Over the last few months, I asked a number of women, How do you manage the tendency to inexorably regain weight which you worked so hard to drop? I didn't speak only to women who are thin or average; two are still in the overweight category according to the charts and completely content with that. I learned that what works for one does not work for another.
Each, though, had an upper limit, and at that point called in the troops. Each has favourite methods; some use more than one, but they tend to fall into four groups:
1. Zen Hens
These women practice Mindful Eating, so that preparing and eating food becomes a pleasurable but thoughtful act. Instead of trashing a bag of pretzels while watching TV, Donna sits in an armchair with a view of her birdfeeders, peels an orange, savours the burst of citrus oil released by its peel, and slowly eats each section.
Nancy prepares meals that please the eye and plates them on her best dishes; extra points because she lives alone. They also analyze what mental states drive them to overeat or binge and are extra vigilant when stressed and tired.
2. Data Divas
I'm one, still logging meals and activity (on MyFitnessPal). Otherwise, I develop dietary amnesia and consume far more calories than needed—and if you're not finishing those fries, I will. We are fussbudgets who also thrill to FitBits, kitchen scales and calorie and nutritional information on packaged goods.
Connie has kept off her remarkable loss. She's eating a couple hundred calories a day more on maintenance but still pre-plans meals, logs, and consistently walks and visits the gym. She says, "I know I would slowly (or maybe even quickly) revert to my old habits without the logging part of it."
DDs are maniacs about empty calories and can tell you the tally for anything you are eating, even if you don't want to know.
Rewards, (and sometimes sanctions) provide motivation and accountability. After earning gold stars or goodies at Weight Watchers, several women say they continue with their own variants.
Louise has a weekly manicure at a salon only if she is at or below her goal weight. Munira has a hefty fine system set up with her sister in law; I am talking the price of a good pair of shoes for every two-pound gain—ouch! Weigh-ins are done together to avoid "misreading". Once, when they were both well under the limit, they sat down and killed a large three-cheese pizza.
4. Rules Rockers
These women (and one man) follow strict rules such as "Only eat during a given 10-hour period", "Juice-fast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays", or eat calibrated ratios of carbs, fats and proteins. They often follow diets named after physicians. Some Rockers leaven the rigour with free days when their old friends Ben & Jerry show up—for breakfast.
Within each group, there are variations. Some are assiduous exercisers, others depend on everyday activity like dog-walking. Some regard carbs as Kryponite, others can't abide life without pasta. The one commonality is that they know that without continual maintenance methods, pounds creep back sure someone trips on Dancing with the Stars.
Another commonality is that not one is willing to suffer from hunger; at mealtime, that growling stomach is okay, but they won't spend the day desperate and shaky. Most eat late-afternoon or mid-morning snacks (sometimes both), such as a piece of cheese and an apple or ten (yes, they count) raw almonds.
Not one of the seven women and one man in my small sample eats packaged meals, though one occasionally drinks an Atkins shake when her office's group lunch is absolutely off limits.
Over my last thirty-five years, I've gained and lost what they call "suitcase weight", twenty to thirty pounds, at least three times. When I began the last project, in mid-2013, I thought, Not only do I have to lose it, I have to keep it off, because this time it was high blood pressure that initiated the loss.
I do not agree with that slogan "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels", which I have seen attributed to Kate Moss, but which I first heard at Weight Watchers in the '80s, when the model was a tyke. First, I do not regard thinness as the Grail, and second, Moss or whoever has not tasted my son Jules' homemade ice cream.
But my nice low bp reading supplies more than enough motivation, and I'm just the kind of person who is quietly pleased when my FitBit brrrups when I've done my steps.