Monday, May 6, 2013

AIM: Through Thick and Thin


 Or, is weight gain inevitable after a large loss?

Well, for me it always was.  Call it yo-yo dieting, call it the diet roller-coaster, call it a merry-go-round, call it whatever - the fact is, every single time I went on a diet and lost weight, I always gained it back.   EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  If you think about it, I wasted a lot of my time, energy, and money dieting when I always regained the weight.  Of course, I never made a true lifestyle change until my last diet, so that might have been the problem (sarcastic inner self:  ya think??).  But this time, I went into my diet knowing that I did not want to play the lose/regain weight game, and luckily, I found a few bloggers who were maintaining big weight losses; reading their blogs helped to remind me that I needed to not only diet to lose weight, but that I also needed to change how and what I ate so that I could keep that weight off.

I think it's pretty common when you've been 100 pounds or more overweight to not really know what your goal weight should be.  For me, the last time I was a normal-sized person, I was in my early twenties, and hadn't had any children yet.  The forty-something me who was now trying to lose weight was a differently-bodied person, and I knew that getting down to 120 pounds (which ironically used to be my "heavy" weight) wasn't going to happen...plus, I also knew that I wanted to be able to maintain my weight without having to practically starve myself, which would have been the case at that weight.  I randomly chose 138 pounds as my goal weight - I think it was on the upper end of what Weight Watchers recommended for someone of my height (not that I was doing Weight Watchers, but at the time, an actual goal weight number seemed important).  I also think that it's pretty common to lose a bit more than necessary; I know that for me, it was fascinating to see how small I was getting.  However, I never got close to that 138 number - my lowest low was 146.  And I was pretty tiny - I fit into size 6 pants, my collarbones were getting quite prominent, you could see the bones across my chest, and I got a lot of comments from well-meaning people that my face was looking gaunt.  And yet I still hated my stomach (but that's a post for another day).

I was working out pretty hard, three days a week, plus I was running several days as well, when I hit my lowest low.  However, I was aching and sore all the time from working out, so I stopped that and just concentrated on running - that's when I started training for my half marathon.  I gained five pounds, but it only showed on the scale - my clothes still fit, and I felt OK about it.  But less than two months after I ran the half, I found myself with an ankle injury that meant I couldn't run, and shortly after that my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and I went on the Coconut M&M's Stress Diet (not recommended, as it neither cures cancer nor heals ankles).  I gained some weight - how much, I don't know, as I wasn't weighing myself by then.  But my pants were getting tight, so yeah, it was a reality.

Eventually (I'd say after about five months) I was able to stop with the stress eating (honestly, it was mostly sugary things that I was reaching for whenever I started feeling funky about everything).  And then came the not so fun part of having to actively try to lose some weight again - argh!

The thing that helped is that I didn't let myself get totally out of control.  Most of my healthier eating habits stayed with me.  I didn't go back to Taco Bell, I continued to eat my Greek yogurt/fruit/homemade granola for breakfast, I still split a burger with Jeff on Friday nights.  And once I cut out the sugar, the cravings stopped and slowly the extra weight has left me, without my having to stringently diet like I did to lose the weight in the first place.  I know I'm not back to my lowest low based on what clothes I can fit into.  Would I like to get that small again?  Sure.  But am I willing to work super hard to get there?  Not right now.  However, I am willing to eat healthy most of the time and exercise regularly, and I know that in time, doing these things does make my weight drop, little by little.

So I wonder - was my weight gain inevitable?  Even though I didn't regain everything I lost (not by a long shot), I did put some weight back on.  Would that have happened had I not been dealing with the stressful things that came up?  Who knows?  What's done is done.  On the other hand, since that time I've had other stressful things come into my life, and I haven't turned to sugar like I did back then, so maybe as I've gotten further along with this healthy way of living, my good habits are more ingrained now and food isn't the thing I instantly turn to in order to cope.  No one starts a diet with the intention of regaining the weight they worked so hard to lose, but if you look at it as a temporary way of eating, I do believe weight gain is inevitable.  You have to make some permanent changes if you really want your weight loss to stay permanent.

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you'd like us to address!

34 comments:

  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the AIM posts and this one of yours is great, Shelley. I really related to not having been at a "normal" weight since I got married - pre kids. Actually, I spent a lot of years in the 120s, which was too low on my then 5'9'' frame. At my wedding, I weighed about 135 (I was happy in those months!) and was devastated that I'd gained so much weight. HA! I look at my wedding pics and am blown away by how lean I was - and what a small waist!

    Anyway, my inaccurate self appraisal kept me hating my body know matter what shape it was in. Little by little now, having type 2 diabetes with which to contend and conquer, I'm beginning to get it like I never have before.

    This long novella of a comment is leading me into thinking I'll post later. Thanks as always for your sound and normal talk! I look forward to reading the other AIMs today.

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    1. Thanks, Leslie! And oh, to look back at our "fat" pictures - it's a cruel thing, to know how rough we were on ourselves back when we really weren't fat at all.

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  2. Great post Shelley and it gives me food for thought. I have gained a little and am thinking a lot about what and how I'm going to live/eat to get lost of that overweight forever. I know I need to change some things but right now I'm not prepared to do that yet. But I will one day.

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    1. And that's key - you have to be mentally ready to do it, because otherwise, I think you just end up fighting yourself the entire time. You'll get there, I know it.

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  3. YES. It seems what you said about reigning it in and not totally going off the rails is key to long term maintaining too.

    xo

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    1. I don't think I could go totally off the rails anymore; I think my body is so used to decent food that it would rebel before my mind caught on, if that makes sense.

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  4. It's amazing to me how many of us learned about really changing the lifestyle before the loss stuck. Who knew?

    It really is hard when you have so much to lose because a goal number is just that and the body looks so much different than you expect as you get smaller. And the weight comes off places you want to keep and stays where you don't!

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  5. I love that you recognize that even with the coco-m&m's, you weren't completely off track. It emphasizes that the overall lifestyle changes are most prevalent and will get you through the little "side trips" that pop up from time to time. :)

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    1. Good analogy - a side trip, a little detour...as long as we get back on the path, these are all OK to have once in a while.

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  6. "No one starts a diet with the intention of regaining the weight they worked so hard to lose, but if you look at it as a temporary way of eating, I do believe weight gain is inevitable. You have to make some permanent changes if you really want your weight loss to stay permanent." BINGO!

    I think the above statement is why I found reading your blog so helpful while I was starting my own (seriously, hopefully last) journey last year. Somehow I never got that before, but it's such a key thing! If I can make it through summer without gaining any significant weight, I'll have gone a year, which is the longest I've ever kept a big loss off. With the exception of maybe having kids someday, I hope this loss is more permanent, because it's so heartbreaking to work so hard to lose weight only to have it come back again.

    I've never really agreed with the WW "goal weight" - it seems to be a lot lower than it should be. Like mine, for instance, is 40-60 pounds less than what I weigh right now! I know I'm still a little overweight, but not THAT much! The first time I did WW I got within about 15 pounds of the top of my range, and even then people told me I looked gaunt and should eat more. I can't imagine how scary I'd look if I actually got within their range.

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    1. Thank you for this, Anne - and I'm right with you on how ridiculous it is to think that you should be as much as another 60 pounds down! That is crazy. You look like a healthy, vibrant, active woman who is enjoying life. I'd take that over being "chart-thin" any day.

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  7. Great post Shelley! My favorite line?

    "You have to make some permanent changes if you really want your weight loss to stay permanent."

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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  8. Sorry to hear about all the stressful stuff you've been through, Shelley. It seems you'd been doing so well for so long that a lot of those good habits decided to stay with you. And it doesn't hurt that you were so self-aware, too. Regardless of some of the weight that's come back, I've always admired your positive attitude and willingness to try new things.

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    1. Thanks, Gigi - most of the stressors are better now. Most, haha.

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  9. Loved this, as you have such a healthy sensible attitude about it all!

    I agree that catching things before they get too out of hand is really helpful. A lot of us have ups and down, but when weight starts piling on, the ability not to panic, or go into denial, but just re-motivate to go back to healthier habits makes a huge difference in long term success. I think some people have such a traumatic history of rollercoaster rides that there's a part that just wants to shut it all out when things start getting out of control. So glad you have found a great healthy lifestyle that works for the long haul!

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    1. Thanks, Crabby - I guess I had plenty of practice with getting it (somewhat) right, finally.

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  10. As many others have said, this was a tremendously helpful post. I started a lifestyle change journey before my mom died too, so I very much identify with that slow and steady slide back into stress eating. And now I'm at a point in my process where I'm seeing a number on the scale I haven't seen since high school (I'm 36), so I planned to take a stop and reassess in about 15+ lbs or so to see how my body looks and feels. It's so encouraging to see that I'm on the right track and that maintenance is a continual process of making decisions for and about yourself.

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    1. Glad I could help, Jessie. My sympathies on the loss of your mother.

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  11. What a great post Shelley! Most of us dream of maintenance and think that the work stops but it doesn't. It seems like you've found a great balance of making the right choices almost all the time but allowing yourself some freedom. This is so helpful for me - I'm learning as much as I can to prepare myself for that part of the journey!

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    1. And that's just it - the work doesn't stop, but it gets to be routine (if you accept that this is what it takes to keep the weight off). You are going to be in maintenance before you know it...and I'm so excited for you!

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  12. Great post Shelley - I think that's why everyone who diets loses weight because after the diet, they go right back to what they did to get themselves there!

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  13. One thing I enjoy about your blog is just the positive vibe it sends out. You seem to have accepted and found your happy place with your weight loss. I also know I will never be in the 120's again. Even though I have gained back some of my loss, I still feel stronger and I know I will be a "loser" again

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    1. Thanks, Katrin - although I have my moments of dissatisfaction with my belly flab, I truly am more content about my body than I can remember - and that's even going back a few years ago when I hit my lowest low weight. :)

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  14. I'm still trying to figure out what my goal weight should be, just because it's nice to have a number in mind. However, what I read from everyone's AIM posts, is that you won't know what weight works for you until you get there. The LOW number might be achieveable, but you might not feel good. A higher number might make more sense, based upon how meticulous you want to be with your food choices. I will try not to get fixated on a number and see how I feel. I'm trying to listen to your voices of experience!

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    1. Just keep it flexible - you really won't know what it is until you get there. When I first started blogging, I saw a bunch of bloggers who had an exact goal number that they were working toward posted, and I always wondered if not hitting it exactly would make them feel like they didn't achieve their goals, when in fact, losing a large amount of weight is a huge feat.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I'm learning so much from reading all of your blogs. It's a big help for the stage I'm in with my weight loss.

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  16. I like your take on "what's done is done." So many times I find myself berating myself for the past. CAN'T DO anything about it, Lynn! I can only live in the hear and now and the decisions I make in this moment...are they ones I will kick myself for when now is the past?

    I love how, since I've "known" you, you never once said "I give up." No matter what happened.

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    1. I never thought about that...I guess I haven't given up, although I came darn close during that half marathon in San Antonio!

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  17. I REALLY love these AIM posts. Thank you for sharing your story Shelley!

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