Awhile ago, I started following the blog of a young woman who set about losing weight. Her starting weight was very similar to mine (around 380 lbs.) and she talked about how she was making certain changes to her eating habits and planning a new way of living. I had a few brief exchanges with her as she had asked me some questions, and I offered some unsolicited advice. Of course, she had her own plan based on business principles and how she can modify those ideas to fit her weight loss goals and I stopped commenting rather quickly when it became clear that my advice was not of interest to her.
Clearly, this was an intelligent and successful young woman, and she was very gung-ho about getting her house in order when it came to her issues with her weight. She posted "before" pictures of herself, and talked about her daily routine changes. At one point, she tossed out the idea of whether or not posting weekly photos would be a good idea to track progress. This was an idea that most people were very positive about, but I cautioned that I felt that it might make the process of tracking more cumbersome if she posted them weekly (I advised no more often than monthly) as well as possibly discouraging because she may not see noticeable changes in photos from week to week.
Shortly after she talked about posting weekly photos, she talked about consultation with a bariatric surgeon, but not in a way which indicated that undergoing such surgery was imminent. In a very short span of time (June 23 - July 1), she stopped posting at all about weight loss and deleted her domain and blog. I was sad to see this, because usually people who stop posting have "given up" on their efforts. Mind you, if she has decided to simply accept her body as is and just abandon weight loss altogether, it's all good. I don't think anyone has to lose weight. They just have to be happy with who they are. However, the chances that she has embraced fat acceptance and vanished are low. It is far more likely that she has simply decided to not try to accomplish a goal she continues to desire and has erased the "evidence" that she ever tried.
This is a pattern that I see time and again with people who write weight loss blogs, and one of the things that is of value to me as someone who wants to be involved in weight loss counseling in the future is why these people stop trying. The thing that I notice about such folks is that they often try to change everything in their lives all at once. They want to go from the equivalent of being a baby crawling on the floor to an adult marathon runner in days rather than to first learn to stand, walk with support, and totter about the room on uncertain legs until those legs are strong enough to carry them further. They are very motivated to get every change in as rapidly as possible, and ultimately, they don't have the mental or physical legs to stand on and find themselves stumbling and falling all too often and give up.
My single biggest piece of (unwanted) advice for people who want to make a lifestyle change, and this relates to everything, not just weight loss is to start with a small snowball and roll it carefully and deliberately to make it bigger. Don't try to rewrite your entire existence overnight. Don't make big goals that you are likely to fail at. Make the initial goals small with the idea of ramping up the difficulty through time. Don't decide you're going to "live right" every day and make a multitude of changes all at once, but rather simply make one small, but meaningful, change and make that change absolutely routine. Once it is natural and you're doing it with ease, increase the difficulty level and work at that level until it is routine and then push ahead again. Make it so you succeed every day, because the goal is within your grasp.
A lot of studies assert that small changes are not enough to lose weight, but that is because they are talking about small changes being made and things stop there. The small changes have to slowly grow to be bigger ones, and that will take one down a path to a long-term lifestyle change which has the ability to stick because you've made those changes part of your routine bit-by-bit. If you try to do too much too soon, you'll find that it's too much to manage and there will be so much stress on your body and your mind that you'll give up.
One thing that I am ever mindful of is that everything I have done is part of a long, slow slope. That slope for the past 15 months has been one of gradual reduction of calories and gradual increase of non-food-related activity (including thinking) and movement. Instead of trying to climb a steep mountain as fast as possible, I've been on a long and winding path with an angle that is usually moderately challenging (though sometimes with rough patches). Now, I'm pretty comfortable where I am, and am far from where I started, but I never could have scaled that distance at a sprint and succeeded.
There are two things I come away from this understanding with that are of value to me (and possibly to others). The first is that the changes stick much better when made slowly. The second is that the path up this slope was gradual, but I have to be ever mindful that slowly slipping back down is always possible. Just as I made small changes to get where I am today, making small changes in the other direction will lead back to where I was. I have to be vigilant about not allowing almost imperceptible changes toward eating more, moving less, and being inattentive to mental processes related to food to carry me back down. The slope isn't slippery, but it is still easier to travel down that hill than up.
In regards to the blogger I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I "warned" her in a soft fashion about going too fast. I cautioned her about making too many changes right at the start, especially at such a high weight when small changes and less Draconian measures would have brought results. I tried to tell her not to make the process more cumbersome than it had to be by creating a fussy tracking method, but like most people I offer my unsolicited advice to, she charged down another path. Maybe she's succeeding wildly and just stopped blogging. Maybe she is happy with who she is now. Chances are though that, like many people, she tried too hard to run before she could walk and gave up.
I hate to see people fail, which is why I bother to offer my opinion, but I'm beginning to think it probably would be best just to keep it to myself. People have to live their lives the way they choose, and they have to learn from their own mistakes. It's really not my place to direct them or tell them what to do. The part of me that lives in the mental and physical pain of being fat and doesn't want anyone else to suffer as I have (and still do, but to a lesser extent) finds it hard to keep quiet though. Perhaps my ego also directs me to believe that I have something of value to offer to others, but, perhaps, I only have something of value to me. Weight loss may just be one of those things which is too personalized for anyone to truly help you but yourself.