October 19, 2011


The great thing about writing a blog is that really, anyone can do it. That's also one of the most interesting things about it, I think - some people write long stories, some share short excerpts from their day-to-day, some people post mostly pictures, and other share only raw data. But everyone, no matter what his or her background with writing, can sit down with a computer and express his or her ideas, sharing them with the world after a few keystrokes and clicks.

For one reason or another, some blogs get to be fairly well-known. These blogs don't conform to any one specific category, but there's still a common thread. We, the readers, see small glimpses of ourselves in their posts, and no matter what means they use for expressing themselves, we appreciate their candor and our ability to relate to them.

When I first started reading weight loss and healthy living blogs, I was voracious - I couldn't get enough. I scanned blogrolls and comments, trying to find anyone else who could possibly have some advice or experiences I could glean. Some names I saw more often than others, but for some reason, I didn't investigate right away.

One of those was Jewlia Goulia.

Julia was a girl about my age, slightly taller but around the same starting weight. I finally started following her as she transitioned into onederland; I was about thirty pounds behind, and devoured her posts. She shared her fears as well as her victories, and I ached and cheered along side her. A photographer, she boldly posted a series of tasteful nude photographs of her transitioning body; the honesty both inspired and motivated me. I wanted to lose weight like Julia, but mostly, I wanted to be brave and own my success like Julia. Silently, from my own little corner of the internet, I idolized her.

Then, her posts slowed. And her mother passed away, and she posted even less. It was understandable, but still upsetting - reading blogs, especially when someone shares as much as Julia did, you feel like you know these people. These are friends, we're in this together. Her less-frequent posts upset me, for selfish reasons, but also, because I worried about her.

She was in the 180s, the 190s, bouncing around, and one day, she posted a goodbye. There were many reasons, most unlisted, and ultimately, her decision was to stop publicly blogging and focus instead on her health, her marriage, and her offline life. I was as heartbroken as I was confused. Heartbroken, because again, this was someone whose journey I wanted so desperately to follow and support. And confused, because I didn't quite understand how someone could start in the 300s, do all the work to get to onederland, and then struggle.

The more research I did on situations like hers, the more common I discovered it was. You find stories of people who lose hundreds of pounds, only to regain most of it, or all of it, or end up even bigger than when they started. How can that happen? How can you regain when you know how good it feels to be healthy, to be properly fed, to finally do right by your body?

Right now, I'm where Julia left off weight-wise ... fighting my way through the first decade of onederland, hoping to get safely into the 180s and continue to work my way towards my long-term goal. That, among other reasons, is part of why I've been blogging less. And even though I can't begin to understand her emotional specifics, I am finding myself confused and conflicted and wishing for the attitude I had thirty, sixty, ninety, over a hundred pounds ago.

This is what I wanted - this is what I worked so hard for - so why am I struggling *now*?

It seems counterintuitive. For so long, it was so easy to say no to processed junk and empty calories, to try and beat the clock on Saturdays and finish my 1200 calorie elliptical workout before the gym closed, to not eat the calories I burned exercising. The beginning is when it's supposed to be tough, right? Logic says getting started should be hard, not staying the course.

Well, maybe not.

As exciting as it is, and as hopeful as we are that we'll get there, onederland is still a terrifying place for those of us who are fighting tooth and nail against the odds. The paradox of weighing 345 pounds is that you know (and are told) that you need to be willing to fight hard and change so much of your life in order to get healthy, even though you know (and are told) that statistically, you either (a) won't make it to your goal or (b) won't be successful long-term with maintenance if you do make it. Every day, I wake up wanting to be my healthiest and feel my best. And even though these ideas are at the front of my mind, in the back still lurks the voice whispering that it doesn't matter what I want, I am not meant to succeed at this. Some days, it's easy to scream back Like hell I won't, and I work out and eat well. But when the rest of life gets stressful and it feels like you're giving all you have to fight simply for your sanity, this tends to be an easy place to concede.

I've written on this several times before, so bear with me, but I'm so damn close. This isn't every other time. I haven't lost three pounds, or ten, or thirty. I've lost 150 pounds. And I only have about 40-60 more to go. I think that when Ben wrote about his own struggles with the last few pounds, he summed it up perfectly: the last few pounds are the hardest because they matter the least. I'm not 345 pounds anymore. My struggles now are not what they were then, both physically and mentally. I eat well most of the time - I have off days, but so does everyone. I stay active. I'm happy and self-confident and incredibly different from the girl I used to be - again, with the occasional off day, but overwhelmingly, I couldn't be happier with who, what, and where I am right now.

So, Julia, wherever you are, I hope that all is well with you. I can't possibly understand the specifics of your unique situation, but for what it's worth, I still think of you and how strong and brave you are. I hope you're happy and healthy and in love with life. With you in mind, I'm going to keep making as many good decisions as possible, and hope that I can be someone's Jewlia Goulia. That someone might be as affected by my story as I was by yours. That someone might read what I have to say and realize that even though I'm fighting against the odds, I'm still out there fighting. That I do the best I can with what I have, I give it my all. And that folks understand when I need to refocus a bit on my offline self.


timothy said...

well darlin you are definately cared about and i look forward to seeing your posts (good or bad!) though i admit i do worry when you have a bad day/week bloggers really are like family. i know i still miss some of my yahoo360 friends that fell through the cracks when it bit the dust (rip 360 and DAMN YOU YAHOO! lol) hopefully i can pay it forward too and inspire others as you and so many have inspired/motivated me! xoxoxoxoxo

Caron said...

Even though I'm now maintaining my weight instead of trying to lose, I still love to read about successful people (like you) who have lost tons of weight.

Maintaining can be boring but I still sometimes have those great flashes of motivation and think, "Today is a great day to be healthy, eat right and exercise." I know how easy it can be to gain and my goal weight is a tool to help stop me from going up. I hope you don't stop writing as you are one of the best! :)

Weight Wars said...

You are my Julia. For real. Your struggles inspire me because I know it can still be done even if you struggle sometimes, your enthusiasm for life makes me smile and I'll be sad if you ever go away. So don't!

Kelly said...

I was an avid reader of Julia's too. I remember when we were right around the same weight and then she sailed right past me...and I was jealous, but so excited for her. I miss her tons. Weird how you can miss someone who you've never met, but it's true.

At first I thought maybe you were saying goodbye too! Phew! So glad you're not. :)

Jessica said...

This is a great post Mary. I can't wait to watch you meet your goals!

Stacey said...

You are my Julia as well. Not sure when or how I stumbled across your blog, but I'm glad I did. I have the same weaknesses you do and I'm scared that the weight will come back on. I struggle with the last 30 lbs as well. It was 20 but gained back 10 and that scared me so much. I'm going on 3 years since my weightloss journey started and glad to say I've kept off the 100+ lbs I lost. I hope that you don't disappear on us. I love reading about your journey!

Brenda said...

As I read this I kept thinking, "this is how I feel about Mary." I can't imagine my days without you and all that you share. It seems so self-centered because I give nothing but I glean from your experiences every day. I also miss Jewlia Goulia but I'm just thankful I have oh_mg. You play as big a role in my life as Jewlia did. Thanks for keeping up the fight and showing me how to be successful.

Greg (Transformed and Scaled) said...

Well said, Mary. I remember one of the first fitness blogs I ever read just up and disappearing one day this spring, and it kind of felt like a friend went missing. You get used to talking with your fellow bloggers, sharing their journeys with them.
And I know what you mean about struggling nearer to the end of your goal. I'm so close, yet the motivation seems to have dried up. I've basically maintained since June, when I've only got a few pounds left to get me to where I want to be. That drive isn't there anymore because it's not as big a deal to me now, I guess. And yet it's still annoying that I can't seem to get there. Oh well, I'll hopefully find a way.
Good luck on your continuing quest!

Amy said...

This is such a fabulous post. I miss Julia's blog too. I read it all the time and found her to be such an inspiration.

I've obviously been following your blog since very close to the beginning and it's incredible to see how far you've come. It's one of those things we can often lose sight of how far we've come. How great we felt when X happened for the first time.

The feeling of being able to run a minute straight... two minutes...

I think that you are such an inspiration to read about, and while you may struggle right now, the important thing is that you keep thinking about how much better it feels to be healthy, and that your motivation is never going anywhere.

Don't forget how you felt at 345 because you know you don't want to get back there.

On a smaller scale I know what it feels like to go back to where you were, and then some. It's an awful feeling, and fighting the fight is SO MUCH harder the second time around... which I'm guessing you've noticed because I am still struggling to get out the door.

Spoonful of Me said...

While I was reading this, all I could think about was that you were my "Julia" and how I felt when you posted Goodbye and that you were not sure when you would be back. Thankfully you were back right away.

Carbie Girl said...

Im with all of the above... you're our Julie. My journey thus far feels like its been far too easy. I'm keeping the paranoia at bay because if I allow it to take over anxiety is my worst enemy but I do have that nagging fear that getting into the 170's-160s is going to freak me out. It helps a LOT to see the struggles that everyone else goes through. we all have so much in common and go through the same issues it helps to see we aren't the only ones struggling and it helps even more to see the possibility of triumph.

Tim said...

I've never read Jewlia's blog but you summed up exactly how I feel about your blog. You're our Mary, we all love your blog and think you're superb. Keep going, keep writing and keep being you!

Meghan said...

Julia's blog was the very first one that I found when I was losing weight. I stalked her page before I even had my own blog that I wrote. I miss her too. But, you know what? I had one friend on Blogger and then someone (YOU!) added me! You were my first "real" blogger friend because I knew the only one followed me!

You are my Julia! I absolutely love, love, LOVE your blog and you! You inspire me, answer my dumb questions, and prove to me that it's freaking hard but we CAN do it! You ARE doing it.

You found me on blogger but I'm pretty sure it has been more of a benefit to me!

Take breaks with your writing if need be. Don't burn yourself out. But, PLEASE don't ever leave!

Ashley said...

My goodness, I miss Julia SO much. I felt like she was a good friend of mine, we Facebooked, tweeted, Words with Friendsed, and commented on each others blogs all the time. Then it just all stopped and she was gone. I felt like a friend died. She inspired me so so so much, but so do you! Through your struggles and successes, I always find more inspiration, more motivation. But Mary, promise me one thing.. please don't just go away like Julia did. Stay around, even if that means less posting! We're all here to cheer you on, see your progress, and be inspired!

Katie Foster said...

"The last few pounds are the hardest because they matter the least." --WOW, thank you for writing that!! I definitely agree with that statement. THAT is why I've been struggling for the last year with these pounds that nobody would even notice if I lost!

Maren said...

It's funny to think that it's still going to be hard at the finish line. Because that's where all woes disappear and unicorns and fairy godmothers appear and all is bliss. Right?


screaming fatgirl said...

I think it gets harder as you get near the finish line for both biological and psychological reasons. At over 200 lbs., the body is more willing to give up weight. As you hit the under 200 line and get lower, there's a different response as chances are that 200 lbs. is a functional high weight. That is, if you were in a survival situation, you would be capable of moving and securing more food at 200 lbs. Mobility is impacted at higher weights in a way which would impede survival. As you get under 200, I believe that the body says, "this is the amount of fat you should store for when hard times hit."

So, part of it is likely that the body is fighting you harder as you get lower. Part of it is also psychology as you feel "good enough" in the 180's/190's and further effort becomes difficult to dredge up. Beyond that, I am convinced that a lot of it is that people do not form a sound relationship with food. They continue to practice a distorted view with a multitude of challenges which they never overcome (e.g., viewing food moralistically, believing in "trigger foods", chastising themselves for eating "too much", etc.). Since focusing on food and weight loss often makes people more disordered in their relationship with food, they are mentally in a bad place with food as the finish line looms ahead. People need to "normalize" their relationship with food as they go, but most can't do anything but "radicalize". You can't live in that space mentally forever, so people re-gain as they drift out of their radical space.

The first time I lost weight, I radicalized both in terms of exercise (unsustainable as I got older) and food. This time, I've lost about 200 lbs. and used a normalization technique which has served me much better. I've also worked very hard on identity issues which I have had plenty of. I think that identity problems are the second big reason people regain. They don't know who they are when they are no longer super overweight because that is the identity assigned them and the only one they truly know. During the weight loss phase, they replace, "fat and unhealthy" with "losing weight and healthy". These are shallow identities that will not see a person through so you've got to find out who you are on a much more meaningful level or the emptiness that will come up and smack you in the face as you reach your goal will scare you back into your old self.

Most people regard weight loss as a mechanistic process which involves objective changes in habits and lifestyle. I view it as a psychological one which results in those changes but is not driven by them. My hope is that this approach will ensure that I never become so heavy again. So far,so good.

marisol said...

I miss Julia's blog as well. But like many have said, you are our Mary & you motivate and inspire us. I think with healthy living communities you become friends with people and it's hard for them to leave. We are there to encourage you when you are feeling down and to celebrate the highs in your life. It's a give & take relationship.

Anonymous said...

Great post! & thank you for your comment on my blog - I sincerely appreciate all of my readers encouragement & tips. And I think Ben is on to something w/ the "last few pounds" - feeling like we're "okay" already...
Hmmm. I'm far from goal still - but I don't feel as gross as I did before - hmmm, lightbulb moment??!!

MS said...

I only recently began reading your blog, but I am inspired and impressed with the depth of reflection you have. Reading your posts causes me to think about my own journey. Thank you for sharing.

Hyla said...

Powerful post woman.

I am happy to see your spirits lifted!