Success, Failure, and Complications of the Past

Most of you reading this probably know that back in August 2010, I started this blog purely to help me with my weight loss. It was called, “Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!” and writing about my struggles, victories, failures, and successes eventually led me from 246 pounds to 186 pounds — a sixty pound weight loss.

Of course, as we all know, I did not maintain that weight loss. And I find myself nearly exactly at the same weight I was five and a half years ago — in fact, I had to lose 7 pounds just to get back to (almost) the same starting point. Needless to say, facing up to this fact has been a real challenge for me.

See, previously having succeeded in losing weight, I have all sorts of comparison photos that show the before vs. the “after.” Of course, now, having gained my weight back, my “current” is basically worse off than my original “before.” This, it goes without saying, is both a strange and supremely disheartening feeling. In past years, I spent not a small amount of time putting together collages and photo comparisons of myself before and after my weight loss. I wrote many, many posts all about how overjoyed I was not to be “that person” anymore… only to slowly become that person over the next couple of years.

Now, granted, I realize that I’m not really the exact same person. I’m older, wiser (?), and my hair has gotten way, way, way more fun. But you understand my point. The fact that I’ve already been through this once (and, if we’re being honest, it’s really been more like eleventy billion times, given how often I’ve started and stalled in my various weight loss attempts, but I digress…) means that I’ve got a lot of complicated feelings about going through it again.

Every victory feels tainted with the knowledge that I’m doing it over.

Every time I stop myself from taking seconds, or I decline ordering dessert, it reminds me that I’m just at the very beginning of this long, arduous process.

And it just feels like I’ve wasted so much time.

How do I celebrate my current and future successes when each one is just a reminder that I backslid so far in the first place? How do I look past what’s happened in my past?

I know in a cognitive sense that it’s dumb to dwell on this. What’s happened has happened, and the only way to go is forward. But knowing and feeling, I think we can all agree, are different things. And right now, this feels so joyless because I can’t block out the idea that I’m living my own straight-to-DVD sequel.

This is not to say that I’m discouraged enough to stop. It’s the contrary, really, I feel as though I have all the more to prove now. I just hope that as I go along, I’ll be able to reclaim some of the joy that comes with the smaller victories along the way. Because any way you dice it, staring down 40 or 60 or 80 or however many pounds one needs to lose… that’s a tough pill to swallow. And finding joy in the 5 pound losses and the non-scale victories and the little indicators of success was so crucial for me the first time around.

I guess there’s only one way to find out how I’m really going to be feeling over time — I need to give it time. After all, this is still so new. And yet, old. Haha, are you guys sick of me talking like this yet?

All right, I think I’ve blabbed on enough for one day. Those who know me, know that I deal with having a lot of feelings on any regular day, so throw in my currently complicated self-image, weight loss, and what can only be described as intense sugar withdrawal symptoms, and well, you get me.

But don’t worry, sunshiney, bubbly Gretchen will make a triumphant return before long, I’m sure of it. Just let this hot mess version work out a few more things first, eh?



  1. Erinsays:

    All the feels right now..

  2. Valeriesays:

    I’ve mostly been lurking over here for the past few years, but I’m finally piping up to say I relate to this SO MUCH. I’ve lost the same 20 lbs over and over again (and, in reality, I have at least twice that to lose), and it’s hard to convince myself that it’s worth the trouble if I’m just going to gain it back anyway. BUT I know we can do it. I’m rooting for us. <3

  3. Nancysays:

    Maybe the better question is why you feel shiny bubbly Gretchen has to make an appearance at all? Women are always told to “smile” and be “nice”. Personally, I’ve found it much more fulfilling and healthy to just be my authentic self- whether smiling (sometimes) or sarcastic (most of the time) or even flippany(often). You are you. People are here for you whether you are shiny or not. And the those that aren’t aren’t meant to be in your life to begin with and aren’t worth the effort.

  4. Ambersays:

    You are preaching to the choir! I am losing 50lbs for the 3rd time. I am determined that this will be the last time I “start”. I’ve been reading your blog since 2012 and have loved it all along the way. Just know that you aren’t alone in your struggle and feelings.

  5. I’m right where you are. I keep looking back at my pictures from 2010-2011, when I was sixty pounds less than I am now, and I dream about getting back to that. I felt good, I looked fabulous. I keep thinking even if I’m not emotionally happier at that weight (though, I was pretty happy), right now, it hurts to be in my body, physically, because of all the extra weight. Started up WW again, and have had the best results from that program. We’ll see what happens. Life happens. We all move on.

  6. Reesesays:

    I think about some of the blogs I’ve read regarding contentment and life. Regardless of the # I have to lose, we’re in a similar boat. Looking back on “who we were” and “what we looked like” in whatever year. I know that at my goal weight, I looked good, I felt good, and I was proud of myself.

    But I’m not allowing myself to say I can only look good, feel good, and be proud of myself when I’m back at that weight. That is not living life right now. Who knows the timeframe it will take to lose whatever amount of weight?

    Acceptance and contentment with what you have now is important. My weight is not preventing me from living my life and enjoying the small things. So I remind myself each day of small successes (today it was wearing a dress I normally would wait to wear until I was down more weight… and it made me happy).

    So don’t put your life on hold and ignore the fun stuff until you get back to goal. It makes you hate the journey. Enjoy the now… just with healthier and less food choices. 🙂 I say “no” to myself when I want a second cupcake or muffin. But I say yes to myself when I want to buy a book, visit friends, eat out with my grandma…etc. 🙂

  7. Laurasays:

    A couple things:

    1) You forgot to mention that, in addition to older, wiser, fun hair, etc., you have also SLAYED your makeup game. Let’s not leave that one out 🙂

    2) I feel ya dude. It’s exhausting caring about your weight, but it’s also exhausting being tired and feeling crappy – sometimes you feel like you can’t win. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I am comfortable enough with myself where I don’t NEED to obsess over my body shape anymore – I know I’ll always be heavier and have curves, and I’ve grown to appreciate them in a lot of ways. But I also don’t want to get myself on the track that a lot of people do where a few pounds every year leads to 40+ over time. I also don’t want to not like myself, or (as you noted) only feel comfortable in a fraction of my wardrobe.

    I think the key points (which you likely already know) are 1) finding a way to work exercise and healthy food choices/portions into your life that doesn’t feel unnatural or overzealous, and 2) find a happy medium that you are willing to work at to maintain, but are still comfortable/happy with.

    Easier said than done, right? But when I finally came to terms that I am never going to be that person who goes to the gym at 6am, or will often have trouble making a 6:30pm zumba class because of my work schedule, I realized that I HAD to find other ways to be active. So I make it a priority to be super active on the weekends, try to get to the gym 1-2 times during the week, and have started working in long walks to fill the gaps in between. It hasn’t made a HUGE difference yet, but I feel my jeans getting a tad looser every few weeks. Baby steps.

    I also found that it’s helpful to tie your weight loss/health goals into other goals in your life so the focus doesn’t get so set on ONE THING. For example, I found that when I started bringing my lunch after a bad streak of ordering UberEATS every day, and cooking at home more often, we were saving a lot of money. I am considering buying a house and need to get my finances WAYYYYY more in order, so it’s extra motivation for me to not go out for Chinese every week or order 4 cocktails at Happy Hour on a Tuesday.

    Keep on keeping on dude – while I know you feel very alone, there are SO many of us in this boat. If you’re still struggling with feelings of personal failure, it might also be helpful to see a therapist or counselor to talk through those feelings (I did and it helped SO MUCH). It took me a long time to realize and fully accept that just because I make mistakes doesn’t mean I AM a mistake/failure. Not being good at something doesn’t mean you suck as a person, and it’s okay to ask for help when you realize you need it!

    Also, I love that you are posting again! Fun to hear what you are up to and enjoy your writing!

  8. It’s tough to backslide (I did it up until about 9-10 months ago, and it gets harder as you get older to head back in the right direction). But you seem to have a good attitude and taking the small steps and small accomplishments should help you get back to the right (or closer to right) spot you want to be in.

  9. This post speaks to me soooo much because I am pretty much exactly where you are. I lost over 50 pounds and looked and felt so much better, but couldn’t complete my journey or even maintain my loss. Now 3 years later I’m 10 lbs heavier than I was when I started and I can’t seem to get myself moving in the right direction again. And not having a lot of choices about my food right now isn’t helping matters (unemployed and staying with my parents who are footing all the bills and eat a lot of processed foods).
    But this isn’t about me, and having been a follower of yours for quite some time, I believe that you have it in you to find the joy in all of this again… plus you have tons of support and love from all of us!

  10. I totally get it. I gained 25 lbs from beginning of 2013 thru Feb 2015. Crept on slowly as the result of a bad breakup (laying in bed 24/7, not caring, eating junk) and then the beginning of a new relationship (skipping gym to eat out, drink wine, eat dessert, etc). my total cholesterol was never over the normal range. Well in February 2015 it had jumped 40 points in one year!! That was the wake up call I needed. I drastically changed the food I was eating but didn’t fully go back to exercising. Took some pics at Xmas and while I had lost some weight by then, it wasn’t enough. Started back at the gym and really eating healthy and I’m down 15 of the 25 lbs. hopefully the last 10 will be gone soon. Oh and my cholesterol went down 30 points in the past year 🙂 that light bulb just has to go off and that’s when you find the motivation to make it happen.

  11. I can tell you from experience that there is nothing that can make you feel the shame, anger and heartache like gaining back the weight that you worked so hard to lose. I know exactly what you mean when you say you feel like you’ve wasted so much time and that it’s so daunting. But, looking back at “skinny” photos won’t help (neither will hanging on to all of your skinny clothes- like I did for years). I’ve been through this- and really had to look at WHY I lost weight in the first place and WHY I gained (most of) it back. For me, it all came down to my relationship with food. When I was stressing about everything I was eating, I ended up gaining weight back. On the occasions that I would actually allow myself to “cheat” I would go crazy. Then I’d feel guilty. Then one day I eventually said “fuck it” and decided to just listen to my body and my head and eat food that make me feel good (both physically and emotionally). I feel much better when I eat “healthy” meals most weekdays and get burgers and fries and beer on the weekend. I feel better when I lift weights 5 days a week for about 45 minutes and do A LOT of walking (rather than killing myself to run 10 miles or do a shit ton of cardio). I looked back at all of the things that I did “wrong” which made me feel like shit and become bitter at the thought of diet and exercise. In that year since I changed my way of thinking, I’ve lost over 20 lbs. I have about 20 more that I would like to lose, but I’m not sweating it. I feel good and food doesn’t control me. It took me over 20 years of “dieting” to figure out that eating intuitively (I hate that term) was the key for me. No counting calories, no tracking, no obsessing. Everyone is different, but that’s what’s helped me take back my life and be able to enjoy beer and pizza without giving a fuck. (In moderation) <3

  12. Moniquesays:

    This is almost exactly my story. You’re not alone

  13. Valentinasays:

    I know it seems like I can’t relate since, but I do. I feel like it’s a constant struggle for me too (and I really hope this comes across the right way). I feel like my stomach is always growling and have to limit myself to eating once every 90 minutes. Everyone is different, but I think the key is finding something sustainable. For me, it means subbing in fruit, smoothies, or cereal whenever I want to reach toward a dessert. (I’m not perfect ~ I reach toward desserts too!) I also know I eat a lot, and would rather exercise more rather than eat less, so I work out twice a day 4 days a week to compensate for that (I know, questionable sustainability but I don’t work out the other 3 days of the week so I always have that to look forward to!). Hope my personal experiences are helpful even though everyone has their own path. You can do it! 🙂

  14. I have gained back 70 of the 90 that I lost. Do I miss her? Sometimes. But I have changed. Or maybe I didn’t change at all. I don’t know.

    But what I do know? Re-read all of these comments, Gretchen. We are not broken. The diet industry is. My expectation (from myself, from others, from society) to be different than my body wants to be – that is what is broken. I can eat healthy or I can eat crap and I weigh around 220. How did I lose weight? Excessive exercise. And that was not healthy. Not at all.

    I’m not telling you to do a certain thing or not do a certain thing. I’m trying to figure this out myself.

    But if we all have the same experience, maybe we aren’t what is broken. That’s all.

  15. Andreasays:

    Love! I am right in the middle of this as well. The thing that makes me feel like this time will be different is because I’M different. I have a newly found interest and love for fitness and nutrition, and truly want to stay interested for the rest of my life. If you can find something you love to do that burns calories, and someone you love to do it with, I can tell you it will make a difference. Also, I think it helps to focus on one thing at a time. I focused on fitness first and developing a good routine. Then once I started going regularly, I realized eating better helped my workouts, and it just snowballed. I also found two things super helpful – the book The Power of Habit completely changed how I think about good and bad habits. I also have used MyFitnessPal religiously to keep track of what I eat, and my exercise.

    Above all Gretchen, remember that you are not your body. Your soul is vibrant and wonderful and kind. Always ALWAYS keep that in the back of your mind. That being said, your health is so important and if you keep health in mind (and not weight loss) it might help.

    I love you girl. And so do so many of us. I’m here anytime you want to vent, cry, celebrate, or need support it encouragement. Xoxoxo

  16. Kate Msays:

    I think most of us have fluctuated with our weight. I was heaviest on my wedding day, and a solid 25 lbs below that two weeks after having my second baby. Now I am back up those 25. Between being an emotional eater and hormonal weight gain, I feel like I am on replay in my head. Most of us are in the middle, we haven’t found a balance that works for us permanently or how to adjust as we get older. And it is encouraging to be there with other. Success stories are great, but it is easier to relate when we are in the same boat. You can do it, you have done it, and you will do it again!

  17. Thank you for putting sunshine gretchen to the side for a moment to share hot mess gretchen. I am definitely in a disaster phase, so I can relate. Things clearly need to change because the direction in weight i sup, and happiness is down. Here’s hoping we can turn this shit around.

Leave a comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that. Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked