Expectations

I spend the first part of each physical therapy session having heat applied to my leg. This gives me about 15 minutes to catch up on the latest gossip magazines. Last week, I was thumbing through an August issue of People when I stumbled on this article. It’s about five people who have lost 100 pounds, all through diet and exercise (read: no weight-loss surgery). Fantastic and inspiring, right? Not so fast.

Check out the after photos of these success stories. Yep, each one of these people posed in a bathing suit – the women all in bikinis!

Now, studies show that fully 95% of people who lose weight gain it back (imagine buying a product with that kind of failure rate. You never would!). Which means that there are a very few people who do lose and keep it off. For some reason, I’m one of those people. I’ve kept 60 pounds off (of the 90 I originally lost) for the better part of a decade now. So I’m a statistical outlier. But.

But I’m not skinny. I do not have a flat stomach that I would be comfortable showing off in a bikini. I’m not toned. I have muscles, sure, but my body in no way resembles any of the bodies shown in this article. Why? Because I haven’t had skin-removal surgery. I haven’t had a tummy tuck. I haven’t had my arms “fixed.” One of the women featured in the article claims that none of them have had surgery, but I don’t buy it, and neither do many of the people who have commented on the article. Despite these claims, I find it suspicious that every single one of their bodies would have toned and tightened to such a degree.

This article made me think about The Biggest Loser. As each season progresses, the female contestants go from wearing only sports bras and shorts to wearing fitted tank tops. Fitted tanks that are clearly compression tops. Why? Because, I believe, otherwise we would see sagging skin from the rapid weight loss. There’s no way skin can “bounce back” under such extreme circumstances. So, instead of showing us truth, they hide it beneath layers of spandex.

Weight loss stories are meant to be inspiring. Instead, I think they make a lot of people (like me) feel inadequate. It’s not enough to achieve and maintain weight loss (nearly impossible for many people), but you also have to be able to slip into a revealing two-piece swimsuit when you’re done. Your belly must be flat, and your arms and legs toned.

So what we have here is yet another story where the focus is on what you end up looking like, rather than how you feel. What is the metabolic health of these people? We don’t know. It’s not discussed (although The Biggest Loser does give us a peek at the metabolic changes the contestants go through). We only know that they look great in bikinis.

I say this to myself and to anyone else on a journey toward improved health: Let your focus be on how you feel, not how you look. It’s a tough battle, but one worth fighting.