I totally hate the new you and will do everything in my power to make you like you were before.
In a world completely saturated with fads, advice, schemes, meal plans, workout videos, support meetings, and countless other methods to attempt to lose weight, there is little focus on what to do once you have lost the weight in order to maintain the weight loss.
There’s a dirty little secret that no one talks about. I have never watched any of the weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser. But from what I’ve heard they focus exclusively on how to lose weight and they don’t tell the contestants - in any real way - what it is going to take to keep off the weight once it is lost. And guess what? The latest research shows that 90% - a staggering number - of those who have lost a significant amount of weight, regain all or mostly all the weight that they lose.
We are told by countless doctors, psychologists and nutritionists that we need to keep up on healthy eating, portion control and exercise. But from what I have been reading, it is not that simple - not by a long shot.
Now first, let me be clear that I am not talking about historically normal weight people who pack on a few pounds and then decide to get those pounds off and do. They are much more successful - statistically speaking - at keeping weight off. What I’m talking about are people who have been significantly overweight or obese for a long period of time who then lose a large percentage of their body weight.
I happen to fall into this category, as I assume many of you do, too. I was fat my whole life until I started losing in my late 30's. From my known highest weight to my lowest weight, I lost approximately 65% of my body weight.
And guess what? Not just for me, but for every single one of you out there who have also lost a significant percentage, there is a growing body of research shows that our bodies actively and aggressively work against us in keeping this weight off.
One of the latest studies shows that those people who were obese burn 20% less calories at any one time than a person of the same exact weight who has never been obese! So for those of you who have read this blog for a while, you may remember that when I saw the nutritionist a few years ago she told me that I should be eating 2200 calories a day to maintain. Doubting that number - I used some of those online calculators and when I plugged in my numbers, 2200 was around the number.
BUT, both those calculators, and I’m guessing the nutritionist, were using numbers based on a normal human. I am not a normal human. I am “formally obese”. So if a normal person with my height, weight, age and activity level can eat 2200 and maintain, at 20% less, I need to eat 1760 to maintain!
So our bodies actively slow us down metabolically to not just keep us from losing, but to encourage us to regain. I read an article yesterday that indicates that those who have lost a significant amount of weight are chronically cold - like I am. The researcher compared it to the body “turning down the furnace” to keep us from burning calories and to encourage us to eat and put on body fat.
Then we look at the hormone Leptin. Leptin is the hormone who says “You’re eaten enough, time to stop eating.” In those of us who are formally obese our Leptin levels drop to extremely low levels. Meaning that our brains are telling us “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE - YOU NEED TO EAT NOW!” even when we have eaten enough. I have been thinking all along that this is my dysfunctional psyche - but it is becoming increasing obvious that there is a hormonal/physical basis to this.
There are ways to counter the ways that the body works against you. Exercise - both cardio and strength training - help increase metabolism and try to force the body to work like a “normal” person’s body does. Researchers are looking in to how to increase Leptin, but since you cannot ingest Leptin to increase your levels it is a difficult task.
The National Weight Control Registry which tracks successful maintainers, basically says that people who keep the weight off - well they suck it up. They exercise more and harder than a normal person does to maintain their weight. They learn to accept that fact that forever, they cannot eat like other people without regaining weight.
This is something that I guess I knew intellectually, but I have been adamantly refusing to accept - like the severe alcoholic who insists that he can find a way to drink “in moderation”.
Does all this sound depressing? In some ways it is. But the facts are what the facts are and whining about it won’t change it.
As I was reading all of these articles, some of which my MD directed me to, I chose to look at it this way - I keep hating and berating myself for being such a miserable failure, seeing myself as a weak willed person. But maybe, with all I have working against me, I need to see that keeping off MOST of the weight is a success given what I have working against me. Acknowledging that I am not crazy, but that there are a myriad of biological factors working against me keeping the weight off.
There are also other things I need to accept - that I will have to work harder than other people, exercise more and will never be able to eat like others if I want to maintain a lower body weight. And maybe I need to accept that weighing 120 pounds consistently may not be in the cards for me. Being the weight I am now is unacceptable. But maybe I don’t need to lose as much as I think.
I don’t know - it is such a mind fuck!
What do you guys think?