At the beginning of 2016, I decided I needed to adapt my vegetarian diet to be “low(er)-carb” (true low-carb diets are almost impossible for strict vegetarians). Within a few weeks, however, I realized I was losing almost a pound a day and “gently applied the breaks” by adding in some more complex carbs. I still lost a few more pounds but eventually settled at my current weight and added yet more carbs. While I’ve been successful at maintaining my weight, everything the study says makes sense. I’ve been constantly cold (a sign of a sluggish metabolism) – even when Seattle got hit with a heat wave last month (which, admittedly, was kinda nice) – and constantly super-hungry. My strategies have been up-ing the intensity of my workouts and figuring out healthy snacks so I’m able to eat every few hours.
Here’s my advice to those who are trying to lose large amounts of weight and/or who are disheartened by the study (with the caveat that even at my heaviest, I was still a lot lighter than the Biggest Loser contestants):
- It’s possible to lose weight too fast. I lucked out in that I applied the breaks before I had lost too much, too quickly. While my gut was telling me that this was the right decision, it was still incredibly hard because I wanted to keep losing weight at such a fast rate. The thing that forced the issue was that my mood bottomed out. I think if I had continued at my original rate, I would’ve gained it back almost immediately.
- It’s possible to get to a weight that’s a full-time job to maintain. In the article, the former contestants mention that they couldn’t maintain the intensive diet/exercise regimens that got them to their lowest weight. Another good realization that I had was that if I went below a certain weight, it would be a full-time job to maintain it. I’m about 10-15 lbs heavier than I was at my skinniest 10+ years ago, but I think that most of that is muscle weight (and bonus, I have a much flatter stomach than I did back then). But I’m able to maintain it with daily hot (infrared) yoga (which helps my musicianship and mood, so I’d do it regardless of the weight) and a boring, but cost-effective and healthy diet. I can even occasionally “cheat” and still be fine.
- Weight loss isn’t entertaining. If you want to lose weight, get fit, and have a healthy self-image, you’re not going to benefit from capitalist offerings like The Biggest Loser. There are too many people who can profit from getting people fat with junk food and then shaming them into yo-yo dieting/exercise. The truth is that healthy weight loss isn’t entertaining – it’s grueling, frustrating, and emotionally intense (when my weight came off, I described the bad emotions that surfaced as like “dog turds emerging from melting snow”). If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to face the demons and trauma that lead you to gain weight in the first place, as well as accept the limitations of your own body. All in all, not stuff that would work well for a prime-time TV show.
Have you struggled with losing and keeping weight off? Did anything in the New York Times article especially resonate with you? If you’ve kept the weight off, what strategies have been effective?