March 21, 2020

The Reality That "Weight Loss Success Stories" Don't Tell You



Today, something showed up on my Facebook feed--a memory from 2014. It was a photo of Woman's World Magazine. Yours truly was on the cover, advertising a full spread of my weight loss secrets.

Looking at it now, it's kind of embarrassing. Even at the time, I cringed a little at the dramatic way they flaunted my "success" at losing weight.

What the heck is "success", anyway?

I lost 125 pounds, gained some pounds, lost some pounds, gained quite a few pounds, lost quite few pounds to reach my lowest adult weight, gained too much back to reach my highest weight in 10 years... the magazine only shows the one small part of my story.

I can't even be specific when I write how much I gained and lost each time over the last 10 years. I simply don't know! Yes, I lost a lot of weight. I guess that's considered a "success story". But when does it end? At what point am I considered a "success"?

I thought I was a weight loss success story when I hit my goal weight and stayed there for a few months. I thought that I had it figured out, that I could stay within a small range. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to, but I thought that if I felt the pressure, I'd be able to do it. Especially considering how public my weight loss had become.

As we all know, I never did figure it out. Even after 10 years, I'm working on it. I'm still down 80+ pounds from my starting weight, but I honestly can't tell you if I'll be up 10, 20, even 30 pounds next year! Or, maybe I'll be back down to my goal. I don't know.

All I can tell you is that losing weight is fucking hard. Mentally, it's the hardest thing I've ever done.

Looking at this cover of Woman's World, it advertises that I lost weight by "eating Pop-Tarts, peanut butter, ice cream, and cookies!" (with the exclamation point).

True. I did eat those things.


What it doesn't tell you is that I ate about one-half to one-third of my previous portions of food, that I struggled with binge eating disorder, that sometimes I got so pissed off at the world for not being able to just eat whateverthefuckiwantedwheneveriwanted and that I had anxiety about eating too much or not knowing how many calories were in the food I was eating.

I even had nightmares--literally--about eating too much food and gaining weight.

The "success stories" that we read only tell a small part of the story. I used to read them all the time for inspiration, and it seemed like it was so easy. Just eat less food, swap out some high calorie foods for lower calorie foods, and exercise. Soon, you'll be a tiny size 2 and you'll run a sub-4:00 marathon. You'll lose your urge to overeat and you'll love choosing carrots over ice cream! (Exclamation point)

(I'll include a link to a PDF at the bottom of this post if you want to read the article)

I don't want this to sound cynical, because maybe it actually does work that way for some people. I was not one of them, however.

Here I am, 10 years later, feeling like I failed because I gained some a lot of weight back. I'm still 80+ pounds below my high weight, so why can't I feel happy about that? The magazine doesn't mention the constant battle in your mind when you lose a large amount of weight, then gain some, then lose some, etc. It doesn't go away! (At least for me.)

I don't want it to sound like I regret dropping the weight--I certainly don't! I just don't want anyone to read the "success stories" like mine and think that it ends there. That I lost weight, I'm super happy, and that I have it all under control.

Because of my blog, I've gotten to know several people who are "weight loss success stories"--some of them very well-known--and I've yet to meet one that feels they have it all figured out. Each one that I've talked to has the same feelings I do. We all feel like it's only temporary, and that a single bad day could lead to gaining every pound back.

I want to be happy with how I look now, but when I look at photos, I can't help but compare them to my photos from 2016 or 2017 when I was my thinnest. When I was 253 pounds, I would have killed to look like I do now (roughly 170 pounds--I avoid the scale these days!).

I wrote in detail about a lot of this on my post "What I Wish I Knew When I Started Losing Weight". When I started losing the weight, I had no idea I'd actually get "there"--meaning my goal weight. I had tried SO many times before and failed, so why should that time be any different?

I want to end this on a positive note, because I really don't want this post to sound negative. I really, truly, believe that all the sacrifices I made were totally worth it to lose the weight. Not just for the vain reasons, but life felt easier when I was thin. I am so glad that I did it!

I just really don't want people to see my story and think that it's all sunshine and rainbows. To sound cliché, rainbows don't appear without some rain--and trust me, there was a LOT of rain!

If you're on a weight loss journey of your own, please don't think that it's easy. Don't read those magazine stories and think that the person's journey ended there. The magazines share what sells. They share the all the fun, inspiring, motivational parts of weight loss. They make it look easy.

It's not easy! But it's worth it. And even though my weight is up and I've been trying to get back to losing weight (although it's not working well), I don't ever want to give up. I felt so good when I was the "success story".


I don't care if I am considered a success story in the public again. That doesn't mean anything to me. I just want to feel like I'm living my best life--eating to live rather than eating to ease my stress or anxiety. I have good days and I have bad days. My hope is to have more good than bad.

I really want to get my weight under control again, and feel good about myself. I want to feel that "success story" that Woman's World (and other media) made me out to be. Mostly, I just want to feel healthy and live my best life!

(Here is the full Woman's World article in PDF form if you're interested in reading it)

7 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more! I told my husband (this is Marjie on Nick's account) just yesterday that losing weight created a dichotomy of thoughts in my head. I look at old pictures and think how confident I felt and looked when I had achieved my goal weight. But at that goal weight I continued to think I still needed to make improvements to my physique. Now 3 years later I feel like I am constantly chasing that weight and feeling, but I fail more than I succeed. It feels almost impossible to live a content life.

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    1. Yes! You described it perfectly. Why is it so hard to just be happy with how we look right now? And actually, I'm just aiming for better health right now. I'm not exactly "unhealthy" but with my age getting up there, I need to think about it more and more. However, the vain part of me really misses being at my goal weight, too!

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  2. Wow I missed this story! I found you through Runners World.

    Were you approached by these publications/shows to feature you, or did you reach out to them?

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    1. Runner's World and Woman's World magazines came out in the same month, and the Runner's World article took more attention, so I didn't write much about the WW one. I wasn't thrilled with how they made it sound like everything was so easy!

      Woman's World reached out to me for the story, and I thought it'd be fun :) As far as Runner's World, it was actually the producers of the documentary that reached out to them for the story to cover the documentary. I had no idea they were going to use me for the full spread at the beginning of the story--I have to admit, I was super geeked about that! haha

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  3. Amen sista! My highest adult weight was 252 (so funny so close to yours!). I dropped down to 155 10 years ago, and that was my happy place until I got pregnant. With my "success" I was in a tv commercial for my gym (which aired way too often, lol). I have been 196-200 since I had my son 6 years ago, and like you can't seem to get my shit together. It seemed so easy the first time. Now, nothing I try seems to work. Well just today I was on the morning news. I was interviewed about the challenge of being a working mom during the Coronovirus outbreak. TV crew at my house, the works. They took video of me playing catch with my son. It is cringe worthy. For someone with as many insecurities as me, being on tv is not fun.

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  4. Thanks for the reality check that all the media is sugar coating how this really works! My lifetime high to my best adult weight is a span of 66lbs. Sadly, I can't get my act together to be at a completely healthy weight. The struggle is real and that's okay. I need to be confidant I can fix it and work at it. We got this!

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  5. Thank you for your honesty. It also happened to me as well. I have gone from size 8 to a size 16. Before i had my son, i was a size 8 and.looking fiiiiìne. I have had weight fluctuations in the last ten years. I on my way down again.
    Yes. It is hard. I have to be incredibly strict. Your story really resonated with me.

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