At the beginning of May, The New York Times published a lengthy article about long-term weight loss that was an absolute bummer. Scientists followed contestants from “The Biggest Loser” and concluded that their own bodies fought their efforts to keep the weight off, making long-term weight loss success nearly impossible. The article was a trending topic on social media, and so many people struggling with their weight read the article and felt defeated, overwhelmed, and hopeless.
I haven’t been on “The Biggest Loser,” but I have lost 160 pounds and kept it off for over five years. I’ve accomplished something that very few people have, and that article was terribly depressing for me, too.
I said, in a previous post, that the article “dashed some hopes in my head that this process would slowly get easier over time. It won’t.” But my reaction was more complicated, and it’s taken me a while to sort through a mess of feelings that the article stirred up. I’ve wanted to write a more thorough reaction. I’ve tried. Turns out I just needed time.
I’ve been trying to write this post for nearly four months. Weight and weight loss are such innately personal topics, and ones that are so easily associated with poor self-worth, guilt, shame, and embarrassment – heavy stuff that can be hard to address or admit to. Even though I share so much on this blog, the article knocked the wind from my sails, but I’m ready to combat that article with thoughts of my own.
Before I continue, know that I’m going to leave the science and medicine to the experts. There’s no shortage of articles out there about how unhealthy it is to be on “The Biggest Loser,” so maybe we shouldn’t use those contestants, who go to ridiculous extremes while on the show, as the basis for anything. There are articles comparing that study to other weight loss studies, and even articles providing wonderfully inspiring counterpoints. I don’t need to pick through the data in the article – that work’s been done.
So what can I do? Plenty. I can share with you the reasons I’m never going to stop working my ass off (literally and figuratively), despite the odds, despite the articles, despite all the forces that may seemingly conspire to derail my efforts.
Weight loss discussions are so frequently focused on numbers. I’ve been an active contributor to those discussions, and will continue to be. I’ve been honored to share my story on television and in interviews because what I’ve lost is so impressive, but you know what? What I’ve gained is so much more impressive – and this has nothing to do with numbers at all. I’ve gained immeasurable amounts of confidence and pride. A drive to compete in insanely difficult races. A near-constant stirring in my gut to prove to myself, again and again, that I’m capable of astounding things.
I didn’t anticipate any of that. I thought about other effects of weight loss, like wearing smaller sizes, going on roller coasters, and fitting in restaurant booths, but big picture changes to my character? Nope. Life-changing shifts to how I embrace physical activity? Absolutely not. Never once, when I weighed 400 pounds, did it occur to me that I could adjust the very way I think about myself, let alone race up the stairs of iconic, towering skyscrapers.
And I suppose that brings me to my main point: What I’m most thankful for, nearly seven years into this journey, are all the things I never saw coming. I’ve blossomed during this time, in unexpected ways, and this will continue, in ways I can’t predict or articulate.
I can look ahead to my future, and despite there being questions marks, it’s bright and sunny and wide open. I’ve tackled an immense situation (literally), and because of it, I feel empowered and prepared to confront any new challenges that may arise. I’ll wrestle them to the ground, dammit! No more running or hiding from them, or succumbing to fears of the unknown.
I know I’ve prolonged my life by losing this weight, and vastly increased the quality of it. I know my relationships with loved ones are even stronger and fuller because I’ve embraced a much healthier way of living. I know I’ve pushed every single one of my limits and shown what I’m really made of, and inspired others to do the same.
And I never want that any of this to end. That’s why continuing to fight for myself – for my life – is so important to me. I’ve gotten a taste of what my life can be, unencumbered by the stress, anxiety, and misery of a 400-pound frame, and I’ve gotten used to that taste. I never want to let it go. It tastes so good, so freeing, so nourishing.
I want you to taste it too. I want YOU to experience this feeling so badly. I want you to put in the work, make the sacrifices, and stick with it, because you don’t even know what’s coming, but I do, and it is indescribably powerful, poignant and affirming.
So keep fighting. Please keep fighting. Try new things. Create new habits. Ignore the voices that say you can’t, whoever they may be, and especially the ones in your own head, and keep taking steps forward. Forget the articles and the statistics. After all, I’m in a very small minority of people who have lost a large amount of weight and kept it off. I overcame the odds, and they weren’t in my favor, and you can do the same.
Stay strong. Stay focused. Stand on top of the mountain. Look back at where you’ve already been, what you’ve already accomplished, and the trail that brought you here, to this point. Then, look out, at this great big expanse, filled with opportunity, endless in all directions, just waiting for you, and take your next steps. I’ll be there, alongside you, doing the same thing.
Keep it up, David!
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