Just as failure and relapse rates are high in substance abuse, so too they are in our attempts to overcome food addictions and achieve weight loss goals. I want to throttle every person who quotes statistics on the effectiveness of rehabilitative programs. Today’s piece is a guest blog from my friend Jackie Conn, author of Sooner of Lighter (great blog). Her insights highlight how we can be more effectively support of one another’s goals:
It’s not a secret that I lost weight by attending Weight Watchers meetings. Now I’m the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. Yes, it’s a job and yes, I get paid for my work. I get paid in more important ways than just money. I give and receive confidence about lasting weight management success. In a world where statistics say otherwise and we can’t escape the failure rate, Weight Watchers meetings are the place where thousands of people in Maine (and millions of people around the world) work together to beat the odds.
My struggle with food and my weight is the toughest battle I may ever fight. Outsiders don’t understand the fight. They simply enjoy food or use it only to meet the needs of their body. Food keeps me alive and I use it to cope with pain. Sometimes when I feel like I have no friends, and my troubles overwhelm me, food feels like the only thing that can help me.
I’ve been working hard to learn healthier ways to cope. I am changing my relationship with food. I want to fulfill my nutritional requirements, eat enough to feel satisfied and enjoy some treats from time to time. I am doing all that I can to turn food into “just food” and not a threat to my mental and physical wellbeing. I have lost weight and I’m healthier for it.
I am aware of the dismal weight loss maintenance statistics. I know that more people fail than succeed. Yes, some research concludes that failure rate is as high as 99%. I know that, and I know I want to do something that many people wanted to do but could not. I get subtle and not so subtle reminders. They’re more than I care to hear. Relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers feel the need to recite failure stats.
They have a variety of motives. Some tell me out of love that most people fail at maintenance. It’s a genuine loving effort to help me escape the culpability when it happens to me. There’s pity in their eyes and the unspoken message is, “don’t take it personally when you slip. It’s just what happens.”
Others share the failure stats for less altruistic reasons because they didn’t succeed. “Everybody, well almost everybody, fails. What makes you think you’re so special?”
I’d like to say that I’m not bothered by the high rate of failure. I am; why wouldn’t I be? I’ve discovered that getting to goal isn’t the end of my fight. I have to keep working. I have to stay vigilant to ensure I don’t fall back into old behaviors. It’s not a matter of fat is in remission. I’m not cured; I’m actively working at managing. If I don’t work at maintenance, weight gain follows.
Your lack of faith in me affects me. I would prefer that you believe in me. When I doubt myself, it’s discouraging to know most people would likewise bet I’d fail. It would be easier to fail. I could just go back to normal. Sometimes life gets overwhelming. I want to escape stress and strong emotions.
Self-medicating with highly palatable food to avoid what’s bothering me is tempting. I know that starting down that road is more than risky, but I really want to go there. Making choices that support my weight goal will never be automatic. I worry that I can’t keep this up and I know my fear is supported by a high failure rate.
I’d like it you expressed faith in me. If you won’t do that, then I’ll use your lack of faith for motivation. I’ll draw power from it. I like to do things people tell me I can’t do.
Statistics don’t apply to me. I don’t care what the fail percentage is. I’m not “everybody,” I’m me. The decision to fail or succeed is up to me. Your lack of faith becomes my determination. I will do this because I can.