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:
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?