In June of 2013, I weighed 162 pounds.
In June of 2014, 153.
In June of 2015, 142.
And today, in August 2022, the scale read 135.
I am 5 feet, 5 inches tall.
Why am I sharing these stats? Because if you have type 2 diabetes, chances are good that at some point, maybe yesterday or this morning, you carried some extra pounds.
And if that is true, chances are also good that a doctor or endo or nurse practitioner took you aside – maybe after a glucose tolerance test, maybe when your A1c crept up a point or three – to tell you – kindly or not so kindly – that getting that weight off could extend your life.
It might have been the first time a doctor told you that news, or maybe the 25th.
Yet, no matter, because chances are good you knew everything they said before they spoke a word. Because you have, like most women and men in the U.S., always been on a diet or on a succession of diets that start every Monday morning of every year since you were 14. And you have a mantra: This will be the day, week, month, year that things will change, and I will succeed.
Success is losing the weight. And maybe – much harder – keeping it off.
Knowledge is no problem. You know calories and macros and carbs. You know the green foods and the white foods and how nuts are good, but not too many. You know the drill. You know because you’ve signed up on Weight Watchers or Lose It or NOOM. You know because your mother and your mother before her ate dry toast and tuna fish and cottage cheese and a salad by day and boxes or raisinettes and bridge mix by night.
But here’s what I never figured out until the stretch from 2014 to 2022: It’s not about counting carbs or calories. Or even, though it can help, writing it all down. Here’s the secret that really isn’t a secret: It’s all about figuring out who you are and what you really, really want.
What do I mean by that? I love food. I love chocolate and popcorn and vegetables. I love cake. I love ice cream, the richer the better. But what I realized, sometime around June of 2014, was that I valued my health a little bit more. And I decided – almost as an experiment – to eat a little bit less and see what came next.
At first, I left a few bites on the plate, no big deal. It might be salad; it might be fish. It was rarely dessert. But then I thought, I really don’t like eating animals, so I switched most of my diet to become a pescatarian. That took a while. I decided not to give up alcohol because I enjoyed my daily drink, but I decided to have dessert only 3 times a week.
Sometimes I gained a few pounds, sometimes I lost. I kept track but tried not to care when it went up – or down. I was experimenting and wanted to see where this might go. It took 7 years. My lowest weight was 128, but people kept asking if I were sick and I realized if I wanted to exercise regularly, I needed more food for energy.
I don’t know you. I don’t know how long you want to live or whether you’re carrying lots of muscle or whether you want to be size 6 for your daughter’s wedding. I don’t know if you worry about nerve damage from diabetes or if you couldn’t care less. No matter who you are or what you want, I am not here to judge.
But here are things I know. When I thought about what I wanted, I realized that I wanted to be there when (and if) my children had children. I wanted to age into old age as healthy as I could be. I didn’t want to be crippled by complications from diabetes. Losing weight did not mean I could ditch my diabetes drugs – although that may be true for some. Losing weight did not make me prettier or younger or richer
But because of HOW I lost the weight I do know myself better. I know what’s important to me. I lost weight because I wanted to improve my health. You may want to fit into a dress or have the energy to competitively run. Or a million other things.
My advice is simple: Sit down for as long as it takes and figure out your why.
You may decide you don’t want to lose weight, and that’s fine, too. Because in the end, all that matters is that it is up to you.
Photo Credit: Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd / DigitalVision via Getty Images
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