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Health

15 Things People Don't Tell You About Extreme Weight Loss

It has its pros and cons, like anything else.

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Hi, I'm Arielle! In May 2015, I embarked on a lifestyle change and have completely overhauled my eating habits, fitness goals, and outlook on life.

Instagram: @ariellesays

You can read all about my weight loss journey here, which includes tips and my own personal experiences.

I have yo-yo dieted all my life, and I never imagined being genuinely happy with how I felt inside my body.

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But that's where I'm at right now — 15 months and 110 pounds down after starting my weight loss journey. Here are some things that surprised me along the way:

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FYI: My experience probably won't be like everyone else's. Why would it? Each person's body composition goals are unique, and this just happens to be my experience getting healthy and learning to love my body (which, for me, included losing weight).

I'll talk a lot about being healthier in this post, and what I'm talking about is what's healthier for me personally (as opposed to some objective standard of healthiness, because what even is that?). And btw, you should always consult a doctor before changing your diet or exercise routine.

1. Just because I've reached most of my goals, it doesn't mean I no longer need some of the structures that got me here in the first place.

Instagram: @ariellesays

Maintenance can be even harder than losing the weight itself. When I began my journey, I was fueled by success, non-scale victories, and a newfound confidence I gained from becoming a healthier and happier me. But once I began to reach that weight range I’d been gunning for, I started to think, “Well, I’ve already lost a ton of weight. I don’t NEED to track anymore” or “I'll just go with the flow and not prepare my meals this week.”

But the point of this journey wasn't to get to a certain weight and then be done. My goal was to tweak my habits in a way that was sustainable and actually fits into my lifestyle. Continuing to track my food, activity, and water intake helps keep me balanced and accountable, and it proves to still be a key element in this stage of my journey.

2. But I also have to remind myself that because it is a full-on lifestyle change, it’s not a rush, and I have to be patient and kind to my body.

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As a person who's had a very unhealthy relationship with food in the past, it is extremely important for me to not take drastic measures if I have a bad week, and to forgive myself if I go off the rails. Gaining a few pounds over the weekend will not undo everything I've done, and it's not fair or fun to beat myself up for being human.

Sometimes I want to be perfect, and eat everything "right" or "whole," but I was surprised to discover that cutting myself some slack and indulging once in a while is the best way to keep me balanced and happy.

3. This weight loss journey has become a part of my identity, and sometimes I don't know how to feel about it.

Instagram: @ariellesays

I am no longer the "heavy girl," but once people get to know me (and to everyone who knew me before this), I am the girl who lost a ton of weight, and it feels like my personality is in self-discovery mode. I am struggling to figure out who I am BEYOND this weight loss.

As much as I want to claim I am the same person I was at the beginning of this, that wouldn’t be truthful or accurate. Overall, I am certainly a happier, more confident person who is willing to be more adventurous and carefree — I am just in a weird life transition, and it feels like I am experiencing the social changes of college all over again.

4. My relationships with friends and family have changed; some have grown stronger, and some have become more distant.

Arielle Calderon

When you embark on a big lifestyle change like this, you aren’t just adjusting your eating habits and physical activity. Your interests, hobbies, and thought processes change, too. Even my relationships have changed.

For instance, I have an aunt who is also doing Weight Watchers, and instead of just seeing each other once a year at Thanksgiving, we now text regularly and have a stronger bond. One of my friends from college is now probably my closest friend, because we share more interests and can confide in each other about struggles and wins with weight loss. Some friendships have grown apart, because our relationships were so heavily fueled by social drinking and eating. I think the hardest part about this lifestyle change is that I never anticipated my friendships would shift.

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5. In terms of dating, a deep panic sets in when the subject of my weight loss comes up.

Instagram: @ariellesays

I am always in fear of what my dates will think if they google my name and see my Instagram or BuzzFeed posts. Will they be totally turned off by my story? Will they be supportive about the fact that I rarely drink and that health and fitness play such an important role in my life? Are they internally questioning things about my body? It’s all just so much pressure, and I never know how guys will react. Dating is stressful enough as it is, and I just want to avoid the awkward subject, but I can’t.

6. When I'm out to eat with friends or people familiar with my story, I'm afraid they're diligently watching what I'm eating and making silent judgments.

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Whether it's because I'm eating a salad and not drinking, or if I decide to go all in and eat whatever I'm craving, I'm secretly worried that people are taking notes and making judgments about me. If this is actually true, I'll probably never know, but it does make me more self-conscious than I'm comfortable with.

7. Some days I am still scared that I will spiral out of control and gain everything back.

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This is an irrational thought, but it is also a very real one. It is especially heightened when I’m traveling and I go in the “fuck it, I’m on vacation” mode, and I binge to the point where I’m not sure I can bounce back. Like going hard on sweets, hiding it from friends out of guilt, or overeating in general. I'm aware that this is a problem for me, and it terrifies me when I lose control that way.

While I would be upset if I reversed my hard work, I think there’s a deeper fear there of disappointing everyone else and having my failure displayed on a very public level.

8. I'm no longer afraid of "taking up space," and I realize that I never should have been.

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In the past, I had always been aware of my body, but in a “I don’t want to inconvenience anyone” type of way. I always felt shamed by the stares, the eye-rolls, and the "ughs" whenever I took up more space than some people wanted, and so I felt compelled to do something about it, as if it were my fault.

I’d sit in an airplane seat and fold my arms uncomfortably, attempting to make my body smaller, just so that I wouldn’t touch my neighbor and annoy them. Or if I was sharing a bed with a friend at a hotel, I’d make sure I was at the very edge of the mattress and taking up as little space as possible.

I don’t do these things anymore, and I feel for the people who still do. It was a terrible way to live, and I wish I had just enjoyed myself instead of letting my weight control me. No one deserves to feel like they are inconveniencing others by just living their life.

9. Non-scale victories have become the most important measures of my success.

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I have gone on many diets in my life, and the constant issue is that I always set unrealistic expectations and goals. It was as if I had to go extreme or give up and do nothing. Over and over I made the same mistake of being sedentary and overeating, to eating way less and going hard AF with salads every day and the gym five days a week. It was because I wanted to lose all the weight as soon as possible, but I have since learned that slow and steady does in fact win the race. This time, instead of focusing on a number, I set small goals and celebrated non-scale victories.

After losing 100+ pounds, this is more important than ever — mostly because losing weight at this point is much, much harder than when I started. When I do gain some weight, I have to remind myself of the other accomplishments — like having the confidence to rock a crop top, or being able to hold a 30-second plank without feeling like I'm about to collapse. Focusing on how my strength, endurance, attitude, and quality of life has changed is what keeps me motivated when the scale won't budge.

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10. I actually crave fresh produce and whole foods.

Instagram: @ariellesays

Do I still want chocolate and desserts sometimes? Hell yes — I have a serious sweet tooth! But overall, I actually want to eat veggies and grilled salmon as opposed to fried chicken and mac ’n' cheese. It's crazy how the small changes can turn into permanent ones.

11. While documenting my journey has made me extremely vulnerable, it also keeps me motivated.

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Creating a public Instagram about my lifestyle change was a tough decision that I didn't take lightly, but I knew it would make me accountable and inspired to keep going. Looking at other Instagram accounts during my beginning stages was extremely motivating, and I hoped I could pay it forward and help people who were starting their journeys.

12. Inspiring and cheering on others has been the most rewarding part of this process.

Arielle Calderon

Reading the emails people send me, seeing the before and after pictures people tag me in, and reading the comments about how my personal experience has helped them start theirs, is a reward I would never trade.

For the first time in my life, it feels like I am doing something meaningful. I am not saying I am some diet and fitness expert (seriously, I'm not, and you should always consult your doctor and dietician!), but seeing the impact I've made on someone's life, however big or small it is, is the best thing about my entire lifestyle change.

13. But because of that, strangers tend to constantly ask me the same very personal questions.

Arielle Calderon

"Do you have loose skin?"

"What was your starting weight and how much do you currently weigh?"

"What size are you now? What size did you start with?"

I understand that people are curious, or that they might be seeking answers to their own issues and fears. But there are some things I don't want to publicly share. I wish people would remember that while I am pretty open, I need a bit of privacy. 😁

14. Constantly buying new clothes is expensive...and worth it.

Instagram: @ariellesays

I have learned that thrift shops are your best friend.

What's also fascinating about extreme weight loss is that I never considered myself to have a certain style before. I was always limited to options in stores, and mostly just went with whatever was most flattering. I no longer feel bound to a specific clothing line, and it's quite liberating to try on outfits from stores I've never been able to shop in before — but it's also annoying that I was ever limited in the first place, and that it took me changing my body to gain this newfound freedom.

Basically, stores need to do better and expand their size range, ideally without labeling it as plus-size! It is NORMAL and OK to be a size 14, 16, 18, etc.

15. I have finally learned to truly love myself, and that is something extraordinary.

View this video on YouTube

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I always assumed that loving yourself was tied to a number: whether it was the number on the scale or the number on your clothing tag. But self-love and self-worth, for me, is about appreciating the person I've become.

A year and a half ago, I would have dreaded hiking despite the amazing view at the top of the trail. A year and a half ago, I wouldn't have dared sign up for a half-marathon because it would have been "impossible." A year and a half ago, I would have spent my summer on the couch instead of enjoying the New York sunset at an outdoor bar. A year and a half ago, I wouldn't have gone parasailing in fear that I weighed "too much."

I have completely changed as a person. I am curious, adventurous, more daring, stronger, nicer, more energetic, and best of all, genuinely confident in who I am. I was always meant to be in this skin, but the person inside was always meant to blossom into something more — and I am finally there.

If you'd like to keep up with my weight loss journey, you can follow me on Instagram!

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