It almost seems incredible. The weight came off and remains off. This rolls easily when you say it: Fifty pounds. I lost the weight and beaten the odds. I have not regained the weight. I know most people don’t keep it off. There are many reasons for this reality. So I would not do you a service if I blamed the usual culprit. You to now, self-control and will power. Let me tell you a secret. At least in my view self-control is not the reason I have kept my weight off. After all, like most of you, I have “bad days.” I can also eat my emotions. And yes, there are days I would rather not exercise. Will power is just our Calvinist side coming out for the dance, and we know it has nothing to do with reality.
Hey, I took Friday Saturday, and Sunday off. Yes, I lay on my couch with Dexter the dog. We watched some TV. I painted a couple of miniatures. I read some. Mostly I took some days off to recharge my batteries. Grated, my knee was not happy, still is not happy. I think I twisted it. So I took some days off! And that is okay. One of the secrets I have learned is to listen to my body. The reality is that none of us are saints. And hey I had exercised almost every day for months on end this is part of my formula for success. I try to exercise every day. It’s something I need. But if I need a few days off, I take a few days off.
There was a time when going for a ten-minute walk was near impossible. I was so heavy that my knees hurt all the time. Sometimes It was more. Sometimes it was bearable. The pressure from the weight was causing real discomfort. I am positive some of you share this. It can be feet, knees, or back, maybe all? The excess weight makes your joints hurt. This makes exercise hard to do. So what exactly did I do? I did not go for an hour walk. That is a recipe for not doing it. I took five minutes of walks. I went to the supermarket and added a couple of aisles, not for shopping, but for steps. Slowly I increased that distance. There were a few reasons.
The first is that I needed to exercise for health reasons. The second, adding this to my routine helped in time to get my weight down. As I lost, the pressure on my joints went down. Don’t get me wrong. There are days that my joints still hurt, but it is not constant. There is something else. I am sure many of you will identify. When I was over fifty pounds heavier, I went down the steps sideways. Now I can do it like any regular person. This is a biomechanics thing, and I am telling you that this is not that rare.
I also need to exercise for good glucose control and blood pressure. Aging is not for sissies, as my mother used to say. But like my mother, I now remain active, but listen to my body. If a knee hurts, and they do from time to time, I just take the day off. You can do that. It will not change the overall results, as long as you keep yourself on a healthy diet. Also, a day does not become a week, and a month, you know the drill.
What Happens when The Pounds Start to Creep in…
I remember talking to my mom before she passed. She was concerned about my weight, and that of my sister. She was clear about this. When the pounds start to creep in because they will, she watched her diet a tad more. Snacks went away, for example. Now my mom was heavy as a child. The photos of her, as a chubby kid are seared in my mind because she lost all that weight when she got very sick at sixteen.
She lost a lot of weight, and she maintained that for the rest of her life. But like I have discovered over the last two years it’s not like she kept the same weight all the time. She had a few pounds that went up and down. I am now in the same situation. I have a few pounds that come and go. This is normal. The trick is not to despair, but to continue to watch your food intake.
It is critical to keep an eye on portion size. It is very easy in our obesogenic society to think that a McDonald’s small fries is a single serving. It’s not. In fact, that serving can be shared by two people. Things like bagels and muffins have also substantially grown over the last forty years. Be aware of this. A portion is half a bagel, generally speaking, or half a muffin.
So if you find yourself eating a full muffin because you can, cut it in half. Remind yourself that a large muffin is two portions. In a few cases, three. Now mini muffins, those are closer to a single portion for a single muffin. Read the label.
Another thing I learned from my mother, and now I do, is that generally speaking, I avoid processed foods, There are some exceptions, of course. I like popcorn, and it is a nice and filling snack. This also means that I cook every day, and there are plenty of nutrient-rich foods in my diet. These include fruits, in strict moderation, and vegetables. We also use grains, just not anything that contains gluten.
No, I am not a saint. From time to time I enjoy a gluten-free cookie, muffin, or another sweet treat. The gluten-free is not because I am clean eating or anything like that. I am honestly allergic to gluten. If any comes into my food, I can count on being down and out for an afternoon, or longer. So I avoid it, and thankfully there is plenty of food that is good, and gluten-free. Unfortunately, some of that is highly processed. But when I do, I take my time, I enjoy it, and then move on. However, if I notice the pounds starting to creep in, and I have a range, I just watch my food more carefully.
To Read Labels or not to Read Labels, that is the Question
If you are doing this for medical reasons, whether that is diabetes, high blood pressure, or gluten intolerance, this is not an option. You need to become very familiar with labels and read them. If you have any allergy, eggs, nuts, read the damn labels and the allergy warning. This is about your life. You have no idea unless you are in this boat, how often wheat is present in food. A product says, wheat anywhere in the allergy warning, it does not go on the cart.
I know they can be confusing. To be honest, they are less so than they used to be. They will also reveal to you just how small some portions are. Chief among them, chips. I already mentioned bread, such as muffins and bagels. There are others. So you need to become utterly familiar with portion size. This is part of the formula. We need to eat to live, not live to eat. It helps if you use salad plates to serve your dinner. Fun fact, that used to be the size of dinner plates forty years ago. Try to fill half of it with veggies, the two other quarters with protein and starch.
Labels also reveal other things. These range from sodium content and trust me processed foods are not light in this, to fats, carbs, and other minutiae. However, madness lays there if you get too fixated with labels, and “eating correctly.” This is what is known as orthorexia. It is an eating disorder. So be careful about that. Read labels for information, not fixation. And even when you have bought the same product for years, formulations do change. So do read them from time to time. Some have reduced the sodium content for example. Some have sugar alcohols, to make them low carb. I personally try to keep away from them, because they and my stomach don’t get along. Yes, they can cause diarrhea, and as I have gotten older, I have less tolerance for things like that.
A Way of Life…
Some people who go on a diet somehow think this is temporary. I will lose, (insert pounds, kilos or stones here) and then I can go back. I have news for you. If you are going to keep that weight off, you need to commit to this not being a program. This is not a diet. It’s not a wagon. This is a way of life.
I have one tool that I use every meal, and at this point it is automatic. I track calories. I use Lose It, but you could use a few other programs. I started because after my tooth infection I was NOT eating enough calories. There are days I still don’t. Even when not hungry, at the end of the day I eat to at least 1000 net calories because I hate sugar crashes in the middle of the night. Otherwise, I think I would not.
I eat to live, not live to eat. However, that does not mean I do not enjoy flood or eat bland food. On the contrary. I cook savory dishes from multiples national cuisines that both my husband and I enjoy and Dexter, our dog, begs for. He is on a special diet of his own due to his panoply of allergies. So he does not get any table scraps, no matter how hard he begs. Trust me, he is good at that, but hardly successful.
My true weakness is coffee (these days decaf) with a nice flavored creamer or just Coffee-Mate. It is a pleasure, and I sometimes overindulge. Why I also track those calories, It is so easy to drink them, instead of chewing them. But if I am going to go over in any allotted calories, that will be the way.
My way of thinking about this is not that I can go back to what I was doing before I lost the weight. However, I must clarify something. It is not that I ate a lot, to begin with. My weight gain, and it was radically large, came as a side effect from a medication. It took years for my body to finally decide to shed the pounds. However, I know that once you gained that much weight, you can easily get it back if you are not careful. It is just the way it is. So I watch what I eat. Granted, I also do because of a panoply of issues. Diabetes means lower carb. Gluten allergy means no gluten, and now low sodium means low sodium. See what I said about reading labels?
Chiefly, this is a mental game, and you need to commit to the long haul.
So if you have that dance with the pounds, and you will, don’t give up. It is far easier to lose five pounds than fifty.