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No Big Surprise Here…Maintaining Weight Loss Is Hard Work

  

 Just over 2 years ago I reached my goal on my health and fitness journey. I had lost 100 pounds! About a year ago, I posted that maintaining that weight loss was fairly easy, I just needed to keep doing what I had been doing to lose the weight. I didn’t have to log my food anymore! I was one of the 5% that could keep the weight off! That was true at the time. Now, however…

Maybe you get busy, and those little bad habits start creeping in. Like snacking between meals when you aren’t really hungry, just bored. Who knew that all those wonderful whole foods (fruits, nuts, veggies with hummus) that are good for you still have calories? (Oh right, I did know that.) Like eating that wonderful whole wheat sourdough bread, even though you know it is one of your trigger foods. (And putting butter on it, since all the news reports now say it is healthy!)

Or maybe you are forced to slow down on the exercise. Perhaps (you know, just an example) your rotator cuff starts hurting every time you do any exercise that uses your shoulder very much–Zumba, kickboxing, circuit training, push-ups; pretty much every exercise you were doing except walking/jogging.

Maybe you go on a couple of vacations and end up eating lots of foods you don’t normally eat…and it all tastes so good, and hits all your feel good triggers, that you perhaps eat more than you should. Perhaps there are a bunch of fun family functions while you are vacationing, with lots of really yummy things to eat that are just too hard to resist.

So yeah, all that happened to me. And this could be where I explain that I put all the weight back on (plus 10 pounds), and I can’t believe it happened so fast.

Thankfully, I was still weighing myself regularly. When my shoulder first started hurting and I backed off from exercise, I gained about 6 pounds. I caught it and started logging again, and dropped most of those pounds.  Then I got very busy, and stressed out with end-of-school-year stuff, and I stopped logging my food, and I found myself–after a trip to see family on the East Coast, and a vacation in Disneyland shortly after that–up 10 pounds. I can see clearly how weight regain happens to the majority of people who manage to lose the weight. Those 10 pounds went on in the span of about 3 months, with a big weight gain during each vacation. To me, since I wasn’t really paying attention, it felt much faster than that.

So, I’m back to logging my food, but also trying to figure out how to continue maintaining without having to yo-yo up and down for the rest of my life. My suspicion is that I should keep logging my food most of the time for the rest of my life. That’s what I thought while I was losing, but then I thought that I didn’t need to when I maintained for so long without it. However, if I look back now (and I think I mentioned this before) my weight was very slowly creeping up during that time, at a rate of maybe a pound or 2 a year. Maybe eventually I only need to log every other week, or one week a month, but if I don’t occasionally track my intake, it seems to creep up without my noticing. I justify that it is just another piece of fruit. But that piece of fruit has almost 100 calories, and if those are calories my body doesn’t need, I’m still going to gain. I thought that I could just listen to my body’s signals so that I didn’t overeat. But there’s some research out there that once a person has been obese and loses the weight, the body’s signals get messed up and are constantly trying to return to homeostasis–or a return to obesity. As the research suggests, it is possible that the hormones that control hunger and satiety (ghrelin and leptin) are out of whack with me.

I’ve been logging for a couple of weeks now, and thankfully the weight is coming back off pretty quickly. I’m seeing a physical therapist for my shoulder, and still can’t go to the gym. However, I’m jogging with my big pooch a few times a week, and trying to get my (at least) 10,000 steps every day. The thought of logging forever isn’t filling me with dread (most of the time), instead I’m just letting my control-freak nature fly and embracing it.

I think I’ve said it before, health and fitness is a life-long journey. I’m just happy I’m not starting the journey over again with the very first step.

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Why I Have Sucked at Blogging

I just had a realization about why I end up taking these huge breaks from blogging, and it takes me forever to get back to it. It just felt too big, like I didn’t have time to sit down and write a profound, inspiring post, so I might as well just skip it. It’s the same reason it took me forever to start getting healthy. It felt too big to do it right, I figured I’d have to change everything about what I ate and start exercising (when I had hardly been moving off the couch), and that was too overwhelming to imagine. The answer to getting healthy was taking small steps each day, letting them build upon each other, and eventually I found I had changed everything about what I ate, and I was exercising nearly every day. So, I am going to try to start posting more often (I know, I know, I’ve said that before) and not worry about being profound or particularly original.

This week I received paperwork to become part of the National Weight Control Registry. The NWCR is a research study of people who have lost at least 30 pounds, and kept it off for at least a year. They are trying to come up with answers about how people successfully lose weight and keep it off. I had read a lot about the study while I was losing weight, so it feels like another big success to become a part of the study.

I posted (oh so long ago) that I really believe the secret to being healthier is to stop eating processed foods. Whether you are overweight or not, processed foods are not healthy for your body. I’m not the only one who now believes that, and I’ll post articles as they come up to support me on this. For now, with Halloween coming up, here’s a great John Oliver piece about what I believe is the #1 problem in the Standard American Diet (SAD), added sugar. Along with all the other health and weight benefits of reducing (or eliminating) added sugar, I have a friend right now fighting cancer, and she has found some research showing that sugar may feed cancer cells. Sugar is now added to so many foods we eat, and our taste buds have become dulled as a result. When you eliminate the added sugar, real foods start tasting so much more complex and delicious. It can be hard to get to that point, and there are many (many) books and websites out there encouraging a cold turkey method to eliminating sugar (i.e., I Quit Sugar and the 21 Day Sugar Detox). While this may work for some, I think I would have found the idea of going cold turkey to be too overwhelming. I believe the answer to reducing the amount of added sugar (and all processed food) in your diet is in taking small steps that lead you in the right direction. Start by replacing one of your sugary or processed-carb loaded snacks with a piece of fruit. Have a bowl of plain oatmeal with cinnamon, banana and chopped almonds for breakfast (my favorite!) instead of cold cereal (since they all have added sugar, or they would taste like cardboard). Try to make a small change each day, or even each week if you want to take it slower, and let them build upon themselves until you have achieved success.

Happy Anniversary To Me!

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One year ago today I reached my initial goal of losing 100 pounds. When I first started losing weight, I read so many discouraging statistics about maintaining weight loss that I was actually quite worried. However, as I went along my journey, I came to the realization that the changes I was making were permanent, so as long as I kept up my healthier lifestyle, there was no reason to believe that the weight would come back on. Thankfully, that has proven to be the case. I actually never came to a decision to stop losing weight. At some point I just stopped losing weight while eating healthy food and exercising, and I figured I must have reached the best weight for me. I have hovered between 100 and 105 pounds lost from my original weight for the last year. I don’t count calories, or keep a food log anymore. I eat real food, I don’t eat processed food and I limit treats, and try to pay attention to portion sizes (except for the veggies, of course). I exercise an average of 6 days per week, and I have developed a love of fitness.

My entire life I thought I was just someone who was destined to be fat. I felt like I had no control over my weight, I felt powerless against lethargy, and tempting food. I can’t even express how amazing it is to be free of that, how healthy, strong, and in control I now feel. I am always so happy when I hear that I have inspired others to live healthier lives, to eat real food, to get out and exercise. My greatest hope is to continue to inspire, that someone reading my blog realizes that it is possible, and takes the first steps towards living a healthier life.

Pumping Iron! Or – I’m Sick of Potatoes!

My husband blogged about how to grill up polenta. So yummy!

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I’ve been thinking about posts since the last one in February but two things have stopped me. The first is the age-old excuse of just being too darn busy. The second, though, is that I’d been in a bit of a rut, grilling the same old things over and over again. I credit my wife for inspiring me to start experimenting again.

I love potatoes, standard Yukon golds, fingerlings, baby colored, and even the good ole russets all grill fantastically whether you roll them around for an hour or cut them into steak fries and toss them with chili powder. When I get bored with potatoes I switch to sweet potatoes which I may even love more. Grilled over indirect heat until they nearly explode they are sweet and tasty and nearly bullet proof. I’ll admit, now, though, that after I’ve grilled potatoes and sweet potatoes for months I dream…

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What is “Cheating”? And Who Knew, the Way I Am Eating Actually is a “Diet”!

A friend of mine today complimented me on how well I’m doing (always very nice!) and asked if I ever cheat. I said that I don’t really. She followed up by asking if that means I never eat sugar or other foods like that. I responded that I do eat sugar, I have sugar in my coffee every morning, and I have a piece of dark chocolate almost every night, along with a cup of tea with honey (which is basically sugar). I made the kids these chocolate chip granola bars, made with honey and sugar (but less than the packaged kind) and I find myself having a little piece of one almost every day, because they are really good. It has made me realize that I’m sure we each have a different definition of what “cheating” means. And for me, I think if your definition of cheating is too restrictive (i.e., no sugar, no chocolate, pretty much saying no to anything at all), then cheating becomes too easy to do, and once you feel like you are cheating a lot you may lose your motivation. I’m not even sure what would be “cheating” for my new way of eating. Maybe if I had a giant bowl of pasta with cheese sauce, or a whole carton of ice cream. However, I will sometime have a small portion of pasta with cheese sauce, or a small serving of ice cream when I take the kids to our local ice cream place. I’ve come to realize that the most pleasure you get from eating any particular food is in the first few bites…after that you are just eating it because it is there. So I try to really savor those first few bites…and then stop..and then eat a lot of veggies so I don’t have room for anymore of that tempting food.

Those who’ve been reading this blog, or who know me, know that I haven’t really been following any particular “diet,” just trying to eat in a way that makes sense to me. I was logging my calories, and realized that I could eat a ton of vegetables for a lot less calories than most other foods, and that way I could eat enough to feel satisfied and still lose weight. I have small portions of (mostly lean) proteins and (mostly complex) carbohydrates, and then lots and lots of veggies. I was doing a bit of random web browsing the other day, and came across the Volumetrics Diet. This almost exactly describes how I am eating now, with only a few exceptions. The only major one is that I don’t do any soups, my family just isn’t into them. However, I do cook spaghetti sauce with tons of veggies, and tonight we are having Slow Cooker Veggie Chili  (which I have started adding tempeh to, it’s surprisingly very good). Anyway, I may pick up the book about the Volumetrics Diet and see how close it is to how I am eating, and see if I can recommend it to people who ask how I’ve lost all the weight. As I’ve said before, what I think is most important about how I eat is that I feel comfortable living like this for the rest of my life. I’m not feeling deprived, I don’t really feel like any food is completely “off limits,” and I’m never hungry. This really isn’t a “diet” (even though apparently it sort of is), it’s just a new way of living.

Less Than 10 Pounds to Go! And a Bit of TMI…

I have less than 10 pounds to go to reach my goal. How crazy is that?

It will likely take a while to lose those last 10 pounds, as I am now taking it very very slowly. I consider myself to now be in “maintenance minus a little.” I am mostly eating like I am maintaining, just trying to eat a little bit less so I keep losing the last bit. I figure that way when I am done, going into maintenance mode will be a fairly simple thing. This has made me realize why most people likely fail at keeping the weight off. My new smaller body needs way WAY less calories than my previous body to maintain its weight. The amount of non-vegetable food I eat is pretty darn small. Good thing I have come to love vegetables so much, or I would be pretty hungry most of the time. I’m pretty sure that to maintain I will be eating less than I was eating when I first started losing. Maintenance for me will not really look any different than losing did.

Now, here’s the possible TMI part of this post…you have been warned. I met with a plastic surgeon on Monday, the first of several I will probably have initial consultations with before making a final decision. The only negative of losing all the weight has been the amount of loose skin I now have all over my body as a result. Take a lesson from me, if you can get the motivation to lose weight while you are still young, do it. I am almost 45, and my skin has been stretched out for so long that it is now like a deflated balloon, and will not be going anywhere on its own. I need work done on my arms, my boobs, my stomach, and my thighs. The meeting with the plastic surgeon was actually kind of nice, because she seemed to think I was mostly done and didn’t necessarily need to lose the last 10–but she did see where it could come off my thighs, which is why I still want to lose it. She said I probably have about 10 pounds of skin to be taken off, so I may end up under my goal after the surgery. That’d be okay with me. My goal weight put me at the top of the “healthy” BMI, so being more towards the middle would be nice. The best part of the meeting was when she was examining me, and kept saying “you’re so tiny under there!” The extra skin still makes me look like I have a bit of a belly, but I could feel my abdominal muscles under all the skin. Nice to have that confirmed, there’s not really any fat left on my stomach, it’s all skin at this point. The trade-off with the surgery, of course, is a lot of scars instead of a lot of skin. I will take that trade…most, except for the arms, won’t show. Also, it will likely be 2 or 3 different surgeries, each one with about 6 weeks to full recovery. So that will be less than fun. Again, totally worth it in my opinion. Not only for vanity’s sake (though of course that is most of it!), but also because the skin flapping around is pretty annoying when I am exercising. I did warn you about the TMI thing, right?

Losing Without Logging

I’ve just finished my first week of eating without keeping a daily food log. With the exception of time off for vacation here and there, I have been keeping a daily food log since May of last year. For the last month or so, I’ve been thinking that I may actually have a handle on this eating thing, and could keep going without a food log. I am now 16 pounds from my initial goal (!!!) so I want to see how I do at judging my food intake on my own.

The first week went great, I still lost a little over a pound, and I have to say that it was very nice to just eat in a natural way without writing it all down. After all this time logging, I have a pretty good idea of what quantities of protein and carbs I should be eating, and now I don’t feel the need to think about every single vegetable I am eating, I’m pretty much going full gusto with the veggies. Still limiting my fruit to 2 or 3 servings per day, since they are higher in calories. I’m still weighing high calorie foods some of the time, like nuts and dairy, just to make sure my portion sizes aren’t creeping up. However, I think my move towards eating close to zero processed foods has simplified things quite a bit for me. It is much harder to overeat when what you are eating is mostly nutrient dense, but calorically light, veggies.

I still recommend to anyone trying to lose weight that you start out logging, and do it until the way you are eating becomes second nature. Really figure out what works for you, and do it for a long time. If at any point I stop losing weight, or feel like my eating is no longer in control, I know I can always go back to logging. It’s a relief to think I might not need to, as when I started I thought I might have to log forever in order to maintain my weight loss. It is amazing to feel, for the first time in my life, that I have control of my weight.