Keeping a weight loss lost

Edina: I mean what you two don't seem to realise is that inside of me, inside of me, there is a thin person just screaming to get out.

Mother: Just the one, dear?

- Absolutely Fabulous Episode 1.2, "Fat"

For us Eddies of the world, nutritionist Leslie Beck's article "How to Keep Off the Pounds You've Shed" is a good news/bad news report. (The Globe and Mail, in its inscrutable Canadian way, will at some point paywall access.)

I don't aspire to be thin, just within a healthy weight range, where I reside at the top. (If you are wondering if you're in the healthy range, as defined either by body-fat percentage or waist-to-hip ratio, the site provides great tools.) Some achieve this by genetic good fortune, others by effort.

Many women deal with what's called "suitcase weight", the ten or twenty pounds they gain and lose, gain and lose.

The fall-on-a-cake-knife bad news about weight loss from Beck:

- Failure to maintain weight loss is due to alterations in hormone levels which happen for at least a year after losing weight.
- These hormones slow metabolism and increase hunger, so post-loss, you will be hungrier and prone to gaining back what you lost, or even more. 

The good news:

- The study was conducted on subjects who were on a very low calorie diet; the results may not be as marked for those undertaking more modest calorie restrictions. (I wonder how they recruited subjects, who only got 500-550 calories a day via Optifast.)
- Another study suggests you may be better off on a diet that combines protein and low-glycemic index (GI) carbs.

As Beck says, it's healthier and less painful to keep pounds from piling on than to lose them and keep them lost.

As for the role of exercise in weight loss, it doesn't help much, as the article "Phys Ed: Why Doesn't Exercise Lead to Weight Loss?" by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times explains. But there is good news within this bitter pill, too.  

First, there are all the other significant benefits of exercise, the same ones naturally thin people get.

Second, she quotes Dan Carey, Ph.D., a professor of exercise physiology:“'If you work out at an easy intensity, you will burn a higher percentage of fat calories' than if you work out a higher intensity, so you should draw down some of the padding you’ve accumulated on the hips or elsewhere—if you don’t replace all of the calories afterward."

That's the tough part. It's so easy to make an immediate withdrawal from the caloric bank account (After all, I earned it!) and then also float myself a little loan on the Exercise Equity Line of Credit. 

My Dad used to tell his patients, "The best exercise you can do is push your plate away after you've eaten a reasonable portion.". As usual, Dad was right.

For an observation about women and their weight through a cultural lens, see "New York Skinny vs Paris Skinny" by Garance Doré, who has gained weight after moving from France to New York, but also is feeling oppressed by the American standard of thinness (at least among her copines.)


helen tilston said…
Thank you for an inspiring post.
I particularly appreciate the reminder that some intense exercise is required to burn some of the trouble spots.

Have a great weekend

Anonymous said…
Exercise does nothing for me other than you know, tone and keep me healthy! Maintaining my 45lbs weight loss has been such a tough challenge, I put it all back on once - never again. I am always always hungry.
Unknown said…
I did find that during Menopause I seemed to put quite a lot of fat on round my waist area. Post M it seems to have disappeared without much effort, just cutting down on high fat foods. I can only presume it was a hormone thing.
Duchesse said…
Helen: It may be a relief for you (as it was for me) to learn that the exercise is not very effective to reduce weight, and that lesser intensity is just as good as high. But then, some people just love high intensity!

Bourbon & Pearls: I always say "the only time I am not hungry is when I am eating". In my 20s, before we knew much about them, I took diet pills and still have faint longing for how "well" they worked... one of the ill-considered acts of my youth.

Chicatanyage: A common "gift" of the menopausal years. I found that my body shifted, and stayed shifted but that I finally returned to normal sleep patterns.
Susan B said…
For me, it continues to be about the carbs. If I start allowing a piece of bread here, a scoop of ice cream there, the pounds start to creep on. I've always been on the "fluffy" side and it does take a great amount of diligence to maintain my weight. Our life has been out of whack since the summer, and I've crept up a few pounds as haven't been able to shop or prepare meals, too much grab-n-go.
Anonymous said…
Exercise and building more lean muscle mass is important in keeping up a reasonable metabolic rate, which definitely seems to decline as we age. But walking at a good clip is considered perhaps the best form of exercise for so many reasons.
What a constant battle it is. And yes, simple carbs are the enemy.
I have found that walking more has helped me shed some weight, plus it is helping with the onset of bone loss.

I was in the danger zone of the BMI and decided to try to get a handle on this post menopausal hormonal situation. I have reduced the amount I eat, not so much what I eat and so far I am happier and feeling more energy. I will never be stick insect thin but rather on the plumper side of the norm.

I appreciate your timely post, you are a fountain of knowledge Duchesse and that's why I keep on coming back to see what gems you have to offer us.

LPC said…
I am with Deja on this, it's all about protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, with a little chocolate and wine to soften the edges. I do hate how much less I have to eat to stay the same weight, as I age. Seems unfair.
Jane W. said…
I just lost 15 pounds on WW, which is a lot of weight on my small frame. I find that maintaining it requires constant vigilance. Writing down what I eat is annoying, but I'm with B&P--I never want to have to go through that again.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Oh, love carbs. My 'discipline" is going to whole grains but refuse to give up bread or pasta entirely.

kathy peck: The more muscle you build, the higher your resting metabolic rate, so weight training is also helpful.

hostess: Walking is wonderful exercise, though Beck's piece suggests not so effective for weight loss. But the other benefits put it on the top of my list, too.

LPC: Unfair, relentless, unalterable. Some bodies also have to deal with genetic predisposition.

Minimalist Magpie: As a WW Lifetime Member, I applaud you! IMO maintenance is harder than losing, b/c losing is fun, applause for those milestones and the pride in nearing a goal.
SewingLibrarian said…
This is a timely post for me as I am half-way to my weight-loss goal using a diet recommended by my doctor. I feel so much better even with only thirteen pounds less. I vow to keep it all off once I reach my goal. It surely is hard to give up pasta, cake, and bread, though.
SewingLibrarian said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judy said…
At the risk of sounding like a zealot, have you heard of the Primal Blueprint? At the site Mark's Daily there is a wealth of info that flies in the face of much of the conventional nutrition/health "wisdom" surrounding food and fitness.

It's a different approach and one which has been enormously helpful for me. I'm not as hungry, the menopausal fat around my waist and on my thighs is gone...well, some of it is back in my face, thank you. I sleep better and my bones don't creak. I have done it since August and am converted :)!
Duchesse said…
SewingLibarian: I applaud you (and any women) as dropping excess weight definitely gets harder as one gets older. Can you add back *a bit* of those foods once at your goal, or is it "ovah"?

Judy: Have been following articles on the paleo diet (under various names) for some time. For me life is too short to *entirely* give up dairy and grains. But an emphasis on whole foods, vastly reduced sugars- can do that. Am not a nutritionist, so just listen to Paleo Diet friends. Some feel terrific eating this way and others do not.

Thanks for contributing your experience, will interest all of us.
Judy said…
Duchesse, Eating Primal is basically Paleo with full fat and fermented dairy. One of the things that is great about Mark Sisson is that he is not dogmatic and is focus is really on enjoying life, not on key. He drinks coffee, and red wine and eats cheese and has chocolate from time to time. He has a philosophy of doing it 80 percent of the time too. I agree, you have to try things and see how they work for you. For me, giving up grains in any form has been life giving. It wasn't about looking skinny, for me it was about feeing vital and alive.
Nancy K said…
Thanks for this post. I lost 75 lbs about 9 years ago(achieved goal weight) which, like you was at the upper end of normal for my height. I kept it off for about 2 years and then started inching up so that I am 30 lbs heavier at this moment. This is with continuing on Weight Watchers and going to meetings religiously. There have been a number of articles lately about how our metabolism gets slower after a weight loss. Mine has certainly gone south! I hate the low carb diets; they make me ill.
It's very discouraging to say the least. I do exercise and while it makes me feel better, it certainly doesn't do anything for losing weight. I've always been a slow loser, but menopause has made it seem almost impossible.
Rubi said…
I've now lost 7 kilos since moving to Madrid -- I don't know when the weight loss will taper off, but given that I'm not really trying, I'm not going to complain, either.

What's changed? About 45 minutes of brisk walking (to do errands and meet friends, not at a gym) every day, and a lot more fiber in the form of fruit, veg, pulses (lentils - yum!) and whole grains. Another benefit is that my gut is a lot happier with me than when I was eating "white stuff" regularly.
Duchesse said…
Judy: Thanks for the details, very encouraging.

Nancy K: Have long said we get only so many smooth cruises downward, and after each significant loss our bodies seems to adapt (as the recent study notes) to our diligence by making it harder. I try to see a silver lining: WW made me a responsible (well most of the time) eater for life.

Rubi: Dropping refined or processed foods has to be a good thing. Wonder too if the sheer effort of the move has contributed? I too lost weight during the most intense months of our move.
Tiffany said…
I'm a natural (hereditary) 'skinny' but even so I find that as I get older it is easier for me to put on weight - and less easy to shift a kilo or two if I want to. I exercise for fitness, strength and flexibility, which I figure are most important in the long run, but I don't expect to lose weight that way. Given my body shape, I expect that when I hit menopause, I will lose what semblance of a waist I ever had ...
Duchesse said…
Tiffany: Even naturally slim bodies change as the years go by. The benefits of exercise are so significant that the minimal effect on weight hardly registers with me.
Jill Ann said…
This subject is of great interest to me; I was a naturally normal weight person until I had two babies in two years in my late 30s, and segued into menopause not long after that. I lost the baby weight from the second child (when she was three) but then gained it all back, plus another 20 lb. After the baby turned 16 (!) I finally resolved to lose weight, and returned to Weight Watchers. Have now lost almost 40 lb in 6 months, intend to lose another 25. I'm a big fan of WW; tracking points is a chore, but really helps with mindful eating. WW is not specifically low carb, but I find I am now eating mostly low carb, or at least complex carb, because the simple carbs are where all the points are. I am never hungry but sometimes would love to pig out on baked goods or chips. I'm very interested to see if I can keep the weight off permanently. As I am 54 now, it's important for my health as well as my wardrobe! And it's SO much fun "shopping my closet" and trying on things which have hung there unworn for several years, but which now fit. I am also interested to see what shape I end up being, as it appears that my butt (never that large) is shrinking significantly faster than my belly. Hmmmm.
Duchesse said…
Jill Ann: Your story parallels mine (but am 9 yrs "ahead" of you). I love how WW nudges one toward whole foods, while still acknowledging sometimes we want a muffin more than life itself. You learn really fast how to get the most bang for those points.

What was hard for me was dropping to fewer points as I lost weight. My leader was terrific, encouraged me to retain points from my previous level if I needed to and told me not to give up the snacks.

Many women gain some back (it is a lifetime project- did it 18 yrs ago!) but as this leader said, "No shame. You now have the tools and no one needs to go to bed hungry."
Anonymous said…
My situation is similar to Jill-Ann. I had my kids late and (they are now 5 and 3). I was almost down to pre-baby weight when I got pregnant with my second. He's now almost 3 and I am almost at the weight I was when I was full-term pregnant with my first. I was always the tall, slim one (5'10"), and now at 44 and tall and very curvy, I feel like a blimp!

I never had to worry about what I ate and am having a hard time with "mindful" eating. I don't do well with hunger. My blood sugar drops and I find that I can't focus or think about anything but food. I usually am happiest when I eat freqquently throughout the day. It really makes me sad when I hear/read responses like Bourbon's who claim that they go through life in a state of constant hunger. I don't want that!

So, I'm still struggling with all of this... Reading everyone's responses helps!
Duchesse said…
Anonymous: Again, I am not a nutritionist (or health care professional) but want to direct you to an article about the role hormones (ghrelin and leptin) play in losing and regaining weight:

We lose and gain weight differently, so comparing myself to someone else is not very useful. The key is finding what I can eat that satisfies hunger longest. I mostly stay away from high calorie/low nutrient foods and accept a higher weight (top of range for my age) as long as my cholesterol level and other important indicators are fine. My brother is diabetic, a condition exacerbated by weight; I do not want that to happen.
Alison said…
Brilliant! "New York Skinny vs Paris Skinny" Absolutely brilliant!

Thank you so much for sharing that link.
Anonymous said…
Awesome post! I'm halfway through losing 20 pounds and I've certainly found your comments to be true. I'm aiming to eat and exercise like I will for the rest of my life rather than full on 'dieting' and turning into a gym bunny.

I'm loving 'MyFitnessPal' a website that's like online Weight Watchers but free! You log all your food and exercise and it works out your calories. And there's a social aspect if you like.

Duchesse said…
Ali: I hope Doré follows up with what happens next. Wonder if she will be co-opted by the North American standards.

Eleanorjane: Thanks for this link- a free resource is great. After quite an indulgent weekend, I wish the norm were self-serve for dinner parties!
Great post---and Absolutely Fabulous is/was my favorite show!!!

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