Besides the word "bravery" -- which women throw at me a lot, shocked I would be so bold as to write about weight loss publicly -- there's one word that meant the most to me during the past seven months: honesty.
I truly believe that the reason so many people have followed my public weight-loss campaign since New Year's Day is because I didn't hide my struggle -- I showcased it. I don't want to read articles written by women who have it all figured out, who say how easy it is to lose weight on such-and-such a program, or who say, "If I can do it, you can do it." That only makes people believe there's some kind of secret to learn, and when they do, they'll be thin in no time.
And so the last thing I wanted to do was pretend that losing weight is something I somehow 'figured out' in a few months time. The truth is, I still struggle with it every day.
This is my final column for a while. (Seven months seemed like long enough to talk about the same thing over and over again.) So, it's natural to want to look back and share what I have learned. That's actually something I get from a lot of women: "Tell me what you're doing." "What am I doing wrong?" I even got, "Let me follow you in the buffet so I know what to eat."
People, you might not like this, but here goes ... I've learned that losing weight is a difficult balancing act. There is no one right way. And the only "secret" I've learned is the same statement nutritionists, dietitians, doctors and skinny trainers everywhere have been shouting to whoever will listen for decades: eat healthy and exercise to lose weight.
I know, I know. It's an awful thing to say to people who have struggled with every yo-yo diet imaginable. But it's the honest-to-God truth. The only way to lose weight is to decrease your calorie consumption, and it also helps create a calorie-deficit to exercise.
Trust me, I know that even though the statement is simple, the practice is not. I set a goal of 77 pounds lost in seven months, and I did not achieve it. I'm leaving you with a 50-pound loss, which is the same as two months ago. I'm not confused by this. I know why I haven't lost anymore. I eat too many calories.
But people don't realize how delicate the calorie balance can be. If my body needs 1,800 calories to break even for the day -- meaning that's the amount I need to maintain my weight, given my activity level -- then it's very easy to go over that amount, especially if you're trying to eat enough to lose weight at a healthy speed.
Let's say I make it to 6 p.m. with a 1,500-calorie total for the day. One big bowl of cereal, one beer, one bad snack can push me over the edge of my "break-even" calorie total, resulting in a small gain. I think there's a stereotype out there that people who are overweight are constantly snacking, when, in reality, they may just be consuming slightly more than what is needed to break even.
Regardless, I didn't make 77. And I'm extremely proud of the fact that I am OK with that. Before this journey, and even in the middle of it, I would have felt terrible, like I'd let myself and all of you down. But now, in a way, I think it's one of the best ways I could have ended my public journey.
This should very much still come across as a struggle, because it always will be. As my former trainer once told me, she's in incredible shape, and she still writes down her calories every single day. She always will have to. And so will I.
In a strange way, I'm glad this journey didn't end with me reaching my goal weight quickly and saying the dreaded words, "If I can do it, so can you." Because, you know what? I would have gained it back and alienated my readers who are struggling with weight loss in the process.
I couldn't think of more wise words to end on than those recently written to me by a reader. I hope those of you who have lost weight and struggled right along with me can take these words in, too.
"You can't force it, or it won't last. The fact that you've maintained a 50-pound loss for months now means that you've learned to balance, and that is a big deal. Keep learning, enjoy your body the way it is now, and when you are ready, push forward. Until then, focus on maintaining what you've accomplished and celebrating that."