One year ago today I weighed in at Scottsdale Weight Loss at (actually slightly below) my goal weight of 170 pounds. That was a huge accomplishment. But my weight loss was really quick, the 98 pounds came off in just 6.5 months. That is a big change in a short amount of time – many could argue that is a sure-fire way to gain all the weight back. There have been countless examples splashed across the media of people, and I’m sure we all know many in our lives, that lost a bunch of weight and are right back where they started (or worse).
Today I did something I was hoping I would be able to do on this date – I registered with the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). Criteria for being on the registry is that you (as an adult) have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and kept it off for 1 or more years. Actually, all I was able to do so far was submit my contact information on their website, and I guess they will review it and send me a full packet at some point. After all of that is approved, then I will be eligible to fill out surveys, etc. online. If you aren’t familiar with this organization, here is a summary from their website:
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), established in 1994 by
Rena Wing, Ph.D. from Brown Medical School, and James O. Hill, Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance. Given the prevailing belief that few individuals succeed at long-term weight loss, the NWCR was developed to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. The NWCR is tracking over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. Detailed questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys are used to examine the behavioral and psychological characteristics of weight maintainers, as well as the strategies they use to maintaining their weight losses.
I’ve had one previous weight loss/regain episode in my life. The circumstances were different though in that I reached goal (a 40 pound weight loss, some of it pregnancy weight) and found out I was pregnant with baby #2 of 3 in the same week. I barely remember that time in my life, it was such a whirlwind and nothing really prepares you for taking care of 2 babies under the age of 2 (let alone, 3 under the age of 5). Let’s just say it is challenging to take off baby weight, much less maintain weight loss unless you really have a firm plan in place – which I did not.
I feel very fortunate that things worked out the way they did. I found a doctor (Dr. Ziltzer) and program (Optifast/Scottsdale Weight Loss Center) that I could trust and believe in. I had the support of my husband and family – not to mention a large circle of friends and acquaintances that really boosted me during the process. I had the financial stability to commit to this program. My children are in school and old enough to fend for themselves so I can take some time and take care of me. I found an exercise program I could tolerate and saw some benefit from. And, probably most of all, I felt a deep sense of commitment to myself to make this happen, even though it was difficult at times. As much as we hope, there really is no magic solution to this. It HAS to come from within…and, more importantly, the commitment has to last through time.
So, I’m happy to say that exactly one year later, I am doing it! I am officially back in the green/yellow zone (173.1 pounds) after really focusing the last few days. Just getting back into my routine quickly dropped me out of the “red zone”.
The keys to this for me?
- Find exercise you can tolerate. Very few people LOVE exercise. I would even say most people dread even putting on their exercise clothes and getting out the door. But, I think most people like how they feel after they exercise.
- Building on #1, turn the exercise into something “big”. Dream big. Make a goal that seems crazy or possibly unattainable, and work towards it. Be open to meeting new people along the way. Train with a team. Join a chat room online. You could end up thinking about this way more than what you are eating (or not eating). The weight loss becomes second nature to this newly developed exercise program. Be thinking about “what’s next?” for exercise goals.
- Don’t forget about strength training. Cardio is great but strength/weight training builds up your lean muscle mass and helps burn more calories. It also strengthens your core and makes you functionally stronger – it could help prevent injuries.
- I have found that exercise “gimmicks” work for me. I have several fitness “challenges” going at the same time. I have the ‘mile a day’ streak (currently at 466 days!), I wear a FitBit pedometer and strive to get at least 10,000 steps per day – and challenge myself against others at times, and at Koko FitClub I am working on my 8th straight month of 12+ workouts per month (averaging 3 x per week). The last one has probably been the most challenging – the strength training is very hard and I have to psych myself up to go do it. It takes me an uncomfortable breaking point sometimes, but I am seeing results from it!
- You cannot out-run or out-exercise a bad diet. In most cases, you shouldn’t “eat” your exercise calories. Exercise enhances weight loss but, from experience, 95% of it comes from what you put in your mouth. I firmly believe in exercise but the “math” of it never seems to work out in my favor…calories in vs. calories out doesn’t show up on the scale. But, long term, exercise improves how your body deals with food and helps levels out those occasional bad food choices. You can afford to have a bit more leniency in your diet (not a free pass though!)
- Weigh yourself VERY regularly. Maybe not every day, but very often. If you are not getting on the scale, you are probably avoiding something. The more you weigh yourself, the less likely the number on the scale creates a “reaction” – good or bad. Some people have a real problem with scale addiction. This might not work for everyone. But everyone should weigh themselves on a regular basis. You should have a “number” or weight zone which triggers a reaction to get back on your “plan”.
- Following up on #6, it is very easy to knock down 2-5 pounds. Stay on top of weight creep. Early and often. When all else fails, get back to what worked in the first place – either full or partial meal replacement.
- Keep close to your weight loss clinic and doctor. They want you to be successful. If things get out of hand, they can get you back on track. Attend classes, even if you have heard the material before – you might pick up new information or just get re-focused. I still see Dr. Z every month. I’ll probably start stretching the appointments out a bit further, but I won’t stop going.
- Plan your meals and keep healthier food options available. If using Optifast, keep product around. Don’t be afraid to continue to use it as a meal replacement. I’m still using Optifast one year later on a regular basis. Pack snacks so you don’t get caught somewhere and end up going through a drive-thru. I use MyFitnessPal to track my meals and snacks when I need to get things back under control again. I don’t enter my foods every day but I often eat similarly from day to day. MyFitnessPal is also handy to see what your typical protein/carb/fat balance looks like so you can make adjustments. I pay particular attention to the protein.
- In life, there are going to be inevitable crises and stressful situations that are going to rock our world. Soothing ourselves with food during this time is only going to make us feel worse. Plan now. What will you do when bad stuff happens? What will you eat? Wouldn’t it feel better to come out on the other side of a bad situation without a 10 pound weight gain? Do not let stressful times be an excuse because, for most of us, stress is never going to go away. Along those same lines, if exercise is a main component of your maintenance plan, think ahead about how you are going to handle things if you have an injury that drastically cuts back your ability to burn calories and/or build muscle.
- I highly recommend blogging. Many of the blessings in my life this past year or so have come about due to this blog – and other’s blogs – in the most unique ways (my Ragnar team being the best example). Blogging keeps you “in the game”. It keeps your weight loss journey on your mind. It keeps you accountable. Being an “inspiration” for others is a great feeling and an honor – it makes you want to protect your weight loss.
- I have no forbidden foods. I will take a bite of anything just about any day. I have learned through the years that I am usually OK with a very small portion than to deny myself something altogether. I will have a French fry from my kids’ meals – I don’t need an entire order any more. I can have a few pieces of candy or cake. The only thing I’m pretty set on not re-starting is full sugar sodas. I drink way too many diet Cokes still, but I am not going to let myself slip back into sugary drinks.
- Take care of your mental health. I learned that I ate to help with stress. The stress that caused me to overeat was not easy to identify – it seems to be related to uneasiness and procrastination of tasks at home (household chores, organization, scheduling kids, etc.). Just identifying this tendency helps to cut back on unnecessary snacking (and, therefore, extra calories) a great deal.
So, this is a long list. But, I have found that although it is a lot of “balls in the air” and can be somewhat physically and mentally exhausting to keep it all going, they all work together to create a pretty nice and full way of living. Also, if one of these areas isn’t going too well, there are other good habits in place to make up for it some. If maintenance is solely about eating and food and calories, then slipping up takes on a bigger “role” and can be defeating … quickly.
Things to still work on:
- My diet could still be improved with a wider variety of healthy grains and vegetables.
- I could stand to “even out” my eating a bit – I’m pretty steady during the week but can eat too many calories over the weekend and then play catch up during the following week. I tend to get a bit too far over goal 2 weeks before my weigh-in and then reign it in during the weeks before.
- I drink more Diet Coke than water some days. I need to drink several glasses of water before reaching for a soda.
- I need to feed my kids better and healthier meals and reduce the volume of high/empty calorie snacks in our house.
What have I gained through all of this?
- My health and, more importantly, I have dropped the fear that I am not doing all that I could do to prevent a preventable disease. I lived in fear before, plain and simple.
- Self confidence in terms of how I look and how I think others perceive me. But with more comfort in doing activities, I gain confidence in myself. I also have a bit more confidence with each passing week that I actually can maintain this weight loss. I’m not scared, but I have to remain vigilant. Every time I knock myself back down to the green zone from the ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ zone, I realize that this can be done.
- I have a wardrobe of clothes that I love and that are the same size (12) and fit me. I don’t have any “fat” clothes or clothes that are too small. This is my one wardrobe. Everything else has been given away to friends or donated. I look forward to getting dressed usually, not dreading it.
- I am a “runner”. I am not fast. I don’t love it. But I love everything that comes with it. I like to talk about it, I like to set goals and meet them, I like the clothes, I like the people who run. Most of all, I love the experiences – especially Ragnar – that I am now able to do. My life is 10x fuller this year because of running alone.
So, there you have it. I hope that one year from now I am still in the same spot. Moving forward I plan to continue to work on the muscle/fat ratio, and that might possibly mean dropping my weight goal down 5-10 pounds. I haven’t identified my fitness goal for the coming year but I do have a few running related events planned so I’ll need to keep that up to some extent. I’m still interested in trying swimming and when it cools off again next fall/winter, I’m really hoping to give tennis a serious “swing” again. Best of all, I’m optimistic. With each passing successful week, I gain confidence that I can really do this.