I’m Debra Sapp-Yarwood, and I’m on the National Weight Control Registry.  With behavior control alone (no surgery), I have maintained more than 55 pounds of weight loss (roughly 27% of my highest established weight) for more than eight years.  According to empirical, evidence-based research, this places me in a minority of less than 3% of weight-loss maintainers.  If this sounds like bragging, read a post or two.  I’m not a gushy proselytizer.  I’m here simply to share truth about weight-loss maintenance, a process that is unfair and difficult, and a subject that our culture ignores or misrepresents.  We assume that maintenance is the logical, slightly easier, continuation of weight loss, which we portray as a glamorous, thrilling, game-show pursuit.  How funny and wrong!

I hope to attract at least four kinds of readers.  I would treasure support and wisdom from fellow maintainers.  I also welcome curious people who are considering losing a lot of weight (more than 10% of your body’s current weight).  My wish for you is that you think critically before entering fully into the process of radical weight loss.  If you cannot protect your losses for the long haul, you may wish to adopt a different life strategy.  A lot of research indicates that weight cycling, or yo-yoing, is more damaging to your health than remaining fat while exercising regularly and eating well.  Moreover, there is nothing more depressing than regaining lost weight.   Third, I welcome readers from the size-acceptance community.  It may seem ironic that I love and admire this group of people, since I appear to have rejected my body’s preferred size.   In truth, this group keeps me sane as I figure out what it means to live in a body of any size.   Finally (and with mixed feelings), I welcome “experts” — scientists, medical doctors and such.  You will find some of my posts hard to take, but nothing would flatter me more than to think that my site may contribute to your understanding of this complicated process.

In any event, whether or not you decide to lose weight (and maintain those losses) or accept your body at its current size, my greatest hope is that you may live joyfully most of the time, eat healthfully most of the time, exercise most days and treasure whatever body happens.  That seems like the most sane and sustainable way to live and keep any body healthy.

You have seen a recent photograph, above, and I suppose it’s only fair to show you a “before” image. 

The boy in the picture, my son, is now 14. He doesn't remember the big version of me.

I chose the blog title “Debra’s Just Maintaining” for two reasons.  Weight-loss maintenance will be the primary focus, and it’s a complex enough topic to merit a full blog.  However, from time to time, the “Just” may assume its other meaning.  Social justice is my other passion.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if weight-loss and maintenance happened on a level playing field?  Wouldn’t it be even lovelier if all aspects of our lives were fair?

  1. Thank you so much for writing this blog! I guess I’m a loss maintainer too and I never realized how hard maintenance would be. I lost about 70 pounds over the course of a year and a half and I’ve maintained that for another year and a half. I’ve had a difficult few months and have gained back about 5 pounds (was as high as 10 but now back down a bit). I came online looking for some honest, insightful discussions of loss maintenance and was lucky enough to come across your blog. Thank you for the time you put into writing it!

  2. Some of us were pretty happy being somewhat obese, most of the time. Until we got older and had health considerations, some orthopedic problems and other problems that necessitated major and sustained weight loss. I was one of those folks. I am late middle aged now, and as an inbetweenie I sustain some prejudice (I live in on the east coast of the U.S., after all) and probably enjoy a little bit of the “thin privilege” alluded to (had never really heard of that term when I had been in my prime with periodic yo-yo-ing, more up than down). I am so glad I discovered your blog and I am passing it on at the risk of being blackballed off of [a famous large diet-conscious health and fitness social network]. Thank you for existing … !

  3. Welcome to you both! I hope you feel comfortable in the comments adding to my knowledge. You are exactly the audience for this blog.

  4. Hi Debra,

    Came over here from Fierce Fatties. Just wanted to say that, based on what little I’ve read here, you are awesome! Nothing substantive to add right now, but I know that blogging about controversial topics can be harrowing, so I just wanted to send you some positive thoughts. ^_^


    • Thanks, Simone. I’d been thinking about blogging for a couple of years. I was posting in the forums over at BFB, where I felt safe. I never talked about my own weight status, just talked about the issues, until this last year, when I “came out” and the world, to my surprise, didn’t crumble. Once I’d done that, I felt maybe I could blog, but I truly feared the reaction. I thought maintainers would call me a grumpy Gus and that SA/FA proponents who didn’t know me from BFB would write me off as a fraud. What I’m finding is that we have so much in common; we have all been betrayed by a cultural mythology about diet and fat. It’s a common enemy, and clever, in that it has seduced our freinds in white labcoats.

  5. I’m long overdue in posting this to you, but thank you for starting and maintaining (heh) this blog! I’d been stalking your comments on various other blogs (notably Refuse to Regain and Half of Me) because they resonated so thoroughly with my own experiences. I’m still a relative newbie maintainer, having kept of ~140 pounds for 15 months now (I consider Labor Day 2009 the start of my maintenance). I don’t regret losing the weight per se, but the loss did come with some complications to my health and sanity. And I did it the way you’re “supposed to,” through eating less, eating better, and moving more—not through surgery, some crazy crash diet, or notions of The Biggest Loser.

    I have a blog in my head. Eventually, I promise myself I will have one on the Internets. 😀

    • Welcome, Lauramich. As I do the math, you too are NWCR eligible, and I’ve started recommending that course for all maintainers here. That group is far from perfect. FAR FAR from perfect, but it’s the ONLY group asking us about our experiences. So, they’re like family. Gotta put up with ’em. Maybe guide them a bit?

  6. Thank you for starting this blog. I hope to join you in the ranks of those who maintain their weight loss, and now that I’ve discovered WHY I was gaining weight, I am sure I’ll be able to. I’m insulin resistant. Since starting a low carb diet, using a glucose meter for feedback, and exercising a lot more I’ve finally been able to figure out how to lose weight and start reversing this pre-diabetic condition. I started to share my progress, ideas, and inspiration with others.

    Kind Regards,

    • Hi, John. I approve your comment (and your ability to continue commenting here) with some trepidation. I visited your brand new blog, and here are my thoughts. The world is over-run with premature inspiration stories. We’re all encouraged to find our particular bandwagon (the plan that is “just right for us”), jump on and inspire others to join us. It’s the American Inspiration Story Myth, and your blog has adopted much of that language. The name of your blog is an example. Obesity is a complex issue with illusive “solutions” because we’re all so individual. I am happy that you feel like you’re in a good place with your weight and well being, but I don’t want you to use my blog as a platform for advertising some particular plan.

      I was encouraged when I read your bullet points, and that’s why I approved your participation here. In the penultimate point you promised to provide your analysis of journalism as it applies to your experience (keeping a raised eyebrow with regard to profit interests), and in your final point you talked about prayer and its importance to you. These are two areas where you stand a chance of adding some original insight to the world. Gushy inspiration stories are a dime a dozen, and are not serving us well.

  7. Wow… Debra… such a great source of information. I have about 230lbs to lose… I am 54… healthy… want to drop some weight for a number of reasons… mostly I miss cycling and being able to move easier.
    Your blog has a voice of reason… very appreciated. You have given me much to think about. I realized I have taken the word of the media and doctors that my weight is killing me. I have lived in fear waiting to find out that I am making myself sick… the shame… the guilt…they have been constant companions.

    • Welcome, Tasha! I wish the Fat Girl on a Bike blog were in its hey day, now. You probably would have found it inspiring. Here’s the final Kate Harding post on it. Read especially all the comments of support for this woman who chose and still chooses to be an athlete (though no longer a blogger) while fat. She inspired a lot of people to reclaim their inner athlete despite a society that goes out of its way to limit us based on the number on a scale.

      • I wouldn’t put too much stock in what Kate Harding says. She’s a hypocrite and quite racist to be honest.

  8. Debra, I have only just stumbled upon your site…your message really strikes a chord with me. I have struggled with the decision to forge ahead with more drastic measures to lose weight (based on media messages, commentary from those who feel compelled to let me know I’m fat and should try harder to lose weight, and a lifetime struggle to be something I’m clearly not) or to continue making healthy life choices that support my good health and achieving a level of optimum wellness. I have been maintaining my optimum health for years and am happy to find solidarity here. I look forward to giving your site a thorough reading and staying connected!

  9. @Piper. Hmmm. I haven’t seen that side of Kate Harding. Though, I must admit, I haven’t read her work extensively. I used to pop in to Shapely Prose from time to time when it was in its heyday. I know she, herself, complained that blogging required her to speak too fast, rush to make judgements and hit “post.” She certainly was prolific in her day. I’m sad that she may have said something hurtful in the rush.

  10. […] I’ve gleaned from my reading about diets (and lots of diet myth busting work by folks like Just Maintaining, and the book Lessons from the Fatosphere), I have a couple of observations to […]

  11. Hi Debra. I am 21, struggle with weight-loss, study rhetoric at school, and care deeply of women’s issues related to body-image because of personal experience and because of the universal pressures placed on women to conform to sexual standards. I am an aspiring writer myself and I would really like to exchange emails with you or even talk on the phone if you are up to it. Please reply via my email address listed in the comment section if you are interested in engaging a 20-something who is v committed to these issues. I resonate with your posts and have been following them for a year. Hope to speak soon.


  12. […] and discusses many research papers on weight loss and weight loss maintenance and cautions on the About page that “A lot of research indicates that weight cycling, or yo-yoing, is more damaging to your […]

  13. I’m a physician (MD) and I came online looking for “truth about weight loss” and came across your blog. My goal is to understand why people gain so much weight? Also, how is it normal to weight 300, 400, or 500 pounds? I am totally confused not only as a physician, but as a regular human being. I can’t think what I would do if I weighed so much. Anyway, looking for tips to aid me in teaching my patients the truth about weight loss. Oh, BTW I use to weight 252 pounds in 2001. I am down to 199, but I started thins journey 6 years ago. I still work out and TRY to avoid BAD foods.

    • Dr. Hayes, welcome to DJM. I am impressed that you are looking beyond the conventional “experts” to form an opinion. So many in the medical profession read the studies out of the National Weight Control Registry and think they know all they need to know about the process of going from fat to thin and maintaining that state. The NWCR is horribly biased, sadly. You are wise to look broader. I hope you visit some of my favorite blogs. Dr. Arya Sharma, in particular, has a broad mind and balanced approach. He is Canada’s premier expert on weight management, and I think they are addressing the field in a much saner way than we are here in the states.

      With regard to your question: How do people get so big to begin with? Well, I don’t think we choose our BMIs. Moreover, there have always been fat people (it was once a symbol of status) but, indeed, something is going awry. In this blog post, one of my friends, “Quantum Acceptance” reproduces a chart that I’ve seen elsewhere and find disturbing. The distribution that used to represent average human weight used to be a perfect bell, but in recent years it has morphed and flattened on the right side, so we are seeing more extremely fat people. I think something in our environment is “breaking” us. If you work your way through this blog you’ll find a series of posts where we play “Fat Roulette” and discuss what that may be — endocrine disruptors, such as bovine growth hormone or birth control effluent in our drinking water? A modern diet too heavy in grains? The cornification and soyification of our diet because of farm supplements? There are so many reasons that this could be happening. One thing for sure, if shaming fat people worked to reverse whatever it is that has made them fat, then we wouldn’t have any fat people. Our society is so cruel. No one needs another “wake up call.” People who are fat are very aware of their social predicament.

      Oh, another post you’ll want to read is entitled “Thanksgiving Thoughts.” It’s about a cardiologist who dealt with extreme obesity and how cruel your profession was to him. In your quest, you’ll want to look him up, I think.

  14. I will definitely look up the other articles. Now that I know just how insensitive I am, I will be sure to change. Any thoughts of what we as professionals can say to our obese patients? Some kind, so they won offended.

    • Oh, I don’t know whether you’re insensitive, but your field has a whole lot of people with, er, um, arrogance issues?

      For what it is worth, I just Googled your name, if you are the Anthony Hayes, MD, who lives in Kansas City, KS, you’re a neighbor. I live in KCMO. I’d be happy to meet you for coffee some day and bend your ear mercilessly on this topic. If you are the North Carolina Anthony Hayes, you’re a bit far away.

      For now, my advice is first, simply, to ASK. Ask each of your patients if they wish to talk about their weight. If they don’t, then respect that. And treat them just as you would anyone of average weight. Address their issues, write prescriptions, make referals, etc., and DON’T under ANY circumstances, withhold treatment until they “try to lose weight first.” That’s just awful and can lead to all kinds of problems (click on the website in my blogroll “First Do No Harm” for examples). Maintaining weight loss is a much bigger burden than most MDs acknowledge, and by promoting weight loss they set their patients up for weight cycling, which has its own health consequences.

      Also, if your patient has NO co-morbidities (evaluate using the Edmonton Obesity Staging System rather than mere BMI, please), encourage them to simply live healthfully and dig their heels in at their current weight. Again, avoiding weight cycling has its advantages.

      Oh, and under NO circumstances use the “N” word: Noncompliant. Ohhhhhhh! That just chaps me. If someone says she’s exercising (but it doesn’t show in her weight), believe her. If another person says he’s eliminated or limited refined carbs (but it doesn’t show in his weight), believe him. We all respond (or fail to respond) differently to “lifestyle” changes (and I do hate the word “lifestyle”). As an MD, you can place a bigger emphasis on other health markers — fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, etc. Do this, instead of emphasizing weight. That will help a lot.

      THANK YOU for asking me this. I feel honored!

    • Dr. Hayes, I hope I didn’t scare you off entirely with my verbose response. I just want to draw your attention to Arya Sharma’s blog again. For the past couple of weeks he’s been on vacation and running old posts that seem to be on a theme of “obesity-doctor-to-family-doctor this is how you address obesity in your patients.” The only post he hasn’t run that I wish you could see is on his “Five As of Obesity Management,” as in the letter “A.” The first A is “Ask.”

  15. Hi Debra!

    Thanks for sharing your story. Early on when I started researching weight loss I read that between 80% and 95% of dieters regain their weight in the long-term. That’s a shocking statistic.

    I have struggled with yoyo dieting in the past. In 2012 I finally lost 44 pounds and have kept it off ever since. I don’t do any cardio. I find that keeping a food diary and using intermittent fasting has been very helpful in maintaining. It was hard to lose the weight but after getting used to fasting regularly and keeping a food diary it has been quite a natural process. Obviously my entire lifestyle has changed as a result but I feel much better now.


    • Welcome, Stefan. Your story is unusual. Most of us in maintenance (and this is one of the observations of the NWCR I think has some validity) do daily exercise. Probably not for the thermodynamic effect of burning calories, but to nudge our ghrelin down a bit and otherwise take the edge off our appetites (control our “eat impulses”). You may find as your maintenance continues you’ll need to do this too.

      Each of us is an interesting experiment. I just wish that the mainstream media would portray us as individuals and present the issue as more complex than adopting a zippy lifestyle and eating the particular anti-oxidant fruit that Dr. Oz recommends on this day, etc. I wish our doctors saw us as complex and individual. I wish our families understood how continual the process is and didn’t, after the initial weight loss, marginalize our efforts or push food.

      If you lost the weight in 2012, you are probably just leaving the “coast” or honeymoon phase and entering into maintenance. I wish you good luck. I hope you find some wisdom in my defunct blog. You may want to follow Arya Sharma, and get hooked into Lynn, Debby and the AIM group of bloggers. You will find them helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: