Abandon perfect

In every installment of the Real Life Biggest Loser series I try to find one of the most compelling statements and use it for a title.  In this installment, Melissa says, “abandon the idea of perfect.”  She has hit the nail on the head.  Perfectionism is a trait that sounds good.  People who have it must be highly motivated to have set such a high goal, right?  Trying to be perfect must lead to some success, right?   Unfortunately, perfectionism can be one of the most counterproductive ways to think about anything, and weight loss and body image are no exception.  Perfection is not a goal.  Perfection lies only in our imagination, it is not real.  It cannot exist.  It is by definition unachievable.  As you get closer, it only alludes you.  It’s like chasing the wind.  If you are a perfectionist when it comes to weight loss, your body, or any other aspect of life you have set forth an imaginary goal that will prevent you from moving toward a true, realistic goal.  If your happiness lies in achieving perfection you may have unknowingly exiled yourself to frustration and unhappiness.   Life isn’t perfect, it’s messy. Melissa shows us how to trudge through the mess and come out… pretty damn good.

Melissa at her current weight

Name: Melissa

Age: 41

Occupation: Freelance writer/editor, wife and stay-at-home mom to three children under 6.

All time high weight: 287 lbs

Current weight: 165 lbs

Total weight loss: 117 lbs

When did you start losing weight?  How long have you kept it off?  The last time – and it is the last time – I started on Sept. 10, 2010. In one year I lost 113 lbs. I’m still working toward my personal goal of 160 lbs, currently 5 lbs away as of this writing.

How did you lose the weight?  I joined Weight Watchers, following the Points Plus program, which I’ve found to be very flexible, effective and livable for the rest of my life.

Tell me about your relationship with exercise (then and now).  As a child, I always wanted to be a jock on a team, but being overweight no one ever encouraged me and I certainly never had the guts to try.

One of my favorite quotes is: “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” ~ Jim Rohn

I’ve lived the pain of regret and disappointment for decades, I’m all about the pain of discipline (aka exercise) now. It’s a small price to pay for what I get in return.  I work out 5 days a week, getting up at 5 am to get my run or bootcamp in before my children wake up. I’ve never been a morning person, but it’s the only time I can guarantee the workout gets completed without interruptions, rescheduling or complications.  I started running this past January because it was something I always wanted to do, but never thought I could. A few months later I joined a bootcamp class to complement running and it was the best decision I ever made. I was scared to death – flashing back to my cruddy performance in gym class as an overweight kid – but it has been amazing. I’m faster, stronger and as fit as I have ever been and I get a little better every class.

How was it that you decided to make such a major life change?  Was there a defining moment or not really?  I wish I had a cool Ah-ha moment when it came to getting healthy, but honestly it was a quiet realization that if I did not change soon, I was heading toward 300 lbs, diabetes and heart disease.  Our third child is our last, so I knew I would not have the “She’s pregnant/She just had a baby” excuse in my Size 26 back pocket. In late spring 2010 I made a deal with myself: Enjoy the summer and when the kids go back to school in the fall, it’s time to get in shape for good.  I wanted my pride back. My self-esteem. My self-confidence. It was time to fight for it.  Also, when I was 16 my mother died of chronic kidney disease, an affliction she acquired through no fault of her own. I could not risk leaving my children motherless through a disease entirely of my own making.

Melissa before her weight loss

How many times have you tried to lose weight before?  What made this attempt different?  How high can you count? Seriously, though, I was an overweight child who became an obese teen then adult, so I’ve been trying to lose weight seemingly my whole life. I lost 122 lbs on Weight Watchers 2002-2003. I eventually regained it before rejoining in 2010. If you have to lose 100+ lbs, it’s hard enough to do it once, don’t put yourself through it twice.  This time was different because I had no more excuses. I had to get fit for myself and for my family. It wasn’t just about me anymore.

Sticking to it seems to be the ultimate challenge.  For you, what is the key to sticking to the changes you’ve made?  I’m excellent at losing weight and up until now not great at keeping it off. For me, the key is moderation and ideally fostering a “normal” relationship with food – no binging, overeating for days, comforting myself with food, etc. Yes, if I want an ice cream, I have one. But I don’t have two or have an ice cream every day for weeks.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to people who are struggling with their weight?  Abandon the idea of being “perfect” or “on” or “off” a “diet” when it comes to losing weight.  You have to learn to roll with the challenges of food and life: holidays, parties, weddings, vacations, etc. Know there is never a perfect time in your life when there will be no food-related challenges.  You have to learn to balance them while maintaining healthy eating and exercise. Don’t think you can never eat a piece of birthday cake again. Who wants to live in a world like that? Not me. Eat it, enjoy it, factor it into your daily eating plan, then go sweat it out the next day.

Some people feel like the weight loss process is extremely time consuming, forcing you to have to think about your weight all the time.  Do you feel “obsessed” by the process? What has your experience been?  A friend who lost 90+ lbs once noted, “It’s like having a part-time job” and some days it definitely feels like that. But I find it’s easy to get overwhelmed from time to time in any aspect of life: work, family, hobbies, etc. Eating and exercise are no different. The more you stick with it and it becomes ingrained into your life, the easier it gets to manage.

If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say?  Be patient. Some weeks you do everything “right” and you don’t lose an ounce. Hang in there, it will come off and then some. Never give up.

Just starting off, losing weight is hard.  Tell us, does it get easier over time? Or harder?  It’s always hard, but the longer you consistently stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan, the better you get at managing opportunities and challenges. It’s never easy, but it gets easier.  Also, the longer you persevere, the more your non-scale victories (smaller clothes, compliments, greater physical fitness) add up. They’re incredibly motivating.

What is the hardest part for you now?  Keeping the momentum going. I have to constantly set new non-scale goals and challenges to keep myself motivated. When I started running, my first goal was to finish the Couch To 5K program. Then my goal was to run a 5K, then another, then another.  I needed a good goal to keep myself motivated through the summer, so I trained all summer (15 weeks) for my first 10K. Next, I think, will be a half-marathon (gulp) sometime next summer/fall. I can’t believe I just typed that.

Anything else you would like to tell us about your journey?  You don’t need to go on a reality show to lose weight and change your life. You don’t have to live in the gym or run marathons. All you have to do is be consistent with small changes every day and pretty soon your life as changed and you’re a completely different, smaller, better, more confident, happy person. The person you always wanted to be.  If you really want it, all you have to do is do it.

If we want to follow you, where do we find you?  I have a blog (of course, right?): http://alifetimeloser.blogspot.com/ I’m no nutritionist or trainer, but I know what works for me and I’m happy to share. The thought that anything I write could be of any use to someone is very humbling. And I am on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/alifetimeloser

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Melissa lives in Millbury, Massachusetts with her husband and 3 children.

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5 Comments

  1. My mother weighed around 90 pounds so this woman lost a whole extra person. Amazing! She may have doubled her lifespan.

    Reply
  2. Eva says:

    I’m not a runner, dare I say yet! Would you give me more information on the Couch To 5K program?

    Reply
  3. Sherry says:

    Eva, the Couch to 5K plan on Cool Runnings is great. Check this out: http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml

    Good luck and thanks for reading!

    Reply
  4. MO says:

    Melissa,, you are a true inspiration to all who are trying to achieve good health and a healthy lifestyle. I couldn’t be prouder of you and your accomplishments. Your honest blogging about your journey is truly inspiring and hasw been shared with many.

    Reply

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