More Than Just Hanging On

by Al Coon

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by Al

Well, you finally did it. You knocked off the last of the excess poundage and you have reached your goal! You have even kept it off for 6 weeks. (Or if you lost your weight with some other system you are where you want to be with your weight.) Your friends at your meeting pat you on the back, and your leader calls out your name as a new Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers. You stand up and bow, and everyone claps. Yes! Now you are all done.

Well, just a minute. Perhaps not completely done. There is this small matter of maintaining your weight. One thing that Dotti has noticed at her meetings, is that people who make it to Lifetime often stop coming to meetings. And guess what happens? Many of those folks who worked so hard to get to goal, start putting the pounds back on. And then they are too embarrassed to go back to the meetings, until they "get back down to goal." In other words, they don't go back at all, or until they finally realize that things are so out of control they will never fix it alone. They have found that when you get to the top of the mountain, there is another mountain, which you only now can see. The new path of perpetual maintenance, which is really just the continuation of the path you have been already walking on, stretches out before you. The fact we must all face is that we will either walk this path, or we will find ourselves sliding back down the same slope we fought so hard to get up.

The surprising thing is that walking that path does not have to be painful or difficult. I have living proof right inside my own home. Dotti, has weighed-in at goal or below ever since she reached it, over 2 years ago. I won't say it is not ever a struggle for her, but she is winning that struggle month after month, and she has a smile on her face as she is doing it. What is Dotti's secret?

Dotti goes to meetings. She doesn't go once in a while, or when the spirit moves her to go. She goes every week. When we go out of town, she finds a meeting and goes there. Every week Dotti goes and gets her motivation from the meetings. She talks with other people who are faced with the same challenges that she is. She is on a journey for life. It does not end. It does not lessen in importance.

I am reminded of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I once attended. I had a friend who had a serious drinking problem, and who regularly attended, and since my father had been challenged with an alcohol problem, I was curious what AA was all about. At the meeting, before it got started one of the members noted that someone had not shown up that night, and one of the other members said, "Maybe he got well." All of the other regulars got a chuckle out of that. From some things you do not "get well." Some things must be controlled each day for the rest of your life.

Once you face up to the fact that you have a problem that can be controlled, but not eliminated, it is much easier to deal with reality, and do so with a smile. Okay, I have to count points for the rest of my life. Is it any worse than what a diabetic has to deal with? No it is not. The physical side of losing weight and maintaining your weight is very straight forward. It is the mental side that must be properly watered and cared for continually. And that is where the meetings come in. (For those who do not have meetings close at hand, the internet can provide a great deal of support, and many have found it at Dotti's web page and other weight loss pages on the Net.)

For those who make "Lifetime" at Weight Watchers, they literally have a lifetime of free meetings ahead of them. Think of it! You get for free what you have been paying good money for to help you get down to goal. And what did you lose all that weight for? Just so you can put it back on again? No way! You want to hold on to this new you. You want to never ever have to go to the Plus sizes rack again. Is the time required for one meeting a week such a high price to pay to stay at goal? Ask Dotti, she'll tell you. Not only are the meetings helpful but they are fun. Sure you make the new ones jealous by walking around all skinny and everything, but once they hear how much you lost, and how long you kept it off, they will look at you as a role model and something to shoot for. You can help others as you help yourself to stay on program.

Which brings me to the next point. Helping others will help you stay on track. Dotti has been a dynamo in helping others. She at first just helped her friends she knew in her bowling league, and other places. Of course they all saw her lose 100 pounds and that is impressive. I am a pretty big guy at 6'3" and 240 pounds, but at 5'4" she still outweighed me for a while. From that she went down to, well in my "unbiased" opinion, a perfect 145. People around her were amazed. People nearly dropped things when they realized who they were talking to if it had been a few months since they had last seen her. So, she took that golden opportunity to help others get on program, and start losing weight. Many of those ladies have been successful.

Then she kicked off the web page. Dotti's Weight Loss zone has taken on a life of its own. Dotti answers hundreds of emails, has information on close to 200 restaurants on her page along with recipes galore. There is a message board, and a chat room that are associated with the page. The point being, Dotti has reached out, now to thousands of other people, attempting to help them, and in the process, she has helped herself stay on goal. She is accountable to all those people. On her page, she puts up current photos routinely so people can see she is still on track. She puts up her monthly weigh-in figure. And all of this helping of others, helps her just as much. This is a point that cannot be over emphasized.

Lastly, Dotti works the program, just like she did when she was losing. The only thing that changed was she cut back on the amount of exercise she does, from the amount she did when she was losing weight. Dotti counts her points every day. She knows what she eats and focuses on staying within her limits. As her weigh-in record demonstrates, it has been very effective.

For those who are familiar with poodles, they come in three basic sizes. There is the regular size which is about average for a dog. Then there is the "Miniature," which is a little smaller than average. And then there is the tiny "Teacup" size, which would nearly fit into one. Ever since my Dotti lost her weight, my little pet name for her is "Teacup" because she is so small. Each of us has the capability of being a Husky, Standard, Miniature, or Teacup sized individual. Many of us have been all of those sizes at different times of our lives. When you remain on program, as you journey through life, you will move down towards your desired size, and ultimately you will reach that size. But it is sort of like growing up. Life does not suddenly end because you reach adulthood. It really is just beginning. And when you reach goal, your journey has merely reached maturity, and it is time to take all of that hard work and knowledge you have accumulated and put it to use. Now you are ready to step out with confidence and show others how it is done.

Children have to be taught many things that adults know without even thinking about it. When you start out on your journey, like a child you have to learn how to live, and to eat. You sharpen up your weight loss skills, in order to succeed in reaching goal, at least that is what you think. But in reality, what you are doing is sharpening up those skills for weight maintenance. If you approach it right, it is like mastering any skill.

Take driving for example. When you first start out, every little thing is a challenge. You do not instinctively know that "stop" equals "brake." When I was a kid, I almost wrecked the family car because my Mom did not realize that screaming, "Stop!" did not mean the same thing as "Hit the brake!" did to me at the time. After a while the clutch and the brake, gearshift and steering wheel all became an extension of my body. I no longer had to think about putting in the clutch when I came to a stop to avoid stalling the engine. "Stop!" meant "Hit the brake!" I had developed the skill of driving and was finally ready to drive.

When you reach goal, you are finally "ready to drive." You have all of the skills you need to maintain your goal weight. You know what to eat, and how much to exercise. You know how much you rely upon the support you receive from others at your meetings. You have all of your skills sharpened to a razor's edge. Now is not the time to quit, you are just getting started!

By Al, My Wonderful, Supportive Husband

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