Rethinking My Weight Loss

I was proud to lose 65 pounds, but now I need a more holistic approach to my health.

My Weight Gain and Loss

Four years ago, I reached the highest weight of my life. At 216 pounds, I was officially obese, albeit just barely.

I had been skinny for most of my life, but in my mid-twenties my weight suddenly started skyrocketing. The biggest factor was an addiction to alcohol — I was drinking hundreds of calories worth of beer every night. In addition to my drinking, I also had a poor diet and got barely any exercise. The final piece of the puzzle was a career switch from a physically demanding warehouse job to a full-time law student.

Over the course of just a few years, I watched my weight climb from the around 155 to well over 200. It was incredibly frustrating that even though I knew what was causing my weight gain, I couldn’t manage to get sober and turn things around.

The weight gain itself was miserable. I had to keep buying new clothing, and I was feeling less healthy and comfortable every day. I even had a few embarrassing moments of my clothing ripping.

Seeing my weight cross the line into obese was one of my biggest motivators to finally quit drinking. I’ll be the first to admit that it was a somewhat shallow reason, but it was what worked for me.

I started to lose the weight very soon after I got sober. It was actually one of only a handful of clear changes that I experienced in my early months of sobriety.

Eventually, my weight loss hit a plateau, but I was able to start losing pounds again by improving my diet and starting to run regularly. My weight loss was always gradual, at a rate of less than a pound a week, but it was fairly consistent.

Finally, in my second year after quitting drinking, I reached my target weight, losing about 65 pounds total. For the past two years, I’ve managed to remain there. I continued to eat healthy and exercise regularly, but I didn’t need to consciously focus on my weight.

My New Weight Gain

Things changed for me again about three months ago. For the first time in years, I’m gaining weight.

Most of my exercise over the past few years has been running, but this year I started to add in more strength training. I began by increasing the amount of calisthenics that I do, and two months ago I added in barbell training as well.

I was not intending to gain weight, but I certainly expected that it might happen. My attitude as I started strength training was that I shouldn’t worry about my weight. I’m well within any standard of a healthy weight range, and there’s no real problem with me gaining mass, especially if it’s mostly muscle.

It’s been very hard to maintain this attitude as I actually watch the numbers on the scale increase. I’ve gained about 10 pounds over the past three months, and each time I see the numbers go up, I cringe a little.

Logically, I know that there’s nothing wrong with gaining this weight. I can see my strength improving, and my waist line isn’t even getting any bigger. There really isn’t any major downside to this weight gain.

Unfortunately, my previous experience with weight gain has left me completely ingrained with a fear of ever gaining another pound. I keep worrying that I’ll somehow slip right back into my old patterns and watch my weight skyrocket again.

There’s More to Health Than Weight

Overall, I think this experience might be good for me. During my previous weight loss, I taught myself to treat weight as an exact indicator of my health. In my mind, heavier was less healthy, and lighter was healthier. I was too hard on myself for gaining weight, and maybe too relieved when I lost it.

I think it’s okay to be proud of my weight loss, but I need to keep it in perspective. Being skinnier doesn’t make me a better person than when I was overweight, and gaining some of the pounds back won’t have any negative effects on my health or well-being.

There is much more to health than just how much I weigh. Trying to keep my weight at a constant number, even while lifting more than ever, is counterproductive and potentially even dangerous.

These days, I’m trying to focus less on the number on the scale and more on my exercise goals. I’ve realized that when I put my effort into achieving exercise goals, my weight tends to take care of itself.

By taking these steps toward a more holistic understanding of my health, I hope I can unlearn some of the mindset that I developed during my weight loss.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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