Last year I pledged to lose 10 pounds — and keep them off — before I turned 50. I was pleased to accomplish that "Me Minus 10" goal (and then some) and enjoyed feeling super-skinny for a while.
Now it's a year later. I've just turned 51. And while I'd love to report that I never saw those excess pounds again, that's not exactly the case. The truth is, my weight has gone up and down by a few pounds here and there over the past year.
I learned an awful lot from the process of losing weight. Mindless Eating author Brian Wansink showed me that making just a few small changes in your eating habits can add up to big changes in your waistline. Physician and fitness guru Pam Peeke taught me the importance of building lean muscle mass and eating plenty of fiber and a protein-packed breakfast. Those lessons and others continue to serve me well.
But the things I've recently figured out about myself and my weight might be the most valuable lessons of all.
That's typical of women who manage their weight successfully, Peeke says. Having gone great guns and lost the weight I aimed to lose, she says, I'm in the reckoning stage during which I'm determining "the price I want to pay" for the body I'm comfortable with. So long as my weight doesn't pose health issues (which it does not; my extra pounds are few, and my blood pressure, cholesterol and other numbers are all very good), I can decide how much I'm willing to work and sacrifice to have "the body that I want and that works for me."
"That's not settling," Peeke says. "It's renegotiating, based on reality."
I thought I'd share the lessons I learned in hopes that they might put your own weight-management efforts in perspective.
• The exercise trade-off. I can't comfortably cut back on my food intake, so keeping weight off requires exercising hard for about 45 to 60 minutes a day. Losing weight would require even more, and I don't want to be a slave to my exercise schedule. The trade-off: I've regained a few pounds.
• The numbers obsession. Frequent weigh-ins and body-fat-percentage assessments are excellent tools, but I can't handle them without becoming kind of obsessed. So I've taken to letting my clothes and the mirror tell me when it's time to make adjustments.
• Routine essentials. I still avoid second helpings, I use a small dinner plate, I don't eat anything straight out of bags or boxes, and I don't pick at food while cooking or cleaning up. I vary my workouts and make sure to include resistance training.
• Favoring flavor. I will never again eat a food that I don't love just because it has fewer calories or less fat. That means no more "diet" cheese.
• Through others' eyes. Except for a few close loved ones, nobody seemed to notice how slender I'd become. Friends didn't stop dead in their tracks to exclaim at how great I looked. Nobody loved me more or less because I weighed less. For that I am actually grateful. The experience opened my eyes: Not everyone goes around judging others by their weight!
• Through my eyes. In fact, as I've rounded past 50, my attitude toward womanly roundness has evolved.
I used to admire most those women with chiseled bodies. Now I also find myself feeling a certain tenderness toward my middle-aged friends who strike me as lovely even if, maybe especially if, they have a bit of padding here, a roll of flesh there. I even have managed to muster that affection for my own 51-year-old self. Life's too short to be so critical of yourself and others.
In the new year, let's give the gift of nonjudgment toward ourselves and everyone else. Maybe if we relaxed and stopped worrying about weight so much, we'd enjoy life more. And then maybe our bodies would arrive at the weight they're meant to be, after all.