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

 

 

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Nutritional Upgrade: French Fries

Mcdonald’s French Fries

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Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]*, Citric Acid [Preservative]), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color), Salt. Prepared in Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid added to preserve freshness), Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

*The label says it contains 0g of trans fat, but the ingredients list has hydrogenated soybean oil on it. This means that it contains trans fat.

An interesting video on the decomposition of Mcdonald’s french fries.

Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Cayenne Pepper Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Curry Powder
  • A few dashes of Sea Salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F
  2. Cut sweet potato into fries shape.
  3. Put fries on pan and pour olive oil on it. Mix evenly.
  4. Sprinkle spices and salt onto fries and mix evenly.
  5. Bake in oven for about 18 minutes.
  6. Turn fries over to opposite side and bake for another 18 minutes.
  7. Eat and enjoy 🙂

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 Be an Annoying Health Junkie

Many health junkies (including myself) like to share our enthusiasm for being healthy with others.  The healthier and fitter you get, the more likely your healthy lifestyle will make others feel bad. Talking about healthy foods/ exercise doesn’t annoy people nearly as much when you are overweight.

The awkward thing with health is that most of these have to do with how others may perceive you rather than actually being self-righteous and judgmental. While it would be really great if people only got annoyed or offended when you were actually being mean/judgmental…. that isn’t the case. Part of it is just a matter of knowing your audience and finding how to talk about your interests without making other people feel bad. That said, don’t be a self-righteous health snob.

Generally speaking, talking about healthy foods and exercise isn’t a problem. It is if you get to the more analytical side of things or anything that involves or could be perceived as involving judgement (even if directed at yourself) that some people get annoyed.

At the same time, you shouldn’t feel responsible when other people project their insecurities onto you. You shouldn’t feel guilty for sharing your passions and interests when you are doing so in a non-judgemental attitude. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to make healthy decisions in your life and wanting to improve yourself.

Or you can just not give a shit.

1. Analyze your food at the table: 

Is butter a carb?

For many health conscious individuals, analyzing our food is second nature. Keep your analysis to yourself and your food log. Unless someone specifically asks for your nutritional analysis, do not share it. Even if people are talking about flavor and other aspects of the food.

2. Provide justifications whenever you eat junk food.

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Chances are you are doing this because you feel insecure about making unhealthy choices and rationalizing it helps you deal with this. But others may interpret this as being judgmental towards them.

3. Only make weird healthy food when having others over for dinner.

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They may feel like they are being forced into nutritional boot camp. It’s okay to make some weird healthy stuff, but make sure there are some options within the comfort zone of your guests.

4. Be open about having fat days.

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Some people don’t like it when people who are fitter than them have fat days.

5. Be really picky and uptight while eating out.

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Unless you have an allergy or are on a diet that completely restricts certain foods (e.g. vegan), relax a little. You will regain complete control when you return to your own refrigerator.

6. Talk about how bad you’re being whenever you unleash your inner fat kid.

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Even though you are saying things in relation to what is normal to you, this may come across the wrong way when you are eating less than or equal to everyone else in the room.

7. Mention wanting to lose weight when relatively thin.

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This is okay around some people, but a lot of people will find it really annoying.

8. Try to convert the non-believers.

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There is an important difference between sharing your passion for health and pushing others to make healthy choices in a “my way is the right way” manner.

9. Make people feel guilty about what they are about to eat/ are currently eating.

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Just don’t.