What Does a Weight-Management Therapist Do When He Gains Weight? He Panics... with Perspective.
Brian Baumal Writes
For about six years, about two after I started my weight loss journey, I was able to maintain my weight within a range of about 5-10 lbs either way. Through divorce, financial, business and employment stress I was able to keep my weight where it was. But then Covid and my parents’ illness finally got me. I am still proud to say that I have maintained a 100 lb weight loss for over almost nine years, and I know that I will never return to the previous relationship I had with food and my body that lead me to be morbidly obese. But still, I put on weight, and – gadzooks – I believe it shows.
So what does a weight-management therapist do in this situation? Well, as I am discovering, I panic, but with perspective. I panic because I let all my cardinal rules of “weight-loss” go down the tubes. Instead of indulging in sweets twice a month, it became once a week. Instead of keeping all sugar out of the house, I allowed some in. Instead of working out three days on, one day off, I reduced the number of workout sessions I had. Instead of just eating real food, I tried a diet or two. The rules that had kept me on the straight and narrow were gone!
The lack of rules didn’t cause the panic! What caused the panic was the fact that I am in the profession and that the weight shows. However, trumping all of these fears was the promise I made to myself when I started this journey – not to be so hard on myself! That meant not to expect perfection, and not to over-react when an inevitable weigh gain occurred. I remember back in 2003-2004 when I took off 100 pounds (but then put it all back on again by 2006), I was exceptionally hard on myself and embarrassed when I gained weight. I counted the number of comments people made about my appearance, and assumed that if someone didn’t comment that I had not lost enough weight. That kind of self-abuse and torture has stopped.
Moreover, with this weight gain, I am not over-reacting and I refuse to derail myself. And this is where perspective, or reality testing comes in. I still have a thriving practice. I am still exercising about four times a week. My relationship with food and my body has not reverted. I understand that COVID and my life circumstances make exercise a bit harder for me now in terms of time pressures and equipment to which I have access. Covid does not allow me to be a gym guy any more, and I am a gym guy. I want a distance from my home and workout facilities, it is just the way I am. I also know I am losing lean muscle because I can’t do weights! I’ve hit my 50’s and my body is less forgiving. But I know I will NEVER return to the way I was. And the reason for this is because I have the perspective to be easy on myself in this situation.
Objectively, the jig is not up. The world is not coming to an end. I know my changes are permanent. I know that when COVID is over, I will be the first to line-up at my gym. I suspect that my rules about sugar in the house will return as I am able to go outside more often. When I lost the weight in 2003-2004 and put it all back on, I was too tough on myself. I did not want a single ounce of flab; I was to have no cheating; and I had to exercise 6 days a week – hard. I treated myself horribly because I could not handle the “failure” of putting on a bit of weight. Now I can. I’m saner, healthier and a hell of a lot less panicked. Thank god for perspective.
When I look at how this philosophy ties into my practice and into the theories of food addiction and eating disorders, I know that my past issues with food and body, and the desire to use food to soothe myself will never vanish. Overcoming these issues does not mean that the thoughts, desires and behaviours vanish. What happens is that symptoms become manageable and less frequent. I know my thoughts about my body will come up on occasion. I know feelings of failure and anxiety will happen, but I won’t let them derail me because I have dissociated my self-worth from my weight. It is that which will keep me sane, and keep me knowing that I can manage this, regardless of how my weight changes.
Meredith Cariski Responds
Your story is so inspiring Brian. The fact that you were able to keep the weight off, regardless of the situations that were placed upon you, is motivating in itself. I have never been divorced, but have had intense relationship issues. Career stress is a heavy burden that leads to heavy consequences in pounds, absolutely. What is most inspiring is the pride that you feel from your accomplishments that led to both positive and negative consequences. You also make the point that the weight loss journey is a lifetime experience. You make that very clear. I cannot imagine being a weight loss therapist who reached the goals that you have and then, just like the lot of us, started to slip back into old patterns. There goes my hope!
You have found solutions and a mindset that keeps you going. I only wish for myself that I can do the same. I can relate to the panic. I feel like I am in a constant state of panic to keep up with weight loss I cannot maintain. Considering everything that is going on with the pandemic, that sugar keeps making its way into my cabinets and into my mouth, tantalizing my tastebuds, and solidifying bad habits. Working out? What is that? Rules? Please define those, because mine flew out the window with the definition.
You make a great point on focusing on conquering fears. Just like you are in a profession where dealing with weight loss is your thing, I am a human who goes out into a world of expectation. My family wants me to be healthy, my boyfriend wants me to lose weight, and it feels like a job. I want to be perfect and in my abusive mind I am constantly overreacting. We are hard on ourselves because the fat is embarrassing. Not just for a weight loss therapist, but for me too as I go throughout my daily life. Your self talk, when you say that you started this journey to change your perspective, to let go of fear, is something that I want to do.
Covid messed up everything. My yoga studio closed and I had no motivation to go to the gym. Working out at my house as my fat falls out of my yoga pants is not optimal with my boyfriend sitting on the couch right next to me on his computer. He is not paying any attention, but I want to do yoga poses and meditate, not focus on the roll that is shifting and shining in the light. You’re in your 50s and I’m 34. Age is but a number because we cope with similar emotions based on the same subject.
I love your advice: we need to go easier on ourselves.
I’m scared though. You are so ready to go back to the gym and I fear that my jig is up. I’ve changed for the worse and it’s permanent. That desire you speak of where food is soothing rings true to me. It has soothed me from the stress of the pandemic and through my relationship issues. I’m waiting for the symptoms to be relieved even a little. I am going to work on not letting these thoughts and emotions lead me astray. I will find my self worth aside from my weight loss journey. I will find sanity. This post inspires manageability that is possible.
So, thank you.