Weight loss is a complicated journey. Those who embark on it are hoping to shed pounds, feel more energetic, be healthier, perhaps build self esteem — any number of positive outcomes.
What a lot of us don’t expect, however, is that making a major life change can come with unexpected side effects — both good and bad.
At our San Francisco office, we caught up with a trio of successful MyFitnessPal users who were beyond inspiring. These women lost more than 275 pounds collectively and have logged their weight, food and activity on MyFitnessPal for more than 5,600 days combined. Here are six revelations they shared about the surprising consequences of dropping major weight.
1. PEOPLE TREAT YOU DIFFERENTLY
You’re often seen as two different people from the “before” to the “after” phase. After losing more than 100 pounds, Jane Andrew found strangers were more willing to hold the door open for her at the store or say hello on the street.
“I didn’t realize how badly fat people are treated until I saw what it’s like when you’re not,” said the sales manager from San Francisco. And she’s not alone in that sentiment.
Karen Holmes, a kindergarten teacher from nearby Alameda, has seen the same phenomenon. The mother of two also lost more than 100 pounds, and she now notices how rude some people can be toward overweight strangers.
“I pay attention when I see really overweight people now and how people treat them,” Holmes said. “It makes me really upset. Like, I want to go over and take care of them somehow, because you’ll hear kids snickering — or even adults.”
2. SOME CALL YOU AN INSPIRATION
When Holmes started losing weight, she gained the confidence to post pictures of herself with her kids on Facebook. Her friends noticed her changing body and started sending private messages to tell her they were inspired by her weight loss.
Though being called an “inspiration” felt odd, Holmes says those messages held her accountable.
“Forget me — I almost don’t matter,” she said. “I didn’t want to let them down with gaining weight or stopping the process. So, in turn, it helped me.”
3. YOU CAN DO THINGS YOU NEVER IMAGINED
A lot of people are hopeful that somewhere along their fitness journey, they’ll discover a new favorite exercise that inspires them to keep moving. But some push so far outside their comfort zone, it’s like swimming with sharks — literally.
That’s what happened to Sian Llewellyn when she discovered open water swimming. After losing more than 75 pounds, the 55-year-old city planner from San Francisco now enjoys jumping into the ocean — without a wetsuit. The day after stopping by the Under Armour offices, she swam across the San Francisco Bay, from Alcatraz Island back to the city.
“I think I’m pretty adventurous, and [losing weight] has allowed me to be more adventurous than I would be otherwise,” she said.
4. YOU MIGHT REGAIN A FEW POUNDS
Holmes, Andrew and Llewellyn all gained about 10–15 pounds back after hitting their lowest weights. Regaining those few pounds can feel like a major setback after experiencing so much success. And with that comes a whole new set of challenges and emotions.
“I feel like, again, the rest of the world is looking at me like, ‘I told you. It’s not gonna work. It’s not gonna work,’” Holmes recounted. “I feel like I’m proving them all right or something.”
Gaining a few pounds after major weight loss is typical. The majority of contestants on the reality show “The Biggest Loser” regained anywhere from 13 to more than 100 pounds in the six years following their major weight loss on the show, according to a 2016 study by the National Institutes of Health. Losing a significant amount of weight can slow your metabolism and prompt an increase in hunger-inducing hormones, the research suggests.
If you’re in the middle of your weight-loss journey, don’t despair. Maintenance is hard work, but it’s possible to bust through your plateaus and keep the weight off, with a little planning and consistency.
5. YOUR BODY WILL CHANGE, BUT YOUR PERSONALITY WON’T
People who knew you before your weight loss might expect more than your pants size to change. Andrew recounted that some people said she seemed “happier.” In reality, she wasn’t any happier than she was before, and she was the same funny, outgoing person she’d always been.
Losing a significant amount of weight might come with new habits, but in the end, you’ll still be the same person.
“The sunshine didn’t come over me when I lost weight, and suddenly, I feel wonderful,” said Holmes. “I’m still the fat girl. Even when I’m physically not, I’m still the fat girl.”
That’s why it’s important to love yourself at every point during your weight-loss journey — no matter the number on the scale.
Said Llewellyn: “You wouldn’t be as mean to other people as you are to yourself.”