the break room at all times. I was unhappy in my job and looked forward to my breaks—where I turned to food. I transferred from that job to an out of state job where I was going to work while going to college. Around this time we found out that my Grandma had cancer. I ended up moving home to be closer to family. My Grandma passed away. I was heavier than ever.
My turning point was Christmas Shopping with my best friend. I only had two pair of jeans that fit and I didn’t want to “give in” and buy bigger clothes. At one of our stops I got out of the truck and my pants ripped from my crotch to my thigh. I was humiliated. It was time to get serious again.
This time I turned to Weight Watchers. I loved the program…except for the meetings. All anyone talked about during the meetings was food. This seemed a bit like alcoholics meeting in a room and talking about their favorite drinks. It seemed odd to me. But still, I liked the accountability of weighing in each week and I dutifully counted my points and kept track of it in journals.
I lost fifty pounds, and became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. Around this time I transferred departments at work, started towards my bachelor’s degree, and moved. The weight had already been sneaking back on. This sucked because I lost weight together with a co-worker. We went to Weight Watcher meetings together, talked points, and water intake. When my weight started coming back on she would talk more and more about losing her weight, food, and got incredibly thin. She joked they were going to kick her out of Weight Watchers because she was so thin. I was so mad. That was one of the prompts for changing departments.
After all my “changes” the weight just started coming. I didn’t have time for the gym anymore working full time and going to school. I was depressed because I was unhappy with my job, my lack of time for school, and because the weight was coming back. The more I got depressed the more I ate my emotions. I tried the South Beach Diet for awhile and lost about 15 pounds. I tried slim fast and a few other diets. I bought every book I could on losing weight. I tried detoxification diets. I tried anything and everything.
Around this time I realized that I didn’t want to be a yo-yo dieter anymore. I decided I should be happy with myself no matter what my weight. I quit trying. The problem with this is I was staying at an unhealthy weight. As much as I tried to be happy with myself at that weight I wasn’t. I was wearing bigger jeans then I’d ever thought I’d wear. There were lots of things I wanted to do and I used my weight as a barrier. My life stopped.
Why Diets Didn’t Work
Even though my life seemed stopped, time kept passing. I did a lot of thinking about weight loss and life in general. I realized that every diet program focuses on the same thing, results. This is good because no one would diet if there weren’t results. The fundamental problem is diets focus on the symptom, the excess weight. The cause is not addressed.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on my life. I reflected on goals, happiness, and who am I. I read a couple of books that made a lot of sense to me, The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. These books talk about living through ego (unconscious) and living through your true self (conscious). That is a really watered down version of the concepts of those books, but it’s enough to help you understand how they helped me. I recommend reading them if you haven’t already.
I realized after this reflection that I was living through my ego focused on the future. I had identified with a thinking pattern that “someday” I’d be able to live. I would be able to work towards my goals when I had enough money. I never had enough money. How does this relate to weight? Mainly it relates to weight because of fear. I was afraid to take the steps I needed to move forward in my life. My weight became my barrier. I had a 100 pound excuse for why I wasn’t following my dreams.
Ways to Stop Yo-Yo Dieting
- If you haven’t already lost the weight, you’ll need to work on that first. Any diet followed will produce results. Find the diet that fits your lifestyle and stick with it.
- While you’re dieting try not to focus on your results. Your ego will focus on the results…especially the “looking good” and “wearing cuter clothes”. Ego-based weight loss in my experience produces results but it’s harder to maintain. The old patterns the ego is identified with from the past will come back.
- While you’re losing weight, work on your “mental game”.
- Have a plan for maintaining your weight loss.
- Learn to recognize your habits. I’ve noticed if I’m writing and I come to a place where I’m stuck I really want to go grab something to eat. I’ve used food as a crutch. Notice areas where you’re using food as a crutch.
Choosing a Weight Loss Method
The diet industry is thriving. There are numerous programs available. There is one important thing I’d like to mention if you are going to choose a commercial weight loss method. Check the Better Business Bureau for the City and State that the program is in. There are some that have an “F” with the Better Business Bureau. I tried one program that is an “F”. I haven’t mentioned this program by name above. I used it for a month and realized that it was too expensive to buy the extra food needed on top of purchasing their food. I had a lot of problems cancelling with this company, including a shipment after I had completely cancelled (sent to me with no order confirmation email). Their customer service was appalling. I checked their Better Business Bureau grade after the fact and it was fitting.
I am still on a weight loss journey. Once I lose my weight I have a plan ready for maintaining the weight. I’m confident that I’ve made the internal changes needed to succeed long term. I hope if you’re a yo-yo dieter that you’ll take the time to find the cause of your weight gain and treat the weight as a symptom and not the problem.
Great information about changing habits and lifestyle while losing weight.
A great book about overcoming your ego.