Weight: OK, now what?

So, I did it: my BMI is in the healthy range, blood pressure normal for the past three months.

That's the good news, and the bad news is: so, I did it. No more watching the little ticker go down on MyFitnessPal, though I still track intake daily.

Now the hard part begins. I lapped up friends' congratulatory messages on MFP, reveled in NSVs (Non-Scale Victories) like being able to walk–if not dart–up subway steps with huffing.

When you weigh less, you need to eat less: bummer. 

I'd played a barely-conscious game with myself for several decades: gain during a period of permissiveness, then eat consciously, restricting calories (but never extremely) to bask in the achievement of losing, with a little time spent on the well-populated Isle of Denial in between. But at almost 65, I can no longer cycle, because the "fun" phase is too risky

Equilibrium is a bear! Look at Carrie Fisher, who dropped 50 lbs. in nine months with Jenny Craig, and appears to have been bit in the behind by maintenance. (I love her line that she "has gone through every letter of bra size, now all that's left is Sanskrit".)

Here's a before/after shot from Jenny Craig; the after is around August 2011:


 In May 2012 this shot apeared in the UK's Daily Mail:

I'm not posting this to mock Fisher; keeping it off is the real challenge, and besides, who can stand to eat packaged food forever?

I figure I'll will have to log to the grave; this is not morality, it's math. I can only eat wisely if I know the score; without the count I'm in trouble faster than you can pop a can of tonic.

Women I know who have maintained triple-digit losses say the same thing as those who took off 5 or 10 lbs: every meal has to be a choice. They do not buy the 'inevitability of re-gaining', among other weight-loss myths explored in this recent New York Times article.

Have you seen the graphic, difficult and moving photo essay "Half" by the young woman photographer, Julia Kozerski? During her 160 lb. loss (50% of her original weight), she documented the truth of her changing body: she shows neither the airbrushed, taut perfection nor perky joy displayed by diet industry pitchwomen.  

I'm not joyful; I'm relieved, because I lost weight for a health issue, and that reason shows measurable improvement. Of course, no one assumes that. The fellas at the gym tell me I look "so much younger". I just smile; they mean well. And one day they might have to keep it off.


Anonymous said…
I find it extremely difficult to keep my 45 lbs off, it requires constant vigilance and I'm hungry every evening, my body is dying to gain it all back and more - which I did once before , so a third time is unnaceptable.
Judy C said…
I'm 67 and very overweight. I need to change that for strong health issues. I'm just beginning to find out how hard it is being my age and diabetic and trying to lose. Congratulations. I did go to the photo array and I do understand what I'll look like afterward. But if I feel better and have better blood sugars it's worth the struggle. You have done a wonderful thing.
Madame Là-bas said…
I applaud you and through past experience know how hard it is to keep it off. I have been a size 5 and a size 16 in my adult life. I have used my Fitness Pal but I skip the days when I eat too much. But the key to it all is we will eat too much some days but we have to be vigilant and not make it a habit. High blood pressure and diabetes could seriously affect our enjoyment of life.
Duchesse said…
Bourbon: It's both harder and easier than I thought. Wonder if this would work for you: I save 100 cals for a bedtime snack. Can't fall asleep if hungry.

Judy C: You might ask your dr. to refer you to a nutritionist to work out a plan that also fits your food exchanges. A slow loss will be a great step.

Madame Là-bas: Oh hello there, thought I saw you on the Isle. Not logging over days- made me smile.

I log the low with the high and make my food diary public so my friends can say, ah, Duchesse was hitting the pecan pie there.

If I know I'm going out with the girls, I bank calories from earlier in the week so treats are built in to my calculations. (A Weight Watchers tip.)

I don't indulge and tell myself I'll cut back 'later'. Those games with myself got me that "suitcase weight" gained and dropped many times.

Made a big change in my habits but a bigger one in accountability, b/c scared silly by seriously high blood pressure.

Pamela said…
Congratulations on your return to good health!!
LauraH said…
Feels good to be able to walk between the tables in a restaurant without having to turn sideways, doesn' it:-) Same for trotting up the subway stairs, it's a great feeling. I've been there and you are so right about maintenance. I've gained and lost up to 50 lb several times, last, last time was about 9 years ago when I lost 30 odd lb with the help of a nutritionist and have basically managed to keep it off. There is a tendency to swing back up by 5-10 lb then work back down...and it is work. It's still a struggle to eat in a healthy way, a lot of that is being on my own, I'm not a cook and the incentive is lacking.

At this point I cut myself some slack, try my best, hit the treadmill about 5 days a week, go to stretching classes, shiatsu, Alexander lessons - many kinds of maintenance. Could I lose another 10 lbs...probably, but my face would be so gaunt and it would be such a painful struggle with my body, I'm content to stay where I am.

Good luck and don't be too hard on yourself.....
KSL said…
Over the course of the last 15 years, I gained about 20 pounds, which averages out to 1.3 pounds per year. Easy to have it creep up that way. Now that I've lost that weight, I'm so vigilant, because I see how easy it is to just let one pound turn into two, etc.
I have to weigh myself every morning - I know this isn't always recommended, but for me I need to not have any "creep". Congratulations on your loss, and I have a feeling you'll maintain it.
Swissy said…
It's so helpful to publish your experience. I lost 10 pounds on doctor's advice (creeping blood pressure). It was pretty easy, though slow, and then I just kept eating that way and lost about 5 more pounds. Regained the 5, then have lost 2. But it's within bounds and requires: 2 mile walk every single day nomatterwhat; mindful meals; few to no snacks; lots of water; one glass of wine with dinner; no scales (though I know this is a pitfall) so I don't get weird. The happy thing is size 6 pants, size 4 skirts, etc. Thanks form

M said…
First, congratulations on redefining your state of health. Living in a chronic state of HBP can be very hazardous is often a precursor to a slew of serious illnesses. You're smart to recognize this and to get it under control.

I looked at the pictures of Carrie Fisher and what surprised me, much more than the weight gain, was her lack of grooming. From head to toe she looks disheveled and careless. I realize she's just walking the dog but clean hair & clothes would go a long way in improving her appearance. I wonder if she's ok.
LPC said…

I have only ever gained a lot of weight with pregnancies, >50 lbs each time. That weight left of its own accord. So the perspective from a lifelong BMI of something like 20 is that over 50 - even if you never gained weight as a young woman - not gaining it now takes constant vigilance.

I don't really mind the vigilance though, because I'm used to it, and because I have come to experience the self-restraint as something happy for myself. Just as I now feel about reducing my alcohol consumption.

You just learn to live this way and find happiness in the doing.

I sense this is what you have come to as well. Again, congratulations.
Congratulations on your success.
It is diligence and hard work losing weight when one is post menopausal!
I still have quite a few pounds to lose and when I see how slowly the weight is coming off I do admit to getting frustrated. Your results do give me hope.
It is interesting to me how blood pressure and weight gain seem to go hand in hand.
Thank you for your inspiring post today.
Duchesse said…
Pamela: It helps toward preserving health, but I still have to push myself to think about bone density, flexibility and all the other fun stuff you have to pay attention to at 64. Aging turn out to be work.

LauraH; You're doing a lot and mention something I want to post on, the movement disciplines that assist posture, gait and balance. I think women tend to get obsessed about weight but there are other aspects of health that are as important, depending on your body.

Kathy: I dn;t see what's wrong with that, it's just data. We all know our weight fluctuates (and why) so why not, if you want to and it keeps your from the creep?

Swissy: Yep, that's about it! I figure doing those things is like brushing my teeth, not an option.

M; It wasn't hard to decide once I saw those numbers, as heart disease and diabetes run in family. Agree, Fisher not groomed there. She has long struggled with her mental health. Apparently she tweeted in Nov. "Just because I sound crazy doesn't mean I feel crazy."

LPC: Yes, I made that mental 'hop'. Seems easy now and there will always be room for treats, just not all and anytime.

hostess: My advice, FWIW, is forget about speed, just make the shift, if that's what you want. Gone are the days when we could drop 3-4 lbs in a weekend by eating lightly.

materfamilias said…
My big challenge, as perhaps is one of yours, is having a husband who loves to cook and eat AND whose metabolism is set at a very silly rate. He's still the same waist size as when we married 39 years ago. So like you, I've had to build in some habits and attitudes. I've never (except in pregnancies which all saw me gain ~37 pounds) been more than 15 pounds over my WW healthy goal, although I used to dream of getting back to my 20s weight. Like Kathy, I find my accountability on the scales, almost daily, and I never let myself get more than 3 pounds up without tinkering with patterns. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration. And congrats for improving your health so dramatically.
Susan said…
I am just home from my 2x weekly exercise class and the very learned nutritionist who talks with our class once a week happened to be discussing a similar topic. She said that if your body gets too few calories while losing weight and you lose more than 2 lbs a week, you are more likely to regain weight. Evidently, there is some kind of breath test (called an RMR?) that you can take which will tell the minimum number of calories your individual body needs (we are all different) to maintain a good working order. If you go lower than this number, you may have difficulty keeping lost weight off. I thought this was interesting.
I'm a longtime reader of your blog, which I enjoy very much, but it wasn't until this "weighty" subject came up that I was brave enough to contribute. I just lost close to 50 lbs on Weight Watchers in roughly a year and a half, and I couldn't agree more that the hard work begins when everyone else thinks you're done and at goal. In some ways it's more of a challenge because I always run the risk of believing all those "you look fabulous/younger/sexier" comments and it's easy to overindulge, since after all, according to everyone around me, I look great. For me it's a daily struggle, food is an addiction and it's one I'll battle for the rest of my life, just like an alcoholic, drug abuser, etc. The good news is that the support I receIved at WW meetings and from friends outside who struggle as well, make the journey easier. Sorry for the long post, it's a subject I feel so strongly about!
Viktoria Berg said…
Well done on the weight loss! It´s difficult, and, like you say, keeping it off is hard. Personally I find it easier once I figured out what triggers my over-eating. Actually, I don´t exactly *enjoy* food so much as I let my manners (as they are) influence how much I eat. I tend to clear my plate first and then clear what´s on the table. So, now I serve myself by the stove, on a slightly smaller plate, and as a result, eat about 80% of what I used to. I have managed to get through Christmas without my usual +2 kg, which is unprecedented.

I do feel for Carrie Fisher - I´m a great fan of hers, she is a really gifted artist, but, as you said, troubled by bipolar disorder.
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: They both are terrific cooks but only pa has the magic metabolism. But since Denis had a heart attack last spring, he is a much more conscious eater (and cook), giving me, finally, the ample vegetables I need. And your discipline inspires me- though I figured with all the running you never had to think about your weight.

Anonymous said…
Hi Duchesse, and congratulations on your accomplishment! You & I have talked before about weight loss; my story, briefly, is that I was normal weight until after my second baby, at age 38. Maybe it was perimenopause, but it took 3 years to lose the baby weight, but then I gained it back plus 20 lb more. At age 54 I finally got serious, went to Weight Watchers, and lost 50 lb over a year. Still want to lose 5-10 more, but if not, I'll be fine.

I weigh myself every morning, because I've found at this age, it's incredibly easy to gain 3-4 lb in a week just by going out to dinner a couple of times. I am NOT going to gain back any of this weight. I am working on exercising more, mostly for health reasons, because I don't think it really helps you lose weight. It's all about the food choices and portion sizes!

And Tabitha, I don't know your personal situation, and know from your pictures that you are gorgeous; but I respectfully suggest that if you are hungry every night, that's just not sustainable, plus it's no fun! I will say that following Weight Watchers (somewhat loosely these days), I am NEVER hungry. Of course, sometimes I'm hungry for cookies, or chips & dip, but I just don't eat those much. But just plain hungry...no. I can eat plenty and maintain my 50 lb loss. And I still drink wine mostly every evening, just have to make different choices about what I eat and how much of it. I'm so damn healthy I can hardly stand it!

---Jill Ann
Duchesse said…
Susan: The effects of VLCDs (Very Low Calorie Diets) have been well-researched. To simplify, the body reads the deprivation as "I'm being starved" and works to conserve energy by slowing the metabolic rate. But oh how women want to lose 2 or more lbs per week, so they cut to less than 1200 cals/day- not recommended by WW or MyFitnessPal, and utter misery.

sophisticatedlady666: Thank you for speaking up! Congratulations, know what that took. (WW Lifetime Member from so long ago my card is typewritten.) Yes, once the stickers and applause stop you really have to motivate yourself. Plus, all that dropping down in points- though we know the reason, it's so hard to relinquish every one! I gained back much of my WW loss when I stopped logging. Keeping my eye on the cals (or points) is the only way to keep it off.

Viktoria: Changing the reflexive behaviours is a key tactic. For me, it was food @ my computer. PdesP was fueled by licorice Twizzlers! Getting through holidays w/out a gain shows real change, good for you!

Carrie Fisher has a tart, original comedic voice and I so hope she can manage her illness.

JillAnn: Big applause! While there are varying opinions about the role of exercise, I like what one of my MFP friends said: "Watch the calories in, they are easiest to manage." Exercise has many, many other advantages though.

Both MFP and WW let you "earn" mopre cals or points w/ exercise, but I don't eat all of them back or I just maintain. (Some people do 'eat back' the exercise cals and still lose but I think they are younger.)

Tabitha *is* a knockout and your comment echoes my thoughts.
KSL said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
KSL said…
Chiming in about Carrie Fisher. As she's Bi-Polar, I'm sure she takes one or more medications that contribute greatly to a weight gain. It is one of the main reasons that people who suffer from this, go off the meds, particularly during a "manic' or happy phase. Wish she'd become a spokesperson for Bi-Polar Disorder, rather than Weight Watchers.
Susan B said…
I'm within a couple pounds of my goal weight, and have been doing very well with Weight Watchers this time. I'm not *famished* and although the weight loss is slow, I feel as though I'm getting a much better handle on *managing* my weight. I do imagine that except when traveling, I'll be tracking points and weighing weekly for the rest of my life. Which no longer feels like a chore or sacrifice. It's like daily flossing...just something I need to do to help keep my body healthy.
Duchesse said…
Kathy: If she had to chose, obviously mental health is the #1. I think Jenny Craig would have looked at this issue closely before signing her (bad for their image if she doesn't succeed) and she did lose.

re "being a spokesperson": She is open about her experience in interviews and has described her breakdown and the treatment in "The Best Awful" (called "a thinly-disguised autobiog"); good article on that here:
@deja pseu: I came up with this saying at a WW meeting when someone got frustrated: "this is a marathon, not a sprint". It's a slower process but requires more resilience and mental strength.

And yes, we'll be managing this forever, just one day at a time....
Duchesse said…
Pseu: IMO slow is good b/c we really internalize the shift. One can discreetly log points with a smartphone app- if you want to.
Denise said…
Thank you for this post. I made the decision last weekend to finally take matters into hand and lose the 70 pounds I need to. I've enlisted support from my sister in law and my daughter. I've not really addressed my weight because I was afraid of failing but I decided the stakes were too high.
TB Determined said…
I lost 45 lbs. last year because I had constant knee pain and so far, so good for keeping it off and the BMI in the normal range. What I do may work for others so I am sharing it: I eat very much the same things Monday - Friday and allow a bit of reasonable deviation on the weekends. This means fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast, salad with protein and vinegar for dressing or broth-based protein/veg soup for lunch and protein/veg for dinner 5 days a week but I find I am happy with that and it is easier than counting for me.
Duchesse: love, love, love your blog and the intelligent and thoughtful comments of your readers.
Susan said…
Duchesse, The nutritionist who comes to speak to our exercise group says that 1300 calories is the rock bottom number of calories that we have to have--and that some individuals have to have more. I'm intrigued by the breath test and what it can tell you.

I was aware of how metabolism works when the body thinks it is being starved. This is just a bit different as allowances have to be made for individual body needs. In other words, you could look just like someone else in size and body type, but your nutritional needs COULD be different. The nutritionist is concerned that WW (and others) generalize too much. I'm just reporting by the way.

Anonymous said…
Hi Duchesse

lets face it - there is only ONE way to control our weight. The answer?


Watch what you eat. Watch your weight. Adjust intake to match 'outgoings'.

Its not rocket science but everyone wants to make every excuse in the world (slow metabolism, funny genetics or whatever). There is no other solution.

Just control.

Weight yourself. Too heavy? reduce intake. Too light? Increase intake. It is not complicated. We just keep wanting to take shortcuts and find exuses.

No one forces food down our throats. We put it there. Only WE can take control of our own weight.

60 years of watching my weight has taught me this.... and I have to remind myself of it daily. No shortcuts or excuses. Take control.

Duchesse said…
Denise: Hugs, cheers. Support is extremely important, whether a group, online community or family/friends. You can do it!

TB: Terrific system. I'm pretty much like that, I call it "automating" meals, b/c found if I had to really think through every food choice I got too focused on food and the regime became a bigger deal than it is. Deja Psu found the same thing. The system is in fact freeing.

Susan; When I did WW they did allow variation depending on how much carb you liked, and I think today there is even more flexibility in the system. Nutrition is a field that is stuffed with various theories, approaches and contradictions. Women with specific health issues (like diabetes or auto-immune system diseases) may need more specialized advice from a nutritionist but most of us are just eating too much, or too many empty calories.

Judith: Tell it, sister! The a-word-accountability- is the foundation to a healthy weight and (now that I think of it) other sound habits.

Anonymous said…
Thanks Ducheese .. I do get really annoyed at smart, intelligent women who can run a household and hold down a job, take care of nails and hair appointments but then allow themselves to play the 'victim' and the 'its not my fault' game when it comes to weight. Accountability is definitely the word. I never said it was easy. But then the job and the family etc aren't easy either are they ;-)
Judith, I am trying to think how to react politely to your judgemental, vicious comments.

What other women do, as long as they don't force deep-fried-Mars-bars down your throat, is absolutely none of your business.

You have no idea what challenges another human being faces. I could be every bit as judgemental about your lack of compassion - a far greater failing than a bit of pudge, even though it may shorten the pudgy person's life - and your crap about "accountability".

Obesity is a SOCIAL problem, caused by carcentric planning that doesn't favour daily-life exercise, and corporate crap food.

Yes of course individuals should fight it, but that will not solve the general problem.
Kristien62 said…
Duchesse- Thank you, thank you for this post. As you know, I recently started WW on-line to lose for a health reason. And I had to "start over" twice. The idea that it is a marathon not a sprint is empowering. I need to lose the idea of "going off" the plan and "getting back on." There is a little voice in my head saying, "You'll never be able to do this." Time to ignore it.

And I do feel sorry for those who have gained because of meds. That's a much tougher situation to deal with than just needing to be accountable.
Duchesse said…
Judith: I've learned no one does anything "for real" till they are ready.

I spent a lot of time denying or ignoring my situation and it was not till the very scary bp that I said, OK, I'm doing this". While I think of myself as intelligent, I wasn't intelligent about that.

But once willing to be accountable, now I have no excuses, do I?

lagatta: There are *many* causes of obesity and some people are challenged with many factors at once. While no once forces anyone to get in a car or spend hours in front of TV, it's definitely harder to eat a good balanced diet if your income is low- and oh how I wish we subsidized salads in restaurants like Sweden (?) does.

You are both identifying important dimensions to addressing obesity, yours, the social, and hers, the tendency of a person (for whatever reason, but usually tired, stressed and facing other demands) to make excuses instead of mobilizing will.
I strongly suspect that Judith and I are political adversaries, and that she has far more assets than I do.

I've worked a lot in the neighbourhood on healthy eating programmes for people who are considerably poorer than I am, with far less education: things like community kitchens and access to exercise programmes for people with specific health challenges. I succeeded in getting access to cardiac programmes for people who couldn't afford private ones. Many people have been pressing for a community centre with a public pool and it should be up and running later this year, knock wood!

Late magical nun (speaking of WILL!) Madeleine Gagnon and some of her sisters were involved in that too.

As for cars, it is not a matter of forcing anyone into them, but a lack of safe and feasable alternatives in many jurisdictions in North America (and even in Britain). Nordic Europe does much better.
Duchesse said…
Kristien62: As the saying goes, "It works if you work it." What surprised me is the difference b/t the amount of food I need (and I'm not going hungry) and what I was eating just b/c I could!
Kristin said…
Another WW saying that I find true is this:

It's hard being overweight.
It's hard losing weight.
It's hard to keep weight off

Chose your hard.

Good lick and thanks for sharing.
Kristin said…
Another WW saying that I find true is this:

It's hard being overweight.
It's hard losing weight.
It's hard to keep weight off

Chose your hard.

Good luck and thanks for sharing.
Unknown said…
I admire your discipline and commitment.

Right now, I'm focusing on smaller portions and moving more. We'll see.

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