Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

Getting the ring is not the thing. It’s the long haul that matters.

I am in relative isolation, so there’s plenty of time to read good stuff on Medium. This morning, as I wait for my local Safeway to open (and hope I can find eggs) I found this from The Good Men Project:

7 Things No One Tells You About Losing 100 Pounds
There are some things you should know about losing significant amounts of weight

As someone who discarded (not lost, we find what we lose) around 80–85 lbs more than thirty-three years ago, it would be fair to say I know something about not only the process of getting it off, but perhaps far more importantly, keeping it off.

Here’s why it’s like getting married, in the worst possible sense:

Far too many of us -I would point this at women in particular since I am one, but this affects all of us- focus on The Big Day. We invest massive amounts of money, an average of $34k. We invest in getting our friends and family on board, we have huge high hopes that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY IN OUR LIVES. Remember that old sales pitch?

The Disney-esque notion of happily ever after. This is an article I wrote about the damnation of wedding vows:

Weapons of Destruction
When wedding vows become prison cells

We make promises we cannot possibly keep in the dewy-eyed moment of full commitment. Later, one or the other or both hurls horrible accusations when Life in all its terrible authority gets in the way of impossible promises.

When you and I focus solely on the brass ring of weight loss, on achieving The Big Number, we lose sight of the fact that we might have done much the same thing to ourselves. With all that emphasis on The Big Goal, we forget that the real work, as in marriages, is about to start. After that, it never, ever ends.

While courting, falling in love, like losing weight (and the latter is nowhere near as fun) are hard enough work, you and I ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

It is far too easy to succumb to the notion that the most important thing is reaching the goal: I got the girl/guy!! I lost the weight!!!

Yah. Kindly. At the risk of really pissing you off, get over yourself.

Stats both for the long term success of marriages as well as for significant weight loss sustainability are both not particularly good. To wit:

How Long Does the Average Couple Stay Married?
Getting married is an exciting event and it can bring some big life changes. You may be moving in together for the…

Gah. That’s awful. My hand is up here. Mine lasted four years. Those who remarry have an even worse success rate.

As for weight loss, look. We are far better at finding things than losing them. When it comes to poundage, what we lose usually moves right back in and those pounds bring all their relatives with them.

To that, sadly:

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong
From the 16th century to the 19th, scurvy killed around 2 million sailors, more than warfare, shipwrecks and syphilis…

The writer for The Good Men Project doesn’t reveal how long he’s been lighter. That’s the acid test. Too many stats only say that you and I have been successful if we’ve maintained our new bodies for a year.

A YEAR? What about the rest of our lives?Which, kindly, til death do us part means precisely the same thing?

The day you and I reach our weight loss goal is a big day indeed. However, if you have real courage, just as in making a lifetime (read, for now) commitment to a partner, you know in your heart of hearts that you have just entered a commitment for body care for the rest of your life.

Big or small, thin or fat, you are now in the barrel. Virtually all we now know about weight loss is that from here on out, you cannot eat the normal calories for your age/weight, you have to exercise a lot more to maintain. Kindly. I am the poster child for this. I would never, ever try to sell you the lie that once you’ve said goodbye to your fat pants, it’s smooth sailing.

If I had a closet full of all the clothing that I bought for a body that ranged from a size 2 to a size 18 over the years, (until 1987) I could clothe the entire female contingent of a smallish college campus.

Not only that: as with marriages, age and life and kids change our bodies. When you’ve lost a ton of weight, please, consider what happens to the female form after pregnancy. Stretch marks, weight that kinda doesn’t want to leave, we like it here, broadening hips. If you’ve lost weight, then you probably have many of the same conditions. You might also now have a skin suit that you hadn’t planned on because your skin, being the remarkable organ that it is, stretched to accommodate that extra 80–150 lbs. Now it won’t snap back.

Plastic surgery? Or learn to live with it until you know damned good and well you aren’t going to expand again? That takes courage, character and a very high level of body confidence at a time when you really are not happy with how you look even though you dropped the pounds.

This is what happens when marriages go through thick and thin times. Job losses. Death of a child or a terrible illness. All kinds of issues that stretch us, and threaten to break us. Til death do us part is serious business.

If I may state the obvious, your marriage to your body is one hell of a lot more important long-term commitment than the one you make at the altar.

For your health isn’t up to a partner (these days I don’t much trust doctors either). As it relates to massive weight loss, you just “married” your new self.

Are you going to be true to that self? Care for, love, be patient and forgiving with it, accepting all its vagaries and changes over the rest of your life, or do you, like far too many lovers do, expect your partner to be perfect forever?

Do you honestly expect that your body, now newly svelte, is just going to stay that way without sacrifice, discipline, and hard work for the rest of your life?

Kinda a lot like a marriage?

Happily Ever After in marriage is as much a lie as the implicit message that simply by losing weight your entire life is going to be transformed the second the needle hits that number.

Tinkerbell does not suddenly appear. She never will. There is no magic fairy dust either at the alter or as you stand on the scale. This kind of fantasy thinking is just as problematic in marriage as it is in weight loss programs.

Both brief life events are simply moments in the very long, challenging arc of your entire life.

What matters in the longest run is whether you can be true enough to the vessel that allows you to be in this life, through thick or thin (literally and figuratively), to give yourself permission to change, age, expand, contract, get sick, get well, evolve, fail, succeed.

I succeeded (so far) in one, and failed miserably at the other. I have now kept my weight at an ideal point for more than half my long life at 67.

My marriage lasted four years.

In all frankness, apparently I’m better committing to my health than I was to the health of my marriage (look, the guy was an angry drunk, so I have my reasons).

I do have a long-term, often bemused, periodically-frustrated love affair with my body.

We’re in this together for life. I am in love with the physical vessel I get to drive around until, well, we crash someday. Pity I couldn’t have found a guy about whom I felt the same way, but I’ll take what I have.

When I let go of some 85 pounds thirty three years ago, I never wanted to see them again. And I haven’t. That’s a very serious commitment. Meanwhile, my body is aging. I am seeing the slight sag marks that are the inevitable proof that at one point I was a lot bigger. At this juncture, I could care less about that. I am damned fortunate that what I put my body through all these years didn’t leave me a cripple.

The strongest long-term marriages have stress points, stretch marks, divuts, scars and wear and tear. They are stronger for them.

Just like our bodies can be. But first, you have to make that serious, life-long commitment. Just like a marriage. Your body deserves the same:

I will take care of you with love and respect, through sickness and in health, til death do us part.

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash