I came across a very interesting article the other day in the health and fitness section of the Herald Tribune. The article was written by Barbara Peters Smith and was about maintainers who are taking part in a study, specifically how they have been able to keep a considerable amount of weight off for more than a year. Dr. James Hill, the director of the Colorado Center for Health and Wellness is the scientist featured in the article. He helped create a registry that is now tracking almost 10,000 participants. The article, which you can read in it’s entirety here, states that with the people he’s researched, there was little similarity in how they lost their weight. What they were seeing was a common link in how they’re keeping it off.
I was extremely curious as to what all of these maintainers were saying about their ability to keep their weight off and whether any of them shared my own thoughts and experiences on the subject. Here are a few things that I learned about the study participants, and I thought I’d throw in my two cents as well.
According to Dr. Hill, men generally make the decision to lose weight because of a health event in his life. The decision for women to lose weight is a bit more emotional.
My thoughts: I agree with most of these findings. While I’ve personally known men to make the decision to lose weight based on a major health scare, I’ve also known men that lost weight in order to capture the attention of other women. As for women, I think there is a host of emotional reasons for wanting to be thinner but I think that more women these days are wanting it as much for health reasons as they are for wanting to fit into that little black dress.
Dr. Hill states that two-thirds of the participants failed at maintaining at some point prior to their ultimate success. ALL of the participants said that maintaining is a constant challenge, and 98% say it’s worth the effort.
My thoughts: That number doesn’t surprise me in the least. How many of us can say when we decided to lose weight that we did it right the first time? Trial and error is how we learn and the more we learn, the better we are at understanding what our bodies need in order to keep the weight off for good. My thoughts on maintenance being a constant challenge? Um – yes. One hundred times yes, it is a constant challenge (you have been paying attention to my occasional whine-fests, right?) And yes, I do agree with the fact that it is worth the effort. Unless I’m feeling despondent and frustrated (again, see whine-fest).
Dr. Hill asked his participants whether it gets easier over time to keep the weight off. Most of them say ‘no.’ Apparently it takes 3 to 5 years on average before they feel comfortable in saying they’re confident that the weight will stay off. Not because of better biology either, says Hill; but because it takes a long time to master their new behaviors.
My thoughts: If the title of my blog hasn’t already given away that answer, I agree that It never gets easier to maintain. For me, that is just the simple fact of it. There will always be hurdles to overcome and old habits still tend to die hard. I am currently going into my 7th year of maintaining. I’m still not feeling terribly comfortable in saying that I’ll never gain the weight back.
I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, I’m just stating the fact that life marches on, and even though I do what I can to keep our lives in balance, I’m subject to the same kinds of change as everything and everybody else. I think it’s more about acceptance at this point in my life. While I do still worry about gaining, I try to stay focused on the here and now of it all. I’d love to be able to say I will never be heavy again! but I just don’t think that’s a fair assumption. All I can do is make a point to nurture the best parts of me every day while continuing to make better choices along the way.
Interested in knowing what else these maintainers have in common?
- Their diet is primarily low-fat. My diet mainly consists of low-fat options as well.
- They engage in a high level of physical activity. Walking is their main exercise of choice and they do resistance training. My activities are very similar. Walking, resistance training and yoga.
- They don’t watch very much television. I don’t watch much t.v. either. When I do, it’s always at the end of the night when I’ve done everything else that needs to be accomplished for the day.
- They are always watching their weight. Um… yes. Yes. And yes. It would be nice to give these thoughts a long-overdue vacation, but don’t know if that will ever happen.
- They weigh themselves frequently. I used to do this. I have been trying to refrain from using my scale because my emotions were too controlled by what I weighed. I’m sure I’ll never give up the scale completely and I do believe it’s a useful tool to have, but until I can learn to use it in a way that builds me up instead of making me feel bad about myself, I’ll continue to struggle with it.
- They don’t take a day off. To me, this goes hand-in-hand with the statement, ‘They’re always watching their weight.’ Even though I still indulge, I’m no more than one thought away from making mental notes about what I’m putting into my mouth.
- They eat breakfast. Again, something that I do without fail, although I tend to eat a later breakfast than most people – usually around 10 AM or so.
Had you ever heard of the National Weight Control Registry before I mentioned it here? I had no idea it existed. Started in 1994, it is the largest prospective investigation of long-term weight loss maintenance. The study is ongoing and if you want to be a part of it, there is only one requirement: you must have lost at least 30 pounds and have been able to maintain that loss for at least one year. If you fit these requirements and want to make your voice heard, click on the link above and join in the study.
Whether you’re dieting or maintaining, how do your thoughts compare with these thousands of long-term losers? Is there anything that you would add to the above list that has worked for you?