One of my interviewees contacted me recently and shared that she was struggling with weight gain after divorce. She said she was feeling kinda hopeless about it and doubted that she could get a handle on her emotional eating. I know there’s a segment of people who lose weight going through divorce—the so-called divorce diet—but I wasn’t in that segment and nor is my reader. So I thought I’d focus this upcoming group of guests posts on the topic of losing weight after divorce. To kick things off, here’s my own personal story.
There have been very few times in life when I’ve been happy with my weight. Even in high-school and college when I was some twenty-four pounds lighter than I am now, I saw myself as “too big” or “too heavy.” I can chronicle my life with my weight: when I got married I was about where I was in college; after I lost the weight from my first pregnancy I was ten pounds lighter than now; when I was pregnant with my second I was about twelve pounds heavier; when I relocated to Colorado I was the same as I am now; when I left corporate America I was sixteen pounds lighter; when I got divorced I was ten pounds heavier and when I was ready to start dating I was about twenty pounds heavier than now. And so it goes. With that sort of history, I’m very skeptical about being able to take weight off and keep it off.
Losing Weight For Dating
Last year, just over four years after my divorce I decided I was ready to date and I participated in the Fit4love dating coaching program. In talking to my coach I knew that part of my reluctance to date was because I didn’t like the way I looked. Once again, I felt too heavy and I thought if I didn’t want to date someone who was overweight, why would anyone want to date me?
One of the exercises my coach had me do was about knowing my strengths and that encompassed physical, emotional, spiritual and creative strengths. Needless to say I struggled with the physical ones but my coach recommended Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman and I started to appreciate truly that there was more to my beauty than the number of pounds. That was a breakthrough … I started to be more interested in clothes and style, showing off my curves rather than hiding them, accepting me the way I was.
Losing Weight is a Process
Then as this summer approached, horror! I couldn’t comfortably fit into many of my clothes from last year. Coincidentally, my work was offering a weight loss program, ColoradoWeigh. The times when I’d been successful losing weight before I’d used WeightWatchers (I even made Lifetime membership) but I couldn’t face doing it, again. This program was twelve weeks, meeting weekly with a nutritionist. We tracked our food – I used MyFitnessPal on my phone which did make it easier and I love that you can scan bar codes. The formal program is over now and over it’s course I did succeed in shedding seventeen pounds. Yay!
I’m still following the program (I’d like to lose more) although I’m not tracking as diligently. I do think I will have to track one week a month quite possibly forever. The tracking helps me to see where I’m letting extra calories slip in or maybe slip on. Committing to tracking reminds me of Sue who I interviewed several years ago. She’d gone bankrupt after divorce and she explained that she had always had problems managing her money. When I spoke with her she was paying for everything with cash and tracked all her expenses each and every day. She said she saw her money problems the same way an alcoholic sees drinking. If the tracking kept her out of trouble, it was something she’d have to do for the rest of her life. It’s taken me a long time to realize or accept this however, I think I need to looking at my weight the same way Sue looks at tracking money.
What I really liked about the ColoradoWeigh program was that the nutritionist actually took our food diaries and reviewed them, giving us helpful hints to get rid of unnecessary calories and hidden fat grams. She also emphasized the importance of not thinking about weight loss as an “x-week program” – conscious, intentional eating just has to be a way of life.
Exercising For Weight Loss
Another component of the ColoradoWeigh program was counting steps with a pedometer. We just wore the pedometer for the first week and figured out the daily average. Then for each week of the program the daily average was increased by 500 steps. The goal was to get to at least 10,000. I had no problem meeting that goal and my secret weapon was the road bike I bought in May.
I’ve had a mountain bike/cruiser for many years but never really rode regularly. For the last couple of years I’d toyed with the idea of a road bike – I couldn’t see myself riding the mountain passes like the pro-riders do here but cycling around the country roads, out in the open seemed like something I could enjoy. When I saw that a local bike store was having a sale I took the plunge. It was definitely more of an impulse purchase so not the smartest way to shop but I have no regrets.
I’ve gone from not riding at all to riding maybe two or three times a week. I even completed my very first organized bike ride this past weekend – 51-miles! The amazing thing about cycling for me is that it doesn’t seem like exercise. I find myself thinking about whether I can squeeze in a ride rather than “I should go ride.” Even better, it doesn’t leave me feeling physically beat.
I’m not a weight-loss or exercise expert but the two do go together. I think what can make it really work is finding the exercise that speaks to you. My criteria are: must be outdoors; can socialize at the same time; doesn’t have to booked or planned ahead but could be; and must be inexpensive.
You’d think having got food journaling down to a fine art and having found an exercise that seems like play, I’d be all set. The reality is no and the culprit is emotional triggers. I think for any of us who struggle with weight gain and loss, these are the hardest. I think they can be relatively easy to tame while you’re on a formal program but afterwards they can come roaring back. My response to stress has always been to eat. Getting rid of stress would be a good solution but that’s probably not realistic. There’s always going to be something to stress about.
ColoradoWeigh got me started trying to recognize these emotional triggers and for me the trick isn’t about finding healthy snacks. When I’m in that stress-eating mode opening the pantry door is just plain dangerous. So my challenge is finding other outlets such as going for a bike ride or playing a game of solitaire or watching an episode of Law and Order.
I do wish that somehow I could get to my target weight and simple stay there, effortlessly like some people appear to do. But after so many ups and downs I know it isn’t going to happen that way. I’m just going to have to do it the hard way.
What has been your experience with weight loss after divorce? What’s worked for you? What motivates you to lose weight? How do you respond to emotional triggers?