Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

I remember this moment very well. I was morbidly obese, and gaining, and scared. I met with an endocrinologist who told me I was, basically, a poster child for Syndrome X, pre-diabetes, hyper-insulinemia. Sounded exotic to me at the time, but this is a condition held by many of us who are obese or morbidly obese. She understood completely why sensible diets had stopped working for me. She could see it in my chemistry.

She told me she wanted me to stop trying to lose weight. Instead, she wanted me to shift my focus to maintaining my weight. She was sorry, but she was pretty clear: I had the makeup of a person who was likely to remain overweight. Now I had to focus on being a healthy overweight person.

I thanked her politely, paid my co-pay, and went out to my car. I started my engine, drove to the far end of the huge medical building parking lot, and sat in my car and cried. And cried. And cried. And, well, I probably howled a little. I cried until I could not produce any more tears or mucus. Until my eyes and nose were swollen. Until friends, I’m sure, wouldn’t have recognized me. I do not cry prettily.

Oh I remember that day. Was she trying to use reverse psychology on me? Absolutely not. My doctor, it turns out, was perhaps ahead of her time. Nowadays many doctors will offer the same or similar advice. Why? Because for a lot of people, losing weight and keeping it off may not be the healthiest choice. I know, that sounds a little nuts, right?

Many people, myself included, who have lost a significant amount of weight, must make radical changes to our lifestyles and eating habits in order to maintain the loss. We may consume significantly fewer calories than others around us. We may have difficulty getting adequate nutrition on our lowered calorie intake, particularly if we still eat high-calorie treats. (Darling, if you’re reading this, would you please find a better hiding spot for the Halloween candy?) We must exercise a great deal, almost daily. We need to keep up our muti-vitamins. In essence, we remain on our “diets” for our whole lives. If we’re not careful to make very nutritious food choices, living this way, in the long run, could make us ill. Ironic, ain’t it?

Mind, for some people, the changes do not feel radical, and adjusting to them is easy. For others, it’s just too much change to sustain for very long; old habits return, along with the weight.

It amounts to a quality of life equation. Is this little food, this much exercise, this much change worth it? If you’re overweight, the answer to that question is entirely yours to make. And it’s an answer you may change over time. When I was younger, through my actions, I clearly answered no. I wanted to enjoy food as much as the people around me did. When I felt lousy and looked at the possibility of becoming very ill, much too soon, the answer changed.

When my endocrinologist suggested to me that I should focus on maintaining my weight, on not gaining any more, I went into panic mode. I felt suddenly walled in by my extra weight. I could not cope with the idea that I would be heavy forever. I thought I’d just been putting off serious weight loss until I could get around to it. I didn’t know that the weight was changing me. I’d like to say this scared me into the final big push to lose weight. But it didn’t. I gained another 20 lbs. or more after that appointment. It would be another year or two before I made what I resolved would be my last great effort to lose weight.

Three years after reaching my goal, my weight loss is still very hard for me to sustain. But for me, it’s worth every bit of the effort. The tradeoffs are clear, the rewards obvious. But I’ve heard from many people who just don’t find maintaining a 25 BMI worth the struggle. They hit a plateau and understand that to lose more weight, they’ll have to eat still less, exercise still more. They choose to stop when they’ve lost some, but not all of what they thought of as their extra weight. They choose to stop when they feel and are healthy again, instead of aiming for some number on a wall chart.

And there is great wisdom in that strategy, and great hope for overweight people who do not want to overhaul their lifestyles. The hope lies in the many, many research studies that support the latest advice doctors are making to their overweight patients: Lose a little. The many benefits of exercise and weight loss — restored insulin response, lowered blood pressure, lowered blood lipids — come along very quickly, with the loss of just a small percentage of body weight. Making and maintaining small losses can do wondrous things for our health.

These losses can often be accomplished through small changes in diet or lifestyle. Just kicking a soda-pop habit. Just switching to olive oil instead of hardened oils (margarine, Crisco, butter) in our cooking, for instance. Just knocking out refined flour. Just increasing fruits and veggies. Just walking 5 minutes a day this week, 10 the next, until we can comfortably walk 30 minutes a day. Adopting small changes can make huge differences in our health while helping whittle away at the weight, little bit by little bit, only changing as much as we can comfortably handle for the rest of our lives.

And that leads to a journal assignment for your body log… Try a little dialogue with yourself about just how much permanent change you’re ready for. If you find you’re not ready to make a lot of permanent changes, decide on just a few, prioritize them, and take them one at a time.

9 thoughts on “Lose a Lot? Or a Little?

  1. Bozoette Mary says:

    Great post! When I made my last great change, I determined that my previous goal weight was way too ambitious, so focused on a goal weight that I thought I could maintain. Well…I did and didn’t, and now that I’ve gained back 20, it’s time to get serious again and eat right and exercise right. But the goal — that maintainable one — remains the same!

  2. Kirsten says:

    Great post — and so timely! About 18 months ago, I embarked on a plan to whittle my 290+ pound frame down to a spritely 140. A year later, I had lost almost 80 pounds and was feeling fabulous, but incredibly sick of counting points and logging every bite. So, I went “off plan” and really started focusing on maintaining my loss — even though I was about 75 lbs from goal. Six months later — today — I have maintained my loss, and adopted many many healthier eating and exercise habits. A week ago, I ran my first 5 K — unthinkable for much of my life. While I would still love to weigh 140, I am not sure that I can maintain that level of commitment to a plan to get me there. I am still “obese” — but I would argue, much healthier and fitter than many of my thinner friends. So now I have to make the decision — do I stay where I am? Do I modify my goal and try to lose a little bit more? Or do I try to get back on track to 140? It’s a tough call.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Great blog today… as always! Tonight at a meeting one of the members came to me upset because she’d lost a great deal of weight initially but had only been “on a plateau” since then. I explained to her that being on a plateau is the same thing as maintaining and all its means is that our energy intake is equal to our energy expenditure — no value judgements, no criticism. I told her that its okay to lose some weight and just keep it off. That in itself is a valuable and healthy lesson. Yet she insisted that she “must lose more weight but I can’t possibly work out any more than I already do!” I said “then to lose weight you would need to eat less. We can talk about how to enjoy it more, but it will have to be less energy intake.” That wasn’t the response she was looking for!!

    Personally I am okay battling with the joint demons of eating less and exercising more. But it is very, very true that this is a constant struggle and it doesn’t seem like something that I’ll ever do automatically without thinking. Having lost 50 pounds three years ago, I still have many of the same temptations and challenges I did before I started. I would never assume that anyone would voluntarily adopt the same approach and give the same effort I did/do.

    If someone were to tell me that they had lost a little weight and were exercising a little more, my sole response would be “RIGHT ON!” This isn’t easy. Losing some excess fat and getting the heart just a bit more in shape — that’s progress!

    -Jonathan

    P.S. Is this battle I wage to keep off the 50 lbs worth it personally to ME? DAMN BETCHA! I’m 44 years old and ran 8 miles in a row without stopping for the first time in my life last weekend!

  4. Jessica says:

    This post is so very timely for me. I have lost about 45 pounds, but have been hovering around the same weight for more than 6 months now. I am proud to have not gained, but I am ready to be losin’ again. And it’s just starting to dawn on me that the stuff that worked 45 pounds ago just doesn’t cut it with *this* body that I have now. So– I am cutting back on the “diet junk food”, the fast food (which was already an occasional thing, but now I am shooting for none at all), the non-nutritious stuff that always seems to wiggle in through the door and say, “Eat me! Eat me!” It *is* slow-going for me, but it *is* worth it to hang in there.

    Thanks for doing the Skinny Daily Post– it has been an incredible source of inspiration and support. Hugs to you!

    Jess

  5. Mimi says:

    I guess that is what I have been unable to do. I get exhausted just thinking about how hard it is everyday to lose or even to maintain a wight loss. I lost about 50lb. two years ago and now weigh what I did when I started back then. I have decided to lose weight again, but I am so discourage that I will have to work so hard for the rest of my life. I am not even sure that I can.

  6. Quinn says:

    Compromise. Lose a little. Then, maybe, lose a little more. Keep this up for a while. We didn’t acquire all the excess poundage overnight and we ain’t gonna lose it overnight, either.

    So, easy does it. A little at a time.

  7. Constance says:

    The longest 3 years of my life, were the ones in which I regained the 110 pounds I lost on a medically supervised weight program. I was stressed to the max. I would attempt to exercise to ‘stop the gain’, never really understanding the simple fact that I can not consume the same number of calories most folks can. My endrocologist told me this, I did not get it. I do now. I gain weight following WW programs 110%. The facts. Thanks for this post, and blog… all excellent. A feeling of ‘w-h-e-w…’ as I realize I am not alone.

    Thank you!

  8. Nneka says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I thought it was just me. About a year ago after doing WW for a year and losing 35lbs, I stopped doing it because I was tired of counting and obsessing.

    Today, after soul searching and trying to really figure out what this was all about I decided to use a different approach. The little by little approach. Thanks for the reinforcement that I’m on the right track.

  9. tiff says:

    Hi my name is Tiffany, I am sixteen and overwight. My Mom is my grandma is and so is my father. I can’t stay this way. I have been on all the diets and done so many things to my body it hurts. For a time I was not keeping any food down, I lost about 20lb in a few weeks but I felt so bad. And my mom and friends were going to find out and send me to a doctor or some thing. Now I am on a low Carb diet but I am not lossing a lot of wight well not as much as I would like too. I just don’t know what to do. I work out all the time, I don’t eat I have done every thing. Now I think I will just give up and live with being fat.

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