The Biggest Loser

I admit it. I watch that ridiculous, irritating show, “The Biggest Loser.” I am jealous of their fantastic weight loss achievements. I feel bad that I am so weak, and I cannot even maintain the 100 pounds that I lost.

Me at my lowest weight of 155 pounds, about ten years ago.

Me at my lowest weight of 155 pounds, about ten years ago.

But then one day a few months ago, my BF sent me this old picture. I was shocked. Maybe its not so bad after all. Maybe I am a little better off than I was in those pictures.

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About 20 years ago.

Here’s another picture I found (@ Shelley–my first two dachshunds! @Lori–pre-garden re-make!)


About 15 years ago.

I didn’t maintain all 100 lost pounds, but still I sure was a lot better off than I was back in those days. I started wondering about how many of the Biggest Losers were still maintaining their weight loss. I looked around online and couldn’t really find any definitive articles. And then my BF sent me a link to this article. Ohhhh. Wow. Not too many of them are maintaining their weight loss. And maybe there’s a reason its so very hard to keep the weight off.

So the opposite side of “fighting destiny,” and a part of how I feel every day is “I AM the Biggest Loser!” I am one million times better off now than I was in those old pictures. Even with bad knees, I can roll up my pants, take off my shoes and climb (very carefully🙂 ) over the rocks at Crystal Cove.

Me at my current weight.

Me at my current weight.

I refuse to feel “less than” because I am not as thin as I used to be. I will be content and happy and grateful that I have worked hard and long to learn to live and enjoy a healthier life.

Fighting Destiny

You know how some scientists and diet “experts” talk about your natural set-point? Yeah, my body’s natural set-point is 257.5 pounds. I actually was always surprised when I visited someone who kept a scale in their house, and my weight was almost always exactly 257.5 pounds. It seemed weird that I could weigh so much and yet my weight was the same to a tenth of a pound.

Eleven years ago, shortly after my 50th birthday, I started a weight loss venture that ended a year and a half later with a total loss of 100 pounds. Well, “ended” is the wrong word to use. It has not ended yet. I currently am keeping off 75 of those pounds. I have lost and regained those other 25 pounds several times in the intervening years.

So, fighting destiny seems a little overly dramatic. But it seemed like the right words for what I’ve been thinking about. Sometimes it seems like I am fighting destiny, trying to maintain my weight loss. Whether it is genetic, environmental, or ENTIRELY MY FAULT, some days it just seems like its a losing battle (and here the word losing is not what we are all hoping for.)

Is it genetic? My parents used to love to tell the story of how, when I first came home from the hospital (and I was their first baby,) they would have to have a second bottle warming up. Because when the first bottle was finished, I would start screaming if there was not another one ready to pop into my mouth. Oh, and their second favorite story? It was that my first word was not daddy or mama. No, my first word was “nappo” (apple.) That does seem like there might be a little genetic component there, doesn’t it?

Is it environmental? Both of my parents enjoyed food and loved sweets. A “goodie bag” was a typical Friday night treat (my dad would get five candy bars, and we had to pick one out of the bag without looking.) We had good home-cooked meals most nights, but when we could afford it, we ordered pizza or went out for burgers. Sunday after church we’d stop for a restaurant dinner on the way home. Heck, I grew up in the era when MacDonalds was born!

Is it ENTIRELY MY FAULT? At least three times in my younger life, I lost (and then re-gained) 80-100 pounds. And then there were the innumerable times that I lost and regained 30-50 pounds. In the end, when I was about 30 years old, I said I’d never diet again. I gained from 232 up to said 257.5 pounds, and stayed there for many years. I ate whatever I wanted. I wasn’t a binger. I just ate cookies every day, had an afternoon snack of a candy bar at work, and pretty much stopped for a fast food dinner on my way home every night. I was a really good baker.

So most days now, I feel like I am fighting destiny. I usually weigh and/or measure my food. I make really healthy choices, being careful to get enough fresh veggies, fruits, and protein in. I oftentimes log my food. And I exercise six days a week, usually for 40 minutes. But many days I want A LITTLE MORE. It is not a binge. Sometimes it is even healthy food. But I want more. And therein lies the rub. You can’t keep the weight off, and you sure can’t lose if you want a little more. Ha! One article claimed that to keep from GAINING 2 pounds a year, it was only a difference in 10-20 calories a day! Their example was ONE STARBURST candy. Good grief.

This is the negative side of my daily inner thought life. Come back later in the week to read about the positive side🙂


Diet Fatigue… and a Maintenance Experiment

Diet Fatigue. Its not something I’ve seen defined anywhere. But I bet all of you who have ever been on a diet know what I am talking about. Sometimes it wears on you, all this thinking and restricting and counting and denying…whatever your particular form of dieting happens to be at this particular time.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. That is, I started this last weight loss adventure over 10 years ago. I have been “maintaining,” more or less, for over 8 years. I guess I won’t talk about anybody else’s experience, but for me, maintaining has been an ongoing tension between a diet mindset and trying to “normalize” my relationship with food. One thing that’s been consistent about my maintenance: I have consistently gained and lost between 10 and 20 pounds over the years.

So right now, I’m tired. I’m really really tired. Bah to diets. A couple of weeks ago, on my way home from church, I bought a particular junk food baked item that I love. I’ve probably had 3 of them in the past 10 years. And I ate it on the way home. 430 delicious calories. And then I proceeded to feel “bad” about that choice for the rest of the way home. And it made me mad, that I couldn’t even enjoy a treat without angst. And I remembered for the first time in a long time why I had said “I will never diet again,” and I “maintained” a weight of 257.5 (haha, I have to laugh that the .5 was so consistent when I used to weigh back then) for over 20 years. My mind flashed on all the candy bars I ate every day (that I never eat now) and I wanted to eat all of them, right now! Fortunately, I mostly got over that feeling by the time I got home. And, BTW, its only a 20 minute drive from the grocery store to my house🙂

So I decided to try an experiment. You know how some folks say you are sabotaging yourself by restricting your calories? So I decided to try eating more. Mind you, I’ve tried this many times over the years, and sadly, it never works for me. The rules are different for the formerly severely overweight person. ANYWAY, the experiment. I decided to log my food into LoseIt. Bu I would not worry if I went a little over their calorie allotment for me. After all, that calorie allotment was supposed to be for weight loss, and that was not my goal for this experiment. My goal was to not GAIN any weight, which is a constant worry for me. And I would log ALL my exercise, and eat all those “exercise calories” if I wanted to. I would only weigh once a week to make sure this crazy plan was not leading to weight gain.

I know for most of you, this will just be another form of dieting. But for me it was reassuring to have the parameters of logging food and exercise and weighing once a week while I experimented with eating more than normal.

I’m pretty sure I ate more than I usually do, and I did eat without guilt or angst. I’m pretty sure I exercised a little more. I think LoseIt was pretty generous with their exercise calories, but I just went with it. And the result of the experiment? For five weeks I maintained the same weight. One week it would be two pounds up, and another it would be two pounds down. But for five weeks, my weight was very consistent.

Diet fatigue doesn’t last forever. And this experiment will not last forever. According to most experts, change in your diet and exercise is actually a good thing for long term weight loss. So if you’re feeling tired, don’t throw in the towel. Give yourself a little grace, and try something new or different.

Thinking About Food… or Not

Frequently, I read weight loss bloggers lamenting the amount of thinking they have to do about food in order to lose weight and/or maintain that weight loss. I have periodically complained about that myself on this blog.

But first I want to point out that there are at least two different ways that I (and maybe you) think about food.

The first is the way we are usually thinking when we complain. The obsessive “can I eat this?” or “will this fit into my points/calorie allotment/food plan?” This thinking is what wears us out.

The second thinking we can do about food is completely pleasurable. You know I watch a lot of food shows. Those chefs think a LOT about food. They love everything about it, like an artist enjoys his paints and canvases (or fabric and thread🙂 ) I enjoy reading and then trying a new recipe. I love to think about how I can increase the flavor of something without adding calories. Re-working a recipe to make it healthier, so I can enjoy it on a regular basis, is more fun than doing a jigsaw puzzle. Okay, bad example. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t really that fun. Anyway, there is no reason to eliminate this kind of thinking.

For most of us, we will always have to be vigilant, and we will have to spend some time thinking and planning our meals so that we can lose weight or maintain a weight loss. But there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the amount of thinking you have to do.

  • Find a basic assortment of “favored” healthy foods that you enjoy.
  • Keep those foods stocked in your refrigerator.
  • Batch cook, and freeze in individual portions.
  • Watch for new recipes, or experiment yourself with different ways of combining your favored foods.

The longer you continue to eat in a certain way, the more familiar you become with the nutritional information and calorie count of those foods. I’m not talking about eating the same three foods over and over. You can have a pretty diverse diet without having to think too much at all.

As much as I enjoy food and food preparation and baking and cooking, it might surprise people to observe me for a week. Many days I don’t do any cooking at all. It is more assembling or thawing. This works very well for me. I don’t really have to do much thinking at all. I already know the calorie count of so many of the foods I eat. I still use my measuring cups to portion out things like yogurt and cottage cheese. I have a food scale on the counter for when I do need to weigh food. Sometimes I track my food online, and sometimes I just write it on a scrap of paper. Lots of times my food choices are so familiar that I just track it in my mind.

Think about food now. Its like practicing the piano. Pretty soon you will be able to play that melody (or make a healthy meal) without thinking about it at all.

Two Loops

Lately I’ve had a couple of thought loops running through my mind. I think it has something to do with turning 60. The loops do not intersect. It seems they run on separate tracks, although they are about the same topic.

The first loop is this:

I am 60 years old. I do not want to spend the rest of my life obsessing about food and weight and weight loss and weight gain and weight maintenance. I want to live the best possible life, the most meaningful spiritual life that I can. I want to enjoy a meal with friends, accept a treat when offered. I want to celebrate with food occasionally. I want to physically be able to serve God and serve others. I think often about Dallas Willard (the author I loved so much.) He lived the life I seek. “Dallas Willard would not obsess over food decisions like this,” I often think.

I am not talking about gaining weight back. But to eat this way, I need to be content to maintain at a higher weight range.

The second loop is this:

My back hurts. It would help if you lost some weight.

Yep, that’s the whole loop. While my back would not be healed by weight loss, I know for a fact that losing weight does decrease pain.

For a while, these two loops went through my mind on a daily basis. Each of them I acknowledge as truthful statements. But each of them requires that I make a decision and act on it. That has not exactly happened. One day I will follow one loop, and the next day I will follow the other. This, at least, keeps me maintaining my weight at this higher level.

You know, the truth is, that by “not making a decision to follow one loop or the other,” I actually have made a decision. For now, the truth is that I have made a decision to not actively pursue weight loss. To hold life a little less tightly. To live with a bit of pain and a little less angst. To still eat from a very healthy food template and to exercise on a regular basis. But to understand and agree that weight will not be lost this way. And for now, that’s okay.

What is Left to Say?

Us bloggers tend to have a lot to say, no? That’s usually why we started blogging in the first place. When I first lost my weight, I loved talking about it. I wanted to encourage other people that it Could! Be! Done!! Now I feel a little like my grandpa, who used to say ‘the older I get, the less I know.’ Obesity and losing weight and maintaining weight loss are such complex issues. And actually losing weight is the least  complex. Everybody can do that. But understanding obesity, the source and type of it, and then maintaining weight loss long term turn out to be extraordinarily complex issues. What can I possibly say that might help?

I’ve listened to a couple of lectures given by Dr. Sharma on Youtube. Some of the things he points out might be perceived as discouraging. But I have always found comfort and strength in hearing the truth, even if it isn’t the magic bullet I would have wished for.

Dr. Sharma points out that obesity is not just a disease. It is a chronic disease. A chronic disease without a cure. It doesn’t even have very many effective treatment options. The best you can do is to manage it. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. As discouraging as this might sound, I found comfort in it. I was beginning to feel like there was something very wrong with me. On my last trip to Tahoe, I worked hard at balancing enjoying special treats with eating really healthy foods. Overall, I think I did a really good job on this trip. But I remember one day saying to myself, “MY GOSH, you think a LOT about food. Its abnormal.” After I got home, I kept on thinking about this. One day it occurred to me that at my heaviest, I also thought a LOT about food. I got a good laugh out of that one.

Dr. Sharma also talks a lot about exercise. He says that exercise has very little to do with direct weight loss. VERY LITTLE. But he pointed out that all the side benefits that come with exercise can have a beneficial effect on your efforts to lose weight. Stress relief, better sleep, and just feeling better about yourself so that you WANT to eat better are all side benefits of regular exercise. I totally believe this.

Dr. Sharma also talks about the time it takes to maintain weight loss. How it almost has to become a second job. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep (you all know there is a lot of information tying sleep to weight loss, right?), planning, preparing, and/or journaling your food all take a good amount of time.

So as I reach the tenth year of when I STARTED this last weight loss, and I do still struggle with maintaining that loss, I guess I just want to say that it is very much worth the struggle. I would love to be able to convince people that learning to be content at a weight that is much lower than your highest weight, but still not as low as your “ideal” might be a key to at least maintaining weight loss.

I Bought Another Diet Book

I bought another diet book. (Disclaimer: this is not a book review.) As I virtually thumbed through this book on my Kindle, the question that kept running through my mind was “why?” Why did I buy another diet book? What was I looking for? I’ve been dieting and/or maintaining for almost 10 years now. Did I really think I would find something new?

Was I looking for the magic bullet, just like the rest of America? If I just do this or that, I can eat whatever I want and still be thin and fabulous.

But what I really think I was looking for is reassurance. Reassurance that my thinking is not wrong. That I am doing the best I can. That it is okay to eat what I eat. Its okay that I am not as thin as the “American ideal” (haha–that’s a funny one, isn’t it? In our all-powerful country, a huge percentage of us are obese, but our “ideal” is borderline underweight.)

This book provided that reassurance.

There are so many voices out there on the inter webs yelling at us that their way is the only way. That their way is the best. If only you would eliminate this or that food, you would be cured of all your aches and pains and you would be thin and rich (okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration.) I admit it–sometimes I get lost in the melee. I start to doubt myself. I wonder if what I have learned over the years is true. This book provided a voice of reason, backed by the author’s solid scientific background and years of experience in the weight loss and weight loss maintenance field.

Maybe another time I’ll review this book, but for now I’ll just tell you that I recommend it. Its chock full of good and true helpful information for the person who wants to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.