“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”
-Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Many of us have done it. Lost weight. A little or a lot. Maintained the loss for days, weeks, months... only to eventually gain it back.
Those of you who follow my blog know that 4 years ago, I resolved to never diet again. I was sick of yo-yo dieting. My record of losses and gains are rivaled only by the stock market.
I stopped weighing myself. Tossed out my forbidden food lists. For more than 2 years I ate whatever I wanted (mostly healthy), as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I figured that my body would eventually stabilize at an easily maintainable weight. It did. According to my doctor I was overweight, but he wasn’t concerned since the rest of my health indicators were good.
I tried hard to accept my larger body. I really did. I journaled about it. I blogged about it. I read fat-acceptance websites. I wrote a cookbook that featured all my favorite (non-diet) recipes. I even did a local speaking tour promoting my cookbook and sharing my body acceptance story.
Many days I felt okay with my size. But many more days I felt... well... fat.
In January of 2012 I got fed up with the amount of jiggle around my middle and went on a diet. The details are in this series of posts but suffice to say, I lost 20 pounds in 18 months. They say that permanent weight loss is easier if you take is slowly. I took it very slowly.
Happy (enough) with my slimmer body which was not exactly thin, but at least a normal weight for my height... a few pounds below the “overweight” category, I began to think about “maintenance.”
Here’s the rub. Dieting, for me, is easy. Watching those numbers decrease week after week is an exhilarating, self-motivating brass ring.
But maintenance is harder. It lacks the thrill-factor of losing. And it’s scary. Especially if it looks like you’re gaining.
There’s no consensus about what constitutes maintenance but this abstract defines it as a weight change of <3% of body weight. Based on my current weight of 154 pounds, that boils down to 4.6 pounds of leeway for me. For the past 9 months I’ve stayed within a 3 pound, give-or-take, range of the 20 pounds I lost. So far so good.
Still, emotionally, I ricochet back and forth between fear and faith. Fear that I’ll regain the weight if the scale tips up a pound or two. Faith that I’m doing everything right when it tips down.
At times like these what I really need is Facts.
Fact: If my caloric intake and expenditure stay pretty much the same, long-term, then my weight should stay pretty much the same, long-term.
Fact: Daily weight fluctuations are irrelevant... for instance, if I have an extra-salty dinner it might create temporary fluid retention which will show up as a weight gain the next day. (This always happens when I have pizza for dinner.)
Fact: My body is fine just as it is. I constantly need to remind myself of that. I am at a normal weight for my height. Let me say that again... a normal weight for my height.
Here’s the crux of my thin-obsession... until I hit my 40’s and my knees gave out, I was a dancer... performer, teacher, choreographer. Being thin was everything. Except for my two pregnancies, all of my teen and adult life I yo-yo-dieted.
My desire to be thin was as engrained as breathing.
I would crash-diet down to my dancer-thin weight, the weight that enabled me to look good in a leotard and the fashion trend du jour. In 1969, when I was15, Twiggy was IT. Everyone wanted to look like her.
When I finally hit my goal weight, I’d bask in the glow of my accomplishment for a while... wearing tiny sizes and being told by everyone how great I looked. But sooner or later overwhelming urges to eat anything that wasn’t nailed down assailed me. Especially high-calorie “forbidden” foods.
Slowly, or not-so-slowly the pounds crept back. I felt helpless. Embarrassed. Ashamed.
Sick of watching the numbers increasing I’d quit weighing myself. Stash my “skinny” clothes in the back of the closet. Resort to stretch pants.
I hope this time it’ll be different.
First of all, this time I’m not trying to stay at an impossibly low weight that can only be maintained by a steady diet of carrot and celery sticks. What I’m doing involves a simple change in meal timing. It’s sustainable. All my favorite foods are allowed. I’m not starving myself.
Second, ignorance is not bliss. Since those who weigh regularly may have better success at maintaining weight loss, I plan to continue weighing myself every day, first thing, writing it down, and averaging the daily numbers once a week, which is a more accurate way to keep track. The challenge, though, is not getting down on myself if my weight is up a pound or two on any given day/week.
I like this quote from an article by Dr. John Briffa: “One mental trick I’ve found is not to compare ones current weight to the weight the week before, but the weight one started at. Feeling good about having lost 20 pounds overall is a lot more likely to maintain motivation and enthusiasm than focusing on the pound you gained over the last week (which might have nothing to do with fat gain anyway.)”
So I need to give, and continue to give myself credit for losing those 20 pounds. And keep doing what I’m doing. Believing the Facts. If I do that, everything, at least where my weight is concerned, should be just fine.
For related posts, click here.
This post is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be medical or dietary advice. Please consult a reliable health care practitioner before starting any diet/fitness program.