Dieters aren’t doomed to a lifetime of obesity.

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Over the past week I have seen a media frenzy of a study of the season 8 contestants of the Biggest Loser. While sharing this study, it has portrayed long term weight loss as a nearly impossible feat and people seeking to do so as doomed from the start.

The study found that in the six years since the show, 13 of the 14 contestants had regained some weight since the show; 4 of whom weighed more than they did on the show. Nearly all of the contestants also had slower metabolisms than they did at their starting weight, even slower than would be expected for their size. Their metabolisms were normal relative to their size at the start of the show.

This has added to the idea that all dieters are doomed to fail and those that do succeed will gain it all back anyways or will only be able to maintain on a miserably low amount of calories. As someone who has gone from being obese to maintaining a healthy weight for 3 years, while eating as much as I want (of healthy foods), I obviously don’t buy that this is an inevitability.

In fact, the National Weight Control Registry has studied over 10,000 individuals who have lost weight and kept it off in a variety of ways. They have people that lost it eating low-fat, others eating low-carb. Some followed diet books, others followed their own path. Almost all modified their diet and increased their physical activity… and continue to do so. Most follow a low-calorie diet and exercise regularly (on average 1 hr. per day).

Personally, I share some factors in common with successful maintainers. I do eat a very healthy diet and I exercise for around an hour about 5 times per week. However, the amount of calories that I eat is a lot more than the average person studied by the NWCR. I eat about 2,300 calories/day. This is the amount the would be predicted for my height, age and activity level by medical organizations. The average woman reported eating about 1,300 calories a day and the average male reported eating about 1,700 calories a day. While this is self-reported and not measured, for people who are so active, this is surprisingly low. Although there are so many factors in play that it is hard to know how much metabolic adaptation comes into play for maintainers, and what exactly leads to people like me managing to lose weight and walk away with a normal metabolism.

When it comes down to it, successful maintainers don’t have some radical secret to weight loss. They just follow the advice health organizations have been saying for years. Long term weight loss is possible. You can lose the weight, keep it off and enjoy life!

 

Read More:

After ‘The Biggest Loser’, Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

National Weight Control Registry: Research Findings

Skinny Ever After: The Reality of Weight Maintenance 

Skinny Ever After: The Reality of Weight Maintenance

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After losing 1/3 of my body weight, I thought maintaining it would be a breeze. I thought I would jog off into the sunset and live skinny ever after. While I have managed to stay within a healthy weight range since I have been in maintenance mode, I have had quite a few ups and downs along the way.

I thought I would share my experiences with weight maintenance as well as some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy weight for those that are still on their weight loss journeys.

It takes time to find your balance:

When I started to maintain I was around 150 lbs., although I went down to about 145 lbs. at one point. In the first 6 months of “maintenance mode” I gained about 20 lbs., with my weight peaking at 170 lbs. This is at the upper end of my healthy weight range. I think part of the initial weight gain was because I got too relaxed. I thought because I wasn’t dieting anymore and had more calories to spare, I could getaway with more than I really could.

Following those six months, I started to experiment with different kinds of eating approaches with varying results. I experimented with grain free diets, a miserable attempt at a vegan diet, higher fat diets, and finally finding my balance with a more thought out vegan diet.

For me a plant-based diet has worked really well. I have been vegan for about a year and I was eating mostly plant based for several months before that. My weight has stabilized and been slowly going down. I currently am fluctuating between 160 and 165 lbs. I don’t count calories or restrict the quantity of food I eat. I also haven’t had an issue with binge eating like I did with many other eating approaches I tried.

Body image issues won’t disappear.

I still have fat days. I still have those days when I base my outfit on which one makes me look the skinniest. I have days when I won’t wear shorts because I don’t like how my thighs look. I know it is not rational and that I am healthy and fit. Those days are in the minority, but they still happen.

I also feel a lot of pressure to maintain my weight. My weight loss is not a secret. The difference in my appearance from when I weighed 225 lbs. is not subtle. Many people have complimented me on my weight loss, I blog about my experiences with healthy living and physically feel better at a healthy weight. I don’t want to be another statistic of losing weight and gaining it all back again.

You have to stay vigilant.

When I say I don’t count calories or restrict the quantity of food I eat, that doesn’t mean I am not very mindful about my weight and food choices. The reason I don’t have to count calories is because I eat foods that I know are more satiating per calorie.

I get about 85% of my calories from whole plant foods. The other 15% being small amounts of oil in my cooking and small treats here and there. I average over 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I make sure I have a good source of protein, healthy fat and plenty of fiber in each meal. I am very careful of the amount of refined carbohydrates, sugar and added fats I eat. When I do this, I eat about 2300-2400 calories per day, which is what most medical guidelines say is appropriate for my height, age and activity level (I ate around 1700-1800 calories/day to lose the weight).

But how do I manage to always eat plant based, and almost all of it from whole foods? I plan ahead. I make large batches of staples like quinoa and hummus on the weekends that I can throw into any meal throughout the week. I use convenient healthy foods like low sodium canned beans and frozen vegetables that I can quickly microwave. When I make dinner, I make enough for lunch the next day. I have back up plans for quick but healthy meals like almond butter sandwiches or hummus and veggie wraps. If I am going to be out for a while, I make sure I eat a large nutritious meal beforehand. I also keep healthy snacks like nuts on hand at all times in case I get hungry and am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t. I am very careful about how much junk food I have in the house, because I know with certain foods, I struggle to eat responsibly. I have also learned to accept the social discomfort of sticking to a healthy diet, and a vegan one at that.

In addition to being very careful about my food choices, I exercise about 5 times a week incorporating both strength and cardio. I also weigh myself regularly to keep myself accountable.

The times where I haven’t been this vigilant have resulted in me gaining weight. It is very easy for me to get back into the habit of not exercising or allowing a daily treat from the convenience store. At first it would be just a drink or a candy bar, but before I knew it I would be bingeing on the same amount of junk food that resulted in me weighing 225 lbs. My wake-up call to get my act together has always  been whenever I hit 170 lbs, since it is close to the upper end of my healthy weight range and when I start feeling uncomfortable with my size.

Maintaining weight loss is not easy, but it is possible.

If you were obese and lost weight or are in the process of doing so, you will likely have to be vigilant about your habits for the rest of your life. Just because you get down to a normal weight does not mean you can take the same approach to weight maintenance as someone who was never overweight to begin with. I wish I could say you can relax and live skinny ever after once you hit your goal weight, but losing the weight is only the first step in a lifelong process of living a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight long term. You don’t have to overly restrict food or over exercise. You just have to continue to maintain the habits that got you there.

Read More: 

My Weight Loss Journey

Weight Maintenance: Expectations vs Reality

Former Fat Person Disorder (FFPD)

How to Annoy Someone Who Has Lost Weight/ Is Losing Weight

National Weight Control Registry

7 Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off

The Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off

5 Secrets of the 5%: What You Can Learn from Successful Dieters

 

 

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Last

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I think New Year’s can be a good tool for mentally have a fresh start at a goal. That said, it’s no secret that majority of people who make a New Year’s Resolution don’t stick with it. Anyone who belongs to a gym has probably witnessed the difference in how crowded the gym is in January vs February. 

Here are some of the methods I have used to change my own habits.

  1. Make small and manageable changes gradually. Rather than completely overhauling your diet, going on a juice cleanse or going to the gym every day, try something more manageable. For example, adding vegetables in to what you already eat or going to the gym 3 times a week.
  2. Focus on the process. Focus on the steps you have to take rather than the destination. If your goal is weight loss, rather than focusing on losing weight, focus on eating healthier and exercising regularly.
  3. Don’t quit the second things don’t go your way. Slip-ups are bound to happen. The key is to move on and keep working towards your goal.
  4. Focus on the progress you’ve made. It can be frustrating when you aren’t being as successful at your lifestyle change as you want. Maybe you aren’t losing weight as fast as you want or haven’t been going to the gym as frequently as you planned. Rather than focusing on your perceived shortcomings, focus on whatever progress you have made and work from there.

 

Happy New Years!

 

Read More:

Making Lifestyle Changes that Last – American Psychological Association

Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behavior – and why you should keep trying. – Harvard Health Publication

How to Eat Healthy When You Crave Intensity

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During my fat days, one of the reasons I struggled to lose weight was because what I considered diet foods were boring, bland and unsatisfying. While I often experience sensory overload, I also crave (controlled) intensity. This shows itself in preferring complex music, loving colorful environments and craving very flavorful foods. During the time when my weight was the most out-of-hand, I was eating at a dining hall. Along with some mediocre-at-best healthy options, there was an abundance of delicious unhealthy options, not to mention limitless dessert and soda. When I got an apartment and got to cook my own foods, figuring out ways to make healthy foods delicious was key to me being able to successfully lose weight. Along with making healthy eating affordable and convenient, I think this is another aspect a lot of people struggle with when trying to lose weight.

1. Use Fats to Bring Out Flavor

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Fats help bring out flavor in food. This is why low-fat versions of foods are often less delicious and need salt and sugar added to replace the flavor lost from fat.

While eating diets high in fat can be problematic, using appropriate amounts can do a lot to make a dish taste better. And dietary fat is a necessary component to a healthy diet. Optimally you want your fat to come from whole food sources (nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, olives) and added fats (oils) should be limited because it is more calorically dense and less nutritious.

2. Experiment With a Variety of Spices 

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Spices and herbs are a great way to add flavor without adding calories. Spices such as cayenne may also help you slow down when you eat, which may help eat more mindfully and receive the signals of being full with less food consumed.

3. Use Herbs

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Herbs are a great way to add flavor while reaping many health benefits.

4. Add Salt

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Salt is a flavor enhancer in food, as well as being one of the 5 basic tastes. Sprinkling moderate amounts of salt onto your meal can make a big difference in making your food more delicious.

While most Americans eat excessive amounts of sodium, this is primarily from processed foods. If you are eating unprocessed food, just remember 1 tsp of salt is about 2300 mg of sodium.

5. Add Citrus Juices

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Juice from citrus fruits like orange, lemon and lime can be a great healthy way to boost flavor and add nutrients. This is also a good option if you get bored of water.

How to Annoy Someone Who Has Lost Weight/ Is Losing Weight

1. Single them out and oversaturate them with positive reinforcement whenever they make even the most basic of healthy choices. Treat them like a toddler that is finally learning how to poop on their own. 

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2. Act like they are ruining all the fun when they make healthy choices while eating out.

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3. When it comes to offering baked goods, refuse to take “No” for an answer. 

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4. If they decide to unleash their Inner Fat Kid for once, ask them, “Aren’t you supposed to be on a diet?”.

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5. If you ever suspect even the slightest amount of weight gain, act like the Skinny Police and make a comment. 

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6. Ask them what their starting weight was, how many pounds they have lost or what they currently weigh. Act like since they are losing weight, you have the right to know.

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7. Provide your opinion on how much you think they should weigh or how much more they should lose.

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8. If and when they reach a healthy weight, imply that they aren’t allowed to talk about struggling with their weight anymore. 

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9. Express your concern about them getting too thin when they are at a healthy weight or even overweight. 

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10. Remind them that most people just gain the weight back, and imply they shouldn’t believe in themselves because they will probably be one of them. 

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How to Crash Diet (Reasonably)

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Ever find yourself feeling a sense of impending doom because of an upcoming event where you want to look your best? While crash dieting can be detrimental when used for long term weight loss or when done regularly, it is okay to do every once in a while for a short period of time (assuming you are healthy). 

A couple of summers ago I was facing wearing a bikini for the first time since starting to lose weight. I had already gone from 225 lbs to 186 lbs, but I had hit a plateau and been slacking for a few months. I had made a commitment to myself that I would wear a bikini that summer, but I wasn’t at a point where I felt confident with my body. With 7 days until bikini time, I created a strategy that was designed to make me lose weight fast while not making me completely miserable in the process. I managed to get down to 173 lbs. by the time I went to the beach. That weight loss didn’t last long, but I expected that and was okay with it. 

Oftentimes when people want to lose weight fast they try eating next to nothing and overexercising. Some people even take laxatives or other misery inducing substances. This often results in hating everything and bingeing the second your quick fix diet is over. 

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The Reasonable Quick Fix Strategy

While for long term dieting/ healthy living I am not a fan of strict diets, you are going to have to be strict if you want to lose a noticeable amount of weight fast.

When it comes to losing weight fast, you aren’t going to be losing much fat (1-2 lbs. max). Most of what you will be losing is water weight/ other internal buildup.

Chances are you will quickly gain a significant amount of that weight back after you return to your normal habits. Personally, I don’t do these types of diets for anything more than 10 days (usually less). 

Calories: When it comes to losing water weight, what you eat is a lot more important than how many calories you are eating. The minimum intake (depending on size/activity level) is between 1200-1600 calories per day. More on calories here

1. Cut Out Refined Carbohydrates, Added Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners.  I usually cut out all grains entirely for the last few days of my crash diets, but have a hard time cutting them out any longer than that. You may struggle with this if you eat a lot of starches/ sugars. If that is the case, then ease into it and reduce your intake gradually throughout the diet. 

2. No Sodas or Sweetened Beverages. This includes diet drinks with artificial sweeteners. Stick to water, coffee, tea and fresh smoothies/juices (the kind you make yourself). 

3. No Processed Food. Real food only. 

4. Minimize Sodium Intake. Excess sodium intake contributes to water retention. A lot of processed food is high in sodium. Keep your sodium intake at 1,500 mg or less and preferably coming through healthier salts with higher amounts of minerals (e.g. Himalayan Pink Salt).

5. Drink Lots of Water. Water helps cleanse your body and reduce water weight. Start your day out with 16 oz./ 500 mL of water. Have plenty with each meal and drink continuously throughout the day. Aim for at least 10 cups (80 oz.)/ 2.5 L. 

6. Eat Plenty of Protein, Vegetables and Natural Fats. Getting enough protein and fat is important for feeling satisfied. Eat plenty of vegetables, they should be where the majority of your carbohydrates are coming from. 

7. Focus on Cardio. Interval training will be especially effective. Aim for 30+ minutes of cardio, 5 times per week.  Do strength training as well, but put a greater emphasis on cardio. 

8. Don’t Stress Over It. Be confident, be at peace with yourself. 

Crash dieting is not a good strategy for long term weight loss/ health. It can screw up your metabolism if you do it on a regular basis. 

How to Get a Handle on Binge Eating

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Confession: I may have gone just a little bit overboard when I unleashed my inner fat kid this past weekend. Okay, more than a little. I was like the Very Hungry Catarpillar.  In one evening I ate: half a sub, a bag of chips, half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby and 20 oz. of Coke. I finished off the sub, other half pint of Ben & Jerry’s the following day, along with a Grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks (in addition to everyday eating). I could pretend that I felt like crap after, but I didn’t. It was euphoric. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my gluttonous behavior. Sure, I acknowledge that what I was eating wasn’t good for me. I recognized how my energy shifted. I am aware that before losing weight,  binge eating played a major role in me getting fat.  But at the end of the day, I regret nothing. Sorry not sorry.

Binge eating is something that a lot of people struggle with. It can often be the cause of excess weight or be the downfall of attempts at losing weight. In addition, binge eating is often in response to various forms of stress.

Habitual binge eating is labeled as Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Symptoms for BED are:

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes.
  • Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating.
  • Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior.

Potential Causes

  • Physical – Binge eating can often be triggered by not eating properly throughout the day. This is something to be especially mindful of when trying to lose weight. If you don’t eat enough, you may overcompensate later by binge eating. Another physical trigger for binge eating is hormone fluctuations.
  • Stimulation – Both overstimulation (overwhelmed) and under stimulation (boredom) can trigger binge eating. There are mental forms of stimulation (puzzles, reading, deeper conversation and anything else that makes you think) and physical forms (sensory information).
  • Emotional – I further divide emotions into true deeper emotions and irrational drama queen emotions. Oftentimes people hide from negative emotions by eating their feelings (or other unhealthy behaviors) rather than facing them. This is unsurprising because it can give us a rapid pleasure response.

Things You Can Do About It

  1. Eat nutritious balanced meals throughout the day. Make sure you are eating enough carbohydrates, protein and fat. Make sure you get enough vitamins and micronutrients as well.
  2. Exercise regularly. Exercise increases the amount dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is linked to reward and motivation. This is the same chemical that is released in many addictive substances and behaviors, including food.
  3. Eat mindfully. Take smaller bites and eat slowly. Each bite will be more satisfying when you really take it in.
  4. Drink tea. This will distract you from non-nutritional eating and you can get pleasurable flavors without eating unnecessary calories.
  5. Portion your food before you eat it. Make it so you have to get up if you want to eat more. Eating food straight from the bag or box makes it a lot easier to mindlessly eat more than you intended.
  6. Add some flavor to your food. Add hot sauce, wasabi or cayenne pepper powder to snack foods like popcorn.
  7. Eat something rich that is satisfying in smaller portions (e.g. dark chocolate).
  8. Snack on vegetables or other healthy low calorie options.
  9. Face your issues. Acknowledge, identify and change the thought/behavior patterns that result in negative emotions
  10. Do something interesting. Find and do more activities that you are passionate about.
  11. If you do binge eat, don’t feel guilty about it. Mistakes happen; hanging onto it will make you unhappy with yourself and will only perpetuate the behavior.

Read More:

Embracing Your Inner Fat Kid

Are you just eating because you’re bored?

Are you trying to fill a void?

9 Ways to Deal With Binge Eating

Binge Eating Disorder