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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What defines success in health and fitness?

The scale has become a deeply ingrained symbol of health & fitness in our culture . We check it regularly. It is one of the first things we do at doctor’s appointments. It is in every gym locker room and even in rest stops on road trips. We see magazines, TV shows and health articles consistently reminding us that our weight is important. Many of us use BMI as a rough estimation of our overall fitness. But how often should we step on that ever pervasive piece of equipment? When does a useful tool become an unhealthy obsession? What does it really mean to be healthy?

Weight is an easy way to get a rough estimation of your overall fitness. However, it is also important to not be obsessed with it. I usually weigh myself about once a week. I put more emphasis on body fat %, how well my pants fit and by paying attention to my energy levels. The issue with weighing yourself daily is that our weight constantly fluctuates and there are a number of factors that can impact this. I think the scale can give people a tunnel vision almost. They are so obsessed with it that they have a hard time taking a step back and seeing the big picture. Luckily I didn’t even have a scale my entire first year of losing weight, so I would only weigh myself maybe once a week at the gym. I think this helped me keep a healthy perspective while changing my fitness habits since it didn’t become all about losing weight.

Our culture overvalues weight and undervalues wellness. I think as a culture we have an unhealthy obsession with weight loss. I’m not considered a “success” and didn’t get featured on Calorie Count and The Huffington Post because I improved my overall wellness… it was because I lost a third of my body weight. The internal changes for me came much earlier than the external manifestations of it, but it was the external change that made others perceive it as a success. While I am grateful for being able to share my story, sometimes it bothers me that “success stories” always feature people with a very significant external difference. To be honest, I think it is superficial. There are plenty of people who didn’t lose much weight but still made huge improvements in their overall wellness. There are also people who lose a ton of weight and while they may look much better on the surface, they are just as unhealthy if not even unhealthier internally. Would I still be considered a success if i didn’t lose much weight at all, but became much fitter and was eating healthier foods? What if I lost a lot of weight but didn’t get there in a healthy way, still had layers of insecurity and had my self-worth reliant upon being thin?

I think the obsession with the scale can lead to people using weight loss methods that don’t improve overall wellness. It leads to people eating so few calories that they convince their body that despite being in an environment of nutritional abundance, that they are experiencing a famine. It leads to people reducing calories at the expense of nutrition. It leads to people starving themselves for a few days and even taking laxatives so they look slightly skinnier in a dress or a bikini. It leads to things being considered health products not because it is actually healthy for you, but because it is “low calorie/fat/sugar”  and might help you temporally lower the number on the scale. Overemphasizing weight when it comes to health also leads to fat shaming, which does nothing to improve the wellbeing of others.

I’m not saying weight doesn’t matter. I’m just saying we need to look at the big picture when it comes to health. We need to look at overall body composition. We need to look at the long term effects of our habits. We need to make sure that we aren’t sacrificing fitness and nutrition to hit a number on the scale. We also need to make sure that the mindset behind our habits is healthy. I think we become so hyper-focused on dramatic before & after photos and number changes on the scale, that we often miss what it really means to be healthy.

Being healthy isn’t about being skinny. It is about eating natural foods, getting the nutrients we need and not going to far beyond that. It is about not eating toxins. It is about being able to move and interact with the environment and being able to enjoy yourself while doing so. It is about loving yourself regardless of circumstance. It is about being balanced and full of energy. It is about living in a way that will keep you energetic and balanced long term.

Read More:

How to Know When it is Time to Begin Your Skinny Ever After.

Can you be fat and fit?

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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