Most of the strategies that I talk about here aren’t anything new. Let me tell you about one of the most valuable books I’ve read regarding long-term weight management.
There is a conception that losing a lot of weight is almost always followed shortly thereafter by gaining it back. This has happened to everybody who has lost weight. But some people lose it for good So, when trying to learn to keep weight off for good, doesn’t it seem somewhat obvious to go find the people who’ve lost it and kept it off, and ask them how? All of the “Masters” interviewed for Thin for Life by Anne M. Fletcherhave succeeded in losing at least 20 pounds and keeping it off for at least 3 years. Most people lost more and kept it off for longer – the average was 63 pounds and over 10 years. These people know what they’re doing.
The book is organized into 10 “keys for success” from the Masters. It’s not a weight loss book by any stretch. It’s a collection of stories and tips from people who’ve mastered their weight. There is no “Thin for Life” diet – the author stresses over and over that everybody must find their own way, a method that works for them, and it’s different for everyone. Some people need the structure of a group, some people need to go it alone. I have done both. The first 100 pounds I lost I did alone, the rest was done in a very structured environment. I will point out that the first go-round I didn’t know what I was doing and ended up needing major surgery to remove my gallbladder due to my drastic caloric restriction, lack of research into the matter, and extremely poor health care at the time. The basic truth, however, is that no matter how much support a person uses to lose weight initially, maintenance eventually and inevitably comes down to flying solo.
Most people have to try several times to lose weight and keep it off. The losing part is relatively straightforward – it’s a limited period of time, and most people can stand a little discomfort or inconvenience when there’s a foreseeable end. But, most will inevitably go back to the old habits. But, as I’ve mentioned myself, just because you’ve lost and then regained several times does not mean you shouldn’t try again. All of the Masters interviewed for the book stressed that they had tried many different times and many different ways before finally getting it right. God knows I’d lost and regained countless times before I found “my way.” But the really important point is, how can anybody be expected to get it right the first time around on something so complicated and emotionally charged? Especially with next to no education on the underlying concepts? I personally believe that weight management should be taught in school – not just in some health class you go to in 5th grade to learn about your period and eating from the food pyramid. The basic weight maintenance math needs to be taught, and the basics of how to eat lots of tasty food without getting lots of calories – preferably in high school. I had no idea what a calorie was or how it worked until I’d put on over 100 pounds in the 4 years after college and became desperate to change my ways. All I knew was I should try to reduce my calories. I didn’t know how to figure out how many I needed, or how to balance what I was doing. This is becoming increasingly and vitally important in our sedentary culture.
One of the insights I appreciated was that the Masters in the book had readjusted their goal weight over time, as I have myself. Some of them decided after achieving a too-low goal that it was entirely too hard to maintain such a weight, and gained 5, 10, 15 or even 20 back just to be at a weight they could maintain without killing themselves with exercise and hunger. Some had decided, like me, that if getting to that elusive super-low weight was so difficult, imagine how hard it would be to maintain it forever? Because maintaining it forever means basically eating like you’re on a diet forever. I really liked the discussion of finding a good goal weight and what factors to take into account.
I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in what it takes to lose and keep weight off. Nine of the ten “Keys to Success” in Thin to Life ring very true for me. Maybe they will for you too.