Lately on the weight loss site there has been a few people returning that have regained a lot of the weight that they lost. It's really been weighing on my mind.
I have never had the experience of relapse - at least not an extended relapse that has resulted in a significant re-gain. As I've mentioned before, I never seriously tried to lose weight in my life before starting this journey in 2010. And I have been - lucky? - enough that so far I am staying the course.
Relapse in weight loss is much different then the relapses I see as a substance abuse counselor. It's pretty cut and dried in that area. If you are a crack addict and you go to a friend's house and take a hit off a crack pipe, that is a relapse!
But it's more insidious in the area of weight loss. I mean if I eat a brownie, I haven't relapsed. In fact, it will have little impact on be being in "recovery" from obesity. But what if I gain 2 pounds? Have I relapsed? What is the cutoff - the tipping point so to speak?
And it's different for everyone, too! I would consider that I "relapsed" if I drank a soda. Soda is the one thing that I have an absolutely zero tolerance policy on. I had my last taste of soda in May 2010. And yet, just yesterday, I passed the break room and there stood a full 2 liter of Pepsi on the table from graduation last week and I thought "Fuck it! I'm taking that home!" and then I stood there SHOCKED that almost 4 years later I had the thought of drinking soda!!
I live in fear of relapse. There is part of me that doesn't believe that I will ever relapse. I mean, I am pretty vigilant after even a small gain. BUT there are tons of people out there - people stronger and more determined then me - that have lost a significant amount of weight and gained it back. So I don't dare get cocky - it could absolutely happen to me.
People comment all the time about my exercise and use words like "impressive" "amazing" and "inspirational" to describe my commitment to my workout plan. They have no idea how much of this behavior is actually fear driven!! The fear that if I don't work out - even for 1 day - that this will be a slippery slope that leads to me slacking off completely which would inevitably lead to a massive re-gain. We just ended March. I have not had a day so far in 2014 where I didn't work out. NOT ONE DAY. And I'd have to do the math, but at least 85% of the time, I did 2 workouts. I can't tell you what percentage of that is driven by the desire to be fit and how much is the fear of relapse.
When I was fat, I fell a LOT. I constantly twisted my ankles. Now I am always fearful getting hurt and not being able to exercise. Because that would inevitably lead to a weight gain. And when I think weight gain, I think of gaining massive amounts over a short period of time. It can happen.
I think that I have started down the path of relapse before. I have had moments of uncontrolled eating and moments where I DIDN'T. FUCKING. CARE. But fortunately, blessedly, I have been able to pull myself out of that before any major damage was done. I don't count myself anything but fortunate that this has happened.
I have a client who was a HORRIFIC alcoholic. And then he got into recovery. He got his Master's Degree and began working in the counseling field. And 9 years later - 9 years - he relapsed. Within 2 months he had been charged with a Felony DWI and now finds himself on my program facing state prison.
The stakes are different for me in the weight loss game, but they are no less life or death. In addition to the complete guilt and shame I would feel if I gained back the weight there are real and serious health consequences that I could be facing. I didn't used to fear death. But now that I know how awesome life can be, I jealously guard it.
So I hope to never have the experience of relapse, but I realize that I must be ever vigilant to not allow it to happen. Well, wait, remember I have given myself permission to go crazy and eat whatever the fuck I want and even get fat again starting at age 70. So I have 29 years to be vigilant!
But I also will keep in mind, and share with you, what I have learned from so many of my clients. Just because you relapsed doesn't mean you can't get back on track. No one can take away what you learned from periods of success. And if you are someone who has relapsed and regained, get back at it - you did it once and you can do it again!!