Category Archives: Weight Loss

Before and After? How about Here and Now.

My friend Tina recently shared an article on Facebook. Found on MindBodyGreen and written by a woman who has lost and maintained a healthy weight, Brynn Andre describes the downside of posting before and after images of oneself for all to see.  I found it so spot-on, so perfectly written that I had to share it here.

Regardless of where you are on your journey to a healthier life, please take 2 minutes and read this article; I think you will feel empowered.

Let’s Be Real: Before & After Photos are B.S.

 

Article regarding mental and physical aspects of losing weight

I just ran across an article written by Jen Larson who lost 180 pounds via weight loss surgery.  I am linking to this well-written and totally spot-on story because it is a reminder from yet another maintainer that losing weight isn’t the cure-all, fix-all solution that many people believe it is.   

I remain firm and steadfast about my opinion on this topic as well:  Lose the weight to be healthier.  Lose it to feel better.  Lose it to enrich your life, but don’t lose it hoping it will fix everything that’s wrong in your life.  Love yourself whatever size you are on your road to healthiness.  You’ll enter maintenance a much happier person. 

Here is Jen’s article, which I highly recommend reading, and if you do I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic.  What Losing 180 Pounds Really Does to Your Body – and Your Mind

Have a great day, everyone!

~Ellen

Mail Call: Answering a question about weight loss

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to have many people from all over the US contact me because of the article in Woman’s Day Magazine.  Most inquiries are from women who share their own struggles with weight loss; others offer encouraging words or have questions about how I’ve been able to maintain for so long. 

This weekend I received an email from a woman who asked this question:

What snapped you into action?  I read in the article that you decided to lose weight shortly after your dad’s death, but was wondering if there was a specific moment that made you say to yourself, ‘from today on, no matter what, I’m never going to be this heavy again.’ 

I think that maybe what she was asking was whether or not I had experienced one of Oprah’s ‘aha’ moments – an event or significant happening that started my path towards a healthier lifestyle .  Let me share with you this story:

When I started college I had no idea that I’d gain roughly 15 pounds every year for the next 6 or 7 years.  By the time I hit my all time high, the only medical problem I had was degenerative disc disease, aka: a bad back – though I wouldn’t be properly diagnosed until many years later. One thing I did know however – the more weight I carried, the worse my back became. 

One day, my mother called and asked if she could bring my oldest brother over for a visit.  My brother, who is mentally handicapped, had come home for a few days and wanted to come over.  I had some laundry to do so I let my mother know that I’d be leaving the front door unlocked in case they arrived  while I was still in the basement. 

I put a load of laundry into the washing machine and walked up the stairs.  There was some mail on the counter that I quickly perused;  when I turned to toss the junk mail into the trash, I felt a rippling sensation in my lower back that brought me to my knees, then flat on my back onto the kitchen floor.  Every time I tried to move, the spasms knocked the wind out of me.  I was literally paralyzed from pain. 

It’s okay.  It’s fine, I thought. Mom will be here any minute and she’ll help me up.  I heard the doorbell ring and yelled, ‘Come in!  I’m in the kitchen!’  Moments later, I could see two pairs of legs walk up towards me and heard my mother say, ‘Good lord, what happened to you?’  I tried to explain that my back went into severe spasms every time I attempted to move, but my brother, whom I’d already forgotten was standing behind my mom began singing in an amused voice, ‘My sister’s having a seizure!  Are you having a seizure Ellen?  Mom, Ellen’s having a seizure! Seizure, seizure!’  **Side note: if you’re wondering whether its appropriate to laugh at this part of the story, the answer is yes.  In fact to this day, my brother who never forgets anything, still asks me when I’m going to have another seizure because he wants to be there when the fire trucks come!**  Both Mom and I tried to explain to him that I was NOT having  seizure; I’d simply hurt my back but he liked his version better – way more exciting! 

My idea of being helped to my feet was a joke.  Any attempt to lift my legs from the ground sent my back into wild, debilitating spasms.  If I lifted my head the same thing would happen.  Finally, with my mother’s urging and brother’s observances, ‘Ellen’s going to swallow her tongue’ , yes she is.’ I relented and allowed Mom to call for an ambulance. 

Less than ten minutes later the front of my house looked like the scene of a recent crime.  There was a fire truck blocking the street, with lights flashing.  Two police cars pulled up behind it, and an ambulance was on it’s way.  The firemen arrived in the house first and one of them was carrying a backboard.  I panicked and my first thought was: how many of them is it going to take to move me from here out to an ambulance?   To make things even worse, I knew one of the firemen.  We hadn’t seen each other since high school. At first he didn’t recognize me.  The vulnerability and humiliation I felt dropped like a lead balloon when my mother told him my name. I watched as his shock quickly changed to composure. 

 

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by something that your mind makes the decision to shut itself down in order to refrain from having to deal with what’s happening?  Yeah well, I tried that and it didn’t work.  So, I made the decision that no matter what I was simply going to keep my eyes closed so I didn’t have to look at anyone or anything around me. 

I heard things like my mom talking on the phone trying to make arrangements for someone to drive my brother home while she accompanied me to the hospital.  I listened and answered questions as the paramedics took my medical history and blood pressure.  I heard the firemen discuss how many of them it would take in order to get me safely down two flights of steps and out into the ambulance (the answer was four).  I kept my eyes shut tight as I held a death grip onto one of the firemen’s arm as they tilted and angled me from side to side until we were safely on the sidewalk; my eyes remained closed as the kids from the neighborhood asked ‘Did that lady get shot?  Is she dead?’  I wished for that moment to end – not because of the excruciating pain I was in, but because I wondered if it were possible for someone to literally die from embarrassment.  On the street waiting for me was a gurney to which I was transferred. They lifted my body into the ambulance and closed the doors.  Slowly, I opened my eyes. 

It took over 10 days before I would recover enough to return to work.  From that period and for the next 5 years my back would go out 3 more times.  I have permanent damage as a result of these bad discs but luckily since meeting my goal weight, my back hasn’t gone out since. 

Not until that day had I ever been more conscious of how heavy I was.  I can still feel my cheeks get warm when think of the embarrassment I felt.  I’d like to be able to tell you that on that day I made the decision to change my life and begin a healthier lifestyle.  It would make for a great ‘aha’ moment, but it simply didn’t happen.  I continued to gain.  Then my father died.  It’s true that shortly after the funeral I awoke and knew that on that day I was ready for a change, but it wasn’t immediately after his death.  I remember using food to numb my grief long after the funeral was over.  

My thought is this:  maybe some people have an ‘aha’ moment.  Maybe a major event takes place and at precisely that time a wave of energy floods that person and he or she feels forever changed.  I do believe that for ever action there is a reaction, but sometimes our reaction to negative things comes in the form of a seed that’s planted.  For every embarrassing moment, every humiliating experience, I tried to carry on the way I always had because I thought it proved I was strong enough to rise above it.  Though I didn’t acknowledge it at that time, those seeds were there – and they were growing.   The day I decided to change my life was most likely a day like any other, except for the fact that I had outgrown the ability to ignore what was happening within me.  I couldn’t shut my eyes any longer so I opened them, took a deep breath, and started a new path. 

 

Perhaps some of you can help answer this woman’s question from your own point of view.  Did you have a moment that snapped you into action, or was it small changes along the way that brought you to a better place in your life?

Once, Twice, Three times upside the head

I know you’ve done it before, too.  You’re reading blogs and you come across one that seems as though it was written specifically for you.  That happened to me when I sat down to read my friend Kyra’s blog last night over at The Never ending Adventures.  This was a milestone post because she unveiled a painting that she’d been working on since April.  Yes, April.  A painstakingly intricate, detailed labor of love that is now, finally complete. 

Kyra and I have communicated about this painting and other goings on in our lives, with one of us always wishing that certain things would just ‘happen already!’  But we both know from experience that anything worth doing is worth doing right.  What struck a chord with me was this particular sentence:    

How many things in our lives are we not giving permission to ourselves to spend the proper time on?

I think if I had a secret decoder I could wave it over that sentence and find an underlying message that reads:  Ellen, you big Goofball, why are you constantly fighting yourself?  You’ve already been down this road once – have you learned nothing?  (although Kyra would find a much gentler way of telling me, I’m sure of it). 

I have been through this before.  I took the slow and steady route of losing weight. The many years it took to lose over 100 pounds was the correct way for me and my life and I haven’t regretted it once.  In fact, taking my time and doing it slowly and naturally has, in part, been what’s helped me keep it off for over 7 years. 

But, since my surgery?  Yeah, you’d never know that patiently devoted person ever existed.  I have been having internal battles with myself for the past 4 months.  I’ve been at war with my body to heal faster; anxious for my new business to pick up speed; desperate to find direction and get moving already!! 

I’ve been so caught up in the ‘want it NOW’ mentality that I haven’t been appreciating the slow and steady route I’ve been granted which, by the way, has always proven to be the better choice for me.  (Sometimes a good thwack across the head is the only thing that will reset the brain).  Any takers?  lol

This week I’ve learned that no matter how quickly we want results, it just isn’t likely going to happen on our schedule.  Whether it be the desire for business success, weight loss or in my case in particular right now: physical strength.  We do what we can and have to let time run its course because really, we have no other choice. 

I received doctor results from my visit last week regarding my extreme fatigue.  Surgical menopause patients (those who go through the process surgically rather than naturally) are hit with the usual symptoms all at once instead of easing into it the old fashioned way.  As a result, we can go through radical side effects.  My fatigue is a direct result of my hormones being shifted so quickly and dramatically.  The doctor has given me new medication and I am praying to the Estrogen Goddesses that I will see improvement within a few weeks.  In the meantime, it’s slow and steady – and that’s all there is to it.  I must be willing to look at the progresses I HAVE made instead of the ones that will come in due time.  And really, if I want to be completely honest with myself – if my art business was a raging success like I dream about in my mind, I’d be too fatigued to keep up with it all right now, wouldn’t I? 

Speaking of art, here is this week’s painting.  I have been posting progress photos on my Facebook Fan page because I’ve found that not only do people like to see the creative process behind the finished piece, but it’s good for me to see that it takes patience and hard work to evolve into a beautiful and worthwhile sense of completion.  I think we can all relate to that on some level. 

 

 

…and speaking of art:  My friend Laura, who is another weight loss maintainer and an amazing athlete is holding a giveaway on her blog beginning today, AND she is giving away one of my enhanced art prints!   Head on over there to check it out the details!  You can find her fabulous blog over at Laura Lives Life.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone.  I hope it’s slow and steady :)

Filling In The Blanks

I received two copies of Woman’s Day Magazine in the mail on Tuesday.  Initially, my idea was to have my husband read the article first.  By reading his face I would know what to expect and be somewhat prepared.  Did that happen?  Nah.  I tore that envelope open before my foot crossed the threshold!   There in the Healthy You section of the magazine were the words: I Lost 105 Pounds!  I flipped to the article and read through it quickly.  Hmm.  No initial damage control needed.  Then I read through it again, more carefully.  I thought it was well-done.  Nothing like I had expected, but nonetheless, well done. 

It wasn’t an article really, but more like a timeline that showed how I started and where I finished, complete with little snippets of information along the way.   Short and sweet.  Very short, actually; but I realize that landing magazine space is kind of like the equivalent of landing a good apartment in New York: it may be short on square footage but you’re grateful for any room at all.  So, while I wish a bit more of my story had been shared, it’s really okay that it wasn’t.  Shh…. I happen to have this blog, see?  And there, I can fill in the blanks to my heart’s content. 

Many of you who’ve been reading me for the last couple of years have seen the photos depicting my loss, but were unaware of my full history.   So, for those both old and new – here’s a bit more of my story.

 

Even though I was of average size growing up, things began to change once I entered college.  I’d just moved away from home and had little experience in making new friends.  Art classes were very demanding.  Those pressures combined with depression made it incredibly difficult to adjust;  it was during that time when I started using food for comfort.  All of the stress, insecurity and depression I felt were often quieted with carry-out pizza and cartons of ice cream.  Art majors spent a great deal of time working on projects so it wasn’t uncommon for me to reach for food while working late into the night.  I gave little regard to what I was eating.  All I knew was that it provided me with the tools I needed to cope with my sadness, school, roommates and relationships. 

 
By the time I graduated I had a very solid, unhealthy relationship with food that continued to grow worse.  If I were depressed or lonely, food would calm my mind. If I were anxious, food would change my focus. And if I were happy – of course, I would celebrate with food.  I lived like this for years.

When my father died in 1998, in part from diabetes complications, his death was the first experience I had in losing someone close to me.   I remember being at the funeral and suddenly becoming very self-conscious of my weight. Friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years no longer recognized me. The stunned looks on many of their faces were noticeable; on my five-foot-two frame I weighed 235 pounds.  I was grieving the loss of my father and the person I used to be at the same time.

My moment of clarity came shortly after my father’s funeral. I couldn’t shake the reality of how different my life had become, how isolated I was and how much I used food to escape the problems I couldn’t face. My father’s life ended much too soon and I became afraid that I too would become a diabetic – maybe even die young, if I didn’t change the way I was living my life.

There were lots of fad diets out there and I believe I tried them all, but the best investment I ever made for my health was an impulse buy and cost me $12.  It was a pedometer. I’d read somewhere that one needed to walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain a healthy weight so I made it my mission to reach that goal, no matter what.  I didn’t change anything else other than making a point to move, and I would find any excuse to do it. I’d march in place while brushing my teeth. I would walk back and forth in my hallway while waiting for my bathtub to fill. I’d step in place while washing my dishes or talking on the phone. Wearing my pedometer gave me instant gratification.  I could look at it and see my progress at any given moment and that encouraged me to go even further. Before long I was averaging between 16,000 and 20,000 steps a day. By creating that one goal of just moving I didn’t feel as though I had turned my entire life upside down.   Once I started feeling stronger,  I wanted to move more, and I wanted to eat healthier. Notice that I emphasize on the word ‘want’.  I did it because I wanted to, not because it was part of a series of strict diet rules I had to follow. That one good habit triggered another, which triggered another, and so-on.   Once I began concentrating on my steps and how much I was moving my body I became stronger not only physically, but emotionally as well.   Using food as a way to meet my emotional needs wasn’t as much of a priority as it had been. That’s when I knew that I was on the right path towards a permanent change.

It took more than five years to lose all the weight I’d gained. I know that probably sounds like a very long time to many, and in some cases it is – especially when you have health issues that need immediate attention.  Even though I had common weight-related issues that were affecting my way of life (severe lower back pain, stiffness, lethargy) I never treated the idea of losing weight as a race. I never set specific goals to lose X amount by a certain time. Looking back I realize that I succeeded because I made small changes, little by little. This allowed me the time I needed to work on making this new way of living feel more like second nature. For me, losing slowly and steadily played a tremendous part in being able to maintain for as long as I have.

When I was interviewed I was asked what I’d learned along the way and how the loss changed my life. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I consider my emotional health as important as my physical health.  I firmly believe they should work together as a unit when losing weight.  I had to do a lot of emotional work along the way and get to the heart of why I was abusing food before I could move on towards keeping the weight off. Maintainers will tell you: losing the weight is the easy part, and I agree with that statement. Keeping it off required a complete understanding of why I overate in the first place. Without it, I would have likely regained all the weight I’d lost, if not more.  I often say to myself, If I am fit emotionally, my physical health will follow. In other words, if I am under a great amount of stress – if I’m not taking care of my mental well-being, my physical self tends to suffer. If I’m at a good place emotionally, then physically I feel stronger and in charge of my life.

Finally, blogging has been an invaluable resource for me. By the time I started reading blogs I was already in maintenance, so when I decided to start writing Fat Girl Wearing Thin, it was initially to give others who were coming into maintenance a realistic sense of what to expect when they reached their goal. I also wanted to support and share advice to those just getting started. Never did I imagine what kind of love and support I would gain in return from such a wonderful community of people. I lost my weight on my own, but my ability to maintain has been made a lot easier knowing that there are others out there who understand where I’m at, where I’ve been and are always on hand to offer loads of advice, encouraging words and wonderful ideas. 

 

 

For that, I want to thank you!

 

X0~

Ellen

Mind Adjustment Needed

If you’re reading this blog then chances are you’re a health conscious person.  Maybe you’re in maintenance; maybe you’re just beginning a plan of cleaner eating. I’ve written about many health-related issues in the last couple of years but lately I’ve been experiencing something that is entirely new to me.  As in, never in my life have I had these issues before kind of new.  It all began with a question that my mother asked recently:

Have you gained any of that weight back, yet?  You look like you’re wasting away.

Immediately, I laughed and rolled my eyes.  Without giving any serious thought to what she said, I dismissed it.  For half of my adult life I’ve dealt with weight issues.  Never before have I entertained the idea that I’d be considered underweight.

My response to my mother, and to several others who have told me the same thing since my surgery is a knee-jerk reaction to a mutual observation that I can’t seem to grasp my mind around.  But I told her the truth – even though I’ve gained less than two of the several pounds I lost, I’m eating lots of greens and proteins so that my body can finish healing.

When I was around 220 pounds I ran into a male friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time.  He was one of those big, burly guys who gave great big bear hugs.  As we hugged each other, he started to lift me into the air to swing me around.  I remember being horrified by this and fidgeted to free myself because I thought for sure that one of two things were going to happen: either he was going to develop a hernia for stupidly attempting to lift 220 pounds or, I was so heavy he wasn’t going to be able to lift me at all.  (Awkward)  Here is the messed up part: even now, when I’m bear hugged by someone and lifted off the ground I still fidget because I’m afraid I’ll injure the person due to my weight.  I’ve been in maintenance for 7 years and still have that same knee-jerk reaction.

I have dipped below my ideal weight once before.  It was in 2008 right around the time Craig and I got married.  No one expected either of us to marry since we’d already been together for 7 years with no engagement in sight.  So, when we came up with the idea to become secretly engaged and attempt to pull off a surprise wedding, I was so busy trying to get everything organized that my weight dipped into the high 120s.  After the wedding, my body adjusted itself back to the weight it was comfortable with.

 

Eventually I was able to give up my scale because I could rely on my body to tell me when I was gaining.  For example, if my clothes were tight I knew that I needed to make adjustments so I could get back to where I needed to be.

On the very rare occasion that I happen to drop below my goal weight, my face is the first to show it, and not in a good way. I look older than my age. My facial skin becomes ruddy and I have permanent circles under my eyes. The skin on my arms and legs don’t fit properly on my frame, either. Well actually, that part I’m used to. No body lifts in my future, oddly for the same reason why I won’t give in to my desire to get my nose pierced: I feel as though I’ve passed that window where the benefit just doesn’t outweigh the action anymore.  Loose skin is just one of those things I’ve mostly accepted and try to ignore, but the more I lose the more prominent a feature my loose skin becomes.  Really, it’s amazing what just a few pounds can do to change one’s appearance.  Even though I’m over a month post-surgery I still look unwell, and my face is the biggest giveaway.

For the past month I’ve been dealing with a different kind of body image issue. Though I weigh less than I have ever weighed in my adult life, my middle is still very much bloated from surgery.  None of my shorts or pants come close to buttoning; I feel heavier even though I’m lighter. My stomach is as swollen as it was when I returned home from the hospital.  I guess what I’m admitting to is this: even though I know I need to put some weight back onto my frame, I’m not so eager to do it.   As I try to work this out in my head, I realize that part of the problem is that I’m not relying on my body to tell me what it needs anymore. Instead I have these thoughts of weight gain and menopause loitering around in my mind and they won’t go away. Tell me – what does a girl do when she’s not dealing with the same body she had 6 weeks ago?  Hormones have changed, insides have been removed and rearranged. And emotionally I feel different as well. I don’t have faith in my instincts anymore. It’s overwhelming, and as always (typical Ellen-style) I am afraid of the unknown.

Whether we are battling to lose the weight or battling to keep it from coming back, I think we can all share how it feels when something threatens to take away what we’ve worked so hard for.  How do you deal with potential threats to your success?

Are Fat People Destined to be Fat?

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to watch a most interesting segment on 60 Minutes Australia.  If you happen to live in the US, chances are you might have missed it.  I’m sure that I would have, if not for visiting one of my favorite blogs, Lynn’s Weigh.  The title of the story was called ‘The Fat Gene’ (you can watch it here as well as read the transcript) and it reported on a weight loss study that was done in Australia about why fat people remain fat. Lynn was interviewed for the story.  

The only photo of me at my heaviest.

 

A group of 50 Australians participated in this study; they were put on a 10 week diet.  They lost a lot of weight.  They were then given the tools they needed in order to keep that weight off in the form of advice about what to eat and how to exercise.  Slowly, the participants regained the weight they’d lost.

According to the researchers, it wasn’t the lack of participants’ willpower but their body’s hormone chemistry that made these people regain their weight.  Ghrelin, a so-called hunger hormone, rose 20% which in turn told the body that it was starving, even after the participants ended the diet.   The researchers go on to say that our weight is predetermined in our DNA. 

Liam Bartlett was the 60 Minutes correspondent. Summing up the researchers findings he said,

“The bottom line of this new science of weight loss is pretty harsh – fat people, despite their best efforts, will probably stay fat and there’s really not a lot they can do about it.”

Playing Devil’s Advocate, he then interviewed Dr. Rena Wing who is one of the researchers of the Weight Control Registry of which Lynn and 10,000 other maintainers are a part of in the United States (I am currently filling out my paperwork to join the study). She felt that Melbourne’s study was sending out the wrong message to heavy people.  With the thousands of maintainers she keeps track of she stated that many people are able to maintain their weight loss.  Lynn was featured as a representative to those of us who have been successful in maintaining their weight loss.  She discussed how she’s been able to maintain her loss for the last seven years: keeping track of her calories and daily exercise.   As a fellow maintainer who has also kept off 100+ pounds for 7 years I completely relate to what she said and I attribute my success to doing the exact same thing as she.  It all comes down to one word: diligence. 

But diligence is not the word that Professor Joe Proietto used.  He was the team leader in the Melbourne University study.  The words he used to describe maintainers like me were ‘obsessive-compulsive’.  He went on to say this:

“These people weigh themselves every day and run marathons. What do you think they are?”

It’s not that I disagree with Professor Proietto’s findings.  As a former heavy person I completely understand the frustration felt by people who, no matter what they do, regain some if not all the weight they’ve lost.  I’ve been there a few times myself.  What I disagree with is the way Professor Proietto presents his findings.  In my opinion, he basically sounded as though he has no faith in overweight people; that not only is it next to impossible to lose weight and keep it off but in order to do so we sacrifice ourselves as sane, well-rounded individuals. 

Labeling maintainers as obsessive-compulsive is a little over the top, in my book. If you watch the segment you’ll also hear words like ‘not normal’ to define us. But…what is normal? It seems like no matter who we are, whether fat or thin, we’re doing nothing but dodging labels (and you know how I feel about labels). 

Taken on vacation in September, 2011

I could probably write another several lengthy paragraphs on this topic but I’m not going to.  Instead, I’m going to sit back and read what you have to say on this topic, and end my post by borrowing a very eloquent, very beautiful thought by Lynn, who summed up my feelings in the most perfect way:

 

My former body and the me who occupied it continue to be the source of my determination. I would dishonor she who was me by giving up the fight, because she is the one who thought enough about herself to start that march down the scale. 

Thank you for that, Lynn.  And thank you all for reading today.  Have you seen the 60 Minutes Australia segment?  What are your thoughts on the findings of Melbourne University’s study?

What do Maintainers have in Common?

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? 

 

  1. Their diet is primarily low-fat. My diet mainly consists of low-fat options as well.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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? 

Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

When I develop the urge to locate a suitable alternative to a trigger food, I generally don’t stop until I find it.  Remember my three month quest to find the perfect substitute to peanut butter?  That lesson just goes to show that sometimes you can find satisfying surprises in the unlikeliest of foods.  Who would have thought that a recipe using chickpeas would pass for the ever-present peanut butter urge?  Many thanks to The Wannabe Chef for thinking up the original concoction.

 

For a while now I’ve been feeling the urge to change my current substitute for sugar, which is Splenda.  And I can already tell that I’m going to have my work cut out for me.

For the past few years I’ve attributed a good part of my ability to lose and maintain my weight due to the fact that I paid close attention to how many calories I was consuming.   If I were using a recipe that called for brown sugar I had no problem substituting brown sugar with Splenda in order to lower the calorie count.  I thought I was doing myself a favor and acting responsibly by eliminating as much sugar as possible from my diet, since it was the main reason why I’d gained so much weight.  Whether I’m eating it or not, my head is always wishing it was surrounded in a sugary blissful haze. 

I’ve received many emails and comments since the launch of this blog regarding my choice of sweeteners.  I always read the links that are sent and share some of your concerns on the effects of artificial sweeteners and any Google search will gladly provide articles as to how they can do more harm than good.   No matter what I read though, I always end up with the same question:  what is a woman to do when she has only two choices – either use real sugar and possibly become overweight (which is unhealthy) or use artificial sweeteners (which can be unhealthy, apparently) and keep her weight stable?  If the outcome of bad health is the same, isn’t this a lose-lose situation?

I recently stumbled across an article about why artificial sweeteners are a bad choice.  It only intensified my frustration.  At the end of the article, the author shows what we can use as alternatives to artificial sweeteners.  You can read the article in it’s entirety here.  

Turn to natural sweeteners for your drinks and food alike. Honey, organic maple syrup, molasses, date sugar, brown rice syrup, and stevia are just a few natural sweeteners you can turn to. Not only will they wreak less havoc on your body, but your support of these sweeteners instead will, eventually, help to slow the production of toxic artificial sweeteners–which are significantly less delicious in my opinion anyway.

Aren’t the majority of people who use sweeteners trying to watch their weight?  I assume this to be true.  So, if I were to follow the advice of this article, then I should use pure organic maple syrup on my whole grain waffles instead of, say, sugar-free Aunt Jemima maple syrup.  Except that the organic maple syrup is well over 200 calories for 1/4 cup compared to the sugar-free syrup which has 25 calories per 1/4 cup.  Don’t get me wrong; if I were basing my choice solely as a mindful eater, I’d obviously choose the pure maple syrup (hello!  ONE ingredient).  But as a dieter?  I’d never choose to add all of those unnecessary calories to my meal if I had a lower calorie alternative.  Also, is there anyone that adds that little syrup to their waffles or pancakes?  I see people in restaurants adding three times that much without thinking twice about it.  

To those of you who have sent me articles on artificial sweeteners, don’t give up hope.  The fact that I’m frustrated is a good thing.   I actually want to incorporate less artificial ingredients into my diet.  I’ve been attempting to make this transition for months now by trying to find an alternative to the Torani sugar-free syrups I use in my morning must-have tea lattes (all contain Splenda).  Not an easy task, let me tell you.  The problem is, I want it all.  I want to have natural sweetness without the calories, but I’m not so sure it exists.  I have tried Ideal sweetener, but to me it has too strong an aftertaste.  I bought organic agave sweetener but the calories quickly add up as I drink tea throughout the day.  My recent find was sugar/stevia packets made by Domino.  Again, I noticed that aftertaste.   Ugh.

What is your sweetener of choice?  Are you able to incorporate natural sugars into your life while watching your weight?  Does the perfect sweetener exist, or am I doomed to live an all or nothing existence (wow, how dramatic did that sound? Poor Me!!)

Pour forth your advice!  I’m listening………

Your Diet, Your Way

When asked about my weight loss, most people ask the same question.  ‘How have you managed to keep it off?’ 

It sure seems a lot easier for some than for others.  I know of people who were able to let go of most every bad habit they had when they were heavy and never look back.  Talk about transformation!  Then there are others who, like me, fight a daily battle trying to keep their weight at a healthy level.  

I actually ended up stumbling upon a combination of tips that worked for me which helped shed my weight.  One of those things was focusing a lot of energy on calories. I’d hit the grocery store isles looking at nutritional values of every food I could think of and read about how big the serving sizes were in comparison to the number of calories per serving. If I wasn’t comfortable with the calorie to portion ratio, I’d set the item back onto the shelf and keep moving. If I had to choose between two foods in the same category, it was a no-brainer: the one with the least amount of calories and bigger portion size ended up in my cart.  Eating this way worked (and still works) for me.  It’s not that I can’t indulge.  I most certainly can, and do.  But overall, I still look at my food somewhat differently than the people I talk to.

 

I still browse weight loss forums and always seem to find two groups of people who are dieting.  Group One always seems to focus more on the food, with calories being second in priority. They rarely compromise when it comes to their food, either. They eat for the taste not the calories; they just compensate by eating less. They are good at moderating, too.

Group Two looks like the camp to which I seem to belong:  they look at calorie count and serving size.  When presented with two options, they almost always pick the food that has the fewest calories and the biggest portion.  They focus more on eating for fuel than feeling satisfied, and like the feeling of fullness when walking away from the table.

Group One people have a hard time understanding why anyone would sacrifice taste in order to feel full.  When I tried to explain why I was a Group Two camper, one woman asked, ‘but let’s say that you could choose between two bowls of popcorn that had the same calorie count.  One bowl had 5 cups to a serving, but it tasted fairly bland.  In the other bowl however, the serving size was only 1 1/2 cups but, it was yummy and buttery and totally satisfying.  Are you telling me that you would rather go with the cardboard-tasting popcorn than the buttery, flavorful popcorn just because you could eat more?’  

What can I say?  If I were dieting with a goal to lose a certain amount of weight -  Yes, I would.  I have.  When I told her this, she could not wrap her head around that concept.  At all.   

Her response was, ‘Eating that way to me, just makes it seem like you’re punishing yourself.’   I told her I didn’t feel that way at all.  I simply got used to a certain way of eating and after a while, became used to the way my food tasted.  I tried to explain to her that while she got satisfaction from eating food that exploded with flavor, I got satisfaction from the freedom of knowing that I wouldn’t be left yearning for more when I was done. I could eat until I was full.   She still didn’t get my point but that was okay, because honestly – I couldn’t really understand where she was coming from, either. I mean, how can a person stop at one and a half cups of buttered popcorn?  I’d just be getting started. 

I should point out here that this method doesn’t come without its faults.  Sometimes when I have a big craving, I’ll try my method of substituting and end up completely unsatisfied.  Then I’ll roam around the kitchen trying to find the one ‘healthy, low-cal’ item that I hope will curb that craving.  Before I know it, I’ve eaten more calories than I would have if I’d just eaten what I really wanted in the first place.  I’ve learned that during those times it’s best to just eat the piece of cake or baked potato with real sour cream and butter and be done with it. 

This just goes to show that it is so true what they say about not comparing yourself to other dieters.  There is no perfect method;  what works for one person may be completely and totally wrong for you.  And if you’re unhappy with the results you’re having on your diet, try something different.  You’ll eventually find what works for you and the result will be as remarkably unique as you are. 

Am I standing alone in camp Number Two?  Have any of you eaten this way?  What group do you fall into?