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?

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7 Responses to “Interesting article in the NYTimes”

  1. Daniel long Says:

    I read that one, the thing that stands out to me is that the two diets studied were 500 and 800 calories a day, to me that is a starvation diet. I lost my weight at 1600 calories a day (actuallly yhe plan did not discuss calories specificslly, but i can do math) under Dr supervision, and he repeatedly emphasised to me the importance of hitting certain minimum protein and vegetable intakes. So that would seem to argue against extreme diets, which I think makes sense anyhow. Many of the other parts, the feeling of a struggle against an addiction and vigilance being required for success, seems right in line with other things I have seen you write, as well as my own experience. So interesting read useful but I would say that biology is what you make of it, I still believe in my own ability to determine my fat(e). Happy new year!

  2. Princess Dieter Says:

    Thanks for this. From the start, I didn’t aim for a low weight. I aimed for a weight that is still considered overweight. I assumed I’d have too hard a time at “normal” weight and that with hanging skin and all, it would behoove me to aim higher.

    I’m finding that getting to that “higher than normal” weight of 160 is damn hard now. The last 20 pounds are killer. I can totally understand why there is a problem sustaining a REALLY lower weight (like skinny or like normal on medical charts). And yes, I have to always be vigilant. Unfair. Yes. Hubby has a normal hunger mechanism. He eats until he’s full, as often as necessary, and keeps to about a 3 pound range of lean body weight. He’s on the verge of underweight if he doesn’t watch out. He has to worry about NOT EATING ENOUGH.

    I have to count calories. Sucks. But that’s the grim reality.

    We fight on.

  3. Cari Trapp Says:

    Thanks for the blog. I read this article a few days ago when I received it by email. It scared me! I enjoyed your blog! Thanks!

  4. Bluezy Says:

    Happy new year. I will be designated dieter.

  5. Jen Says:

    Gina Kolata wrote _Rethinking_Thin_, which covers what that article said (and more… ’cause it’s a book). One thing that I took away from reading the book is that I think it’s really unethical for these medically supervised diet programs to not say that maintaining is a bastard and that weight cycling (lose, gain, lose, gain, etc.) is worse for the body than just being fat.

  6. Caron Says:

    I read this too and thought it was depressing. I like the way you have dissected it and made it less foreboding. At my last Weight Watcher meeting my leader said something like “Losing weight and maintaining the loss does not come naturally to people like us.” I totally agree. I lost 40 pounds and kept it off for six years. Then I had a lapse and for two years I was never at goal but always just three to ten pounds over.

    My biggest challenge is staying away from the empty carbs and getting enough exercise. I have been back at goal for another year now (total of seven years) and I know I can do this forever. I also know it will always be work. Sigh.

  7. Zana Hart Says:

    Liked your comment that it gets easier or at least more habitual.


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