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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So you want to lose weight? Then what’s stopping you?

So you’ve identified the problem. You have decided you want to lose weight. Despite knowing where you are and where you want to be, you fail to take action. Why? And how do you get yourself to flip the switch?

There are many reasons people don’t take action on problems they’ve identified in their life. I think a common reason in weight loss is the feeling of being overwhelmed. Another reason may be because they don’t believe they will succeed. Their goal is just a distant idea, an ideal, a dream they haven’t embraced as a possibility.

One of the reasons I was able to lose the weight was because I fully embraced my goal as something that would happen. I knew that my goals would be achieved. I never doubted that.

If you feel overwhelmed about making healthy changes, start small. Make a contract with yourself for daily, weekly, monthly and big picture goals. Rather than focusing on the results, focus on the process. The basic principle is to make slow and gradual changes. Rather than saying you need to eat healthy and exercise a lot, look for smaller specific changes you can make.

You are going to have a hard time sticking to a diet if you don’t enjoy the food you eat. Find out which healthy foods you like. Chances are you will become more open to healthy foods as it becomes normal and comfortable. Start with healthy foods you like. First make sure you eat fruit and vegetables everyday. Then every meal. Then broaden your dietary horizons and try new types of fruits and vegetables. Then make sure you’re getting a full spectrum of nutrients. A good indication on the nutrients is by the color, so taste the rainbow. You can apply the same strategy to grains. If you eat white bread, try to gradually eat more whole grain. First have whole grain, then when you are ready, have 100% whole grain. Switch from white to brown rice or even try whole grain couscous or quinoa.

When it comes to exercise, start with activities that you actually enjoy. This can be a sport, dancing, running, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga, anything that involves movement. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Try to walk rather than drive. Find fitness classes and commit to that class for a certain amount of time. Go when it works for you. You will gradually make more time for exercise, but you will be most likely to go when it is convenient; when you have less excuses. Start by working out once a week. After a month, move up to twice. The next month, three times. Eventually you may find yourself having a hard time taking a rest day.

Always remember why you are doing this. Remind yourself of who you want to be. Why you don’t want to be where you are now. Remember that ultimately you are doing this for yourself and to improve your health and wellbeing.

You can do this.

The Red Bikini Project

The Red Bikini:

It all started with a red bikini. I found it during the summer of 2010. I had recently completed my freshman year of college and had inflated to 210 lbs. I bought it believing that I would wear it someday. It took me another year and an additional 15 lbs. of weight gain before I changed things around, but I eventually followed through on that belief. Throughout my fitness journey I have used it to remind myself of the person I want to be.

The Red Bikini Project is my constant striving towards being the best version of myself through health and fitness. The Red Bikini is a symbol of what I aspire towards. It represents confidence, strength and not being afraid to stand out.

The Weight Gain:

I started to struggle with my weight in high school, although I was never more than 10-15 lbs. overweight. My weight escalated much more rapidly during my first two years of college. I used food as a way to handle stress. It would make the stress go away quickly and the effects would last long enough to get whatever it was off my mind. I kept burying every negative feeling I had with food rather than actually dealing with it. While I exercised a moderate amount, it didn’t make up for taking full advantage of an all-you-can-eat dining hall, late night study snacks and weekend festivities.

The Weight Loss:

I was able to get an on-campus apartment for my junior year, making me feel like I had much more freedom and control. I had avoided weighing myself for months, but I finally decided to rip the Band-Aid off and face the facts shortly before classes started. Once I saw my weight I could not hide from it anymore. Weighing myself was an expression of accepting the situation for what it was and committing to changing it for the better. An extra push was that I majored in health sciences. I didn’t want to make a career out of health and not make healthy choices in my own life.

I exercised about 5 times a week incorporating both strength and cardio. Taking fitness classes helped with regularity since I never made excuses and skipped workouts those days. This prevented me from getting into those ruts where you skip a few workouts and suddenly you haven’t been to the gym in a month. Running was one of the few physical activities that I used to dislike, but now running outside in nice weather is one of my favorite activities.

Calories were not my focus, but keeping track of them was helpful at first to hold myself accountable and get a better understanding of what an appropriate portion was. While losing weight I ate about 1700 calories a day, but I would usually go over on the weekends. I eat a balanced diet full of healthy and natural ingredients. I don’t believe in choosing between eating for health and eating for pleasure.  I love food; eating a repetitive micromanaged diet of food I don’t like is not an option for me. Every time I go grocery shopping I buy something healthy that I haven’t tried before. Healthy cooking has become a creative outlet for me. Whenever I want to eat something unhealthy, I nutritionally upgrade it in a way that still tastes great. I love experimenting with different ingredients and creating  healthy concoctions.

I never let weight loss take over my life; I made sure that I still had fun. I ate small amounts of dark chocolate on a daily basis. I allowed myself to occasionally have some junk food or moderate amounts of alcohol. I did not allow weight loss to feel like a punishment. While I had a goal weight, I approached it as a lifestyle change. This approach kept things in perspective when I made mistakes or inevitably didn’t always get the results I expected. Having a positive mindset is extremely important. When you change your behaviors out of love rather than shame, it is much easier to continue making healthy changes and feel good about yourself in the process.

My current focus is to maintain my weight, continue to improve my overall fitness and stay balanced.

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