October 26, 2017

Weight Loss Wednesday: What I Wish I Knew When I Started Losing Weight

Yesterday, I was having such a hard time coming up with an idea to write about for Weight Loss Wednesday. I really like having a theme each day, but the topics are hard to think of! If there are any suggestions you have for something you'd like me to write about (for any of the themed days) please let me know (in a comment or an email). I'd appreciate suggestions!

As I have been maintaining my weight for the last several months (I never dreamed I'd be able to say those words!), I've been learning new things about myself that give me some insight into the mental aspects of losing such a large amount of weight.

I lost 125 pounds in 16 months (from August 19, 2009 until December 15, 2010). Even though I lost the weight at a healthy rate, dropping 125 pounds (nearly half of my body weight) was quite drastic. Sixteen months is not a lot of time to fully grasp what is happening, and I always felt like I was trying to catch up mentally.

May 2009 vs December 2010

But first, my current Wednesday Weigh-In (from yesterday):



Each week that goes by that I stay close to goal, I am surprised. I don't think I will ever NOT feel surprised by it. One thing that has changed about my mentality (for the better) is that I don't fret over the number being up or down when it's within reason. For example, if I weigh in at 132 one week, and then 134 the next, I don't think, "Oh, I gained! What did I do differently? How am I going to explain this?"

I wish I knew when I started losing weight that small gains don't necessarily mean that I did something "wrong" to cause the gain. Sometimes gains just happen for no reason. 

Until recently, I would feel like I had to explain why my weight was up two pounds in a week. Now, I don't think anything of it (except for my vacation weight gain--that was a six-pound gain, which is significant enough to mention). But as long as I'm not binge eating or consistently overeating, I don't worry about the actual number on the scale. I trust that it will stay within reason.

It has taken me a LONG time (a lifetime, actually) to get to this point. Even though I knew, logically, that weight fluctuates for all sorts of reasons, I always felt like I needed an explanation for it. I felt like gaining was a bad thing. I felt pressured to take it back off, no matter how small the gain. I think this came from years of dieting.

I wish I'd known how much damage that sort of pressure would do to my mentality.

Weight Watchers was especially damaging. At meetings, when I would weigh in and my weight was down, I was congratulated and told I did a good job. I was a "good dieter" that week.

However, when I weighed in and my weight was up, even just a couple of ounces, the receptionist would look at me with sympathy and ask if I had a bad week, or if I was struggling to stay on track, or even say, "Don't worry, you'll take it off this week!". This made me feel like any gain at all was a bad thing. "Don't worry"? So that means a small gain is a reason to worry?

Nobody noticed I was losing weight until I'd lost about 40 pounds. That's a lot of weight to lose! It was discouraging that it wasn't very noticeable, but I kept reminding myself that eventually, I would drop some clothing sizes. I looked forward to that, and I always had a pair of jeans handy in my closet--a size too small, so I could try them on frequently until they fit.

I wish I had known that it was going to take a very long time for the loss to be noticeable. 

I felt so disappointed when it wasn't noticeable, and I wished I'd been prepared for that. I needed to be patient.

When I had lost a decent amount of weight, I started getting so many compliments as I got smaller. It felt wonderful! My self-esteem was growing with each pound lost and each size I dropped.

I wish I knew ahead of time just how insecure I would start to feel regarding the compliments. 

I started to question what people thought of me before I lost the weight because I very rarely received compliments on how I looked. When everyone was suddenly telling me how great I looked, I started to wonder about how I would feel if I gained the weight back. It would make me feel very insecure about how I looked.

10 pound increments, starting at 253 in the top left and going clockwise

I know that people had good intentions, and I appreciated the compliments so much--it felt great that people noticed and recognized my hard work, and it kept me wanting to keep going. It just left a little nagging thought in my mind about being extra careful not to gain the weight back.

Once I got to a certain point in my weight loss--it was when I reached the 140's, actually--I had a bit of a breakdown. I felt completely panicked. Everyone had seen me drop over a hundred pounds, and they seemed to like me more (I know that is probably not true, but it's what was going through my head at the time). I started to think about what would happen if I gained the weight back (and statistically, there was a 95% chance I would).

I even started to wish that I'd never lost the weight in the first place. 

I feared my relationships with friends and family would change if I gained the weight back; I feared that I'd never be able to maintain my weight; I feared that gaining it back would destroy me mentally.

I wish that I had known how much fear I would feel as I dropped more and more weight. 

For a few weeks, this panic was deep in my gut and it gnawed at me. It was too late to turn back, is what I kept thinking. If I had only lost 10 pounds or so, I would not have felt this way; but once I got to the point where the weight loss was very noticeable, people would then know if I was having a tough time because the gain would be just as noticeable.

I also got very scared about the number going down lower than I ever expected. The 140's were unbelievable to me (I hadn't weighed that little since I was in the fifth grade--and that was extremely overweight for a fifth grader, so I never enjoyed being that weight).

When I hit the 130's, I was completely in shock. I wasn't feeling panicky, like I did when I hit 149, but I was feeling like it was truly unbelievable. And I started to get excited about it. I was thrilled that I was approaching the weight that most of my "thin" friends were.

I finally felt like I just fit in (physically) when I was with others. For the first time in my entire life, I wasn't "the fat friend" that stood out when in a group. I loved that I blended in. I wasn't craving attention at all--I just wanted to be like one of them.

When I started losing the weight, and was actually sticking with my plan, I felt thrilled that I was doing it. After I lost the first 10 pounds, I excitedly asked Jerry to take a comparison picture so I could see the difference for myself.

And just like that, I was devastated when I saw the photos side by side. You couldn't see one bit of difference! I was so disappointed, and I contemplated quitting trying to lose weight. I didn't feel like the sacrifices I was making were with it.

I wish I had known that the way I looked wasn't the only change I had to look forward to.

I shouldn't have felt disappointment--I should have felt proud that for once in my life, I was doing something that was healthy for ME. And I was feeling better. There were several non-scale changes that I should have been proud of instead of fretting over the fact that the weight loss wasn't visible yet.

When I got under 200 pounds or so, I became very rigid about my eating plan. I was following Weight Watchers' Points system, and I was meticulous about counting my Points, weighing my food, etc. I was so determined to keep dropping the weight that I didn't want anything to stop me.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't been so strict.

There were several parties or events that I feel like I missed out on because of it. For example, my wine club would get together once a month to try different wines and pair them with food. Unless I knew exactly how many points were in things, I avoided them. I wouldn't eat things like homemade cookies because I didn't know all of the ingredients and therefore, the number of Points it contained.

I wish I'd have known that estimating the number of Points was totally okay, and wouldn't affect my weight loss much (if at all). 

As I lost weight, I became closer with several friends who I started having more in common with (Renee, for example, because I'd started running halfway through my weight loss; we had conversations about running and races.)



I wish I had known how much my weight loss would affect my friendships.

On the other hand, I became more distant with other friends. Some people were clearly jealous, which made me sad. I wasn't trying to do anything other than improve myself. These "friends" would come up with lots of reasons I should stop what I was doing. When I got down to about 165 pounds, some of them would even tell me that I was "too skinny" and I should put some of the weight back on.

My sister and I were never very close before--she is eight years old than me, and she moved to Illinois when I was in my early 20's. She's my polar opposite--thin and curvy, blond hair, extroverted. When I was losing a lot of weight, she started calling me frequently to see how it was going. I had always looked up to her, and I was so excited that she was showing interest in my life. She was super supportive.



This is why, then, I became very insecure as I continued to lose weight. I worried that if I gained the weight back, my sister and I wouldn't be close anymore.

I wish I had known how much my weight loss would affect my close relationships.

As far as my marriage, Jerry was complimenting me more and more frequently. He had always complimented me often, even when I was at my heaviest; but as I got thinner, I could tell that he liked my new figure better. And I began to fear that I would never feel pretty to him again if I gained the weight back.

I wish I had known how much more there was to weight loss than smaller jeans.

As I've written above, there is a LOT that I wish I had known before I started losing the weight. The biggest is the constant fear of gaining it back. I wish I was able to shove that out of my mind, but that fear is so ingrained in my brain that it just may be there forever.

There were several positive things I learned along the way, though, too. Like I wrote above, I learned to make peace with the scale and the small gains that come frequently. I learned that enjoying life is worth far more than the number on the scale, and I won't miss out on things for fear of gaining weight. I learned that the number on the scale is only one small measure of success; there are so many other benefits to losing the weight.

It's been nearly seven years since I lost 125 pounds. As I've stated, I keep learning new things about weight loss and maintenance (and even weight gain). When I first started losing weight, I expected it to be a simple process (not *easy*, but simple)--drop the weight, and reap the benefits. There are so many emotions that go along with weight loss, and even though a lot of them were unexpected for me, I'm glad to have experienced them!



50 comments:

  1. I saw the ragnar documentary, you and everyone were very inspiring. When you refer to your plan, do you attribute your weight loss to Weight Watchers plan? I am struggling as I am lifetimer with WW that has gained loss and more. I too have had the same situation you describe on weigh in day, very discouraging. But I need a plan and structure. Please share your eating plan

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    1. Hi Sherry! I don't attribute my weight loss to Weight Watchers--while I did follow their Points plan (it was the old "Winning Points" plan), I altered it to work for my lifestyle. And it was basically just about eating less food. I'm sure that my weight loss was from eating smaller portions--whether that comes from counting Points, calories, or just measuring out portions. Whatever works! :) If you read my series on binge eating (there is a tab at the top of my blog to link to it), you will find the details of exactly how/what I eat.

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  2. I HATE weight watchers. In the last 30 years I've gained and lost the same 30 lbs 10 times on that program. I got so sick of going there every week and seeing the same people there, and they never lost weight! It was like a social club or something.

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    1. I have to say, I agree with you. While their plan helped me (when I did it on my own and altered it to fit in with my lifestyle), the meetings did nothing for me. And you're right--I saw the same people in there for years and years (each time I joined). I'm sure it helped them to feel motivated and to spend time with like-minded people, but I was there because I wanted to lose weight.

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  3. Thank you for verbalizing a lot of what I think/feel and have a hard time articulating to others. I lost 100 pounds and have gone through all of these things. I do not miss Weight Watchers and I still struggle with the number and do better more or less not weighing myself as often.

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    1. Congratulations on your weight loss! Losing 100 pounds is VERY difficult, and certainly something to feel proud of. I think struggling with numbers is something that all of us deal with. It's so hard to let it go when it's been ingrained in our minds for so long!

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  4. As much as I hates WW, it’s the only plan I have ever lost weight on. When I go to the meetings I feel like I’m at AA. So much of what you said resonated with me. I lost the weight a long time ago; gained it back; and I’m working on it again. I have no doubt people will fall out of my life when I lose my weight this time! And that’s okay! Just additional weight and baggage I don’t need in my life.

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    1. Until the last several years (when I started calorie counting and intuitive eating), Weight Watchers was the only plan that I could lose weight on as well. I'm not sure why I was able to follow it and not follow calorie counting (it's essentially the same thing). Best wishes as you work on losing the weight again! I know how much it sucks to have to do it over again. I've done that several times!

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  5. I love this post! Your are so good at putting your feelings into words. I've experienced some of these feelings myself, but never really thought about why or where they come from. It's so sad that so many of our own feelings are determined by what others project on us. You still inspire me every day to believe that one day, this may not be such a struggle, that one day I will not be a slave to number on the scale and that I can make lifelong changes. Fingers crossed!

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    1. I agree, it is sad that our feelings are determined by what others think of us (or what we think others are judging us for). It's been such a relief lately to finally let go of what others think about me and to just be ME. With all of my imperfections. I found that I actually really like the "real" me :)

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  6. Hi Katie! I love this post! It's genuine and honest. It reminds me of famous people. They have said they are thrilled they won the Oscar/Grammy because it was their dream, but similar fears come after too. Such as, how they are going to top that performance. The pressure is on. I have some ideas and will email you! Hope they help!

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    1. That is such a great example! I never thought of that about celebrities, but it makes so much sense to me. The pressure to always top our previous accomplishments is so difficult to deal with!

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  7. Thanks for your wonderful post Katie! I hope you realize the positive impact you are having over so many people! Please keep posting.

    I have a question that I hope you can answer. I am a stay-at-home mother of 2 boys aged 2 and 5. My boys keep me so busy and I am always eating for energy. I try to do what you do, which is eat 3 meals a day plus a bed time treat. I eat breakfast at 8:30, lunch around 12 and early dinner with the boys around 4PM, which seems sort of what you do as well. However I am exhausted in the evenings and I eat for energy which means some cereal or something sugary around 6. After the kids are in bed I feel the need for a treat and often times I am still hungry so I end up eating treats as well as filling snacks such as peanuts or an apple. How do you keep from getting hungry on your meal plan when you live such an active life? Do you eat treats with your other meals? Do you eat a "meal" with your bedtime treat? I am not able to sustain any calorie deficit for a long enough time to lose weight. I would love to lose 30lbs. Thanks so much in advance!

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    1. Just a suggestion...but it worked for me. We used to eat dinner around 5pm. My husband started a new job though and it pushed our dinner time to more like 6:30. I had a REALLY hard time with this adjustment. I now eat breakfast at 8ish, lunch at 12:30, a decent snack at 4 and dinner at 6:30ish. I have a small treat after the little goes to bed. Before this schedule when we ate earlier I wouldn't have a snack in the afternoon BUT my snack at bedtime had to be bigger. Good luck!

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    2. It's interesting--I have actually found that living an active lifestyle causes me to be LESS hungry. It's probably due to the fact that I'm busy and don't have time to think about food much. It's when I have a lazy (non-busy) day that I have a hard time staying away from food. I do like to eat an early dinner (these days, I typically eat at around 7:30 AM, 12:00 PM, 4:30 PM, and 8:00 PM). It took a month or so to get used to eating the smaller portions at each meal, but now when I eat too much, I notice it big time! And it's uncomfortable. So, I try my best not to overeat in order to not get that uncomfortable feeling. I am always hungry by the time my next meal comes around, but I think that's a good thing. I enjoy my food so much more when I'm hungry! I have learned about how much to eat at each meal so that I'm hungry later, but not famished. That just took some experimenting with different portion sizes. Also, I make sure to eat whatever I want most--if I don't eat something that mentally satisfies me, then I find myself thinking about food constantly. Even if that means eating a piece of cake for breakfast (I've done that several times!), it keeps me from obsessing over cake or other foods all day. I will try and write an updated blog post about all this soon! :)

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  8. I would like to hear the things you're NOT willing to do for weight loss/maintenance. Like giving up a sweet treat (or the ability to eat them) or giving up vacations and trying new foods....I'm always to hear what the non-negotiables are for people.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely add this to my list of potential posts :)

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  9. This was a great post, and I'm dealing with some of these emotions too as I'm working to lose 100 pounds (50 down!). I will say, I worked at WW for 7 years back through high school and college (after losing 35 pounds on the plan in middle school), and it was tough being a receptionist because there were so many people who would get mad at me when they gained weight. We said those things to be encouraging, and you have no idea how many times people yelled at me and/or claimed the scales were wrong.

    I don't do the program anymore...I moved away for grad school and once the threat of losing my job for gaining weight was gone, it steadily went up over the course of about ten years. It's so hard. Thank you for sharing this...it's good to know what may be ahead.

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    1. Congratulations on your weight loss! Being down 50 pounds must feel fantastic. I never really thought of the receptionists' points of view. I am so sorry that people got so angry with you--that must have felt terrible! I never blamed the receptionist or WW leader for my loss/gain/etc. It's unfortunate that people take out their frustrations on the receptionists. I've always felt bad for the employees of WW because of the threat of losing their jobs, as you stated. That must have added a huge amount of pressure to keep the weight off! There is almost nothing worse than feeling that sort of pressure about your weight. Believe me, I know! ;)

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    2. yeah, it was a blessing and a curse. It kept me on track, but once we moved away, without that threat (and with being freaking broke), I started packing on the weight. I think it's a solid plan, but it's not for me anymore, and I totally see why folks end up ambivalent toward WW.

      Unrelated note, I've really appreciated your posting about your mental health journey. I have one of my own and it's been encouraging and helpful to see your tips for handling it. :)

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  10. Thank you for this wonderful post. I am 49 and have been heavy my whole adult life. I have lost 85 lbs on Weight Watchers and about 6 months ago hit a plateau at about 195 that I have not been able to break. I am trying to spend this time working on the mental game. My original goal was to get under 200 and wear regular size clothes. I have been able to do both, but it actually makes me sad that I am no longer able to shop at my safe stores. Thank you for sharing the mental struggles that so many of us go through!!!

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    1. Congratulations on the significant weight loss--that's amazing! I'm sorry about the plateau. That has to be tough to handle mentally, but it's great that you were able to hit your original goal. I understand what you mean about your "safe" stores. I still feel awkward and shy when I shop in the Misses or even Juniors departments at stores, because I feel like people are looking at me and thinking I don't belong there. It's been seven years since I lost the weight, but I still picture myself as obese!

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  11. Thank you so much for this post. You were able to put into words so many of my fears and feelings. Thank you for always being so open and honest.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Grace! I hope you are able to get past your fears, or at least find ways of coping with them. xo

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  12. This was such a great read! Thank you SO much for posting. Seriously, this really speaks to me. Having been overweight most of my life, I lost weight around the same time as you, circa 2008-2009. Like a LOT of weight. Looking back at pictures now, I was scary skinny. I gained most of that weight back but honestly I am SO much happier now! My husband loves me, I have a great support system in my family and friends and I still workout around 6 days a week and just try to eat intuitively. I did Weight Watchers originally too but never again. Once you look into the system, you really do realize how damaging it can be. I deleted My Fitness Pal app too, I don't need to count calories. I just need to trust my body and eat what I need!

    I always feel like we end up on the same wavelengths around the same time Katie :) I'm accepting my body as it is and honestly, it's the most free I've felt in a long time!! <3

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    1. That is SO great you are happy with your current self! It sounds like you are in a very healthy and happy place, which is the ultimate goal for all of us, I think :) I think Weight Watchers and My Fitness Pal can be helpful tools to learn portions sizes, but we definitely have to be careful not to let those plans damage us mentally. I am now realizing the effects that the "rules" of those plans had on me. It takes a lot of experimenting to find something that works for each of us as individuals!

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  13. I recently told my sister the same thing!! I always hated going to WW meetings because there were so many really heavy women there who had been going every single week for 5 or more years, and had only lost like 10-15 lbs. Clearly, these women were not actually working the program. It felt like going to an AA meeting where most of the attendees were still actively drinking!! I needed support from likeminded people who were actually trying to lose weight....but they were few and far beteeen at my meetings!! Ugh!!

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    1. I noticed this, too, each time I joined Weight Watchers in my life. The fact that I had to join so many times kind of spoke in and of itself, but I always thought the problem was with ME. Once I realized I had to modify the plan to fit into my lifestyle, I was able to get past that. But I feel bad for the people who spend so many years with the hope that WW will get them to their goals--there is so much more than attending a weekly meeting that is necessary to get us to our ultimate goals. I understand the support part of it, but it was discouraging to go and see so many people who just weren't having success on the plan.

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  14. Wow -- what honesty!!! It's so comforting to see that others share my struggles -- and vulnerabilities!

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    1. Thank you! I am surprised as well at just how many people struggle with these thoughts! It's nice not to feel so alone :)

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  15. I enjoy reading your blog and you are an inspiration to me. I also in the past have had struggles with my weight. In the last couple of months though, I am staying at my goal weight. I don't feel like I have changed my eating habits except that I watch my portions and move more. I walk every day for 30-60 min. and I think that may be one of the reasons of why I am able to maintain my weight. Before I was very inconsistent with my walking. I am like you that I want to eat what I enjoy, but just eat smaller portions.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading, Cynthia! Congrats on maintaining your weight for the last couple of months. That has always been such a struggle for me. It's fantastic that you have found an exercise plan you seem to enjoy and that you are able to maintain. I am hoping to get to that point soon!

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  16. I really appreciate this post! I just re-joined Weight Watchers, and while I really like the new program, I'm definitely picking up on some old-school, not-so-healthy beliefs and behaviors from the long-time members at the meeting. I'm also making it work for me, instead of trying to stick so rigidly to their plan--they never give me enough points, and they're still pretty fat-phobic, so I've decided to use real oil (avocado or olive) instead of cooking spray in their recipes and not worry about tracking it. If my weight loss stalls, I'll re-evaluate, but in the meantime recipes turn out better, are tastier and I'm more satisfied!

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    1. Hi Amy! I think it's awesome that you are making the plan work for you--I absolutely believe that tweaking their plan is necessary to make it do-able for a lifetime. They certainly don't give members enough Points, which makes it so hard to follow without binge eating. I started using real oil a couple of years ago, and I realized how silly it was that I was worried about a couple of teaspoons of oil in a whole recipe. The small amount of oil makes things taste better and the calories are still not that much more!

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  17. Great post Katie! Thanks for being so open/honest! I have a suggestion for your Thrifty posts. I am curious how you got everyone on board with budgeting and cutting the debt. Especially the kiddos. Are you open with them about the debt? How did you explain that to them? How did you decide how much allowance they would get and how it would be treated? Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Bridgette! I love this idea for a post. Maybe I'll write about it this Thursday! :)

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  18. Absolutely one of your best posts! I enjoyed this very much and appreciate your perspective on losing weight and the fear of gaining it back.

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    1. Thank you, Heather! I'm glad you got something out of it. The fear is SO real and always there. It's been nice to see that I'm not alone, too!

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  19. I appreciate this post! I relate to a lot of the feelings, especially the pressure and insecurity you describe. When I first started running years ago, I lost some weight without really meaning to. But then other people started noticing, and the weight loss took on new significance. I've struggled ever since that time with being able to accept my body for whatever it is (trying to disconnect my weight from my identity and self-worth). Losing weight can be great in numerous ways, but people rarely talk about the complex implications it can have for your life and your mental health. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Roo! I know exactly what you mean about trying to disconnect your weight from your self-worth. It's something I've struggled with my entire life (and I still do, although not nearly as much as I used to). Losing the weight is definitely a positive thing (in my life, anyway), but it definitely comes with another set of problems/worries. I appreciate your thoughts!

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  20. Thank you, I need to read this today.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Andy! I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

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  21. What a great post this is! I have had every single one of these feelings and you are right-some are so unexpected like how compliments make you feel and the unbelievable almost magical feeling of a lower weight. Thanks you again for being so open and sharing your journey.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Jennifer! There were certainly so many unexpected feelings I developed through the weight loss journey. It's been such a learning experience!

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  22. Great post. Thank you for sharing! I'm at the beginning of a new weight loss journey and you are an inspiration.

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    1. Best wishes to you on your own journey! I hope that this post will help you to realize some of the unexpected feelings that you may get when you lose the weight. :)

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  23. I would love for you to go into more detail about your current eating plan. How do you measure a "small portion of all the foods you want." What if you are hungry in between meals? What if you overeat at a meal? I would just like to understand it a little more.
    Thanks! I love your blog!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Wynter! I have added this to my list of posts for the future. This is something that several people have asked about recently, so I will post about it soon :)

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  24. I thoroughly enjoy how open, honest and real you are, sharing your observations and feelings on topics very near and dear to me. This one was extra awesome!

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    1. Hi Crystal! Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate the feedback :)

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)