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 

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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 I Beat My Sugar Cravings

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I love sugar. Especially chocolate. Very few things are as euphoric to me as eating sweet foods.  At my heaviest, I was drinking soda multiple times per day, dessert with every meal and more sugary treats with late night snacking. Here are some strategies I figured out to beat my cravings…

How I Reduce Sugar Cravings:

1. Eat More (Whole Food) Carbs. 

I’ve found that my sugar cravings are the worst when I’m eating lower carb/ higher fat. I have found that I don’t crave (processed) sugar at all when I get at least 60% of my calories from carbs. Although I start craving savory food if I go above 75%.

2. Eat Enough.

Oftentimes my sugar cravings occur at night when I haven’t eaten much earlier in the day. For me this is usually if I eat less than 1200 calories before dinner (I usually burn between 2300-2500 calories/day).

3. Sleep Enough.

When I don’t get enough sleep I often resort to sugar/ caffeine for quick energy.

How I Prevent Myself From Giving In:

1. Don’t Keep It In the House

If I have sugary treats in the house I will eat it. I make it so I have to walk to get it, and I only allow myself to buy single servings. I don’t do moderation when it comes to sugar.

2. Eat Fruit

Oftentimes if I am tempted to go get a sweet, I eat fruit. I have found that dates are the most effective in stopping me. Since they are a dried fruit, the sweetness is more intense and I usually only eat 2 before I’ve had enough (they are 70 calories each). Grapefruit also works really well for me.

3. Drink Tea

Drinking tea with a little bit of sugar helps with curbing my cravings. I get the taste of sugar, but for a lot less calories. (1 tsp of sugar has about 15 calories.)

The Easiest Changes You Can Make for Your Health

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1. Replace refined grains with whole grains.

While refined grains are problematic and linked to many diseases, whole grains are health promoting. Whole grains are a healthy source of carbs, protein, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. They are also relatively inexpensive and generally aren’t labor intensive.

2. Drink more water.

Water is one of the most basic of human needs. Drinking more water will likely reduce the amount of other beverages and keep you hydrated throughout the day.

3. Eat more fruit.

Fruit is one of the most health promoting foods you can eat. Eating more fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth, provide many nutritional benefits and help prevent going after unhealthy sweet foods like cookies and candy.

Try having your favorite fruit between each meal and every time you crave sugar.

4. Do physical activity you enjoy.

January tends to be a busy month for gyms everywhere. If going to the gym feels like a chore, then it is unlikely you will follow through with it. Try spending that time doing physical activity you like or at least don’t mind.

5. Eat vegetables with every meal.

Vegetables are probably the most health promoting food group. Unfortunately many people struggle to even meet the minimum recommendations, and the most popular vegetable is french fries. One of the easiest ways to upgrade your diet is by adding more veggies in. You can add spinach to your smoothie, sprouts to your sandwich and have some broccoli with dinner.

*French fries and pizza don’t count.

Strategies to Make Healthy Choices During the Holidays

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With all the sweets and rich foods around the holidays, it is easy to undo an entire years worth of good choices in the span of a couple of weeks. The social pressure from parties and tradition also add onto how easy it is to backslide.

1. Bring healthy foods to holiday parties.

This guarantees that you will at least have some healthy options to eat.

2. Keep the junk and rich foods for the holiday itself.

Indulging on Christmas won’t hurt. Indulging for the entire month of December and early January will.

3. Try to make the same foods in less processed, lighter forms.

This could mean reducing refined sugars, using less processed oils or using whole grains rather than refined. E.g. For stuffing you can use more veggies, less added fats and whole wheat rather than white bread. You can also make fruit based desserts instead of desserts that revolve around added fats/added sugars.

4. Find time to exercise.

With scrambling to fit in various holiday activities, it can be easy to miss a few workouts. At the very least try to do a quick at-home workout with your own body weight or run for 20 minutes. Otherwise the holidays can be a starting point for a fitness rut.

5. Go light with the alcoholic beverages. 

Liquid calories are one of the easiest ways to add on a few pounds during the holidays. Limit yourself to 2 drinks. Eggnog is probably the worst offender at around 350 calories per cup.

6. You don’t have to have every treat available.

Just because it only comes once per year does not mean you have to cram every option available while it lasts.

Nutritional Upgrade: Pumpkin Spice Latte

The Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks is one of my favorite fall treats. That said, a tall (12 oz.) latte has nearly as much sugar as a can of Coke. They also aren’t very transparent when it comes to their ingredient list. The Food Babe recently did an investigation on this issue.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Ingredients:

  • Coffee
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 2 tbsp Canned Pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk: Almond Milk (filtered water, almonds), Coconut Milk (filtered water, coconut cream [coconut extract, water, xanthan gum, carrageenan, guar gum]), Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavors, Potassium Citrate, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Sunflower Lecithin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, D-Alpha-Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E).
  • 2 tsp Coconut Palm Sugar

Directions:

  1. Mix cinnamon, ginger and cloves into coffee grounds.
  2. Brew Coffee.
  3. Mix milk and pumpkin.
  4. Add coffee to pumpkin & milk.
  5. Add sugar to your liking.
  6. Enjoy 🙂