In Weight-Loss Maintenance on December 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm

The hardest question I have to answer, and it gets asked a lot, is “Why do you do this?” 

Good question.  Why do I maintain a radical amount of weight loss?  It’s hard.  It’s lonely.  I haven’t confused “health” and “weight loss,” so that doesn’t motivate me.  Why, indeed?

The easiest answer (at least the one that falls out of my mouth most often) is, “Because I can.”  That is incomplete and prideful, of course.  And it redirects to a question that is easier to answer, “Why CAN you do this?”  So many people want to do this, and yet they can’t.

I don’t know the answer to that question either.  It’s all speculation.  Perhaps, I can do this because I enjoy blessings: 

  • I have the financial resources to buy mostly unprocessed, organic foods, and the time and flexibility to prepare them.
  • I have the time and flexibility to exercise as much as I need to and when I want to. 
  • Certain physical attributes probably help.  As a fat person, I was “cello” shaped, evenly fatted.  My waist was ten inches smaller than my bust and 14 inches smaller than my rump at my biggest (not including pregnancy).  Maintenance is probably easier for me than someone who starts with an “apple” shape, or another shape that tenaciously holds fat in a designated place.   
  • Personal history may help.  For example, I’ve only had three legitimate yoyo weight-cycling episodes prior to this last run at loss, and by that I mean losses and rebounds of more than 10% of my highest weight at the time.  I understand many people rack up dozens of yoyo attempts representing hundreds of pounds. 
  • For all the grief I express about endocrine, I may get some help from it.  I’ve never, for example, been a big fan of fatty meats.  Just not my thing.

This does not explain it entirely.  Other people who have these blessings or others have been unable to maintain losses.

I guess I maintain weight loss, I can maintain weight loss, because I find it endlessly interesting (if sometimes exasperating). 

It’s interesting because everything we know about weight-loss maintenance is either incomplete or wrong.  Actually, we don’t even fully recognize it as a separate issue from weight loss.  Correction:  we deny that it’s an issue at all.  We cheer for the Biggest Loser contestants, we turn off the TV set, and we tell ourselves, “. . .and they all lived happily ever after.  The end.”  Weight-loss maintenance is interesting because of this weird cultural mythology.

It’s interesting because no one has been able to communicate how to do it in such a way that more than a small percentage can succeed by any respectable measurement.   While I’m not all that interested in winning converts, I want to take a stab at explaining it.  So far, about the best I can do is label things as helpful or unhelpful.  Following is a short list of some common things that are thought to be helpful, but aren’t. 

  • Hate is unhelpful.  We’re culturally guided to hate fat, fat people and our old fat selves.  (“I’ll never look like that again!” the diet spokesmodel squeals.)  Hate is presumably just part of “wanting it bad enough.”  It is not.  The privilege of hating is supposed to be a reward for doing the hard work of weight loss. It is not that either.  The myth goes that if you hate fat enough, you will have sufficient motivation to stay trim.  Not so.  Hating does nothing but advance hate, not weight-loss maintenance.
  • War language is unhelpful.  “War on obesity.”  “Battle of the bulge.”  “Fight your fat.”   “Fight your cravings.”  This does nothing but put us at war with our bodies.  We must work with our bodies.
  • Intuition alone is unhelpful.  Even though we must work with our bodies, our intuition (which expresses itself through our endocrine system) would naturally lead us home to our fat bodies, so our relationship with that intuition is complex.  (This suggests a blog post of its own. No?)
  • Tying weight-loss maintenance to emotions is unhelpful.  Sure, people may gain weight, in part, because of emotional trauma or for other emotional reasons, but solving emotional problems will not automatically lead to weight-loss maintenance, nor is it even necessary to make weight-loss maintenance possible.  This is because weight-loss maintenance is mostly a scientific puzzle and emotions are another kind of conundrum.  I do not pretend to be the model of emotional serenity, and yet I’m weight-loss maintenance success story. 
  • Tying weight-loss maintenance to a positive attitude is also unhelpful.  (Horrors!  Did she just say that?!)  It’s not that I’m advocating a bad attitude, just that we should unlink our attitude from our weight-loss maintenance.  A great attitude was useful to begin the process of weight loss, I’ll grant you, and a great attitude may continue for quite a time, as it is bolstered with each lost pound and every admiring compliment.  However, when the compliments are done and the weight bottoms out, it is natural (maybe inevitable) for optimism to wax and wane over time, and it’s not helpful to allow a tired or bruised sense of optimism to pull on our weight numbers.  While depression and pessimism can lead to weight gain, for those of us with weight issues it goes the other way more often.  We gain a pound and that makes us depressed and pessimistic, which makes us gain more weight, which makes us more depressed and pessimistic, which makes us . . . on and on.   I think we are smart NOT to depend on a zippy, positive attitude to reverse this cycle.  There are days when my attitude is pure Dale Carnegie, and maintenance is easier on those days, I admit.  But I also maintain my weight loss on those days when I’m feeling like Rodney Dangerfield. 

My maintainer friends, help me expand my list.  What other unhelpful assumptions undergird weight-loss maintenance?  Later this week, we may start to discuss the flip side:  what is helpful?  And by that I’m not talking about tired old “tips and tricks,” but what we may use instead of hate, how, exactly, we may work with our intuition (since we cannot trust it entirely), how may we go about separating attitude and emotions from weight-loss maintenance?   Most importantly, we’ll discuss how we shall deal with the false assumptions that you will add to the comments here.  For my size acceptance friends, you’ll want to avoid these upcoming posts.  I will label them clearly.

Maintainers, you are also welcome to take a shot at the initial question:  Why?  Why do you do this?  It’s damned hard.  Why do you persist?

  1. I’ve been quietly enjoying this blog since it began, but am now prompted to ask a question. I have gone through one significant loss and regain (80 lbs off, 100 lbs on) and a couple smaller ones (20-30 lbs). I just lost twenty pounds again and feel torn between a desire to change some of my unhealthy habits (which, I have seen in the past, tends to result in some weight loss) and a fear of the damaging physical and psychological effects of weight cycling. So what I’d like to know is not why you do it, but rather, once you’ve done it, is it worth it?

    • Welcome, Tallie. Changing unhealthy habits is always a good thing, and if some incidental weight loss accompanies the changes, hooray. Accept the weight loss as a bonus.

      I find your fear of weight cycling, which seems to outweigh any fat hatred or fear, interesting and refreshing.

      Is it worth it? Ask me today and I’ll say yes. Ask on another day and my view may be different. And, as you know, I haven’t “done” it, as in “completed” it, I’m doing it always and with no forseeable end. It’s an ever-present part of my consciousness, my actions, my life. It’s my “other” job. Is it worth it? Enough that I keep doing it.

  2. Why? Why do I do this… I think there are two separate reasons. One is… I really enjoy the things I can do with this very fit body.

    But… well, that’s not really the weight maintenance part. Anyone can have high levels of fitness.

    So why do I really do it?


    Plain and simple. I am afraid of being treated by the world how I used to be treated. I am afraid of being harassed and mocked and humiliated. I am afraid of losing the thin privilege I worked so hard to get to. Does that make me a little ashamed? Yes… but there it is, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit it that my primary motivation to maintain the loss is to be able to “fit in” and not have to face the life I used to have when I was very fat.

    • Brave and honest, No Celery. I understand completely. That fear may lie quietly for months, then rears its ugly head when the scale decides to take a little jump.

  3. Separately… what is not helpful? Acting like I ought to be able to eat the same things as you just because you are thin and have always been. Telling me I am odd for having to live on a restricted diet because “I’ve already lost the weight”…

  4. Recently I had an episode of hypoglycemia, which to my knowledge I’ve never had before, at least not anywhere near as severe as what I experienced. (Almost comatose before I even realized something was very wrong.) Stretched out on the floor in my hallway, unable to move while three paramedics were got me stable, I felt embarassed and kind of like a loser. (My house was a mess, and I was wearing a man’s beater shirt and long johns!) But they all treated me with great respect and concern. No one suggested or hinted that I had somehow been responsible for the hypoglycemia.

    By BMI standards I’m overweight, but no longer obese, and it’s as if there is some weird imaginary size I became that entitled me to be treated as a human being deserving of care. If I was still obese, I would have been made to feel responsible for almost any problem that required the EMT crew to show up for.

    Ironically, the truth is, my own behavior may have actually contributed to the dangerous condition I was in because I have been struggling to eat enough lately. Nerves, my grandma would call it. Severe and chronic stress is what I call it. Yes, my behavior may have been a factor, but I don’t think it would be fair to say that I caused, or was responsible for, the problem.

    This one thing, being treated like someone deserving of care, is profound. Yet I doubt even this will be a major factor in whether or not I will be able to maintain the weight loss. There are just too many other variables.

    • Wow, RNegade. Welcome to the imaginary acceptable size zone. It’s hard for people who haven’t been there to understand the change in social signals, but I know what you mean. When you’re fat, medical professionals talk about you in front of you without including you (since you obviously cannot make good decisions yourself). When they do get around to talking to you there’s an edge of condescension that’s not there when you’re trim. When you’re fat, people (even medical professionals) look at you then avert their eyes. It’s not in your head. It’s real. But it’s something that you have to live to understand.

  5. Darn, Debra! You write some thought provoking posts!

    This paragraph really caught my attention: Intuition alone is unhelpful. Even though we must work with our bodies, our intuition (which expresses itself through our endocrine system) would naturally lead us home to our fat bodies, so our relationship with that intuition is complex. (This suggests a blog post of its own. No?) Yes, yes. Please write. Because ‘our intuition expresses itself through our endocrine system?’ What?

    Another thing that came to mind while reading this was something I’ve been wondering for a while. Is eating whole, unprocessed foods the only, or the easiest way to maintain weight loss? It seems like the only maintainers I know (through blogs) are people who have radically overhauled their food choices.

    • I will write a blog post on Endocrine, I think, though it will be an odd one. I’m not a scientist, but I have such respect for the power of endocrine and its influence over our behavior and emotions.

      With regard to your second paragraph, I can only speak for myself, but I am aware that other maintainers have similar experiences. When I was a runner I sustained myself and maintained my weight loss on a Mediterranean influenced “foodie” diet. When running on concrete became progressively more painful and dangerous, and I started to replace it with other forms of exercise (that were gentler but more time-consuming), I found my weight sliding and I reassessed my diet, both in terms of number of calories and their sources. I took my calorie range down 200 calories and, eventually, I radically cut back on the grain-based carbs (went off them cold turkey for a month, but now will eat between 0 and 3 servings — 210 calories — per day, generally whole grains or good karma, noncorporate, baked goods). I think a lot of it depends on how you lost the weight and initially sustained the losses. I lost the weight as a runner. When I couldn’t do that anymore, I had to reset to a different equation, first in quantity, which still wasn’t completely halting the slide, then in quality, which finally halted the slide and, as a bonus, improved how my joints felt remarkably. Sadly, I had hoped it would also quell my “eat now” or “binge” impulses. Hasn’t done that. At least not for me. I understand that cutting grains can have that effect for some people.

  6. “Tying weight-loss maintenance to emotions is unhelpful.”

    I have to disagree with this. I think that all relationships of all sorts are governed by emotions and that includes one’s relationship with food. It is not all chemistry. One of the reasons people overeat (and I define “overeat” as eating more than their particular body requires, not as a set number of calories) is that they have an emotional relationship with food.

    While chemistry does push us to eat, we are rational beings who consistently and constantly override our biological urges. We are tired, but we don’t sleep. We are aroused, but we don’t have sex. We are hungry, but we don’t eat. The reason people act compulsively is that the emotional link pushes them past the point of resistance. Food fulfills some sort of emotional need and that need is harder to deny than the biological one.

    I think that you can speak for *yourself* when you say you believe that your overeating was related only to chemistry (and perhaps one of the reasons you are a rare case and can maintain a great loss is that that may be true), but you cannot make a blanket assertion that “solving emotional problems will not automatically lead to weight-loss maintenance, nor is it even necessary to make weight-loss maintenance possible. This is because weight-loss maintenance is mostly a scientific puzzle and emotions are another kind of conundrum.” You have no evidence to support this assertion.

    For most people, personal history and emotions are a huge piece of the puzzle in their dealings with food. They are the reason that they can’t overcome biology in the case of weight control while they can overcome biology in so many other areas of their lives.

    • Obviously, this is a conversation that is only beginning. I need to make another post (and you’re welcome to continue disagreeing — you do so respectfully and that’s what counts). Before I do, I would suggest you read my earlier post on binges: In it you will find a link to where I started the discussion on binges. In sum, it’s ALL chemistry! What are emotions? They are chemical/hormonal reactions. The recipe for anger: a pinch of cortisol, a dash of adrenaline, and other chemicals and hormones. (Note that cortisol is also linked to stress and weight.) The recipe for joy includes seratonin (also linked to responses to certain foods). Those of us who are successful at this funny game, on some weird level, can untangle the endocrine puzzle and manage it. Emotions are dealt with separately from weight management. You talk about us being rational beings and overriding chemistry. But we do fail, in all your examples of overrides there are cases where we fail. People do fall asleep while driving cars, for crying out loud. They may not have sex, but then they’ll have a wet dream. It’s all chemistry. Emotions are not outside forces that act on us and override our reason. They are within us, right there with our binge impulses. We disrespect chemistry at our own peril.

  7. I am maintaining (for now) about a 50 lb weight loss. I have lost and regained my whole life, while living in denial about the regaining – never stepping on a scale.

    So now I am using the scale every morning whether I want to or not – mostly I don’t want to. AND I am eating primarian as advocated by Barbara Berkeley. The effect of this way of eating is that I don’t feel so hungry all the time. AND I read blogs every day.

    I’m a little heavier than I was when I stopped dieting. But I can live with it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who either blogs or comments.

    • Hey, Mo! I think it was messing with you because I (administator) was on line at the same time. But once I hit “submit” it accepted yours too. And your other one!

      Ironically, I was talking to Debby about cutting the grain-based carbs. You’re one of the fortunate ones I was talking about for whom that decision helps with the “eat now” impulses.

  8. I am maintaining (for now) about a 50 lb weight loss. I have lost and regained my whole life, while living in denial about the regaining – never stepping on a scale.

    So now I am using the scale every morning whether I want to or not – mostly I don’t want to. AND I am eating primarian as advocated by Barbara Berkeley. The effect of this way of eating is that I don’t feel so hungry all the time. AND I read blogs every day.

    I’m a little heavier than I was when I stopped dieting. But I can live with it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who either blogs or comments.

    I think I’ve clicked on “Post Comment” twice and it is refusing to take the post. Oh, well.

  9. About 2 months into my renewed weight loss effort (after maintaining a modest 20 lb. loss for about a year), I began struggling with binge impulses and chronic hunger. I started doing research like a woman obsessed. I decided to make the entire project an experiment. I have taken that approach ever since.

    One of the first things I experimented with was eliminating grains. This was partially a result of my research and partly a fluke; my daughter had cut out most grains from her diet and felt much better (she was treating stomach pain issues, and has never been *obese*).

    The cravings, obsessing and much of the hunger went away for months after that. However, whenever I hit a plateau the hunger and obsessive impulses returned. (It took me awhile to notice that correlation.) Now, I sometimes go weeks without the hunger, etc, but when it does show up again…DAMN. It is fierce. So far, I’ve been able to get through to the *other side* of the phase without binging or *overeating* (sometimes I really hate using these relativist, reductionist terms because the language surrounding weight/eating issues helps to construct and maintain the ways we view these concepts. The language blinds us to alternatives.)

    Making the project an experiment helped a lot. But I must agree with SFG about the emotional aspects, too. In fact, I’m not sure that the 2 of you are that far apart in your views; she does not place the blaming language on the emotional aspects like so many others. The most difficult emotional side of this project has been learning to trust that my body functions very well when it receives the care it needs. Sometimes, providing that level of care is beyond my control (socio/economic factors, for instance). That problem with not being able to care for myself properly, in turn, feels frustrating and quite scary. It makes me feel extremely vulnerable when I know my health is being compromised because of factors beyond my control. Then, I believe, I sometimes begin to try and *control* other things in my life…such as weight/eating.

    Sometimes attempts at *control* have come in the form of compulsive eating, sometimes in the form of compulsive dieting. (Compulsive exercise is not an option, due to other health issues.) Anyway, for me at least, separating the emotional aspects from the rest isn’t helpful. Viewing all of it (emotional, physiological, evolutionary, factors etc) as part of a complex system, a WHOLE process, is more helpful, but complicated.

    One more thing is crucial: eliminating all moral judgements about my behaviors in relation to *the project*.

    I look forward to reading your blog, and the great comments, and participating in these disucussions in the coming weeks and months.

    Debra, you have indeed raised the level of discourse to a new high in the blog world. Maybe I should have stated that first? 🙂

    • Yup, my disagreements with SFG are mostly semantic, I think. In terms of your experiences, I think we’re just at different places in the same experiment. I’m a little further along. At some point, I predict you’ll want to separate your emotional life from your weight-management life to the degree you are able. It’s just saner if you can get the weight management clinical, but keep the magic in your emotions. Otherwise, you may find yourself saying things such as “Spouse! I believe that music you put on and what you just said caused a surge in testosterone and other sex-related hormones. I’ll go check my panties for secretions!” 🙂

  10. I am fascinated by “emotional eating” since it seems to be the leitmotif of the weight loss blogging world.

    Virtually everyone I read (or read, in the past tense) chalks(ed) their weight problem up to emotional eating. I find this really interesting since this kind of eating is pretty foreign to me. In fact, when I am truly and honestly depressed, I actually have trouble eating.

    I just like food. I like the taste. I LOVE the taste. I have times when I want carbs, times when I want protein, and times when I want sweets. Yes, I do have a tendency to “over”eat when I’m bored, but when overeating means one cookie or a few handfuls of Japanese rice crackery things, I don’t think it’s anywhere near binge territory.

    The diet blogs give me the impression that I am in a minority of one. Maybe I do have too much cortisol circulating in my body (yes, I often feel that my life is stressful), certainly my handicaps make physically challenging exercise an impossibility, but in the final analysis, my body type is “chunky”–always has been, always will be. I have never had a truly slim time in my life, nor have I had an out-of-control “obese from sitting on the couch eating bonbons” time either. Chunky means I have to always be somewhat vigilant in order not to see the pounds moving up. It also means that I have to have herculean self-control to lose a pound and keep it off more than a day. That’s what chemistry means for me.

    • You may be in a minority, NewMe. It sounds like your endocrine sends you pretty good messages. What a blessing! I have a 13-year-old son who still talks to me. I think your blessing is on THAT level. Wow.

  11. A 13 year old who still talks to you! Wow. My 15 and 18 year olds are pretty taciturn, though the younger one told me recently that Albert Camus’s “The Plague” (which he read in French: proud mom toots horn) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are both really great books. We do talk politics at supper time and once in a blue moon, I do get an inkling what’s going on in their heads. Ya just gotta keep trying.

  12. Why do I do this? In my case, it’s because I enjoy the use of my limbs and eyes. I do it because I have type 2 diabetes, and if I ever develop diabetes-related complications, I want to be able to say that I did *everything* in my power to stay healthy in spite of it. I “can” do it, because it’s become non-negotiable for me to do so, and I am blessed to have the resources available to do it. But yes, even with the resources, it’s still hard and labor-intensive. There are a lot of times when I’d rather be doing something other than exercising or think about food choices. (Even though I’m also a foodie and generally don’t mind having to think about food.)

    A hearty “YES!” to your “unhelpful” list.

    In the blog circles, an eye-opener for me about exercise was this: the people who are really fit and seem like the type who would enjoy it all the time? They don’t always feel motivated to go out and do it (huh!?!), but they don’t wait to feel motivated. There are times when it’s fun for them, and times when it’s a drudge, but they are consistent. That’s where I think linking attitude to weight management (or exercise, for that matter) can be unhelpful.

    With regard to emotional connections to food, I don’t know if one has to resolve them in order to come to a peaceful relationship with food, but it surely can’t hurt to figure out if there are any and work to come to some sort of resolution? There is stuff in my past that I know has formed my feelings regarding food and love, for example. As time has gone by – not sure if I’ve consciously “let go” of childhood wounds or they just sort of faded away – I think that has brought me more peace of mind. Which surely helps, but not completely solves, my food issues.

    And intuition? Hmmmm… I’m attracted to the ideas and principles behind “intuitive eating”, and I was pleased to discover that the ones outlined by Tribole & Resche are many that I “discovered” on my own this time around and that work pretty well for me. But I think that something is broken in me beyond repair when it comes to intuitively gauging hunger/fullness and effective portion sizes. For me, good “training” (consciously choosing types/amounts/timing of foods, weighing and measuring portions) can get me to a place where I can go on auto-pilot for awhile, but then I generally need to “recalibrate” again when the scale starts creeping up (vs. normal fluctuations during a week).

    Can I add another item to the “unhelpful” list? Not sure if this goes under “hate” – because it’s not always ignorant or malicious jerks who do this – but “food policing” is highly unhelpful. Nothing makes someone want to eat something more than someone else saying that “Oh, you shouldn’t be eating that!” Or worse, people deciding for you: “Pubsgal can’t eat that, she has diabetes.” (Of course, maybe that’s just because my own inner child got stuck on “terrible two?” 😉 People always assume people with diabetes can’t eat items with sugar; my answer is always, “It depends.” An insulin-dependent person with diabetes might NEED to eat sugar if they are experiencing a low; or, even if they aren’t low, they might know how to bolus properly for it. I’m not insulin-dependent, but if I plan for it properly, I can eat pretty much whatever I want (not always the AMOUNT I want of whatever I want, but sometimes a tiny bit of something really great is more effective than total denial).

  13. For me it was fear as well, like NoCeleryPlease, that drove me to maintain my one-time ~70lb weight loss. Fear of looking like I had and, worse, of being treated as I had at my peak. Of being invisible, of seeing the averted eyes, as you responded to RNegade. Now that I’m back up at that one-time peak ~13 years after the loss, it’s that same fear that’s driving me to start up the weight-loss efforts anew.

    I was thinking about this over the weekend – the irony that, in order to appear “healthy” to the outside world, I am going to have to partake in relatively-unhealthy activities. I’m fortunate in that I’m very healthy at my currently “obese” weight: I eat a healthy, low-fat, low-calorie, vegetable-and-whole-grain diet and exercise regularly. These measures keep me healthy – I can hike or jog for miles, keeping up with much thinner and younger partners, and all my blood numbers are well within healthy ranges (cholesterol, bp, etc). But I can’t lose, or even maintain, this way, so I’m going to have to seriously step up the exercise and overhaul my diet (cutting out carbs). I’m tired of being invisible, of the averted eyes, of the not being taken seriously – especially now that I’m about to enter the job market.

  14. Ah, Viajera, I’m stunned. You enter with open eyes, I know. You’re smart. You’ve been around the block. You know the life sentence you’re surrendering to. I just wish you didn’t think this was necessary. It shouldn’t be necessary, since you’re healthy — your blood work numbers, strength and stamina are good. But I can’t deny your reality. And the job market is more forgiving of people of a certain size. I hope you are considering the grand spectrum of possibilities. For example, maintaining 70 lbs of loss is probably harder than 25 (though I can’t support that with evidence), and a 25-lb drop would be less jarring to your body (which I can). Might that accomplish your goals? As RNegade points out, you don’t have to be under 25 on the BMI chart, just at that “weird imaginary size,” which is different for everyone. How ironic, indeed, that you are considering compromising your health to appear more “healthy.” I’m sure you’ve explored the depths of the size acceptance movement and the support you’d receive there?

    If you’re going to do this, my advice would be to not set a number goal at all this time. Just intensify your exercise and moderate your food (within reason), and let your body pick a new number. You know what you can do, so start doing it, and your body knows what it can be under those cirmustances, so allow it, whatever it may be. I’ve got to tell you, I didn’t pick a number this last time. (More out of cowardice than wisdom at the time — If I didn’t have a goal number, I couldn’t fail, right?) But if I had picked a goal it would have been 125 — a previous set point from another period in my life, a nice round number, the “ideal” for my height according to one source I’d read. I would have made it, of course, then like a pellet in a slingshot, I would have rebounded past my starting point. Instead I started walking (I was nowhere near as active as you are now), and the weight came off slowly, then I added in bursts of running, which turned into blocks of running, then miles of running. The weight dropped faster for a while. At my peak I was averaging 27 miles of running a week. Simultaneous with my increases in running, I made my food more wholesome, fresh, beautiful and spare. I eschewed corporate baked goods. I experimented with calorie ranges until I had one that kept me sated — didn’t make me lose sleep at night. (The binge impulses I complain about now didn’t start up till I was well into the cross-country trek. Downhill time is more forgiving.) Ultimately, I settled at 137, which has now crept to 147 in small jumps, but I hang on, and it’s much better than having made a goal of 125 and then rebounding within a year or less to 205 or higher.

    Good karma to you, Girl. I know it’s hard, whatever you decide.

    • Thanks, Debra! I am going into this with open eyes, knowing full well what I’m getting myself into. I’ve been immersed in the FA community for the last couple years, as my weight gradually crept back up from my mid-way stabilization point to its current level near my original peak. The community, and my wonderful boyfriend who loves me as I am, have kept me sane – but I’ve never been able to fully talk the talk and walk the walk, so to speak. Largely because no matter how much *I* know that fat is neutral, that fat /= unhealthy or unfit, I/we still have to live in the world – and IRL you’re constantly surrounded by messages that fat=bad.

      I want to be taken seriously again, as a person and especially as a professional. I’m in a field that involves a lot of physical activity, requires a certain level of fitness, and in which nearly all of my colleagues are thin. Although *I* know I can keep up, and have demonstrated this, many people seem to assume I can’t upon seeing me for the first time. I know this will hurt me in my job search.

      I have no notions of trying to get “thin” – I know that’s not possible for my body. The one time I briefly got into the “normal” range of the BMI, I was eating <800 calories and running 5 miles up a mountain daily – that's just not sustainable! But I think I can get back to the mid-way point where I maintained for years pre-grad school – back within that imaginary acceptable range – and maintain there again. We'll see!

      • My guess is the loss part is going to click into place with relative ease, Viajera. If you need to, when you find that mid-point and feel the mountain leveling off, feel free to call on me. I’ll try to help you as much as I’m able as you change skis.

  15. Debra, I guess my greater concern with weight cycling than obesity itself is somewhat rare–my therapist certainly gave me a strange look when I mentioned it. Part of it may be my exposure to fat acceptance, which has made me question the root of some “obesity-related” illnesses. But probably most is that I know how much I beat myself up when I regain weight, and how absolutely demoralizing it is to gain and lose, watch the compliments turn back into awkward looks, continually switch between pairs of pants, etc. If I had the emotional constitution to just keep trying and experimenting till I found a weight loss solution that worked, maybe I would do it–especially if I stopped having the good health I’m lucky to have at this weight. But I worry that too many more ups and downs would throw me into a serious depression and binge eating spiral that might result in a massive weight gain that seriously compromises my health and/or mobility.

    So I’m nervous and hesitant to ever try to lose weight (even some weight, even a little weight). But I really relate to what viajera said–I have been looking for a job and feel pretty sure I’m having a much harder time than I would if I was thin. Fat acceptance has helped me to see that fat people aren’t inherently unattractive or necessarily unhealthy. But it really doesn’t change the horrible treatment I get from others, and damned if I don’t start to think sometimes that it would be worth the struggle to finally get some relief from it.

    • When it comes to potentially damaged health from weight cycling vs. abject poverty and no health insurance (due to discrimination in the marketplace, resulting in no income), it isn’t even a toss up for me. It’s a no brainer. The former is simply another problem to deal with as best I can when it happens, while the latter is an immediate circumstance that starts to kill me now (mentally, emotionally, physically). I’m not being dramatic. I look at my reality now, and as bad as it is, and as much pain as I endure, it would be so very much more difficult and painful with the extra 90 lbs I was carrying last December, or the extra 120 from the previous years.

      I’m not saying that the kind of weight loss I’ve managed (and of course the potential regain, sigh) is an option for other fat people. As the economoy worsens (see how optimistic I am?), I believe we will see more people willing to take the risks associated with weight cycling while gambling that it will be worth the payoff (in having a better chance at employment and medical insurance).

      A sorry commentary on our culture when these are the options.

    • Well, Tallie, I think that remaining the size your body wants to be is an act of courage in this society. You’re at that size minus roughly 20 pounds, and that’s challenging enough, but can be maintained on HAES alone, which won’t damage you. I hope that potential employers will somehow see your courage (to not over-diet) in some nonverbal way, and that will over-ride any size prejudices they may harbor. And as for your doctors, you can tell them that you’ve already lost the amount of weight that is associated with health benefits. Every study would support that. They should give you a stinking ovation!

  16. I have come a very long way from 226 pounds and 10+ repeated major weight loss attempts. My last major push’s quick finish screwed up my metabolism. Despite that, I’ve been in maintenance range for over 7 years. But life has its joys …

    I would not be sailing under false colors anymore. My body fools no one. People either CAN tell you were formerly obese (because you are not a size 2 with dancerly grace …) or don’t care and/or and want to get your goat … I’m 56 years old, and out of the running as a long-divorced woman …

    It is obvious that I have a special relationship with my own body, which I used to call “The Human Sponge”. It had been a very long journey to get to where I am today …

    So, in living every day – which I do find precious – I realize that I am not a sponge around food if I don’t want to be.

    I don’t ever want to leave off SparkPeople, for instance (or any group that would support me with rather minor conditions …)

    If I reach goal (again) … just a few pounds … it would not be the end.

    For me, it would be the beginning. I practice a lot of yoga at home … this is “beginner’s mind” (as in Zen mind)…


    From your post, I am nowhere near as fortunate as you in the organic food/discretionary income/discretionary time department. What I do have is a lot of willpower, sticking to roughly under 1,600 calories a day …

    • 1600 Calories plus Yoga. That sounds like a solid equation, in strictly clinical terms. Obviously, I don’t live as poetically as you do. Not that I think life is easier for poetic types. Poetry cannot protect from the slings and arrows of an illogical culture, not that you’d want it to.

      • Poetry, as you call it, does not protect; but it – like most of the humanities and culture, at whatever level (from pauper/fan to patron) – helps make life a little more worth living …

        I am happy to be a blogger these days, and happy there is a sort of forum emerging at this blog post; your postings, from the well-researched to the well-inspired, could be the start of a new dialogue …

  17. I found your blog looking for weight gain maintenance tips and decided to stop by and wanted to let you know that maintaining optimal body weight takes a lot of effort in reverse direction too.

    BTW, underweight people are as much subject of ridicule as overweight ones.

    • Your experiences and impressions are welcome here, TrimGuy. What a crazy world we live in! Feel free to wander around in the posts and comment on what you see.

    • BTW, underweight people are as much subject of ridicule as overweight ones.

      I realize that skinny people are sometimes treated badly, but I really don’t think that they are to the same extent as fat people.

      I don’t see stories in the media about the health risks of being underweight. Underweight people are well represented in the entertainment industry, and they play normal, attractive, smart characters whose weight is not depicted as an issue. Skinny people are not denied proper medical care until they gain weight, not Skinny are they encouraged to use unhealthy means to gain weight in order to achieve social acceptance. Just sayin’.

      • OOps. Meant “Skinny people are not denied proper medical care until they gain weight, nor are they encouraged to use unhealthy means to gain weight in order to achieve social acceptance.”

  18. Just found your wonderful blog,as I am struggling with a 10 pound weight gain after reaching goal weight early last year. I’m 56 and have been struggling with my weight since junior high school.

    I realized in my ’30s, after I lost weight effortlessly — and effortlessly maintained the lost weight — all through the “magic” of phen-fen (I call them the glorious phen-fen years) that the concept of “emotional eating” and working through “emotional eating” was total bunk. Almost from the day I started on phen-fen, my relationship to food totally changed, even though I did no “emotional work” and had no “emotional breakthroughs.” The only thing that changed in my life was now I was popping a pill. After phen-fen was taken off the market, my struggles with food (and creeping weight gain, which peaked at age 53 at my highest weight ever) began anew.

    This stupid bunk about emotional eating drives me crazy. It’s all about the physiology. Some day (I hope I’m still alive), we’ll laugh about the ignorance of the charlatans who ignored science and promoted this emotional eating bunk.

    • I’m glad you found me too, Dobie! You are just the person I wanted to reach. You’ll see people who are still in the honeymoon phase show up here and completely reject me, and my words are something to the effect of, “Oh, Sweetie, don’t let me pee in your beer. Enjoy your honeymoon, but save my URL.” Yes, it’s all about physiology, and, really, emotions are a physiological phenonmenon too, so if people have emotional issues, they’re fighting their body’s chemicals.

      For what it is worth, here’s something I’ve processed since closing down. See if it helps. I contemplated the Ghrelin study I wrote about early in the blog — Cummings et. al. (which showed that nonsurgical maintainers deal with a 24% increased level of Ghrelin over normal weight people throughout the day) — and then set that in the context of Borer who I wrote about toward the end — who showed that Ghrelin doesn’t respond to Leptin, and, in fact, probably works on the brain’s reward center. Moreover, it does have a reaction to moderate intensity exercise. I had a “Eureka” when it occurred to me that nearly all of us on the NWCR manage using a daily dose of one hour of moderate intensity exercise. I had a second “Eureka” when I read Arya’s take on how “exercise is more about calories in than calories out” and his further comments on the work of Rudy Leibel, who studies Leptin. It seems to me that I was wrong in my chemical cotillion analogy (Skiing and useful metaphor) that ghrelin and leptin are dance partners. Ghrelin has a mind of its own. Left to its own devices it dances to some private circadian rhythm. When forced to dance with moderate intensity exercise it responds (drops), leptin gets jealous and responds (rises). Or so I think that’s how it works. At any rate, in the Borer study, you will note that she has the subjects exercise AFTER eating breakfast. This may (or may not) enhance the reaction. Well, generally, that’s when I exercise. Hmmm.

      Upshot: I think there are several different kinds of hungers. (And the Australian study that came out in October, after I’d shut down, seems to underscore that — even though the design was weak). Insulin-triggered hunger is the kind you can measure on a scale of one to ten, that all the zippy-pippy types think you can control by getting your emotions in check (right!). Ghrelin hunger is a more subtle impulse hunger coming from the reward center of your brain. You can manage the insulin-triggered hunger somewhat by using some of paleo people’s tricks with macronutrient management (radically lowering grains and other carbs, going high on protein/good fats). You can reset the daily rhythm of Ghrelin hunger somewhat by exercising for an hour after breakfast (and you’ll raise your leptin). There are still other “impulses” that will haunt you, but this helps. Or at least it seems to help me. I would adore for someone to give it a try and see if they perceive a difference. A personal experiment. Are you game?

  19. This is all very interesting, as I haven’t been keeping up over the last few years with the new scientific studies on obestiy and I’m now trying to integrate it all, including the findings that, paradoxically, those who suffer from binge eating disorder have unexpected low levels of ghrelin.

    Exercise after breakfast is just not going to happen for me weekdays given my schedule, but it is something that I might try on weekends to see if it makes a difference in my satiety levels.

    By the way, you might want to check out the article in today’s New York Times regarding lapband surgery for teenagers. There is a heartbreaking interview with an obese teenager who had lapband and it did not solve her weight issues at all. In a year, she has regained much of the relatively small amount of weight she lost after the surgery.. The problem is that the lapband did not fix her mixed-up satiety signals. She is always starving and thus eats more than she should and then because the lapband has constricted her stomach, she gets very sick. It is truly heartbreaking and it is clear that the medical professionals who are treating her do not understand her problem. She’ll be in her ’50’s in 2050 – maybe by then, the medical professionals will have figured it out. But such suffering in the meantime . . .

  20. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging
    on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be helpful
    to read through articles from other authors and use something from their sites.

  21. “but if I plan for it properly, I can eat pretty much whatever I want (not always the AMOUNT I want of whatever I want, but sometimes a tiny bit of something really great is more effective than total denial).” Pubsgal

    Wish, wish, wish that would work for me. Alas, I find the first “No” soooooo much easier than if I have eaten a bit of something and then need to stop. At last job I had friends trained not to offer me donuts, etc… I would look at them and admire (treats, not friends). I always wanted to smell them. But it was much easier not to have even a single bite.

    Don’t know if you will see this comment, but I so enjoy your writing. I am in process of reading & rereading posts and comments. You really have me thinking! And laughing!

    • Hi, Anita! I do see your comment. I’m still out here. I’m still maintaining. In year 12 I’m at negative 55 lbs from highest established weight. I’m cool with that. Menopause is in full gear now. That adds complications of its own.

      You prompted me to reread the post and read back over the comments and I think, “Wow, this was a really great year of discussion.” It was enormously therapeutic for me, at any rate. I’ve been able to streamline my routine now, largely because I worked out so many issues so ferociously for a year. I’m glad you’re reading the comments as well as the posts. I think the discussion was more important than my pontifications.

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