First, I lost 200 pounds, then I found 200 pounds. (Spoiler alert: It was in the ice cream aisle.) Then I lost 115 pounds. Things rarely happen the same way twice, so how was the weight-loss different this time?
It’s less thrilling, but that’s fine
The first time I lost more than a hundred pounds, I shouted it across the whole internet. “Whee!!! This is amazing! I’m having so much fun! Triple exclamation points!!!” This time around, I’m just quietly muttering to myself, “Please stay off. For the love of God, just stay off.”
One of the reasons I stopped blogging at PastaQueen.com was because I was all talked out about weight loss. Eleven years later, that’s still fairly true. Writing the blog and the book helped me process a lot of my hang-ups about my weight and the tricky feelings associated with it, leaving me with less to share about this experience. I didn’t even bother to take progress photos this time because I couldn’t possibly top the rotating 3D ones I used to have on my blog. (A savvy TikTokker can probably replicate those in less than 10 minutes these days, but I swear they were cool and original at the time!)
I’m much more private online in general too. The fact that I used to post my weight on the internet once a week seems borderline nuts (like a cashew, which looks like a nut, but is actually a drupe seed). The online world was a lot different in the mid 2000’s. It felt safer. I’m not sure if it actually was safer or not, but it felt that way.
I do enjoy getting the occasional positive comment from people who see me often, like my family, but otherwise I’m basically ok if no one says anything at all, like my neighbor, who must have noticed, but just keeps waving hello when I see her warming up her car. (She’s also been more friendly lately, which is nice and all, but makes me wonder why she wasn’t like that when I was bigger.)
The first time around, I definitely wanted praise and acknowledgment. Now, I’m more secure in my identity and less needy of outside approval than I was in my 20’s, so a semi-silent victory is fine with me.
It’s taking longer.
When I hit my two-year weight-loss anniversary in mid-March this year, I was down 115 pounds, which is a lot, but it’s not the 180 pounds I lost in that span the first time around. See chart below. (The gap in the orange line was when I threw out my back and was incapable of weighing myself):
1) I’m 41, not 24. It gets harder to lose weight the older you get. Plus, you tend to lose muscle mass as you get older, so your body isn’t burning as many calories as it was anyway.
2) I haven’t been exercising as much. My body is old and broken. (More on this farther below.)
3) I haven’t been as strict with my diet. I can’t recall exactly what I was eating 17 years ago, but I think I followed the South Beach Diet fairly closely. This time I’ve been more flexible and less concerned about the glycemic index. My general strategy has been to eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. I’ve indulged more on the holidays than I did the first time, and I’ve written off some days as lost causes and did my best to move on from there.
I’d love to wake up tomorrow and be magically thin, but as long as the weight stays off this time, I can deal with it taking its sweet (or artificially sweet) time. I have my mobility back and the world is more accessible in general, which were the two most important things to me after my health. It’s nice that I can walk to the grocery without getting winded. It’s nice that I can fit in one seat on the plane instead of two.
Yes, it’s kind of a bummer that I’ve only lost seven pounds this year, but at least I didn’t gain seven. Even if I continue at this sloooooooooooow rate, it will eventually add up. And honestly, if I’m not able to maintain a certain weight, I’d rather not bounce down that low at all. I already have way too many clothes of various sizes in my closet. For once, I’d like to buy a sweater during the Spring clearance sale and have it fit me properly the next winter.
Also, I am gobsmacked by how quickly I lost weight the first time. I lost 25 pounds in a month! How the hell did I do that? That’s insane! Then I lost another 15 pounds in the second month. 40 pounds in two months! WTF?! It took me five and a half months to do that this time around, and I started from pretty much the same weight. I hope none of you got depressed comparing your weight loss to mine back in 2005 because that was definitely not normal. If I didn’t know I wasn’t on drugs, I would suspect I was on drugs.
My body is old and broken, so it’s harder to be active
Any physical activity I attempt these days comes with the risk of spraining another ankle, breaking another bone, or grinding the rest of my cartilage to dust. I have so many aches and pains, y’all. I’m hesitant to start any kind of physical activity without consulting a physical therapist or putting on a helmet.
Back in my 20’s, I started running on my local trail without any plan or research, which now sounds like utter lunacy! A friend of mine got invited to a roller skating party recently and we both agreed we were not putting wheels on our shoes again, not in this millennia.
All of which is to say, I am more limited in the type of physical activity I risk these days, because it does seem risky. Back in October, I got overconfident and thought I could take out the trash, walk to the grocery, vacuum the rug, and clean the bathroom all in one day. (Spoiler alert: I could not!) I threw out my back worse than I ever have before, which has made me even more hesitant about pushing myself too far. Which reminds me…
I didn’t have back problems last time
In my early thirties, I started throwing my back out at least once a year. The first time happened after I’d done a lot of walking. The next time, I simply laid down on my couch and couldn’t get up again. Another time, I was packing to move back to Indiana and had to ask my mom to come finish things up while I coordinated as much as I could flat on my back, staring at the popcorn ceiling I was glad to leave behind.
Warning: the following might be considered “too much information” so you might want to skip to the next paragraph. Because of the back pain, I got curious a few years ago and used a food scale on the counter to weigh my panniculus. (I promise I cleaned it afterwards!) The panniculus is also called the “apron belly” and is basically the pad of fat that hangs from your lower abdomen when you become obese. Anyway, my panniculus topped out at 10 pounds, the scale’s limit, so it was probably even heavier than that, which explains the back pain. Today it’s about 3-4 pounds, which explains the lack of back pain. Yay! Okay, the TMI is over now.
It brings me great joy that I’m able to stand up and cook in the kitchen for longer than 10 minutes now, which I couldn’t do at my heaviest. I still have to take an occasional sitting break when I’m cleaning out my closet or other activities when I’m bending over a lot, but I’m in much better shape than I was.
At least I didn’t have to exercise that much!
I wrote about this in my first entry, but the most depressing difference between my recent weight loss and my first time was that I didn’t have to exercise to lose weight. However, I am easing back into exercise, more for its own sake than for weight loss. Taking a walk in the middle of the day notably lifts my mood and helps me concentrate better when I go back to my desk. I also want to strengthen my back muscles so I don’t collapse on the kitchen floor again.
I’ve lowered my expectations by raising my goal weight
Back in the day, my original goal weight was 160, but I changed it to 180 because that’s the weight my body felt comfortable at when I was eating healthy and exercising regularly. This time around, my goal weight is 230, which is ten pounds heavier than some guy in a weight-loss ad weighed when he was telling his sad, sad, story. I realize I will still be obese if/when I hit this weight, and some of you are probably horrified that I would consider 230 an acceptable “after” weight. (I can hear someone tapping away on their keyboard right now as they compose their email, “Dear PQ, I’m so disappointed. You used to be great, but now you suck.” Thanks, anonymous stranger, who I didn’t know existed until you insulted me!) I chose 230 because if I get below 237, my BMI will categorize me as low-risk obese instead of moderate-risk obese. I know BMI is flawed for many reasons, but it’s a symbolic victory that I want if only because it makes conversations at the doctor’s office easier. I’m still really proud that I’m in the moderate-risk obesity range these days instead of the high-risk one.
In order to be qualified as overweight instead of obese, I’d have to get down to 203, which…doesn’t seem likely. Hell, I doubt I’ll ever get back into the 100’s unless something truly awful happens like a worldwide famine or I get thrown in a concentration camp when American democracy finally collapses. I’ve decided I’m going to let my body figure out what weight it wants to be when I’m taking generally good care of it, and I think that’s going to be somewhere around 230. Hopefully, it will be less, but I guess we’ll see! As long as I eat a fairly balanced diet, exercise regularly, and check in with my doctor once a year, does it matter what my weight is? If it starts causing an issue down the road, maybe I will have to lose more weight, I dunno. Right now, my test results have all been good, so let’s keep our fingers crossed it will continue that way.
My clothes have gone out of style
When I lost weight in my 20’s, I had some old clothes from my teen years that were still perfectly acceptable to wear. The same cannot be said for some of the clothes I wore in my 20’s. Perhaps there is a 41-year-old woman out there who can wear a pink, short-cropped, hoodie with cutesy skulls on it, but I am not one of them. I’ve also been surprised by how low-cut some of my old shirts were. Like, damn, I was showing off a lot, and I’m flat-chested, so there wasn’t that much to show off! And I wasn’t wearing sunscreen back then, so God only knows how much irreversible UV damage I did. (Do I sound like an old person yet?) I should have purged some of these items sooner instead of dragging them from apartment to apartment over the past decade.
Some clothes are unsolved mysteries
Is there a clothing edition of Unsolved Mysteries? Because I have some questions.
Why did the red coat I wore in New York in 2012 when I weighed 280 pounds not fit me in 2021 when I weighed 265 pounds? I haven’t washed it, so it didn’t shrink. Was I running around New York in a too-tight coat? Why didn’t the buttons pop off? Did I have more muscle mass back then, which made me heavier but more compact? Have I lost bone density?
Why do I own a pair of size 24 jeans with the tags still on them from Fashion Bug, a store that went out of business in 2013? I was probably larger than a 24 by then, unless the same voodoo that applied to my winter coat applies here too, so did I buy them with the hopes of slimming down again? Also, why did I buy the tall version that I had to hem? Was it a close-out sale or something?
How often should I try on old clothes to see if they fit so I don’t miss my window of opportunity to wear them again? Is discovering one cute golden sweater worth the risk of throwing out my back by moving all those boxes around?
For every 30 items I purged, why is there one item I wish I’d kept? (Looking at you, stretchy jean jacket with flower-print lining. Why did I part with you?)
The skin situation
I can’t close out this entry without discussing my skin, can I? On my old weight-loss blog, people asked about that more than anything. Right now, the skin situation is ok. I think it’s a bit worse than it was in my 20’s, but I didn’t take naked photos of myself back then, so I can’t be certain. The worst spot is my inner thighs which are drooping like wrinkled drapes. I also have batwings of fat hanging from my upper arms (which would definitely be the first thing to go if I ever got plastic surgery), but overall it’s not too terrible. I’m at least 75 pounds heavier than I was at my thinnest, so if I lose more weight it will probably get worse. My skin has less elasticity in my 40’s than it did in my 20’s, so I’m not sure how well it will bounce back as more fat disappears from my body.
The worse skin-related change isn’t the sagging, but the varicose veins I’ve developed in the past couple years. They run in my family, so I’m not surprised they popped up on my legs, but I didn’t expect so many of them to appear at once. I’ve got at least four snaking down both legs, though they’re not too prominent in comparison to what a Google images search shows me. Along with the extra skin, they’re a reminder that obesity has damaged my body in irreparable ways. (If I look like this on the outside, what’s happened to my insides?) The varicose veins don’t hurt, so I’m not going to seek treatment for them, but I doubt I’ll be doing any leg modeling in the future.
I’m more ok with being fat. I just don’t want to be severely fat.
The first time around, I definitely wanted to be thin, and I’m glad I was able to experience that in my youth. I’m also glad I took lots of photos. This time around, as long as I can move around the world comfortably…it’s fine if I stay fat. I would prefer to be thin, but I also love eating. I am like this cat who always wants more cheese. It’s how I’m wired. I’m significantly heavier than what is qualified as normal according to BMI, but I can go up and down stairs easily and fit in chairs with arms and buy clothes in a store instead of just online and I can leap out of my recliner instead of struggling to haul myself up. Those were my biggest day-to-day problems when I was over three hundred pounds.
I would love to lose another 70 pounds, but I find that unlikely. From here on out, any weight loss is more about my vanity and preventing future health problems instead of treating current ones. I’d simply like my weight NOT to be the first thing people notice about me, which it inevitably was when I was extremely obese. If it’s the second or third thing people notice instead, that would be fantastic. I’m also in this weird state where I know objectively I’m still obese, but I feel sort of thin. I’m so much lighter than I used to be that it’s hard not to feel thin in comparison to that. I’m also happy to be person-shaped again. When I was at my heaviest, the outline of my body from a side view had gotten oddly lopsided, with lots of extra in my belly and my butt, creating a shape that you probably wouldn’t draw if asked to sketch the profile of a woman.
Before I shut down my old weight-loss blog, I read some of my old entries and was shocked to learn I used to believe fat people couldn’t be happy. WTF?! That was so messed up! Why didn’t we have a Lizzo in the oughts? I hope no one reading this feels like that. Even if you weigh more than you’d like to, you can be happy. If anyone has a time machine, please write that on a note and give it to my teenage self. While society is still pretty rough on fat people, I do think things are better in the 20’s than they were in the 90’s. There’s a fairly strong body acceptance movement working to counter the damaging messages that are everywhere. I’ve also started seeing genuinely plus-sized models in ads, ones with actual fat rolls. Hopefully these trends will continue and less teenagers today will felt the way I did.
Don’t put off living your life!
If you feel like your weight is holding you back from experiencing certain things in life, let me leave you with this story. Back in the fall of 2020, I was walking my 320-pound self around the neighborhood when a man pulled up next to me and stopped his car. This same guy had asked me for directions just the week before, so I figured he was lost again. But no! Instead of asking me where the office was, he asked for my phone number.
That’s right, y’all, I stopped traffic! Literally.
I wasn’t even wearing anything particularly cute, just some sweatpants and my sweat-wicking workout top. I was terrified of COVID at the time, so I let him know I wasn’t dating, and foolishly did not give the man my digits. As he drove away, I was like, “Damn, there goes my last chance to get laid before I turn 40.”
And if that doesn’t convince you, let’s not forget that time I was solicited to do porn at the Barnes and Noble.
I don’t think you should base your self-esteem on whether others find you attractive or not, but the point is that even if you don’t like the way you look, there are other people who don’t feel the same way. Fat people can have the same experiences thin people do. Go out there and live your best life! Don’t wait until you lose 115 pounds or 200 pounds or however many pounds. If you put off living until there is less of you, you will live less of a life.
Hopefully, I will not be writing another series of post in 17 years about how I lost 115 pounds the third time. We shall see! I have no idea what the internet will even look like in 2039. Maybe they’ll have a cure for obesity by then! If not, I’ll just have to keep taking it day by day, pound by pound, and be grateful for every step I can take.