Interesting article in the NYTimes

I was away this week on a much-needed vacation, and several people sent me this article on weight loss and maintenance in the NY Times, which I highly recommend reading all of, even though it’s fairly long:

The Fat Trap

I went through several emotions as I read this, starting with recognition (the blogger from Davis, CA that they interview could have been me about 4 years ago), depression, denial, outrage…the gamut. And then I realized that reading this changes nothing – it only shines a light on things I already knew, and you do too if you’ve been managing a weight loss for any length of time.

However, I think the really important thing I realized is that they mostly talked about people who’ve been maintaining for short periods of time, in fact the article specifically mentions that they think the metabolic and biological effects start to settle down after 4-6 years, but of course they can’t be sure because they don’t have many people to study who have maintained for that long. Lots of people lose and maintain for a year or two, longer term management is rare and I sometimes feel like an old battle-scarred soldier on this front. People tell me they’ve lost some weight and kept it off for a year and I think, “Don’t stop now, kid, you’re hardly out of the trench, keep charging hard!” It gets easier, or it gets more habitual. In any case, unlike the blogger they interviewed, I don’t have to be quite so strict anymore. You’ve got to get over the hump before it becomes habitual, and it’s a real slog getting there, no matter what method you use.

Another point I was pleased to note (because it’s one of my constant themes) is that not one of the people interviewed was maintaining at their lowest weight ever. It’s just not feasible, it’s all part of the learning process – you get to an amazing low weight, enjoy it for a few weeks/months and realize – “Holy crap, this is hard to maintain!” and adjust up to a more realistic weight. The reason I always emphasize this is that I had to learn the hard way that this adjustment is not a failure – it’s normal. It’s all part of figuring out what is a reasonable place to live. Finding my maintenance weight for me was figuring out where the lowest weight I can possibly achieve meets the highest weight I’m willing to see on the scale.

And finally, when it comes down to it, none of the scientific discoveries they make in this field change my day to day reality. It’s interesting, it’s depressing, it’s a lot of things to but what it isn’t is game-changing. It’s like when I asked my doctor if “normal” people had to work this hard to manage their weight, and if not then will I always have to be on a diet and was life really so terribly unfair? And he just shook his head sadly and said, “Sorry.”

So yeah. It is what it is. I still need to get out there for my run today before I can move on to party prep and taking the Christmas tree down.

What about you?


Back at it!

Yesterday was definitely a day of rest and repose -I gave myself a pass on exercise and spent the morning watching action movies with my husband. There was some indulgence at a gathering of friends in the evening, but today I’m back in the saddle. I just got back from my morning run, about 3 miles today. I’ve recently been running without music and enjoying the scenery more, I have a trail near my house next to a canal where the wildlife and bird-watching is outstanding. Today I saw a new kind of duck which I haven’t yet been able to identify but their heads were shaped like a wedge or axe blade with the sharp end at the top. Really pretty birds.

My strategy this week is to get rid of leftovers and treats and focus on having as many deficit days as possible before the revelry I know is to come on New Years Eve. I’m going on a little 3-day getaway starting tomorrow but I’m hoping to work in some hiking and lots of walking as well as choose lots of vegetable-based meals at restaurants. I hope you have a supportive weight management week planned as well!

Points for Trying

I just went for a run, and I was thinking about how odd it is that I, somebody who avoided all forms of physical activity as much as humanly possible all through my youth and young adulthood, have somehow become an “athlete.” I put it in quotes because I don’t really think of myself as such, I’m just somebody who runs and works out regularly. This week so far I’ve run at least 1o miles, which is nothing to a serious runner, but pretty substantial for anyone else.

I was never, ever on a sports team in high school, I avoided physical eduction and managed to find an out by joining the marching band – that’s right, I never even took PE in high school because I found out I could get PE credits for band. I wasn’t kidding when I said I avoided exercise like the plague back then. I knew I was no good at it – uncoordinated, out of shape, overweight – putting myself out there to do it would have been torture to me both physically and emotionally.

But now I run or lift weights or do aerobics or yoga or dance 5 or 6 days a week. But I didn’t say I do it well. I do it about like you’d expect somebody with zero history of athletic achievement to do it: Badly.

I don’t care, I actually enjoy doing it badly because I know a secret: With exercise you get points for trying whether you win the Olympics or shuffle along like a wounded pigeon. And by points I mean calories burned. I show up to Zumba a few times a month and I flail around like a confused chicken. While everybody else is “shaking it” I’m stuttering it around enthusiastically. I try to find  a big empty space in the studio for my Zumba-ing because I know I’m liable to lash out and backhand somebody with one of my errant limbs at any time.  Nobody’s grading me now, I can Zumba as stupidly as I want. And every time I try a new form of exercise there’s a chance it could be something I’ll enjoy and keep doing, and whether I find I’m good at it or not, I’m still moving my body and burning calories while I’m doing it.

So yeah – the running. It’s not fast, it’s not graceful, nor powerful, but I burn about 12 calories a minute for every minute I do it, and that puts a smile on my face. I get points for trying.

Right Now in Weight Management

I’ve been having this mental dialogue lately about my actual weight management efforts not being up to snuff, not being as strict and regimented as I would like them to be. And not because they need to be – my weight is right on target today, but because I like to practice what I preach, and I talk about the tools of weight management here a lot. But then it occurred to me – I’m not doing anybody any favors by pretending like long-term weight management is a military boot camp that goes on forever. So let me be completely frank:

Once I arrived at my goal weight and figured out my maintenance weight (not the same thing, by the way), I figured out how to enjoy life and food again, on new terms. So let me shed a little bit of light on how it is for real, not how it may be during weight loss or during the initial years of learning to maintain. I don’t use every single tool I talk about here every single day. Now that I’m 8 years out, there are things that I have been able to relax, and since I don’t want anybody to think this whole effort is impossible because you have to be hyper-vigilant every single day forever (that’s daunting!), let me reassure you: It’s not like that.

What’s important is realizing where you are in the process and figuring out just how vigilant you need to be for where you are. Right now, I’ve got it pretty darn good. I don’t write down everything I eat every single day, right now. Right now, I’m able to maintain a very consistent, stable weight with the habits I’ve built over the last 8 years. Right now, I exercise an hour a day 5-6 days a week and it doesn’t seem like a burden because I’ve worked it into my lifestyle. Right now, I can go out to eat one or two nights a week and enjoy a meal and maybe half a dessert following the restaurant eating guidelines I’ve built for myself  over the last 8 years.  Right now, I can eat a couple of cookies after dinner at home because my husband doesn’t like me to get too skinny, and I know I’ve got the room for it in my budget because I’m following the habits I’ve built.

So if you’re worried that losing a lot of weight means being in the Food Police for the rest of your life, please know that once those habits are built and ingrained, it won’t seem like a police state. It will settle into a comfortable place where you can enjoy yourself now and again. But it’s important to know where you are in the process before relaxing the level of vigilance. This means that there will be weeks when I do need to use all of my tools consciously to reverse an upward trend. My job is to be vigilant and recognize a trend I don’t like before it becomes a crisis, and bring my habits back in line using as many of the tools as I need to use to do the job.

Welcome New Readers!

I’m pleased you’re here. Here are some links to a few of my favorite articles here. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful.

And here are a couple that I hope can be useful right now, during the holiday season:

I hope you enjoy these and find them useful. I welcome your comments and suggestions! Thanks for stopping by.


Exercise Gear

This evening I spoke for the Kaiser Medical Weight Management program in Fremont, CA. I had a very nice time, all the questions I got were really thoughtful and interesting, some I’d never had before, which is exciting for me because it makes good topics for posts I can write in the future.

One question I had after my talk was about what I wore for exercising. As you may or may not know, people who’ve lost a lot of weight often have more skin than they need, and so we require some supportive clothing for exercise. In general, when people ask about what they should wear for exercise I say whatever you’re comfortable in. If the thought of going to the gym in flashy gear freaks you out, you probably won’t go, so pick something that doesn’t make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable – physically or emotionally!

But, if you have an excess of skin you probably want something with some holding power. Here are some of the things I like:

2XU Compression tights. I love, love, love these and won’t run without them. They keep my hip, leg and butt skin firmly in place and reduce muscular strain from having that skin swinging around.

CW-X Ultra Support Bra. I’ve tried many different styles of sports bra, but I stick with CW-X now, and this style in particular. It’s pricey but worth the expense. It has a hook closure in the back, which is vastly superior to any pullover-style sports bra out there – having to contort yourself to get out of a bra when you’re soaking with sweat is just no fun! Plus, each cup is individual engineered to provide maximum support and minimize jiggles while avoiding the uni-boob effect – this thing is solid!

Both of these are pretty pricey, so whenever I need to replace them I go to Google, put in my search terms (usually the name of the product) and then hit the “Shopping” option in the menu on the left of the Google search page, then select a “Sort by” order (in the drop-down menu on the upper right) of “Price: low to high” and buy whichever link comes up cheapest. I’ve gotten the 2XU tights for $55 once that way, so it’s definitely worth shopping around a bit online before buying!

Shoes – I’ve tried several different brands, but I always come back to Asics. I highly recommend finding a good running gear shop near you. You can tell if they’re a good shop by whether they evaluate you while you walk and run before making a recommendation. Better shops often have a treadmill where they will watch you running (or walking, if that’s your thing!) so they can get an idea of what shoe brand and style would be most supportive for your stride.

Good gear isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it in the long run – once I made the investment for some good stuff it really made a difference in how much I enjoyed my workouts – and how hard I could work!

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Clearing a Mental Rut

Last night I went out for a walk around 8pm, just to get some exercise. It wasn’t a long walk, but I went and did it. Since then I’d been casting around to figure out how and what to do today for exercise.

Getting up early and doing it before work wasn’t going to happen – I know me and I know that in the dead of winter getting up out of a warm cozy bed while it’s still dark to go exercise in the cold isn’t going to happen. After work tonight is out because I have a speaking engagement.  For some reason coming around to figuring out that I need to do it sometime during the day took a very long time, mostly because I hate the gym and that’s the only option in the middle of the day.

But then lying in bed hitting snooze this morning I had a realization. The reason I don’t like running before work is because it’s so cold and dark out. If I went to the gym at work, changed clothes there and then went out for a run from there it would be both light out, and warm enough to run!

I have regularly gone for runs from the work gym in the past, but only after work, so it had gotten stuck in my head that running from the work gym was an after-work only activity. Obviously that’s not true, but because I had only ever done it that way, many times, my mind had decided that there was a good reason I didn’t run during the day and only in the evening – but there simply is not.

So when I was getting ready this morning I packed up my running clothes and all the things I’d need to continue working after my run. It’s a different set of things than I normally pack for the gym because normally I go straight home after working out there so I don’t bother with the niceties, but it’s not that hard to put some deodorant and hair stuff in my bag too.

And that is today’s plan – a run in the early afternoon, I even blocked out the time in my work calendar. I feel like I remembered something important today – I took the time to think about WHY I only ever did things a certain way and it turned out that it wasn’t because other ways weren’t workable, just that the way I did it worked for me at that time – and something different will work for me now. What habits have you formed without realizing they were forming, that might be hindering your goals instead of helping?