Weight Loss – Turns out that was the easy part.

The New York Times has an article out today on The Biggest Loser TV show, and the problems the winners have had keeping their weight off. It turns out not many are successful over the long run. I’ve previously seen statistics saying less than 5% of those who lose a lot of weight are able to keep it off. It sounds pretty dismal, actually.

It seemed a miracle that I lost more than 125 pounds. Now I’m finding out that keeping it off may be the larger accomplishment – pun intended. I’ve had ten years or so of steady healthy slow and successful weight loss. This week I’m actually within a pound of my all time I thought it was impossible goal. It will happen sometime this summer, I’m confident.

I write to explore a few ideas about why I’ve been able to keep losing weight and not balloon back. Perhaps this will be helpful for others, it is certainly helpful for me to consider what is working. So I can keep doing it. So ranging from teh philosophical to teh practical –

For me it is do or die. If I am heavier, my life is at risk. Last year i found out I have a genetic heart valve problem. If I was overweight – carrying more than 100 extra pounds – open heart surgery and more would be on the agenda. I can be okay because I”m at a healthy weight. And of course the diabetes, the joint issues, and so much more. It is my life I’m working to preserve. Nothing less. So spending whatever time and money it takes to take care of myself is always at the top of the list. If I don’t, I die sooner. I know that.

Lose the weight slowly. Losing weight is hard on the body. I don’t think losing weight fast is healthy, and I don’t think it works in the long term. It takes time to be the changed body type – to believe it and feel it and accept it. It takes time to absorb the extra skin. It takes time to effectively and safely process the toxins stored in fat. It takes time to adjust metabolism, to rededicate your body to health and well being.

You have to communicate with and update your body. My most significant weight loss was after major surgery, the removal of a ten pound fibroid tumor. I had to tell my body – every single cell – that things would be different from now on. That I now had a body that was all about movement and being fit. The only way to really communicate that was to keep moving and acting like someone who was fit. On the TV shows for weight loss, there is an insane amount of time for exercise and movement. You’re telling the body that is the new order. Except it isn’t. No one can keep that up. I told my body I was upping the movement – 7-10 hours a week of medium activity, at a minimum. I’ve kept that up. My body adjusted. It works from that premise. I reinforce that communication every day. It’s reasonable, it’s doable, and my metabolism has apparently made the permanent adjustment to that communication. This is critically important.

Weigh frequently but don’t stress about it. It’s good to be paying attention, it’s nice to get teh treat of losing weight still. But in truth weight still goes up and down and is not in your control. I don’t ever want to be in denial again. And I also still see this as a long term effort and variations of 2-5 pounds are totally normal and often mysterious.

Have a healthy list of goals you can control. My list includes minimal movement and exercise, foods I want to include each day (greens, veggies, fruits, raw dairy, great protein, etc.). Sleep has become something I need to pay more attention to recently. I have my list, I do my best to achieve it every day. This is a forever list, not just until I weigh a certain amount.

Upgrade my food. Whatever it is – can I make it healthier, more nutritious, better for me and the planet? Higher quality chocolate. More fulfilling rice and veggies. Make my own bread from fresh ground flour. Whatever it is I’m eating, can I do even better? I make this a long term goal, and don’t stress about doing it all at once. My very good diet just gets better all the time. I’m more and more satisfied, and even my tastes have changed to that junky food is less and less interesting.

Use small plates. It’s a simple trick but it works. And recently I’ve found that by having a choice in smallish plates, I feel extra proud of using the smallest, and the still small plate compared to the big plate seems more satisfying. We are so easily fooled, that even though I know I’m fooling myself I can fool myself. I love that.

Don’t finish every meal. I think it brings awareness to potions if you stop before your plate is clean. And it is important to give permission to myself to stop before I finish off whatever it is I’m eating. My dog really likes this idea. At home she gets the healthy leftovers. At restaurants it’s fun to bring my own kind of fancy carry out container to fill. It is a good habit to break. Whatever ends up on your plate doesn’t have to end up being eaten now. Simple concept, yet it was pretty deeply ingrained in me! I do eat less now. It feels very natural, feeling satisfied feels much better than being stuffed. It took a few years for that to happen.

Be thoughtful when you eat. Eat slowly. Thoughtfully. Mindfully. With awareness. Considering the stories behind the food you have in your mouth, that is entering your body. Give yourself time to savor and enjoy food! If it isn’t enjoyable, stop eating. If you can’t take the time to experience the food, stop eating. If the people around you are eating quickly, slow down even more.

The real goal is a healthy happy body. How much you weigh is only one indicator. How do you feel? What would increase your comfort? How can you be stronger? What more do you want to be doing with your body? What makes you deeply happy? This has been a huge transition. I focus on how great I feel, how much I enjoy feeling my bones for the first time. I love the way I can move, even the way I can curl up now. The more I note and enjoy those things, the more reinforcement I have to keep this level of health and awareness. And I believe that is also communicated to my body so that this level of wellness is accepted and something I can sustain.

Those are a few of my thoughts about being successful keeping weight off. I don’t think it is a complete list, but I also believe it is important to share some hope and real ways to make this work, as the news of failure is more dismal and – literally – disheartening for those of us who have struggled with being overweight.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of friends. I’m very grateful.

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