The Slow Gain

In the past four years since I started this whole blogging thing, I’ve gained weight and I’ve lost weight. I’ve gained and lost in the small-picture, week-to-week sense — 2 lbs lost here, a pound gained there — and this minute yo-yoing of the scale inevitably proved inconsequential, as in the long run, I made it to a whopping 60 pounds lost in total. And so the individual gains that may have happened along the way were, of course, overtaken by the individual losses that I experienced.

But, of course, as we now know, I’ve also lost and gained in the greater, bigger-picture sense, with a much less celebratory outcome — sure, 60 pounds were lost, but then 10 pounds were gained. And then maybe 5 pounds were lost again, but another 10 were gained. And so on, and so forth, eventually leading to a grand total of 50 pounds slowly and surely attaching themselves back onto my body over the course of the years that followed.

Yeah, I know, that’s a lot. Just like 60 pounds is a lot of weight to lose, 50 pounds is a lot of weight to gain back. But here’s the thing, it really didn’t SEEM like a lot at the time. Each pound that crept on really seemed to do exactly that: creep. Unlike in my previous life as a binge eater and general destroyer of my body, I didn’t think that I was doing that much particularly unhealthy stuff. I wasn’t sneaking Baconators into my dorm room, I wasn’t tiptoeing around the kitchen at midnight, I wasn’t pretending like I didn’t already eat dinner only to go have a second dinner with friends.

Sure, I also wasn’t running anymore, and I had stopped counting my calories, but it’s not like I was diving headfirst into a pile of chili cheese fries every night either. I ate lots of normal, healthy, whole foods (and occasionally some unhealthy foods too, of course), with the key word being “lots.” I was simply eating more than I should have been eating, and not moving as much as I should have been moving.

And so the weight, it came. It came slowly and quietly and in the dead of night, and it’s almost like I didn’t even notice it was there. I say almost, of course, because in reality I did notice.

It’s not that I was in denial about gaining weight. Denial suggests that I had no idea that I was gaining weight, that I was filling back out, that my clothes were getting tighter. Of course I had an idea. Of course I knew. I mean, I was having candid photos of me taken on a monthly basis! It’s not like it’s something I could really hide. When you’re fat, it’s not like you don’t KNOW you’re fat. Sometimes you just don’t care. Unfortunately, when it came down to brass tacks, I still did. Care, that is.

So it wasn’t that I was in denial over gaining the weight. I was in denial thinking that I didn’t care I was gaining it.

I didn’t want to care. I didn’t want to continue feeling emotionally tied to a number on the scale or label in my pants. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and be discontent with what I saw. I didn’t want to untag myself from photos on Facebook that I didn’t “like.” No, I wanted to be able to find that glorious place within myself where I could not care about my size, where I could look in the mirror and smile without a caveat, where I could simply love me for me.

And don’t get me wrong, there was not a small amount of soul-searching that came with trying to force myself not to care, and amazingly I did come out the other side with a much richer understanding of how awesome I am.

But, as much as I truly do believe in self-acceptance, body-positivity, and loving yourself no matter your size, weight, or body type, what I think the whole “me not caring” thing really came down to is that I just didn’t want to TRY anymore. Losing weight is easy but it’s hard. The theory is simple but the practice takes dedication and willpower and I had the mistaken thought that losing weight would be a one-and-done thing for me: I’d lose the weight, change my habits, and be at a happy size forever.

As I’ve learned, it’s a constant, constant struggle for me. Regardless of whether I’m 180 pounds or 230 pounds, I’m not the kind of person who can play it fast and lose with her portions. I am going to need to keep an eye on how much I eat for the rest of my life. And that’s a hard thing to really wrap your head around. It’s the kind of thing that makes you not really want to bother trying to lose weight.

And yet, here we are again. Partially because I’ve totally jumped on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon this year, but moreso because I’m simply ready to start trying again. After all, my happy weight is any weight at which I feel happy, and I’m just not feeling my happiest at my current weight anymore.

Of course, starting back down this road again does beg some questions: What’s my goal this time around? What am I gunning for? Why now? And, of course, given that I’ve tried rebooting my weight loss several times over the past couple years, what’s different about this time?

What are my goals? Well, I admit that I’m not totally sure where my goals lie at this point. I know that I want to lose a bit of weight, but I really am trying to maintain a focus on my overall health and fitness as opposed to just my size.

Why now? Because, well, why not? I don’t think I need a specific reason to want to lose weight, get healthier, or shape up, but I guess that, just like the very first time, it boils down to a lot of different factors all reaching their tipping point: I want to be able to wear my old clothes again, I want to tone up, I want to feel confident having my photo taken, I want be able to keep up with my energetic almost-two-year-old niece, and I want to set up habits that will help keep me healthy and strong as I continue to get older. I’m still pretty young, so yeah, I can carry an extra 50 pounds around and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But in another 5, 10, 15 years? Knowing that I’d just be making things more difficult for my future self, why would I wait any longer?

What’s different? An emphasis on fitness, being active, and actually trying to establish a true habit of working out daily is a HUGE difference for me. Even when I was being a weight loss rockstar, exercise was the most minimal part of my routine. I was really only working out or running when I had a specific race to train for, and even then, it was probably only three times a week. Approaching this from the fitness side of things feels like I’m coming at this thing from an entirely new angle.

So here’s to another onslaught of incremental losses, miniscule gains, and my overall weight loss, fitness, and health. Let’s see if it finally sticks this time, shall we?


  1. I totally get this post. When I moved back to Iowa back in 2010, I started waitressing, and I’d just lost 20 lbs, so then I’d managed to lose another 25 from waitressing, and was the thinnest I’d ever been (238). I felt fantastic, but then, like you said, it started creeping up on me, and now I’m back in the same boat. It’s frustrating, and an ongoing battle, but good health is something to be worked for.

  2. Yep, when I lived alone in Duluth where I knew few people I was pretty thin, I’d work, workout, make dinner, and go to bed. Once I got in a relationship I gained all sorts of “happy weight” and when the relationship should have been done (but of course went on another 6 months…) I gained even more. It was a slow build, and its been an even slower loss. Like you I eat “okay” but snack a little more and a little junkier than I should. I will say that daily exercise (I usually take 2 days off a week) helps me with my mood/attitude/emotions and therefore I’m not snacking/binging as much as I used to be. Here’s hoping you find what works best for you!

  3. Jensays:

    I love all the memes especially the T. rex one. I also like that you’re approaching this from a health and fitness perspective and coming to the hard and frustrating but true realization that this has to be a lifelong change and not just a “for the moment until I’m a size 12” type of venture. I know you

    • Jensays:

      Uploaded before i finished! I know you can do this 🙂 ok I’m done!

  4. I continue to be SO SO proud of you for sharing this journey!

  5. Ooh, girl. I know those feels. Good luck! I’m right there with you – I imagine a LOT of people are.

  6. To quote Smokey Robinson, I second your emotion.

  7. I love everything you said. Really. We don’t want to care about gaining weight, but well, I do, and it bothers me that I care because then I feel vain. But what the eff ever. You do you 🙂 And, you’re right, “why not now” is perfect. Who cares that it’s January and a bazillion other people have a similar goal, why not? You’ve got this.

  8. Flo S.says:

    I read your blog and I felt like I was reading about myself during your whole experience. I’ve been an overweight kid as long as I can remember. Then in August of 2011 to December 2012, I took control and was able to lose a lot of weight from by logging in my calories, working out regularly and making the right choices. I was able to get off my Type 2 diabetes meds (was taking if for 10 years). I think what happened was that life took over me in the Summer of 2013 and I started dating more, attending some special events where food was just in abundance and justified it by saying, oh I worked out and did bootcamp and bikram yoga. And here I am, a year and half later gaining back 1/2 the weight I had lost. I take full responsibility and it is so true that abs are made in the kitchen. I am back to counting my calories and now I’ve decided to do vegetarian for about a month to see how I feel. So far so good. I don’t feel as bloated and am nailing some of those hard to do yoga poses. The key to working out is I have the same people working out with me when I first started my journey in 2011. They are my rock and community of support. The key to overcome my bad food choices is to go back and count everything that I consume in myfitnesspal. Sometimes, you don’t realize how compulsive you can be when it comes to food you love: Bon Chon chicken, Korean BBQ and sweets (donuts, cupcakes, ice cream). The other thing I’ve learned is to not completely deny that one thing I really want, but to eat it in moderation, log it in and do the Frozen and ‘let it go’. Tomorrow is a new day:)

    So, once again thank you Gretchen for posting your struggles that we all face and can relate wholeheartedly. I too, will have to keep an eye out for what I eat for the rest of my life. But that’s ok, the rewards outweigh the task. Also, kudos to you for logging in your calories and for being my support on myfitnesspal.

  9. Wonderful post. And, yes, I’ve been there. I few years ago I lost 47 pounds and got to about 15 pounds from my goal weight…life got busy…regained 37 pounds. Now, why did I do that? That was the question I asked myself at the time. Why am I doing this? I’m not sure I ever really had a good answer to it….

    One of the things that was hard for me in getting back to losing again was the irrational thought in the back of my head that if I really started trying to lose that 37 pounds…I would be admitting that I had actually regained it. (Yes, I knew I had…but knowing and admitting are not the same thing).

    Eventually, I think my discontent at having regained and being obese was great enough that I finally was willing to admit it and start working to lose that 37 pounds. The good news is that it stuck and I did finally get to a couple of pounds below my “low” weight (still have about 13 pounds to do)….

    The thing I had to come to terms with was that if I didn’t really pay attention to what I was eating and doing then I was just going to keep gaining and I truly didn’t want that. Hard to do sometimes, though.

  10. Oh that creeper weight, you are so, so right, it does just appear sometimes, even when you aren’t doing anything that is necessarily a ‘bad habit.’ I am in that boat myself and just working towards being the best me (which hopefully means losing a few lbs in the process.)

  11. So.Much.Yes. (As in, I’m so in the same place right now.)

  12. Denisesays:

    I AM ALSO IN THE SAME PLACE RIGHT NOW. I gained 40 pounds last year because “Ehhh, I don’t care that much.” I didn’t go super overboard on anything. I still ate salads and vegetables. I cared a little bit, but my clothes fit (basically) and I wasn’t super unhappy (bloated: yes. Unhappy: not especially). I’m starting to care, though. When I’m naked and sitting in the bathtub and gather up my lower abdomen fat so it looks like a crowning baby head, bobbing in the water, I care a lot. Or when my bra gets caught in a back fat roll. Or when I have to exhale and hold my breath to toe my shoes and then I get all winded. Yowza.

    I should start a blog for this.

  13. I can completely relate! 2 years ago I lost about 50 lbs and over the course of the last 2 years have regained 60. I’ve blamed it on a lot of things, but what it really comes down to is that I just stopped taking care of myself… so I’ve recommitted to taking care of me this year!

  14. I could have written this post almost exactly. I’ve gained back 60 of the 90 pounds I lost slowly but surely over two years. I’m also now trying to focus more on fitness, exercise, and health instead of whittling myself down via a very low calorie diet. Time to do this the right way. Best wishes to you as you work on things this year.

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