Weight-Loss Maintenance: The Job Description

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on September 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Earlier this week, I opined that the first unfairness of weight-loss maintenance is that it is not a zippy lifestyle, but a third- to half-time unpaid job.  Like any job, it need not be joyless, but one may need to force joy into it.  Here’s a typical day at “work.”

4:30 am:  I stand on the scale.  It’s like checking email and voice mail.  What message has my body left me?  If my weight is stable and below my current “panic weight” I still must work, but it’s a little less stressful than if I have to reverse a one-pound (or more) regain, a process that may require weeks of “tweaking” my regimen.

4:30-5:30 am:  I don my exercise clothes, take a thyroid pill, make a pot of coffee, prepare my mind.

5:30-6:30 am:   I take my place in front of the TV, wearing a weighted vest and ankle weights, with hand weights at the ready.  In order for an aerobics DVD to be “productive” (prevent a weight slide), I know I must carry 20 to 30 extra pounds throughout an average 55 minute routine, and often I add extra moves and double-time the instructor in interval bursts.  I must soak my bra with sweat.  Alternatively, I go to the gym and use the track and weights, or I walk outdoors, but I must go longer – two hours walking seven miles counts for a day’s exercise, for example.

I exercise daily, excepting three days off per month. 

It was when my honeymoon romance with exercise fizzled that I realized I wasn’t modeling a lifestyle but working a job with an unforgiving boss.  The naturally trim gym rats may take a vacation if they want – several days, a week, sometimes a month or more.  When they return to the gym they grouse loudly, “I’m gonna feel this tomorrow.”   Indeed they will, but they are rejuvenated by their vacation, and they will be back in their groove soon, suffering no visible consequences for their time off.  

If I took a month off, that could mean a ten-pound regain.  And it won’t “come right off if you return to your routine,” as people love to pontificate.  Perhaps that’s true for people who gain weight near the top of their natural range, but credible research confirms that when you are below your body’s highest established weight range, it is Herculean to muster the calorie deficit to reverse any regain.  This makes sense.   When you lost weight in the first place, the first ten pounds came off at lightning speed compared to the last ten.  If you must lose those last ten pounds again, it won’t happen at the speed of the first ten, even if their regain was sudden.  But back to “the job.”

7:15 am:   Breakfast.  Three hundred calories, heavy on protein and fiber.  Perhaps organic peanut butter on apple slices.

7:30 am:  “Conference” time in the shower, with myself.  How is the day going to play out food-wise?  Do I have lunch plans?  Must I cook dinner for the family or is tonight an activity night for my son?  I think through every restaurant where I’ll eat, every potential “food situation.”  Is there a pot luck to handle?  Is there an occasion where I’ll need to eat or decline someone’s home-baked treats? 

I must plan how I am going to space out 1,600 to 2,000 calories over the course of the day, and, of course, I’ve already had 300.  I plan my day with several basic assumptions guiding me.  I know I will get an hour of satiety (fullness) for every 100 calories I eat, for example.  This is only reliable up to 600 calories of intake, which equals 6 hours of satiety.   One thousand calories in a single sitting won’t last ten hours, for example, and the excess calories will go to storage. 

Metaphorically, I must spend the day ice skating on a single blade at the edge of hunger.  Getting  hungry could cue my internal endocrine chorus of binge impulses.   Fighting those impulses turns a normal “day on the job” into a distracting, high-stress work day.  Getting too full will likely create fat stores.  

There are assumptions about what I will eat, too.  Many modern foods are literally “off the table”:  baked goods by anyone whose last name is “Incorporated,” red meat on white bread, ANYTHING breaded and fried.  I can “have a bite” from time to time, but I’ll regret anything bigger than a Girl Scout cookie.  

Since I know that my hunger cues are reliable up to 600-calories-equals-six-hours, if I’m facing a situation with unknown foods I’ll plan to count calories in reverse.  That entails eating when just at the verge of hunger an estimated 450 calories of what is on my plate, then paying attention.  If my pre-hunger cues resurface at three hours, I adjust the count down to 300; if I’m not hungry at 4.5 hours, I adjust the number upward accordingly.

The additional two-to-three hours of my maintenance “job” happen in spurts throughout the day.  It’s more professional than time-clock, blue collar in nature.  I spend time preparing whole grains instead of instant rice, I chop vegetables, I scrutinize labels in grocery stores, I spend time on the internet or in the library reviewing research on nutrition, fitness and obesity.  I rely on science journals.  Most mainstream “lifestyle” reporters are merely cheerleaders for the latest weight-loss fad.   My research, over time, has led me to limit refined carbohydrates and eliminate foods that include bovine growth hormone, transfats and certain additives, such as MSG and TBHQ.  Obesity research is confusing and mostly inconclusive, but I don’t take many chances.

9:30 pm:  Bedtime.   Seven hours of sleep (eight would be ideal) helps control hunger hormones. 

Given the time and effort, does maintenance qualify as an eating-disordered state?  As I’ve said before, I am unqualified to diagnose, but there’s no denying that it occupies considerable mental real estate and the exercise is hard on the joints.  My current regimen is gentler than when I was running on concrete sidewalks, but still causes some unhealthy pain.  I also don’t know whether I could do maintenance if my “real” work were inflexible. 

When someone tells me they plan to lose weight (and I wince if they say I’m their role model), I advise them instead to live joyfully, eat healthfully, exercise, and treasure whatever body happens.  While I devote 14 to 20 hours per week to my food and exercise practices, it seems more sane and sustainable to devote 8 to ten hours, a quarter time job, to crafting a less toxic diet and exercising in some pleasant way.  This likely won’t, however, create or maintain radical weight loss.

  1. Holy canolly! I didn’t work even half that much to lose my 50 pounds, and don’t do anything like that to maintain. Though a major lifestyle change (returning to work) caused a 10 pound weight gain, it has stopped there, even if that 10 pounds really is being very hard to lose. Lucky for me, a 1000 calorie meal will last me 10+ hours (if I do it for lunch, not hungry until morning), and I love kickboxing, and cooking whole foods. I don’t really worry about much other than minimizing processed carbs and deep fried, and not overeating, which is really what will get me.

    If you want to read a great POV by a woman who used to be into HAES and decided to go ahead and lose the weight, check out Greta Christina.

  2. I have never thought about “maintenance” as a part time job – but you’re right… sometimes I spend more of my day thinking about food and exercise than about my actual job…

  3. Ah, Julie, keep your honeymoon romance with maintenance alive as long as possible. While I’m encouraging others to come back and visit often, I advise you to write my blog address on a small piece of paper and hide it in a drawer. You may want to come back some day, but you don’t need me peeing in your beer now.

    Stat Freak, aren’t you the sistah who used to post at FFF? Good to have you visiting!

  4. Yes! THIS!!
    I’m maintaining a 65 freaking pound weight loss and it is exactly that: a job.
    A grinding, relentless job that I can never, ever quit …unless I want to give up my prized BMI of 24.

    Just this weekend, I was trying to explain it to a naturally thin friend, but I think she thought I was completely insane…or at least exagerating. But i wasn’t.

  5. OK, I won’t come back and visit, as I’m not following your white-knuckled lifestyle, which according to you, is the true and proper way.

  6. Julie, it is my truth, indeed. That’s what blogs do. They relate the author’s truth. Proper? You said that, not me. May you have a lovely life. Come back and visit if things change for you, and you feel you might find support here.

  7. Hi Debra, I have enjoyed reading your blog and I think you are doing a good job getting the message of what your experience in maintaining has been. My experience has been pretty different, but I come from a different background of experiences. For one, I was naturally thin as a child and young adult, gained weight gradually when kids were born in my 20’s and my focus shifted from me to them, money got shorter, physical activity went down, and pasta and similar foods were the easier to go to. I had probably 10 lb weight gains for a number of years, but I’m tall so carried it better than most. However, it reached a point where I was definitely not the body I wanted to be. My weight loss was done very improperly – but I am not a fan of experts and I can’t argue with my results. Coffee, and very reduced eating, got 70 lbs off. I did try to add a health club in to replace cigarettes after about 5 years of maintaining, and found that exercise in that setting makes me gain (though probably less than it would have been with the quitting cigarettes).

    Anyway, I have found that for me, it’s less a struggle if I eat by the week rather than the day. For the first time I recently saw this described in a study that showed how people who never seem to gain weight eat. My activity is not regimented daily aerobics, nor health club – I have a small farm and have horses, so my activity is built into my lifestyle. I find this much more effective – I suggest really getting into your yard if you are living in the city. I do not eat fat reduced foods, in fact I drink full fat goats milk once a day – actually I mostly eat once a day – if it works for dogs, it can work for us. I love apples and they are my go-to food if I’m really gnoshing, and my before bed snack as well (and my lunch usually). I have great treat days where I go get a meal I REALLY want – pizza, elaborate meals in my favorite restaurant where anything goes – appetizer, drinks, dessert. But it’s maybe one meal once a month. When I am having trouble, I just tell myself to hold out until that meal.

    Even though I am deprived 80% of the time, I do not feel deprived. I can lose weight on this, or I can maintain with adding a little food in. I do not ever eat the treats at work, I do not participate in the potlucks. People just know this about me, it’s not a big deal. I go against the majority of supposed ways to do this – gosh, I joined Weight Watchers to support a friend awhile back, and I couldn’t believe the thin, chemical laden foods that are in that plan. That being said, I know it can work, since there are many ways to diet/maintain and you just have to find what works for you.

    My eating does not take a lot of real estate in my mind, because I have reduced its importance in my daily life. I don’t exercise daily other than my farm chores. I have recently lost 15 lbs again, and am back into skinny jeans with very little trouble (the missing smoking is finally gone after 2 years so the vanity lbs can come off).

    I am different from a lot of people in that I never identified as fat – until I saw pictures and got away from the denial. But getting thin again, wow what a difference in just how the average person treats you, the clerk behind the counter, etc. I am much rather thin and making these tiny adjustments is so worth it. That’s what it is, just tiny adjustments, but for a long, long time. And actually, once you have done it for a long time, you barely notice what you may have considered deprivation before, it becomes a habit. You don’t miss the potlucks, or the frequent lunches out. If I had a job that required lunches out I would come up with a menu that I would stick to no matter what – lemon tea and some veggies or something.

    One great side effect from living like this is my teeth have never been healthier, since food is not in them constantly. I don’t understand the plans that talk about 6 small meals a day for that reason.

    Just my thoughts in reading your typical day and how this is almost a part-time job for you. I had a lot of failures at trying to get weight off (once I accepted it was there). This is what has worked for me and liberated me from having to worry about it constantly. I have too much going on to worry so much about food, it’s an afterthought pretty much on a daily basis now.

    • Thanks, Cynthia, for all the detail. I will likely cull it for ideas to try on in my urban environs. Right now, I’m running a different experiment, but your response is measured and some things ring as plausible for me — especially the idea of monitoring on a weekly basis, instead of daily. As you may imagine, I’m very careful with how I experiment with my regimen, and I give every modification lots of time. I don’t fly radically from one idea to the next. That has hurt a lot of people, I think.

      For what it is worth, I haven’t always been this cynical/stoic (pick the day/pick the adjective). I had a really long “honeymoon” — three years plus — in which I was able to maintain without this kind of effort or mental real estate. Essentially, at that time, I was a running addict. And I was sure I was going to be the “joyful jogger” all my life, up to and including whenever my kid put me in a home. My joints have thrown a wrench in that plan.

      One thing that does make you unusual, I think, is your ability to eat only once a day. Embrace that gift!!! It is one, truly. You talk about dogs, and I agree we can learn from them. Up until my current dog, all my dogs were once-a-day eaters, and voracious (with one of them, if I would have fed him more, he would have eaten till he exploded — he just had no personal limits). My current dog is a grazer (my husband calls her a cat that barks). She gets her food allotment and nibbles throughout the day, maintaining a regular and comfortable weight. (I cannot lie, but I’m just a bit jealous.)

      The take-home lesson from your response and my original post is that fat is a different issue for each individual. Currently, cultural mythology (and the medical field too, often) regards fat as one issue — excess adipose retention — which is solved through a thermodynamic modification of energy. I agree with Taubes and others that this is not the case. Who knows how many different kinds of fat there are? Some people, I suppose, may respond to little modifications, but statistics indicate that those people are rare. You got a gift, Girlie!

  8. Thanks for this. I appreciate it.

  9. […] from Weight-Loss Maintenance: The Job Description […]

  10. I came here via BFB. One thing I noted in your daily routine is that you take thyroid meds, and you mention in your comments that you formerly had an easier time of maintenance.

    I am hypothyroid and I cannot help but wonder if your thyroid is a larger part of the problem than you think. Most people with hypothyroid disease are undertreated, and synthetic thyroid medication and T-4-only treatments do not work for many of us.

    A lot of doctors are not aware of the most recent guidelines and research into thyroid treatment and levels, and so a lot of patients are told by doctors that they are at “normal” levels when they really are not; or they may be within “normal” levels, but not at *their* normal.

    Hypothyroid caused me to balloon up to 255 pounds (and at 5’3″ that was very significant.) It took me more than a year to get on the right medication and up to an ideal dose, but since then I’ve dropped 55 pounds and I continue to lose size (I’ve not lost weight in pounds in several months, but I’ve dropped 2 pants sizes) without having to work for it, at all.

    I do understand that we are all different, but I have become something of an evangelist about hypothyroid treatment and UNDERtreatment since it happened to me and proper treatment changed my life so enormously.

    There is a website,, that helped me a lot. The title is a bit hysterical and there are occasionally some really dubious ideas endorsed in the blog, but there is also a lot of sound research and great information there, and it honestly saved my life. It might help you too. Either way I wish you luck and joy.

    • Thanks, Priscilla, I’ll look into it. My internist has not run extensive testing on me. I take 88mg of Levoxyl and that presumably puts me in “normal” territory.

  11. […] at 70-80% (within the same society), and maintaining significant weight loss is usually a part-time job at best. If maintaining weight loss was easy, we wouldn’t see ~95% of dieters regain at least as much […]

  12. […] her own body as heroic or noble, only a substantial effort, roughly the equivalent of an unfair unpaid part-time job. (In addition to her jobs as a mom, a partner, and paid […]

  13. Hello 🙂 I couldn’t find an email address, or I would have contacted you privately. I wanted to tell you that I find your website really interesting. It’s a little triggery for me right now, so I’m not sure how often I’ll be back until I’m firmer in my own thoughts. But I wanted to let you know that what you said in this post about exercise really resonated with me. I blog a lot about moving away from exercise as a weight loss pursuit and more toward exercise for joy or athleticism. I thought you might find something interesting in what I have to say. I’d love to talk to you about it. My email is

    Your honesty is so refreshing.

    • Hi, Shaunta. Welcome to the blog. Visit when you’re feeling up to it, and watch for the tags at the top. If it’s one I recognize as triggering when I’m writing it, I’ll clue you in.

      I think I may recognize you from the fatosphere. Don’t you have a moniker, something to the effect the outrageous athlete or some such? Rebellious? Angry? Hmmm. I’ll email you.

  14. Defiant Athlete 🙂 On the Fatosphere I my blog name comes up, Live Once, Juicy.

  15. I hardly know what to say.

    My experience of maintenance is apparently nothing like yours.

    I’ve kept 80 lbs off 7 years. I am also in the NWCR.

    I do not consider it a “job.” I consider it just what I do, same as I brush my teeth, do laundry, go to my job, pay my bills (and try not to overspend). Sure, I spend time on it, mostly pre-planning what I’ll eat, in a rough sketch – but those plans change and I’m a good seat-of-the-pants eater (and journaler).

    I don’t have limitations on what I can eat. I don’t have to eat extra-clean. To be fair, I have never had real issues with emotional eating or binge eating. I get fat when I stop moving my butt and I eat mindlessly.

    I actually think maintenance is easier, not harder. I can eat more, otherwise, to me, yes, it is the same behaviors as losing, just with more food. I still journal my intake (one way or another), eat mindfully, watch the scale, and exercise. Perhaps I’m lucky, in that I’m an long-distance bicyclist and I find pure joy in the miles I put in. It’s like being 14 years old again.

    Everyone’s journey is indeed different, I guess. I will be interested in reading more of what you have to say.

    • Welcome to the Blog, Debbie. Indeed, if you have the skill, time, ability and joy for bicycling, you are blessed. You may or may not want to visit my blog. You may, actually, wish to start your own.

      You should know that in my first four to five years of maintenance, I was much more chipper. (I was a running nut, not a biking nut.) A couple of emergency surgeries and a planned one has knocked me for a loop, and I have found many others like me who have been loop-knocked as well. This anecdotal knowledge, taken with the statistic that 97 percent of people regain weight (you’ll find my support for that in my post admonishing MDs to listen to PhDs), I continue with this blog because I think there are many who need to hear my message. You may or may not be one of those people. Or you may not be one just yet.

      I don’t feel compelled to moderate or change my message, because it is honest, and there are so many sites devoted to zippy, upbeat advice, if that’s what someone needs. This site is mainly a cool, reserved, lay view of science, culture and public policy.

      Though I do, on occasion offer some advice. For you, I would offer: String your honeymoon out forever if you can. Don’t let me pee in your beer. It sounds like you follow my basic philosophy better than I do, in fact: Live joyfully most of the time, eat healthfully most of the time, exercise most days and treasure the body that happens. It is easier for me than for many; it is easier for you than for me.

  16. Thanks. 🙂 I actually do have a blog, though I don’t update it that much any more.

    I’ve had my share of bumps, too: back surgery, 2004; knee surgery, 2007. I have had my “down” times when I could not exercise. I know that maintenance is not “set it and forget it.” I’m always having to adjust to new circumstances, and roll with the punches. Change is always the name of the game.

    I appreciate your comment about me being on a “honeymoon,” but I have to say, as it’s been nearly 10 years, I think any honeymoon I may have had is wayyyy over. 🙂 This is just me, living life, oftentimes amongst people who never knew I was ever fat. (Something I get a large charge out of, for whatever reason.)

    I suspect that we just may look at this two different ways. I also suspect, as I noted in my first blog post ever, that the monkey on my back is not the one riding on your shoulder. I don’t find what I do onerous, and that may stem from my different life circumstances (no two people are alike, after all), or it may be that the root causes of why I got fat were/are just different.

    There are many stories in the Naked City. 🙂 We’re just two of them, no?

    • Silly me, I’d been responding to your comments through the comment management page and hadn’t seen your blog link. I clicked on it.

      Yes, indeedy, we are two stories in the Naked City.

      I wish you well and hope you don’t begrudge me my “glass half empty” site. (Some angry visitors think there is NO place in the marketplace of ideas for my thoughts.) I’ll be interested to hear your comments if you decide to visit from time to time. I’ll also understand completely if you don’t care to. You don’t need someone like me dragging you down.

      I have found that for me, this site has offered the opposite effect and, has, in effect lightened my burden. Before I began it (and it’s relatively new — September 29, 2010), I felt horribly alone. I didn’t have a colleague, as it were, in my home town. There was one woman at my Y maintaining radical loss, but she’s in her 30s, and I’m facing down menopause. Her body is working with her much better than mine works with me. I found collaborating with her, er, could sometimes provoke the evil green-eyed monster in me. I contacted the Duke program, and after some digging, they connected me with an email buddy. She’s made it through the big M and was very kind and helpful, but she’s facing additional challenges now. We’ve lost touch, but I hope not forever. At any rate, this blog gives me a great deal of freedom. I say what I like. I comment on what I want to comment on. I don’t force myself to face my weight management with good humor or some obligation to be inspirational. And, remarkably, I’ve found some friends (of the on-line variety) as a result. I didn’t expect that. I thought I’d blow my cork (the later posts are much more mellow than this one or other early posts) then just pack my bags and go, leaving behind a few dead links. Instead, I have calmed down. Nothing I wrote early on is false, but my attitude toward science, culture, and public policy is developing, morphing, and falling into a more constructive channel. I still believe we must acknowledge how rare weight-loss maintenance is. I still think our Biggest Loser culture ill serves us. I think that anger and outrage is justified over the expectation that all people should be able to be trim people. I think that fat people deal with a lot of hatred and misunderstanding, and that doesn’t serve anyone — not even those of us who are weight reduced. Hating on our old fat selves is not productive, nor is hating anything.

      So I press forward with an odd perspective that doesn’t “fit” most places. It’s fun for me, but I will “get” it if you don’t find it fun at all.

      • Your thoughts are your thoughts, and your viewpoint, and they are legit. Anyone contemplating weight loss needs to know the process, warts and all. Everyone’s journey is different.

        I tend to ignore popular weight/loss culture, and do my own thing. I joined Weight Watchers in 2002, learned the framework (which is essentially the same regardless of the particulars), learned to eat mindfully and keep track of what I eat (as I am a self-described “food amnesiac). I have learned that my body’s pretty happy to stay roughly at this weight, as long as I move my butt. (There are past experiences that I won’t go into here that reinforce that for me.)

        It’s my observation that there’s no one “true weight” for any given person; genetics, circumstances, environment and a whole host of other factors play into it. I don’t believe that your max weight is something your body continually yearns to return to . . . unless you go and replicate the circumstances under which it was created. I read some of the experts and some of the latest research — but it’s also my observation that we are far from knowing it all, that our pet theories may well prove wrong in the future, and that our bodies are oftentimes a lot wiser than we are.

        My further observations are that eating too little is counterproductive, causes deprivational feelings, can lead to bingeing (there are studies on this), and can strip muscle off our frames. My approach was to eat as much as I could (yet still lose), do weight training (been lifting since 1999) and do exercise that I love. Mostly. Winter poses a small challenge, tho’ I have to say that I enjoy snow shoveling, as long as it does not involve another Snowmageddon!

        So, you see, I breeze past all the fad diets, the bullcrap, the shortcuts. Calories in, calories out, more or less . . . and a volumetric approach that combines healthy eating and ‘fun’ eating. I haven’t given up any foods that I didn’t want to give up. I just eat them less often.

        OK, that’s enough . . . you get the idea. Again, differing circumstances; what I do may be helpful to others, or it may not. Depending. 🙂

  17. I’m torn as to what to say. On the one hand, I like some of the science you’re using and I like the fat acceptance. I agree with you about the endocrine system driving emotions more often than we’d like to believe. But there’s a lot of eating disordered behaviour here, under the guise of science e.g. applauding someone for being able to eat once a day.

    You know what’s missing from this blog? Joy. I love having lost as much weight as I have. I love feeling light and energetic. I love being able to go into clothes stores and choose what I want. I love eating my own, home cooked meals that I took time to think about and prepare. I even love making a project out of tracking calories.

    But I would rather get fat again than have an eating disorder, where I am keeping every pound away with a grim and obsessive determination, where I can’t enjoy a meal with friends, or stuff myself silly at Christmas time, or have the occasional glass of wine too many.

    It’s your life and you can do what you want with it. But congratulating someone for eating one meal a day is promoting unhealthiness.

    • Annabelle, welcome to the blog — on the days that you want it and its tenor. Your comments, experiences, impressions would be welcome here. I don’t pretend to be a medical doctor. My words are friend-to-friend. I affirm people when they perceive that something is working for them (and I have found that trying to push people away from something they perceive as working for them is fruitless anyway). Cynthia seems content with her eating pattern, which, indeed, may be disordered or it may be a gift. And my regimen, also, may be disordered, though it is, to the letter, what the experts “prescribe” for “permanent” weight-loss. (I just describe it a little differently.) Cynthia doesn’t reveal her BMI, but between the lines I read that her regimen maintains her at a comfortable weight. She perceives that her system is working for her, but that’s between her and her medical doctor. She also wanted to offer me advice, friend-to-friend, and not medical in nature. I understood that. She did it in a spirit of kindness. I’m sorry that my affirming her upset you. In the grand scheme, my words to her likely had no affect one way or the other. Cynthia revealed that she was eating enough to maintain a happy life, and I accepted that at face value. Please know that, shy of the suggestion of suicide or some drastic fast or cleanse, I will affirm most everyone here, where ever they are, which may or may not be following some current diet wisdom. Obesity science is nascent; we’re all our own experiments.

      The only time I challenge someone is when they challenge (or outright attack) me. You have challenged (though not attacked) me on the topic of joy.

      I’m sorry you don’t sense joy here. Joy has many forms, I’ve found. Sometimes the gushiest, most outwardly “joyful” people are, in fact, sad inside. The old “tears of a clown” conundrum. If you do not feel joyful here, you should avoid visiting. Only come if you think it will add to your life. Maybe come on those days you’re looking for a different perspective. Goodness knows, you can find the gushy kind of joyfulness all over the internet. Some of it is legit, but I also sense there are a lot of people who have holes in their lives — social or financial — that they hope to fill by becoming weight-loss inspiration stories. In my first four years of maintenance, I was a much gushier person than I am now, and it was legit, and if someone had paid me to talk about it, I’d have joyfully accepted the honorarium. Now, however, I’m having a more stoic experience, and it is legit too. Take what you can from it, but don’t let me pull you down. Actually, the “me” of five years ago would not have appreciated this blog and the “me” of now. And, in five years, a different “me” yet may have emerged. I’m open to that idea.

  18. That sounds reasonable and thank you for taking the time to reply and not get upset at what I said.

    I’m being relatively rude because, to be honest, your blog scares the crap out of me. I like my weight loss. It seems to like me. I don’t want to have to find myself one day maintaining it with obsessive exercising or gulping water secretly in bathrooms.

    So let me ask you this – how do you reconcile spending so much time worrying about weight with fat acceptance? And what will you do if a day comes when your joints wear out from so much exercise, and you can’t keep up the pace, or the menopause comes, and some weight comes back? Have you got a contingency plan for that?

  19. The contingency plan IS size acceptance, oddly enough. Someday, I may be a fat again, for any or all the reasons you mention, and it will take some psychological work to be peaceful with it. I use HAES concepts to try to prepare for that possibility/probability.

    Like your reaction to my blog, I had a wake-up call too. Mine happened on a plane (I think I’ve written about it somewhere on this blog), travelling with my husband and kid. Whenever we can’t get three seats together, I volunteer to be the odd person out, and I just make it a point to sit — generally uneventfully — next to a fat chick. It’s my quiet way of paying something forward, I guess. I recall some awful times when I flew as a fat person, the rolling eyeballs, the averted glances (“Please DON’T sit next to me”) — once, on a commuter flight, the pilot asked me to sit in the back middle seat to “balance the load.” How humiliating! So, at any rate, most times I just sit quietly, next to a fat chick, giving her a break for one flight from the idiocy and judgment, and nothing happens. But on this plane flight, my seat companion was very friendly and chatty, and we just hit it off. I learned about her work, etc. and she asked me about my life. I talked about family and work, then I also told her that I’m a weight-loss maintainer. I told her how I view it not as a lifestyle, but a job. She said, “Tell me about it! I maintained 70 lbs of loss for 15 years. Then my girls became teenagers — whoo! And I changed jobs. Well, I just couldn’t keep it up. And here I am.” Now, the good news is, she was very comfortable with herself, and a good model for me. But she scared the crap out of me, nonetheless. Somehow, I’d always hoped that about year 12, the Permanent Weight-loss Fairy would show up at my bedside and issue me my Permanent Weight-Loss Card. Mary from Milwaukee (my flight companion) made it abundantly clear, that wasn’t gonna happen, ever. I don’t know if you read Arya Sharma’s blog a couple of weeks ago, but he explained the conundrum in scientific, medical and endocrinal terms why maintaining a reduced body weight is so hard. Yeesh. The evidence is out there. Wake-up calls are everywhere, for anyone who chooses not to hit the snooze button. It’s clear, we maintainers are an odd, experimental bunch. Now, what to do about it?

    Well, as for me, I started this blog. I don’t know if you can tell, whether you have read enough, but my tenor has actually softened in the past eight months. It’s been helpful, therapeutic, to embrace facts, to examine theories, to enjoy the experiment, knowing that it is, indeed, an experiment. And others have gotten pretty far along with this experiment, enough that I hold on to hope. . . to beat Mary, maybe. My fifteen-year fatisversary would put me at age 58. Maybe when I’m breathing on my sixties I’ll be grown up enough to handle life as a fat woman again. Or not. Maybe I’ll hit the twenty-year point. Hooray!

    And I do, actually, enjoy the experiment. I call it an unpaid “job,” sometimes. And that’s accurate. I’ve had real-world volunteer jobs that are less than glamorous (downright dirty), and I’ve found joy in them. So the job metaphor works, and isn’t entirely unjoyful, but it’s also not the only way to look at it. I see how hard my kid struggles to become competent at cello, for example. I don’t work any harder than he does. So, some days, I see my experiment as a hobby — like learning the cello. I’m learning more and more about weight-loss maintenance. And I communicate what I learn on this blog, which is also rewarding, because I meet people like you. And others who are engaging in the same experiment. Debby is more joyful and spiritual than I am. No Celery does Roller Derby. What a hoot! Lynn keeps it real. Hopefulandfree (aka RNegade) has a systemic view that only an RN could have figured out, but tempered by and communicated with poetry. NewMe just plain “gets it” from dealing with her body’s broken architecture. I shouldn’t be naming names, because everyone adds so much. I’ll leave someone out. I could go on and on. DeeLeigh, Mulberry, Val, Living 400, whether we’re living fat or maintaining a weight loss, life is challenging for us. But we all trudge on. And my size acceptance friends are the ones who will catch me someday, when I can no longer do the maintainer experiment. And in the meantime, if I can contribute a little compassion to the world, and get people to stop hating on fat people, well, all the better.

    That’s truly where we’re all on the same page. Hate accomplishes nothing for any of us. Only compassion and mercy will advance this weight-injured culture we live in.

  20. I have occasionally lurked around Dr Sharma’s blog. I’m something of an anomaly – I think – and would like someone to give me some answers. I once went into hospital to have some bits removed and I got a hospital-inflicted superbug infection: clostridium. Constant, endless, dangerous diarrhea, which was only brought under control with extreme antibiotics that wiped out everything in my gut. The illness had reduced my weight like you wouldn’t believe and I started eating high calorie meals to try and get better.

    I got better. But the weight has never come back. It edges up a bit if I have a blowout like I do every Christmas, which I then walk off a couple of days later in the Christmas sales, and I do watch what I eat. I eat home cooked meals, watch portions and count calories – and that’s it. But my body is completely different than it was.

    I would like to know scientifically if something has fundamentally changed in my body. I have read that there is a relationship between weight and gut flora and I wonder if, by having to repopulate my body with an entirely new set of gut flora, I’ve gained some advantage. Can illness reset the body metabolically? I wish someone could tell me!

    But you know what? If the weight comes back, it comes back. I won’t like it – not one little bit – but I lived as a fatty before and I guess I can again. The politics of fat and fat discrimination is extremely important. What bothers me about your blog is that you don’t appear – forgive me – to be embracing size diversity at all. Your own entries suggest you live in terror of fat and that it dominates a lot of your thinking, beyond being an interesting existential or scientific exercise.

    But at this point, I will stop being so blunt and bow out. Although some of your blog bothers me, it’s interesting nevertheless and it clearly resonates with many people.

  21. “I would like to know scientifically if something has fundamentally changed in my body. I have read that there is a relationship between weight and gut flora and I wonder if, by having to repopulate my body with an entirely new set of gut flora, I’ve gained some advantage. Can illness reset the body metabolically? I wish someone could tell me!”

    Agreed. We need more empirical research on the chemistry and biology of weight management. Instead we have NWCR surveys that reconfirm that maintainers eat breakfast. Yeesh.

    As for my tenor: I try to speak honestly about myself, my experiences. I try to be kind to others. Sometimes I may reveal uncomfortable realities about my life, thoughts and behavior. I hope that what I talk about may be useful in opening the conversation about weight, science, culture and fat politics; more so, perhaps, than if I were to choose to be another size-acceptance voice and hide my pecadilloes (which I did for many years as a participant at Big Fat Blog). By revealing as much as I do, I make myself vulnerable. Generally people are kind to me, and I am grateful.

    • It is hard to take the emotion out of size. That’s one of the things I hate about “modern society,” and of course the fat acceptance movement has sprung from this, at least in part.

      The “fat acceptance” crowd, at least from my viewpoint, tends to morph into the “hate thinness” crowd, but that’s another tale, and of course springs from the same source. I won’t comment on it, as I tend to stay away from that entire scene. for better or for worse, I’m mostly concerned with handling my own weight, and helping anyone else who would like to hear my thoughts on the matter. As I think I’ve said somewhere else, I hope that my experience and ideas are helpful to someone, at least in part. If we speak from the heart and from our own place, then our comments are valid. That’s not to say that “our own place” is always pleasant – sometimes it’s hard to live there! And sometimes “our place” can be improved, and our lives become richer as a result.

      But we won’t know what’s possible unless we are exposed to other ideas, other horizons. We are all of us, capable of more than we know. The lives of others help us see our own lives more clearly.

      Or something like that. Gosh, staying late at work must turn me into a cheap-ass philosopher. 🙂 Think it’s time to go home now.

  22. […] that people eat based on external rules and calorie-counting rather than internal cues. If you are maintaining a significant weight loss or are genetically predisposed to be fat but want to be slim, then that is probably what will be […]

  23. Congrats on all your progress, and thank you for sharing your journey. You have willpower i won’t dare to muster.

    I was wondering if you think your maintenance weight is potentially too low? Maybe if you gained lean muscle mass, you could spend less time counting calories and take more than 3 days off from the gym.

    It sounds like you’re into tweaking and experimentation, and I was also curious as to how much you’ve experimented with the amount of fat, protein and carbs in your diet? So far I’ve found that focusing my intake on protein and fat has killed hunger and been very effective for weight loss. I haven’t cut carbs, per se, but have cut out all grains (refined and whole wheat) and all added sugar (refined, cane, the whole kit-and-kaboodle). The strange thing is I used to count calories before i made the change, and if I was reallllly trying, i could stay around 1700 calories a day. Currently, I around 1200-1300 calories a day. I work out 3-4 times weekly, for an hour, but high intensity.

    In anycase, I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether any modifications to your protein/fat/carb ratio helped or hurt.


    • Hi, Dee. Thanks for coming to the blog. Yes, I have done weight training. From time-to-time more than I am now. I do what I find tolerable. My cardio routine also incorporates weights. My lean muscle mass is probably average for my height and weight, above average for my age, but nothing extraordinary. I have also, in recent years (following health challenges that have limited how much running I can do), radically limited my grain-based and other carbs. (Remember the 1993 food pyramid that recommended up to 11 servings of grains per day — that was me once upon a time, and for the first five years of maintenance. ) Now I eat fewer than three servings — 210 calories — of grains per day, many days zero. It was a necessary modification. I don’t think my family culture would work well eliminating grains entirely, but my job is what it is, and it works for me — it keeps me in the 3% club.

  24. […] go for it, and there are people who essentially “win the lottery” and both achieve and maintain a huge weight loss. But it’s not as simple as “Oh, I’m going to lose weight […]

  25. Oh my goodness I so needed to read this today. I am almost finished losing, 4-5 pounds left and I am looking forward to maintaining but no one tells you how to do that. I lost 125 pound and have started running now and I love my new life but I know that the statistics say that regaining is ‘inevitable’ and I don’t want to go there. Thanks for a peek into what goes into your maintaining day.

    • Welcome to the blog, Robbie-Lynn. Hope you find other posts useful too. The journey ahead can be lonely. Everyone and her dog has read some new theory. Every magazine has what it thinks is the ultimate list of tips and tricks. And yet the science is still inconclusive and biased.

      Free advice: First of all, enjoy the honeymoon/coasting period that follows a major loss. As a runner, it may last years . . . or not. Maybe only months. At any rate, enjoy it and resist the urge to say anything like, “If I can do it anyone can.” You will regret that if you do. Then once you’re wearing your cross-country skis and you’re in it for the long haul, listen to your body. Balance your nutrition and your exercise. Manage your insulin-triggered hunger with healthy fats and proteins. Observe your impulses to eat and acknowledge that they are real, before you choose to ignore them and set them in the context of your day. Good luck to you!

  26. […] Roth runs most days, so both her food intake and her exercise are higher than the subjects’. Longtime maintainer Debra SY also eats about 1800 calories and does a long bout of vigorous exercise almost every day. In Debra […]

  27. I was interested to read that some of the people who made comments (here and other posts) that seemed dismissive of your (account of your substantial) maintenance experience do seem to have modified their stance on the straightforwardness of weight maintenance (judging by more recent blog updates than their comments – albeit, the blogs haven’t been updated in more than a year at the time of this comment).

    I didn’t get to enjoy a honeymoon period after reaching my target weight as I had a body composition evaluation and learned that I had a low lean body mass and a high level of body fat, despite having a BMI of approx. 22 – so, in public health terms, I was normal weight but metabolically morbidly obese. Since then, I’ve managed to reduce that to normal weight, metabolically obese (BMI of 20.5 – and this is confirmed by a DXA scan) but I need to be achingly careful about this as I can not afford to lose any more skeletal muscle (I already meet the definition for sarcopenia altho’ I’m rather young for it).

    I’ve learned a lot from reading your posts, so, Thank You. I may well comment on others when I’ve collected my thoughts enough to think I have a useful contribution.

    • Thanks, Gina, for dropping by and for leaving a comment. Since going defunct, I’ve kept in touch with a few of the commenters, and it is nice that a couple of them have come to appreciate that I wasn’t merely a negative Nelly: that I was, indeed, telling my story truthfully, and that my story is probably pretty typical. Your’s sounds much more difficult. I really feel for you and your circumstance. I imagine your intake has to be painfully low compared to a never-been-fat person your weight. How smart and forward thinking of you to get a body composition evaluation. Precious few people would think to do that. Because of your wisdom, you know the bear you are wrestling. I imagine when you hear the naive “zippy lifestyle” mythology on the daily news, your eyes must roll like slot machine. Yeesh.

      For what it is worth, since going defunct, I have gotten my job description down to about 10 hours a week — a quarter-time job. I do this by releasing the hope that I can make my exercise entirely joyful. Most days, I do my weighted aerobics (which isn’t miserable, but isn’t a bike ride in beautiful scenery) for 50 minutes (double tasking weights and cardio). At a low-intensity point, I add in brushing my teeth w/an electric toothbrush (triple tasking). I also do all of this while watching the morning news, so I’m getting my current events update (quadruple tasking). My “cool down” involves keeping the weight vest on and preparing my clothes for the day (sometimes also doing a load of laundry). By multi-tasking and accepting the reality — it’s just my maintenance — I feel pretty stoic in the best sense about it all. If seven hours per week are exercise related, then the other three are food prep related. I also don’t devote the time I used to to scientific research, though I regularly visit some good blogs and occasionally download and print off a journal article to read for pleasure (that I find it pleasurable is probably telling).

      • Oh my word – reading how you’ve condensed your workouts into such a multi-tasking period of time both impressed me for the sheer commitment of self-discipline and control that it requires but also the level of Stoicism (I’m British, so Stoicism resonates with my beliefs about eudaimonia). Overall, it sounds as if you’ve successfully incorporated organisational efficiency principles into managing that part of your life with as much grace as can be mustered.

        “I imagine when you hear the naive “zippy lifestyle” mythology on the daily news, your eyes must roll like slot machine.” Yes. I’m at the naive stage where I’m profoundly annoyed that no journalist ever asks decent follow-up questions, “How do you know this can be maintained for life?”. “Have you gathered enough data from representative weight-loss demographics to know that this won’t erode muscle mass or lead to distressing changes in hormonal responses that will sabotage weight management in the future?” “Almost any method works for people who are losing weight for the 1st or 2nd time – have you assessed if your programme works for serial dieters or those whom Dr Berkeley categorises as POWs?”

        I must also confess to being quick to irritation at the trivial and unhelpful nature of Public Health advice about weight management, active lifestyles, and nutrition.

        I assume that at some point these irritations will pass and I’ll accept that no journalist would ever be allowed to ask those questions by an editor with airtime or column inches to fill, in the cheapest possible way, while attracting decent audience ratings. Even if they did – would a general audience, looking for ‘hope and inspiration’ want to know what would sound like harsh truths. Similarly, researchers in Public Health can not hope to deliver effective or useful advice at the level of individuals (apart from the abstinence from tobacco message).

        Nonetheless, I can’t avoid the gnawing sense that the public rhetoric about the rationality of weight loss programmes and how logical it is, plus the ‘zippy lifestyle’ message is crucially undermining the general understanding of the realities of such undertakings (as you’ve described in such an on point manner in your posts).

    • Gina, re your sarcopenia: do you do any weight training? This is the easiest way to build muscle mass. I know we are all different, and some of us build mass more readily than others. But if you do not do weight training, do consider it. It has so many other benefits, including maintenance of balance, reduced risk of certain diseases (including diabetes). I find it to be a lot of fun, actually, and enjoy the challenging of upping the amount of weight I am able to lift. I’ve lifted for 15 years now, am 61 years old. Continuing to lift hopefully will help me keep my balance and ward off “frailty” – which is not a normal part of aging, but is a result of dwindling muscle mass and reduced balance (amongst other things). You are young, and don’t have to worry about this yet – but God willing, you will someday be old – and you will be most appreciative of a body that is strong and steady, believe me! As I watch my cohort start to succumb to falls and ailments, I’m doing my best to stay healthy and active as long as possible. It’s not the ‘years in your life,’ but the ‘life in your years.’

      • 15 years of practice of lifting must have done so much for you and your physique. That sounds so good and as if it’s given you a rock solid foundation for healthy ageing with joy in your life.

        Yes, I do weight train and I’m fairly active (kayak/cycle 4 days a week for the sheer joy of it; weight train, and I walk a fair amount in the course of my day-to-day life). I was always active up until an accident intervened, I was abruptly sedentary while I recovered (during which I gained the weight) and since then I’ve been waiting/working for my strength to recover to previous levels (the weights that I now use are substantially less (as in <30%) than just before the accident, and although I've recuperated well and it's now 4 years on, I've not recovering the strength or stamina).

        It was the lack of progress in recovering the strength etc. that prompted me to go and have the initial evaluation and when the results of that were so surprising, I realised that I had a problem with my bone mass, muscle mass or both. I'm now having it investigated (which is why I know the results from a DXA scan) but it's not yet apparent why it happened, nor quite so precipitously. I've been advised that I'm at risk for frailty fractures and also for falling (because of the paucity of the skeletal muscle mass). At present, I've no idea if the loss of muscle mass will continue or if this is something that will reveal itself over the course of follow-ups in the next 2-3 years.

        Oddly enough, because the usual phrase for this 'condition' is 'sarcopenic obesity', when I was told the results of my scan (including a BMI of 20 or so), altho' the HCP knew that I weigh 116lbs, and we'd already had a chat about my activity levels – I was given the standard advice to "lose weight" and "try and be more active – see if you can walk for 20mins a day". I did ask how much weight I should attempt to lose, and how I'd do that without endangering the scant amount of muscle mass that I have, but that just prompted a silence and, "Well, that possibly doesn't apply to you". Nonetheless, I was given all the information leaflets that promote the same advice.

        Along with the 'zippy lifestyle' message that DebraSY mentions, it seems as if it's phenomenally difficult for an HCP to deal with a person in front of them the moment that there's a figure that indicates some level of obesity – irrespective of what is known about that person. I mean this less in a blaming sense than thinking this points to an intriguing cognitive process.

  28. Okay, Gina, you win the Stoic Olympics. I can’t imagine how you could listen to a health care provider tell you to lose weight from a 20 BMI and NOT choke that person’s eyeballs out. Shame on me. I’m in seminary now. I shouldn’t have these violent thoughts.

    But what a crazy world we live in that we have become so blind!

    • Gina, I am sorry; I hope that you can continue to recover strength as time goes on. Accidents are odd things. They can change you permanently, even if you seem the same from the outside, afterward. Even injury can do that – I had a microdiscectomy in 2004, as a direct result of a ruptured L4/L5 disc. It was so bad that I lost feeling in part of my leg and also part of my leg strength. The operation was a complete success, but to this day, I have maybe 3 – 5% less strength in that leg, even though the operation was done timely to minimize nerve damage. I find that especially in the evening, when I climb the stairs in my house, I “hop” a bit on that leg to compensate. I work that side in the gym, but I never seem to get the strength up to the other leg. Fortunately, the difference is barely noticeable and only because I remember how it used to be. In fact, I don’t notice it most of the time; only when I’m thinking about it.

      All you can do is keep trying, and also doing the things that give you joy.

      Since you say you also have some bone density issues: I found this web site a few months ago, it appears to have a lot of decently reliable information about osteopenia. If nothing else, it might be a good resource.
      The author maintains, probably rightly so, that there are different causes for bone loss. You might find it to be a good read, and there might be a nugget or two in there that could help. Just ignore her rah-rah page and dig into the details. Good luck!

      • Deborah, thank you for the link to the thought-provoking site that I hadn’t seen previously. It’s unusual and heartening to see someone distinguishing the contributory factors to osteopenia and osteoporosis and suggesting tailored ways in which they might be addressed. Admittedly, I’m still in the investigation stage but the only advice I’ve had is to supplement vitamin D and calcium, walk for 20mins a day, get some sunshine (and lose weight – but that was more for the sarcopenia than the bone loss). And, little of that advice was relevant to me for reasons mentioned above (altho’ I may discuss supplementation).

  29. Came here through some frustrated rant-googling (overdrank/overate a LITTLE bit this week and have piled a few pounds on, so I’m annoyed – my body seems to break the laws of physics), and found that it matched my experiences pretty well! Yep, even us guys (who do have the benefit of a larger calorie allowance) have a hard time with it.

    Sorry to see that the comments have mostly been along the lines of “sucks to be you, I don’t understand why it’s so hard for you, it’s easy for me!” – because it’s horrible hearing that all the time as it is. I know what it’s like to have an unforgiving body, and for everyone else to be implying that you’re just overthinking it / not getting enough exercise / not counting properly / add your favourite “you’re just weak and lazy” type of thing here. The most frustrating thing is that everyone around you does NOT have an unforgiving body, and so just doesn’t understand. Everyone here is constantly chugging 6 pints of beer and chasing it down with a kebab, or regularly eating enough to feed a small army at the restaurant, and then they turn to you and basically say “if only you moved a bit more, you could do this too!”

    No, it’s about 80% food, 20% exercise. I know, I lost 2lb+ per week for 9 months and barely moved aside from a bit of (tedious) exercise biking at the weekend. Though I will admit that it’s hard to keep that up forever when hitting maintenance, because you want to enjoy the weekend after working all week, not spend it all pedaling away for 4 hours and losing the will to live just so you can afford to have a pint.

    Don’t try to tell me “it’s the beer, it messes with your body too much” – I lost those 2lb+/week while drinking the stuff (and being a little hungry) and also I’ve given up a lot of things like burgers, pizza, fish and chips, chocolate, most types of crisps etc. Let me have just one little joy or there’s no point in living to begin with.

    It’s just a rant really, like you, sometimes I get rather frustrated that unless I’m on a weight loss week (i.e. hungry) and am maintaining or trying to lose slowly (i.e. mildly hungry) I only have to sniff a treat during the week and pile on 5 pounds. Everyone else gets away with burger. And during the summer, it comes every day – “let’s have an ice cream”, “let’s have a nice couple of cool ones in the beer garden” etc and you have to be that miserable one saying “not me, I’d only pile weight on” while you fight against your own body.

    • Welcome, Cloud! Guys are welcome here too. For Whatever it’s worth, this was an opening post on this blog, as the year went on the zippy and “inspirational” weight-loss people who were critical of me went away and presumably found like-minded blogs of the “if I can do it anyone can” variety. Most of the people who remained and joined in the conversation were either legit weight-loss maintainers who acknowledged the truth in my words and saw overlap with their own experience, or they were size acceptance proponents who had experienced the frustration of being disciplined, earnest and committed to a permanent new “lifestyle” but had been defeated by weight regain (sometimes over and over again). The discussion became very kind and multi-dimensional. We looked at science and social mythology around fat, weight loss and weight-loss maintenance. I’m glad you found this blog. I keep thinking I ought to take it down entirely. Often it’s just visited by spammers with products to sell or, worse, the kind of people who want to make fun of fat people and they start a discussion on their own blogs about how wrong I am. Then someone comes along like you, who “gets” it, and I think, well, I’ll keep it up for a while more. These days, I’m in school, and I continue to maintain a loss of 55 pounds under highest established weight. It’s challenging, but I’ve stream-lined it as much as it can be. I probably give it ten hours a week, six or seven of those are exercise. I hope you can get to a weight number you feel good about and maintain it. I think your love of beer complicates the process, but let’s hope it doesn’t make it impossible. I drink wine every night. I suspect that fruit-based alcohol carbs are more weight-maintenance friendly than grain-based carbs, but I don’t know that for fact. It’s a thought, though, if you can bring yourself to try it.

  30. Hi Debra and thanks! For what it’s worth, it turns out my body didn’t defy the laws of physics after all and I only put half a pound on when it came to my usual weekly weigh-in. Phew! I was a bit panicked and frustrated this morning as I weighed on the morning (which I have never done before, usually just leave it to the WW meeting) and it showed a gain of +2. Then I factored in about +3 for the difference between morning and evening and thought it was going to be a crazy +5, and took to the four corners of the internet to rant and rage. But I am pretty much off the hook. Naturally my rather bitter mood fell away a bit and has just nicely turned around.

    However I totally see what you’re saying here! Even the half pound gain just goes to show how it can go for us if we’re not perfect for a week and how fine the line is between maintaining and gaining. Settle into that, and it can all find itself slipping back on (as it did last time). I think for those with our body types / genetics / whatever, it is most likely a lifetime of caring for it and investing the time in keeping it in check. I have no plans to quit weekly weigh-ins either as it’s party a willpower and “forgetting” the impact of things issue with me. I’m pretty sure a month after I do, I’ll find the belt notches evading me again!

    I seem to get away with beer but like anything it’s a calorie tradeoff, hence I have to be a bit hungry through the day if I want to lose (and mildly to maintain). I may just have to accept that I can’t guzzle it and get away with it like my peers and that the 200-400 cals for a pint or two is better spent on keeping the hunger at bay! Or find a sustainable and enjoyable physical activity – I like wandering up the mountains but it’s way too hot at this time of year.

    Also I tend to agree with fat acceptance… well,everything acceptance, people have the right to be and do what they wish (assuming it’s legal) and have the respect and love of others. It’s just that the health issues are pretty much irrefutable, so I’m doing it for me.

    Glad to hear it’s been going ok for you over the years. Shame about the abuse you’ve had. Intentional or not your google presence is pretty good, unfortunately it’s a curse as well as a blessing as it brings all flavours of internet user with it. I do think it’s worth keeping though!

    • Thanks, Cloud. Oddly, my stats page shows that right now, even as we speak, an anti-HAES group with apparently no special expertise, but a burning desire to make fun of fat people, has landed on this very post and is whining negatively about how whiney and negative I am. I roll my eyes. I think I will keep the blog up for a while more. The world needs counter-cultural voices to say, “It’s more complicated than that.”

  31. Okay so I was just rereading some of your blog after being over at Dr. B.’s blog where I have a shout out to you. I LOVE this blog, and I love your passion and your critical harsh voice! I know you voice anger here, but anyone who reads you in the rest of your blog and elsewhere should I assume you are kind (I mean you want to be a chaplain and a safe haven for people). Everything you state here is the unequivocal truth, and I have learned so much from you! I lost weight while on prednisone and while taking another medication that makes it hard to lose weight. (I have lost 70 pounds, and I am technically overweight but don’t look it because I lift weights.) I am off the prednisone but still on the drug that makes it hard to lose (and I will be for life).

    It was an absolutely monumental effort to lose weight and took me eight years. I am in my mid forties. I exercise quite a bit and I watch what I eat like a hawk though I do have a sweet tooth which leads me to nibble but I would never sit down with a bowl of ice cream now. I have had to tweak my exercise and eating multiple times over the years and I would love to run, but I have crappy knees so I do the arc trainer and it works for me. I am long over the honeymoon phase and smile at the people who have lost over 100 pounds who run tons and tons (in addition to doing yoga and Pilates). They claim they will never regain the weight and that their running allows them to eat whatever they want on the Paleo diet. But their feet Hirt them and they go see physical therapists to treat their running injuries regularly. And oh, when they stopped running due to an injury they gained ten pounds which they relost upon starting to run again. I think these people do NOT have it figured out because they will be lost without their running. I prefer a voice of reason/reality from someone like you and several others out there who are super careful and strict (and do not sugarcoat things). So thanks for all your thought here. I really appreciate it!

    • Hi, Ali! Welcome. I often wonder if I’m getting any “real” traffic here anymore. Thanks for leaving a comment. And thanks for “hearing” me. Yes, some of this blog is angry. And I still have snitty days from time to time. I vent at Barbara’s blog and Dr. Sharma’s. I’m always amazed at how little progress we’re making in cultural mythology regarding weight-loss maintenance. I’m also a friend of Kai Hibbard on Facebook. She’s a former Biggest Loser contestant who is defying the gag orders they’re all forced to sign and saying how wrong and misdirected that program is. She’s a maintainer, and we have “talked” privately on FB. She knows what’s what. You’d think that people would lend her credibility because of her maintainer status, but she is continually sniped by haters. It’s ridiculous. As a culture we are married to this grand myth that permanent weight loss is just a zippity-doo-dah lifestyle once the ignorant fatties “wise up” and start living right. Oh, and humiliating them into that realization is a great idea. Yeesh.

      You’re so right about the runners too. I have first hand experience living in that myth as well. Sigh. Running is, indeed, magical, until it’s impossible. Ouch.

  32. Just had to drop in quickly to say how glad I am that this blog is still around. Seeing you make mention of removing it gives me the shudders! I first discovered it about three years ago and still find myself coming back to reread posts. The information here is just as relevant as it was when first written…and I enjoy coming back to read again on topics that were not personal to me when I first read them, but now, after these three years, take on a whole new depth since I’ve completed my own weight loss.

    I found you by googling “weight loss blogs” or some such thing. I had never…not once in my life…considered the science of weight loss. I was sure I was just a glutton who needed to get control of herself. You were the very first person who opened my eyes to a whole world of information that I didn’t realize existed. I actually credit you for the impetus of my weight loss. I’ve lost 85 pounds and am currently maintaining that loss for two years.

    I have no idea what the future holds for me. I’m obviously in the “honeymoon period”. At the age of 54 I realize that not only do I not have all the answers, but I often don’t even hear the questions. I just wanted to take moment to encourage you to keep letting this blog hang around. I suspect I’ll want to continue to come back and reread it for a long time to come.

    • Hi, Mrs. Chimo. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I had a funeral to attend, the father of a friend, and all the complications surrounding such stuff.

      Your post has made my week, however. Each year as renewal date rolls around I wonder whether to let it lapse. I look back over the stats and see trolls who have come by from Reddit to talk about what a kook I am, apologizing for the fatties when obviously I’m proof that weight-loss maintenance can happen, or talking about what a whiner I am. But then I see others who find me by way of searches and Big Fat Blog (a fine blog in its day, also now defunct). I reread a few of my posts and the comments, and reach the same conclusion. Nothing has changed much. If anything, the science has gotten more robust in supporting the idea that our bodies defend and try to return us to our highest established weight. In response, we have to use science, intuition combined with knowledge of our own bodies and some kind of humble mental construct to frame our part-time job, our serious hobby or whatever we want to call it (other than “lifestyle”), if our goal is weight-loss maintenance.

      One blog I subscribe to is Dr. Sharma’s. Many days, he’s just addressing other white coats, but some days he addresses those of of us in the trenches (or allows us to talk to his white-coat buddies by way of the comments) as he reviews the latest science. While he has his biases, he’s a humble searcher too. Once he posted a link by way of twitter to my “revolutionary, breakthrough” method for evaluating researchers and I got more than 600 hits. At any rate, you may wish to subscribe to him too.

      I wish you well in your odyssey. I’m glad my blog has been a useful part of that.

  33. Just to say that all the present publicity about Kevin Hall’s research study of The Biggest Loser participants over time chimes so well with much of what you speculated and wrote about – I so wish that media were interested in interviewing somebody like you, Debra.

    Many, many thanks for keeping your site active. I need my refresher course in stoicism and eudaemonia!

    As for me – I’m maintaining at approx. 101-105lbs and 20% body fat composition (DXA). My maintenance is in the 20hours+ per week but I attribute that to the demands of the sarcopenia etc.

  34. I should also have commented that Dr Sharma tweeted a link to Dr Yoni Freedhoff’s blog post that asks, “I wonder what legal standing former contestants might have to launch a class action lawsuit in response to the show’s trashing of their metabolic futures?”.

    I doubt Freedhoff was posing a serious question (tho’ I’d also be intrigued by the implications for commercial diet programmes) but I’m fascinated as to whether the publicity around a popular TV programme will eventually prove to have been the stimulus for some overdue and very necessary rigorous research in this area.

  35. I think Yoni’s suggestion is brilliant. My husband is an attorney in another area of law. I’ll ask him what he thinks. With regards to the Kevin Hall research, I found it interesting that I got a statistical spike here yesterday by way of Twitter. Apparently someone commented on the research and said something about “Yeah, and here’s what it looks like to fight that metabolism damage.”

  36. Here are my husband’s thoughts, cut and pasted:

    “Class action lawsuits are typically most advantageous in cases where one company inflicts relatively small damages on a large number of people. That way, the victims can share the legal fees and costs and get some compensation.

    I suspect the “Biggest Loser” victims each have substantial damages. The causes of action would probably include breach of contract, negligence, malpractice and fraud. I suspect that the jurisdiction will be located where ever the Biggest Loser ranch is located since that is where the majority of the damage occurred.”

    My thoughts: With all the “experts” that show employed, they had to have known that they were destroying metabolisms for profit. The research was already widely available, as my blog attests. If I had that information, they did too. I bet Katherine Flegal would cheerfully testify as an expert witness, as would Yoni and Arya and maybe Rudy Leibel and a slew of other researchers whose integrity was not for sale.

    • Your blog certainly attests to the contemporaneous availability of relevant research as well as being a source of very useful speculation.

      Following your thoughts and those of your husband, the notion of a law suit seems to have more potential than it appeared to me at first blush – and I wonder if it would send a chill through some of those increasingly popular ‘Bride Preparation Boot Camps’ that seem to employ similar levels of calorie restriction and exercise as the Biggest Loser.

      The always thought-provoking Dr Barbara Berkeley has some interesting perspectives on the media coverage of the study (specifically the NYT overlooking that most of the participants seem to have maintained clinically relevant levels of weight loss 6 years out, even if they have regained some of their striking losses): News Flash! People Who Lose Weight Gain It Back!!!!

      Berkeley notes that it’s not appropriate to generalise from the metabolic condition of the BL participants because it might reflect the relative harshness of their regime and the rapidity of their weight losses. I’m mindful that it’s not as if the ‘moderate’ commercial weight loss programmes can demonstrate that their approach results in sustainable maintenance despite ostensibly less metabolically aggressive methods.

      Commercial entities are entitled to protect their business but where those entities are paid by HMO (or in the UK, the NHS) it feels as if somebody, somewhere, ought to have sight of the withheld data, on the grounds of due diligence and assessing risk.

      I’ve long argued that weight reduction programmes ought to state their Number Needed to Treat and Number Needed to Harm – I feel the the probability of long-term metabolic impacts are more relevant than ever.

      Thank you again for a space to muse about long-term weight maintenance.

  37. From what I can tell, it’s not the speed or harshness of the weight loss but the total percentage of loss that makes maintenance harder. One of the reasons I’m doing it is because at my lowest plateau I was only (a relative term) at minus 27 Percent. I’d reduced myself by just over a quarter, which is radical but not as radical as the BL contestants. I’m now at minus 24.6 percent. Some of the BL contestants lost in the range of 40 percent total body weight.

    I’ll go read Barbara now. You’re right that she’s thought-provoking. I usually agree strongly with a large percentage of what she says and disagree strongly with a small percentage. But she always listens and takes me seriously. I never feel dismissed.

    • As I have worked towards a body composition that matched the needs/quantity of lean body mass that I have I find myself at a scale weight that is 38% less than my highest weight.

      I’ve mentioned the tiresome sarcopenia that contributed to this. I’ve very aware that at this weight each lb of gain is effectively another 1% body fat (where it’s not normal fluid shifts). It’s entirely possible for me to find myself in the position where I would be at the lowest end of the ‘acceptable’ BMI scale whilst being classed as metabollically obese (using the Shah and Braverman categorisations as well as the body fat obesity algorithm used as a guidelines by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians).

      As you have argued so well, it would be rather refreshing if obesity researchers took the time to have an exchange of views with weight maintainers to learn about the research issues that are relevant to us and would help us with our various ‘obesities’ (your helpful phrase from another post).

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