When to Say When

Photo from livestrong

Photo from livestrong

When you’re on the wrong track, how soon do you make it right?

I’ve gained and lost 30 pounds (13-14 kg) several times in my adult life. That’s quite a lot to creep up unnoticed! Why didn’t I tackle it sooner?

I am 169 cm tall (5’6-1/2”) and my weight history looks like this:

Weight Graph

At first glance, you might think I had 3 kids, but two of the blips were just weight gains – oops! Seeing this as a graph helped me form some conclusions about why I have yo-yoed so much.

In university, a gym membership was included in the fees and I used it! I gained weight when I started working, to the point that I went to Weight Watchers and took off 25 pounds (about 11 kg). Mainly due to personal difficulties, I rapidly gained it back – and then had a baby! I took my good old time losing the baby weight, but didn’t get really buff again until I became single and got back into dating. Part of it was wanting to feel good, and part of it was wanting to feel competitive! A few years later I moved back to my hometown and lived off savings for a while. During that time I felt unsettled and gained weight again. But another break-up left me wanting to get back in the game! Since then I happily met and married Rom and for a while I just got lazy, before bouncing back about two years ago. And now my weight is creeping up again.

History tells me I will probably gain another 15 pounds (7 kg) before I feel compelled to do anything about it. So now I need to break the pattern before I am entrenched again. I have been inspired by a book I am currently reading: Doomed to Repeat: the Lessons of History We’ve Failed to Learn, by Bill Fawcett. The author describes situations like wars and recessions and how we should have known better than to get ourselves into our current messes, based on historical precedents. I thought – why not apply that to myself?

Then I thought, hmm, history shows I will only lose weight if I have another break-up! Which is not going to happen, so I need to teach myself some new tricks 🙂

I have a rare problem that affects my weight. I have strangely high self-esteem and I always think I look fine. What a weird affliction! But it actually does work against me because I tend to ignore all the early warning signs of weight gain: the numbers on the scale, snug clothing, or comparing myself to other people. I don’t take action until things get serious: I have to buy new clothes, I go from regular sizes to oversizes (at my top weight), I get chafed, I have to lift folds to dry underneath (sorry, TMI!) or I get short of breath walking up hills and stairs. Without those symptoms, I just carry on as usual.

No one ever says anything to me about my weight. Rom shows exemplary discretion, my family is used to the fluctuations, the staff at work would never show disrespect to the boss, and everyone else thinks I’m in the normal range, give or take a bit. So I can’t rely on anyone to speak up – it’s all up to me!

Another thing I noticed from my graph is that although I always aim for and reach 140 lbs whenever I go on a health-and-fitness jag, my average weight over the past 30 years (!) has been 150-155. It would be reassuring to think that if I just stayed there, I’d be fine forever. Unfortunately, at the 150-155 mark, I feel sluggish and not at my best. I start to become inactive, lose my fitness level, and snack more. Even though it takes a lot of working out to remain at a lower weight, I feel much more energetic and healthy in the 140s.

I should have learned through dieting and fitness plans that I always feel best when I eat for health and nutrition, rather than indulging in comfort foods every day, and that extremes don’t work (no snacks or no sugar are not sustainable).

It’s been good for me to look at my personal history and try not to repeat the bad parts of it. My goals this month are to work out 5 days a week, walk to and from work, and minimize evening snacking. For extra encouragement, I’ve brought a stack of fitness magazines home from the library. I don’t usually think about what I’d like my body to look like, and the magazine pix give me some aspirations!

I know there are lots of people out there who would be ecstatic to weigh in the 150s, whether they are overweight or underweight. I don’t mean for my weight “quibbles” to comment on anyone else’s weight or health issues which may be much more significant than mine. So, if you are commenting on this post, there is no need to use any numbers.

I’d be interested to know what it takes for you to initiate a change, and what techniques you use to stay inspired.



  1. How to stay inspired? For me, it’s about a finite timeline. A month of this, a month abstaining from that. I secretly wish I had a physical activity I relished, and it wasn’t a ‘bother’ to do. In some ways, I wish I had a 30 minute walk to work daily, similar to when I was at uni. I didn’t need to think about exercising, as I got enough incidentally (and fashion wasn’t as much of a concern, being a student and all).

    I agree that too much deprivation is a recipe for swinging the other way. However, my daily after lunch chocolate habit isn’t really making me feel healthier physically (maybe psychologically though!?). The key for me would be to find a healthier alternative ‘sweetie’ for this time/trigger. Maybe daily piece of fruit?

    • Goals and challenges inspire me too, but I always backslide afterwards! I wouldn’t see a daily piece of chocolate as a problem unless it’s so much that it doesn’t allow room for other treats (like birthday cake or desserts at a restaurant).

  2. My motivation has been when the waist bands of clothes are too tight or the zipper can’t be done up. And when my back plays up.

    I am more motivated by being healthy, which has weight loss as a side effect. But then work and family commitments interfer with time for exercise. And when I’m rushed and busy, it is easier to reach for the bad snacky things. And they lead to a spiral of more bad snacky things, less energy and on and on.

    When I’m slim and exercising, I feel like eating healthier and doing more exercising. But I never sustain it. Work, boredom with exercising, my inner sloth all take over.

    I’m currently on a weight gain – no exercise slump.

    And my waist band tells me this. Don’t need to step on the scales to confirm it.

    • If only I could just react to a tight waistband, smarten up, and stop gaining! I really need to respond to those cues and not ignore them. It’s willful disobedience, really.

  3. Ugh, I’ve been fighting a 20 lb weight gain for a couple of years. It crept on in my 40s and now it seems impossible to dislodge. I’ve heard after menopause, with loss of fertility, that our bodies now longer fight to keep our bodies plump (and fertile) and it is easier to lose weight. I’m hoping that will happen to me! Others tell me I don’t need to lose weight, but they are probably being kind or I carry the extra pounds discretely. In any case, I can tell and feel the difference so it is something I need to address.
    I practice yoga daily and do a lot of dog walking, but don’t really make an effort to exercise. I try to build activity into my lifestyle rather than organising a specific exercise activity. I don’t have furniture and it causes me to move a lot more often (up and down) than most.

    • I like the idea of having an active lifestyle without consciously exercising. But other than walking to work, I don’t think that will happen to me. The nearest things are that I shovel snow in winter and mow the lawn in summer, but both are intermittent.

  4. Isn’t it interesting that change – especially emotional – can have such an impact on weight? My chart would look the same as yours. It does creep up unnoticed and is so much harder to shift when you are in a pattern of behaviour.

    • You would think I’d learn my triggers after all this time, but it seems so instinctual (to me, anyway) to eat more and move less when life gets difficult 😦 And it’s self-perpetuating as well, because the heavier and more inactive I get, the worse I feel!

  5. Juhli

    The only way I am able to be motivated is to treat exercising and food planning the same as brushing and flossing my teeth. They are (or I’m trying to make them) habits that are necessary for my health. I find that snacking inappropriately has the biggest impact on my weight gains and I have a much lower threshold for starting to try to lose weight. I also find that weight training is very helpful. Off topic: I envy you your library. Mine never seems to have the books you are reading.

    • What works best for me is to focus on health and nutrition, and not fashion or appearance. Things I can turn into a routine, like calorie counting, exercise tracking or menu planning, all work for me. But I do feel self-conscious about them around other people!

      I do feel lucky to have the library system we do (let alone work in it).

  6. Fiona

    I wish I knew what it would take to initiate change in this area! Maybe an earthquake, a bomb under me, the Zombie apocalypse…

    I think it’s how I was raised but I don’t really think much at all about weight. I do feel worse though and much more sluggish during ‘higher weight’ phases.

  7. I think you described the weight pattern I have. My dilemma is being tall, I have more places for it to hide. The longest cure for me is walking three times a week. When I fall of the wagon, the weight comes back. Best wishes on keeping a better pattern on the weight.

  8. I’m 5’4 and my weight ranges up to 175 when unconstrained. Before I left for vacation I was about 140, which is my Weight Watcher goal. I’m sure I’ve put a bit on in Italy because I’ve been eating pizza and pasta non-stop (and it is really good).
    What I learned via WW is that I can eat pretty well and be happy, but it is the alcohol that causes me to put on weight. To maintain without feeling deprived or exercising “too much” I have to cut out a lot of beer and wine- I’m not happy about it, but it is pretty clear. Middle age sucks sometimes. I do recommend WW even though it is annoyingly corporate and cisgender oriented.

  9. I was always a chubby child, and thus a bit fat when I was a young teenager. Then when I was 15/16 I started running and dieting. I used the Weight Watchers points system without actually joining. I think I must have lost about 3 stone. I stayed at the same weight for a while- maybe two years- but it was a struggle, as it was driven by a negative sort of ‘I don’t want to be fat and unattractive’ thought/motivation.
    Anyway, I started putting on weight when I was 18 and passed my driving test- I no longer had to walk everywhere!
    I put on weight at Uni too- not much need to walk far, lots of alcohol and the food in halls was endless and fried- I didn’t even have to bother to cook, AND it was already paid for, so why not make the most of it?!

    I have lost probably a stone and a half (20lbs ish) in the last year or so. Although I lost a bit whilst signed up for Weight Watchers online, I got bored of recording everything and the novelty/motivation wore off.
    What I have found has made a difference recently is feeling less stressed, more content and confident- I therefore am less inclined to comfort eat. Also, I have started walking a lot more- walking to work, and walking our new dog. Exercise seems to be key for me, but it needs to be something I just do- either because I have to (walking only sensible option for work; dog needs exercise!) or because I have signed up for a class. Trying to do a regular yoga practice at home is a struggle, because I have not convinced myself that it is a necessity!

    Anyway, recently I have got a bit lazy about walking home from work and getting my boyfriend to drive and collect me- which is expensive in fuel for car, and not really that much faster! Also, I have stopped meal planning, which means we end up eating random meals/ buying oven pizza. I am going to get back into the meal planning habit, as I am much better at cooking after work if I know what I am supposed to be making! It’s much cheaper and healthier too. According to the scales, I have not actually put on weight, but I don’t feel as good- much more bloated.

    This is a rather long comment- I was thinking out loud a little bit! I suppose my conclusion is that I lost weight fastest when I was a teenager and motivation was fear of being unattractive/unpopular, but that it was not really sustainable- I am hoping that as I now feel much more stable, and have lost weight without focussing on losing weight, it will stay off!

  10. EcoCatLady

    Hmmm… when I was younger my weight bounced around a LOT! I was on a constant cycle of dieting and falling off the wagon… I also had a pretty serious eating disorder for a while.

    But I finally gave up on the whole idea of any changes being temporary and embraced the reality that in order for anything to work, it had to be a forever plan. Since then I’ve stayed pretty much within the same 10 pound range. Regular exercise helps, but I find that weight training is the essential bit for keeping the pounds off. But I’m NEVER gonna be one of those people who goes to the gym, so I keep a yoga mat and some hand weights by the television so all I have to do is roll off the couch and voila, I’m ready to lift weights!

    I also can’t do a lot of sugar or carbs unless I’m really gonna burn them off, so I try to save the carbolicious treats for days when I’m riding 50 miles, and the rest of the time I lean heavily on my old friends the vegetables. And I find that if I eat three square meals a day I’m really not tempted to snack, but if I let my eating get at all irregular – Katy bar the door!

    Being too cheap to buy clothes in a bigger size also helps me stay in line. 🙂

    • You are where I want to be – knowing that I need to make permanent changes for my own good! Both you and Juhli have mentioned weight training so I will give that proper consideration. So far I have cut back enough not to need new clothes either, but I think I’m stressing my stretchy ones 🙂

  11. Holly

    What a timely post! My weight chart would look similar. I’ve maintained an 18 lb. loss (out of 28 lost originally) for the past three and a half years. This is the longest I’ve stayed down after losing, but I am still at the same blasted setpoint I always gravitate to. I still need to lose 15-20 lbs. to feel terrific, yet I have been stalled and actually fighting tooth and nail to keep from gaining back what I’ve kept off. In just the past few weeks I have felt my vigilance slipping away. It’s almost hard to describe, sort of a nonchalant attitude. I too suffer from enhanced self esteem and when I gain weight I still think I look ok. It is only when I see photos of myself that I realize I am on the cusp of being “heavy” once again. And when I was heavy I never realized either until I would see pictures of myself. So I have been taking pictures to remind myself I need to watch it or I will soon be heavy once again.

    Being healthy is more of a moviator to me than anything, but this time around it is my clothing to some degree. Having gone through the rigor of weeding and culling and counting and categorizing my clothing, I don’t want to have to start adding in stuff in a bigger size. Then I’d wind up with a mess of a closet and an inflated expense. And honestly, I worked too hard to get it in order to let that slip away. So I’m hoping this is a good motivator for me, along with the pictures.

    I walk in the morning and evening to clear my head and I run and hike on trails on the weekends (snowshoe in the winter and grudgingly use the elliptical when it’s too cold to safely exercise outside.) I belong to a gym and lift weights twice a week, with a dip in the pool afterward as my reward. I am primary caregiver for my seriously ill and handicapped husband, so that qualifies I guess as incidental exercise, along with the walk to and from the parking lot to my office. But the single best motivator for my exercise this last year has been the acquisition of a Fitbit. Seeing the data on what I did or didn’t do, in number form (that I can review at will and slice and dice as much as I want!) really pushed me to find activities I could do without dread. Note, I didn’t say that I could love, I said do without dread.

    I am hoping all of this together can keep me from climbing up that slope toward being heavy once again. This post came at just the right time to hopefully jolt me away from the nonchalance I mentioned above. For me, the nonchalance creeps in first and then the weight creep begins.

    PS: I’m not sure I’ve commented here before as I am a fairly new reader. I find your posts are spot on for me, and I enjoy them immensely.

    • Thanks, Holly, I can tell you understand! When I look back at older pictures of myself, I think, “I should have realized I was gaining weight” so maybe more frequent selfies would help! You might not know that I work in a library that is part of a community centre with a pool, 2 hockey rinks, a gym and weight centre, and dozens of classes. I have been there about 8-10 months and decided not to take out a membership (about $50/month) until I knew I’d do enough to justify the cost. So that is still a possibility. I love tracking things and I would LOVE to have a Fitbit! You’ve got me thinking, maybe this high self-esteem I mention, is really leaning toward nonchalance or a what-the-hell attitude; not good! Thanks for commenting and I will do an update in my month-end post.

  12. Lane

    I think I was hungrier around perimenopause; that, plus needing fewer calories in that time, I think I put on 10 pounds. I did feel uncomfortable and resisted buying new clothes. Then I followed my own advice, began weighing myself daily, and made some meal adjustments. I eat from a salad plate, slowly enjoying every bite. I sometimes put out all the snacks I can eat in a day– nuts, a bit of chocolate, fruit. Then I know I can snarf them down all at once or bide my time. This seems to work, I am back in the mid 140’s (5’8″ but I have a small frame). I’m with EcoCat above- don;t go to gyms, have some weights and a yoga mat in my study and just hit the floor, sometimes when I am thinking. My arthritis also reminds me not to gain any back! “The change” is a real deal!

    • I am pretty good at choosing a goal or plan and carrying it out, but I find I always need a goal or a plan, or I just go into freefall. I really need a new, permanent normal instead of just a temporary plan to reach a certain weight. I seem to be able to maintain for about 18 months. I could just keep records forever (recording food and exercise daily) because I don’t mind it, but I’m afraid I get a bit insufferable to other people!

  13. Thankfully I’ve been the same weight since I was a teenager and I hope it continues. This is a problem I never want to face – I can be very lazy about exercise, especially when life is busy. Eating somewhat healthy is easier because I get headaches and stomach aches or lack energy when I don’t eat well. When I was in college, I would listen to my “Night at the Roxbury” soundtrack only while exercising, which really motivated me (and the music is energizing). And come to think of it, dancing never feels like exercising to me, so maybe I need to dance more often 🙂

  14. Katie P

    I tend to be more of a visual person than numbers oriented. I could look at my weight history in charts, graphs, etc., and it would have much less of an effect on me compared to flipping through old photographs. That is partly what fuels my motivation. But, I feel that much of my current motivation stems from taking the time to reflect on how I feel inside and what my body is capable of doing. Even on days where I’m feeling “blah” or perhaps haven’t eaten as well as I should, I try to take a moment and evaluate what I have accomplished – from doing 10 push-ups that morning to a healthy dish I made to a positive interaction – and then use that to fuel better decisions for my mind and body for the remainder of the day.

    And. I agree: more dancing is needed for all 🙂

    • Very smart, Katie. One thing I aspire to is to think more like an athlete (or even a dietitian) by planning meals to actually support the work or activities I’m doing.

  15. I’ve put three stone on in three years!!! giving up smoking and my back medication both piled the weight on. I can see why people with disabilities are usually quite large as it’s a vicious circle, you take tablets to get you mobile but they pile on weight and make the pain worse so you take more……..

    I’m going to really kick myself in to touch, with my good leg 😉

    • I can see how that would happen. It is quite a cycle – I find I need to feel healthy and energetic to WANT to lose weight, but I never feel that way when I need to!

  16. As you know I struggle with my weight and have done since my thirties. I blamed it on work at the time as food is my go to when the stress starts, but just lately my weight has been creeping up again and this time I can’t blame work. I was last 150 lbs in 2002 – I keep track too – when I lost 40lbs with WW. That 40lbs, plus extra ,has since gone back on and I can’t seem to shift it. Perhaps I should rejoin WW when I move.

    To answer your question nothing seems to trigger me at the moment, it’s just a daily quest to make things better.

    • I wonder what will happen with my weight in the absence of major life events, LOL! I know that careful tracking such as using DietPower or MyFitnessPal always works for me, and generally being held accountable. So WW would work equally well. I am not sure if the social support and recognition are important to me, but they can’t hurt!

      When you get settled it will be nice to see if there are good walking routes in your new area.

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