December 27, 2020

The Fear of Successful Weight Loss

This is a post that has been in my drafts folder for almost four years. Yikes! I figured it's about time I edit and publish it. (I did write a post that addresses this a little--not as much detail--but you can find that post here: What I Wish I Knew When I Started Losing Weight).

This post is still relevant, in the sense that I felt the way I felt in 2009-2010 when I was losing the weight--it doesn't matter what happened since then. My circumstances have changed, though. I've gained back a lot of weight--45 pounds in two years--so I wasn't sure if I should post this. But everything I wrote is true, regardless. So here goes...

I've written a lot about my successes and struggles during my weight loss journey, mainly to help other people realize that they aren't alone--but it helps me, too! When I get an email from a reader who is going through the same things I am (whether it's when I write about bipolar, depression, anxiety, my weight climbing up, binge eating, etc.), I feel better when I know that I'm not alone.

While I was losing 125 pounds in 2009-2010, I experienced something completely unexpected: FEAR.

For my entire life up until that point, I dreamed of being thin. Skinny, even. I thought it would make me the happiest person on earth. I was so tired of being fat and would have given just about anything to be thin.

In mid-April of 2010, I hit the 80-pounds lost milestone--something worth celebrating, right? Instead, I completely freaked out. It was like a little panic switch turned on inside of me, and I had a mini-breakdown. It was completely irrational, but I was scared to death... of my success.

I'm not trying to sound so melodramatic, but because I have since been contacted by people who have gone through the same thing, I want to accurately describe what was going through my head. Over the course of a few weeks, I was filled with anxiety and fear of my weight loss. Some random thoughts from when I was losing weight:

I was getting a LOT of compliments from people who noticed the weight loss, which meant that it was very noticeable. Which also meant that it would be noticeable if I gained it all back. I was terrified of gaining the weight back and having people notice that I'd "failed" at another weight loss attempt.

I was getting a lot of attention, as well. When I was 253 pounds, I felt invisible. I could walk into a clothing store and nobody would even look at me, let alone greet me. Going out with a friend, I would always notice men checking her out while ignoring me. I was twice her size but invisible.

When I'd lost so much weight, it suddenly felt like I had removed this invisibility cloak and people asked me if I needed help finding something, or asked how I was doing, etc. Instead of hearing men call, "Cow!" or "Fat ass!" out their car windows at me (yes, this happened), I was suddenly getting cat calls. This made me feel like I wasn't important when I was obese, so I was scared to gain the weight back and be invisible again.

My sister and I had become much closer as I lost the weight. Prior to that, we hardly ever talked. Whenever she called me, it was to talk to my kids. We didn't dislike each other, but we just didn't have anything in common. As I was losing the weight, Jeanie would call me frequently to hear about how I was doing. She was very excited for me and inspired by me, and we became closer and closer as sisters. I was beyond thrilled with the new level of our relationship. So, when I became scared of my success, another thought I had was that if I gained the weight back, I would "lose" my sister.

I was terrified of actually hitting my goal weight and reaching maintenance. When I'd started losing weight, I never dreamed I would get so far into the process. I had no idea what I was going to do to maintain the weight loss, because all the odds were stacked against me from the beginning (something like 95% of people who lose a large amount of weight gain it all back).

Beyond all these, there were things that I missed from when I was 253 pounds, and I realized that if I wanted to keep the weight off, I simply couldn't do them anymore:

I wouldn't be able to eat premium ice cream by the pint, or polish off an entire box of Swiss Cake Rolls in one sitting.

I wouldn't be able to make myself feel better by stuffing my face with a batch of cookie dough.

I wouldn't be able to relieve anxiety by eating an entire bag of chips and chasing them with wine... before dinner.

I wouldn't be able to eat an entire jar of Nutella in one sitting, while making promises to myself that I would start losing weight tomorrow.

From that point on, if I wanted to maintain my weight loss, I wouldn't be able to eat anything at all without wondering (even if just for a moment) how it was going to affect me, good or bad. I always hoped that when I was "thin", I wouldn't think about weight anymore. It would be a non-issue. But once I had lost 80+ pounds, I started to freak out about the fact that I would have to think about it.

When I was losing the weight, I was looking at a day or a week at a time--but suddenly, I saw my life laid out in front of me and it didn't include an entire large deep dish pizza with several beers chased by a pint of ice cream. This scared me, because if not those things, then what?

Jerry was always saying things like, "You're so skinny! I can touch my elbows with my arms all the way around you!" and things like that. It was meant as a compliment, of course; but I suddenly had a clear picture of what he would think if I gained the weight back. He had never said a single negative thing about my body when I was obese, but it was obvious that he loved my new body--so I was afraid to take that away from him.

I feared losing friends. I didn't want my friends to think that I was no longer fun because I couldn't be super spontaneous when it came to food and drinks. Also this was something that I missed--I missed just going out for drinks and food without a single care of how many calories it contained or whether I was overeating. I still miss this. Even when I plan to splurge, I still have that voice in my head telling me the consequences of my choices.

I feared that my life was going to be utterly boring and mundane from that point forward, because I would always have to be careful about keeping the weight off.

When I was obese, I never actually thought that I would someday be of "normal" weight, or even "thin". I assumed that I would lose some weight and then gain it back, like I'd always done. So, when I saw some serious progress (80 pounds lost), I became terrified for all the reasons listed above. It sounds so odd to be afraid of success, but that's exactly what happened to me in April of 2010.

I even felt so scared that I wanted to quit. I wished that I could take it all back and erase the entire thing. Quitting wasn't an option either, though, because of my fear of failure. Fear of success, fear of failure... I felt like I had no options. The consequences of whatever I would ultimately choose to do with my life were very scary to me. So what did I do?

I just continued doing what I was doing, and hoping that I would feel better about it.

And it worked! I dropped more weight, but I started to embrace the changes in my body and accept the lifestyle changes that I knew would have to be permanent. All of my lifestyle changes were things that I knew were "do-able" for life--yes, I would love to eat an entire large pizza by myself, but can I be happy with just having 2-3 slices? Sure.

Eventually (maybe after a few weeks, or a month or so), I no longer feared my success. I really looked forward to each new milestone, and I was so happy that I'd stuck with it. I had mini-breakdown when I hit the 140's--but again, I got past that. If I had given up due to fear when I hit that 80-pounds lost mark, who knows where I'd be today?

I am so grateful that I lost the weight, but I still have fear of success. When my story has been in the media, I'm referred to as a "success story"... but what does that really mean? How long do I have to maintain my weight loss to be a success? How much weight is "acceptable" to gain back and still be considered successful? So many questions.

As I continue to write my blog, I am always afraid of the day that could be the start of gaining back all the weight. I started losing weight in 2010, and I still wonder if I will gain it back. With so many people following my journey, whether they are rooting for me to keep it off or secretly hoping I gain it back, I fear having to one day explain that I've gained it all back.

As for today... 

Reading this post (that I'd written four-ish years ago), it's interesting to see that I actually have to deal with these fears now. I've gained back a lot of weight and some of my fears have definitely come back.

I don't know if my story is still considered "successful" or even what that means. At what point does it stop being an issue? I feel like I've matured a bit since I lost the weight and I don't care so much about the numbers on the scale. There is SO MUCH MORE to people than their weight! Some of my favorite people are overweight or obese and I love them just as they are. I don't look at them and think of their size; it doesn't even cross my mind. 

I don't want to gain back the weight, for many reasons. And I'd really love to lose the weight I've gained! However, I don't want to fall back into thinking about it all the time and worrying about it all the time. There are lots of things that are more fun to fill my head space with. I'd like to focus more about balance in 2021 and not focus so hard on just one thing. I'll write about that more later.

Anyway, I found this four-year old draft interesting, now that I've experienced gaining back a lot of weight. I'd forgotten about some of these fears, and after reading them, I realized that they are some of the same fears I've had recently. I avoid the scale like the plague because of these fears!

It definitely gives me something to think about, especially as I plan out my goals for 2021. I don't regret losing the weight, despite the fears that I had/have, because it completely changed my life for the better. No matter what happens from here, I've learned so many life lessons throughout the last 10 years! 


  1. You are of course a success, but for you not the media, they (and we) don't matter. I know finding 'fun' not involving food is difficult. But is possible! You cut out alcohol too which was tricky but does leave stuff that is fun. You just have to be more imaginative. Films can be watched without popcorn! I know many things can't be done due to Covid now but small things can make life fun and you have examples in most of your posts, from cats to projects, from games to podcasts. Your life does not revolve around food and more and that should be normal for everyone. I'm not sure if that made sense, I am still working on enjoying my life in these times, I still feel trapped sometimes and don't want to get out of bed.

  2. This is a great post, and I think it only gets better that you wrote it 4 years ago, a very different place than you are today - because it adds different viewpoints.

    I haven't had the fear of success that you have, but I act like weight loss is short term. I lose a bit, completely quit paying attention, and put it all back. It's a lifetime commitment to be successful, and even when we do commit, we may struggle, regain, etc.

    Thank you for sharing and may 2021 help many of us conquer some of our challenges and be successful!

  3. Katie, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post. I have been reading your blog for years, and I always appreciate how honest you are with us. As someone who is sitting here with 50+ pounds to lose, so much of this has been true for me and is true for me today (though sadly, not from the perspective of having lost so much like you have done). I never manage to lose more than a few pounds before something keeps me from continuing, and the weight comes back. I have never thought about it in terms of fear before, but after reading your words, I think that's exactly what is going on in my head. This post gives me so much to think about going into 2021. You are absolutely a success story, and truly an inspiration. Thank you for being who you are!!

  4. You are so honest. It's fabulous. Thanks for sharing what happens in our heads as the scale goes down and up again. I appreciate you so much!

  5. First of all, I am a daily reader of your blog and you inspire me. You are such a strong writer and I keep hoping that one day soon you will write a memoir.😊 Have you ever considered it?
    Second, my heart breaks that people called you terrible names. I am so angered by that! I don't understand how people can be so cruel. I am so sorry you ever had to experience that.
    Finally, I am about to embark on my own weight loss journey and just this morning I was thinking about my fears of success so it was the weirdest thing when I saw the title of your post. I really needed to hear those words today - a voice of understanding. What you said resonates with me so much and it's encouraging to hear that it was still worth it despite your fears. Thank you so much for sharing this post today - it was so timely!

  6. I needed to hear these words today. I have been following your blog for years but don't comment much. I relate to so much of what you said. I seem to be really good at losing weight and also good at gaining it but I can never maintain it so here I sit with 50+ pounds to lose AGAIN. Please know that you are inspirational and motivating to others even when you don't think you are. We all struggle with something, your something just happens to be super public. Keep writing so we can keep reading. HUGS, Brandy

  7. Hi Katie! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience, they are so similar to my own. I've never been at a "healthy BMI" during my entire adult life, so it's a goal of mine to finally get into that healthy range. I know what to do to get there and I've made good progress, but these fears can undermine my focus and drive by making me scared to commit to the process, so I've been trying to work through them by writing in my journal. Like yours, my thoughts are primarily focused on a fear of regaining the weight (which results in a public failure and shame) and fear of the lifestyle that will be required to maintain the weight loss. Finding a message like yours makes me feel so much less alone in this.

    I think you also hit the nail on the head when you mentioned how we tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we would for friends or colleagues. Like your weight loss and regain... I've done it too, as have many people. It's one of life's grand challenges. Books like the "Pleasure Trap" have also helped me to understand that these battles with food are part of human nature... not something that's broken inside me. I've recently learned that there is weak support for the idea that 95% of diets fail (see and ). Since you have been successful in losing a lot of weight and maintaining it for many years, you'd be an excellent candidate for joining the National Weight Control Registry if you haven't already: I'm hopeful that I can join the registry in the future after maintaining my weight loss too. Thanks again for creating your blog and movie. You're an amazing role model for so many people.


I used to publish ALL comments (even the mean ones) but I recently chose not to publish those. I always welcome constructive comments/criticism, but there is no need for unnecessary rudeness/hate. But please--I love reading what you have to say! (This comment form is super finicky, so I apologize if you're unable to comment)

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