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Has anyone ever truly lost weight and kept it off?
December 17, 2008 3:17 PM   Subscribe

What kind of hope is there for the average person to lose weight and keep it off when someone like Oprah who has personal trainers and personal nutritionists and personal chefs and personal minders and more money than God can't manage to do it?

I never used to be a heavy girl. I ate terribly, but I exercised at the gym every day, and I was slim and fit regardless. But then I moved, and I got older, and I put on close to 80 pounds in a decade. I have watched people all around me struggle to lose weight and then they put it all back on plus more. I can't even motivate myself to try because it looks like I'm just setting myself up for disappointment--I'd have to radically change how I eat (learning to cook, for a start, which is a whole other hurdle). I keep reading that none of it works anyway, and everyone has a "set point" or something, and only 5% of people manage to keep weight off after losing it.

Canned milkshakes are gross. I sat in on a Weight Watchers meeting once and I felt like I was in a cult. I'm at my wit's end.

Has anyone here managed to lose real weight and never gain it back?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (74 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Focus on losing it now, not losing it and keeping it off. Once you've successfully lost the weight you want to lose, then focus on sustaining that weight. Don't watch Oprah.
posted by nitsuj at 3:32 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Start by going back to the gym. I've lost about 40 pounds at the climbing gym over the past year and I haven't changed my diet.
posted by foodgeek at 3:33 PM on December 17, 2008


Oprah probably partook in the nonsense she pushes, got herself on a fad/crash/useless diet, and wound up gaining all her weight back (and then some).

I managed to lose weight, and 5 years later I haven't gained it back. Changed my diet, changed my activity level, and stuck to it all.
posted by aleahey at 3:33 PM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not to be snarky, but this is a question only you can answer. If you eat right, take in less calories, and burn more calories on a daily basis, you will lose weight. Burning more calories than you eat sheds weight.No two ways about it.

The question is can you make such a sweeping change in your life and stick to it? Those who can, lose weight, those who can't, don't.
posted by jckll at 3:33 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The key is that you don't think of your new diet/exercise regimen/whatever as losing weight, but simply being healthy. "Losing weight" is a task that you can finish, and then, oh, what the heck, I can eat a whole chocolate cake because I lost the weight! I can stay on the couch the whole weekend because I lost the weight! "Being healthy," on the other hand, means, yeah, you have to keep walking farther and faster than you think you can after a dinner that isn't nearly as much food as you're capable of eating or would like to. Sorry, but that's pretty much the way it is. Yes, it sucks. It really sucks at the start, too. But it gets easier.

And sometimes, it's damn well impossible. I end every Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season feeling fat and logy and disgusted with myself. So I get back on the exercise regimen, and I get back to the healthy food, and I feel better soon enough.

Oh, and get rid of the scale. Healthy has nothing to do with whether you weigh 115 pounds vs. 110. If you're losing weight in a healthy manner, then your clothes will be looser, you'll be able to exercise longer, and you'll be sleeping better. I have not the faintest idea how much I weigh. The only time I ever find out is at the doctor's, and I forget as soon as I leave. I'm happier and more satisfied with myself for it.
posted by Etrigan at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2008 [19 favorites]


One of my best friends used to be really heavy as a youth. Now he runs four miles every day and you'd have no idea he used to be chunky.
posted by Kirklander at 3:35 PM on December 17, 2008


Seth Roberts claims to have done this. Get his book (The Shangri-La Diet) and give it a try. It is cheap and does not have any serious side effects. Roberts' hypothesis specifically addresses the set point issue -- in fact, his plan claims to work by lowering your set point. After over a year on the plan, I'm still working on getting the weight off, but the 50 pounds I've lost are still gone and the only time I've gained any back is when I've gone off the plan. (Yes, if it works for you, you will probably have to continue to do it for the rest of your life, but this is not impractical, as are Atkins and other plans.)
posted by kindall at 3:35 PM on December 17, 2008


Man! I swear I was thinking this exact same thing while brushing my teeth this morning.

I know this probably doesn't answer your question (and I have actually gained back half the weight I lost a few years ago) but I think one can start by not obssessing about it. Making small changes is easier than the "Oprah Boot Camp," or "Eat Like Oprah for 900 Days" plan.

I'm in the Weight Watchers cult (and I escape periodically only to be called right back). I also will cut back sometimes and drink those nasty shakes as a meal replacement. (It's the holidays. I know I'm going to eat bad food at work all day so that means: No skipping the gym and a Slim Fast shake and banana or orange for breakfast.) If I go drinking on Saturday night, no alcohol with dinner for the week. It's not punishment but I like my health and my wardrobe.

Finally, I think there's acceptance. I'm a huge Oprah fan but I wish she would shut up about her ass size. I mean, really. The woman has single-handedly changed the publishing industry, has a cultlike following and encourages people to do good works. Does she really need to have a hot bod too? Noo ... Besides, she's cute with a little meat on her bones (and so am I for that matter.)

Hopefully others will .... uh ... answer your question directly.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:36 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Focus on functionality, not the number on the scale. Perhaps it would have helped Oprah to focus on not losing the ability to run a marathon, 5K, whatever, instead of the ability to squeeze into single-digit sizes? You have so much more control over developing and maintaining your aerobic health.
posted by availablelight at 3:37 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course people have lost weight and kept it off. People have also don't other incredibly uncommon things, like hold their breath underwater for 15 minutes or eat 53 hot dogs in 5 minutes.

Maybe I'm harping on this too much in AskMe, but you might want to look into Health at Every Size:
1) Exercise is good for you. It has tremendous health benefits beyond just losing weight.
2) Eating balanced meals is good for you (yes, that might mean learning how to cook!). Fixing delicious, healthy (not "low fat" or "low carb" or whatever) meals can be an enormous pleasure.
3) Ask yourself: Why do you really want to lose weight in the first place? Will it really "fix" anything in your life?

Maybe when you move the goal from "losing weight" to "leading a healthy, active lifestyle", you'll find more motivation to do those things that make your body feel good.
posted by muddgirl at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Some of the answers I got in this thread might be useful to you.

FWIW, I lost about a stone and a half about four years ago and have never put it back on. I think the ''secret'' was that I focused on the behaviours that had put on the weight (non stop stress/misery eating) and took very slow baby steps to change those behaviours.

Also, I've always wanted to read Thin for Life. You might be able to get an idea of what it says are the keys to long-term weight loss from the contents.

And the National Weight Control Registry tracks, it says, 5000 people who've lost weight and keept it off. That's a tiny number compared to the number who *try* to loose weight. But 5000 is not insignificant.

Re Oprah, as well as every resource in the world, I imagine she's under a tremendous amount of pressure and strain which wouldn't be a big help with overeating, I'd think. Swings and roundabouts no?
posted by t0astie at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2008


What kind of hope is there for the average person to lose weight and keep it off?

You are not a statistic. Even if the science says that x% of people can't maintain weight loss, that needn't include you. It's like setting yourself to fail before you begin. There are lighter options in fast food and frozen meals. Educate yourself on how many calories you should eat and keep doing that. Exercise daily. There you have it. Guaranteed success.

I lost 40 pounds about three years ago and noticed that I was regaining the weight each semester of study (stress=overeating) and decided to do something about that. Now I count everything I eat, and it's no biggy, because I have a spreadsheet on my desktop. So 3 years on, I'm at the weight I achieved then. Because of this, I believe I can achieve even better weight goals.

I've talked to a bunch of people who have stayed slim, and successful slimmers and the gist in the end is this - you have to watch what you put in your mouth. Nobody gets a free ride on booze or chocolate or cake or bacon etc. If you have something especially high in calories, eat less until your balance sheet evens out.
posted by b33j at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you don't want to do it, don't.

That seems to be what you're asking. Should you feel obligated to work your ass off to lose weight?

Yo-yo dieting is bad for you, and losing weight can be a huge pain in the ass, and yeah, a lot of people gain the weight back.

Maybe think about what losing weight would do for you and whether it's really worth it. I would suspect that for you it's not.

I personally am not at the "ideal" weight for my height, but I can do all the activities I like, including lots of physical activities, and I have no problem attracting, erm, activity partners. (Wink, nudge.) I don't have diabetes or any other health conditions that would be improved by weight loss. So I really don't feel a lot of motivation to lose weight. I have other things to do. I suspect your situation is similar.

I do think you should make an effort to learn to cook a few more delicious, healthy meals, if only because it'll make you feel better to eat high quality food.

Once I started eating more healthy food, I started feeling a lot better and craving nutritious food, so it was really easy to maintain. I still crave Doritos occasionally, or whatever, I buy a small package of Doritos, eat it, and move on. No big deal. And because I'm not trying to weight, I can focus on deliciousness instead of caloric content.

I also think you should try to avoid putting on weight if you can, if only because it's a lot easier than losing weight--and that way you won't have to buy new clothes.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:48 PM on December 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


And MuddGirl is completely correct.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:54 PM on December 17, 2008


The average person has no hope. That's because the average diet and activity level are currently so counter to anything that humans have ever experienced. If you gain weight easily, you will have to permanently change your thinking and your lifestyle away from the social norms to something that the average person would never consider. You'll need to go back to eating whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, etc. the way humans used to eat. You'll need to start using your body again the way is was intended to be, by playing sports, lifting heavy weights, running, swimming, etc. at least a few times a week. If you do those two things, you'll lose weight.

The hard part is making those changes and sticking to them while surrounded by 99% of people who either don't care about being overweight or who don't want to make those changes. Often they will sabotage you (subconciously or not) by pressuring you to celebrate a coworker's birthday with cake and ice cream or stay a little longer at work and skip the gym. If you can dodge enough of those attempts (with the occasional concession to not ostracize people too much), it will work.
posted by Durin's Bane at 3:57 PM on December 17, 2008


Has anyone here managed to lose real weight and never gain it back?

Yep - I lost 50 kilograms or so, and that's six or seven years ago now, so I'm past the infamous five-year mark. However: back in my fatter days I didn't exercise at all, and I ate an awful lot. You know the stereotype "eats all day, hides chocolate around the house, can't run around the block and wouldn't if she could" fat person? The one most fat people are not in fact like? Mm, that was me. I would regularly eat a kilogram of chocolate and cookies in a day, and rarely less than 200 grams. At least once a week, lunch would be a chicken burger and french fries from one fast food shop, and then the same from the place next door (so nobody would see me eating two burgers and make sneery fat-person comments).

I am not well-read in weight-loss research, but perhaps many of the people who lose significant amounts of weight and don't regain it are similar: people who were really only maintaining their higher weight with quite a lot of effort. It does seem like a bad idea to count on being one of the Few Exciting Super-Special Exceptions when there's no particular reason to believe you would be; the effort involved in trying to lose weight is not trivial, the benefits are debatable, the chances of being an exception are statistically low, and the process can horribly mess up your attitude to food, activity and your own body and worth.
posted by severalbees at 3:59 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just some comments.

Whether you can "keep off" weight depends on a great number of things: Your metabolism, your anatomy, your activity level, what kind of food you're taking in, etc. Your body trains itself over time in some of these. And weight typically doesn't come off very quickly.

To be "healthy" (to keep off the weight, to lose it) might be a lifelong commitment for you. I know for me, it is more of a challenge due to metabolic factors and disorders, but I work out about an hour and a half every day and it's been very good for my overall health. The other thing you need to understand, that many people do not, is that being healthy doesn't necessarily mean losing weight (although the two are often correlated).

This whole "people can't keep off weight" I don't think is as true as people suggest it is -- I think a lot of people start off with bad mindsets, bad diet plans, and the wrong reasons. Not that mine is any better, but I started off with a "my whole family has GI problems, i'm heading rapidly towards diabetes, i'm 5'11" and 280 at 25" mindset. I'm 29 now and far, far healthier than I think I might have been otherwise had I not started paying attention.

Also, keep in mind that exercise is a pretty variable thing. Yoga is very different than running five miles every day. Both may not help you lose the same amount of weight, but doing things you love helps the commitment process to your own health. I had a really hard time giving up Pepsi, so I didn't give it up. :-)
posted by arimathea at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2008


Type-2 diabetes is pretty common among American blacks, and it wouldn't be surprising if Oprah suffered from it at least partially. Type-2 diabetes tends to cause near-permanent weight gain.
posted by Class Goat at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2008


Type-2 diabetes tends to cause near-permanent weight gain.
That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard today ... and totally not true. And I would think a woman who is a billionaire could afford the test for Type 2 diabetes. Please don't misinform.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 4:09 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not being one of the richest and most powerful people in the world, surrounded by leagues of sycophants assuring you that you are perfect just the way you are, should be a distinct advantage.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2008


It sounds like you didn't have weight issues in your youth, so you probably don't have genetics that you'll really need to battle against; that alone should make it much easier.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:26 PM on December 17, 2008


What kind of hope is there for the average person to lose weight and keep it off when someone like Oprah who has personal trainers and personal nutritionists and personal chefs and personal minders and more money than God can't manage to do it?

It takes enormous amounts of discipline combined with an intense desire to change.

Discipline can't be bought, and I doubt Oprah has much desire to change.

I mean, heck, I'd be a fat black woman tomorrow if you paid me however many trillions of dollars she has.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:27 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dr. Michael Eades, author of Protein Power and proponent of low-carb diets, blogged about Oprah a couple days ago here. He offers an interesting possibility that she is insulin resistant and would do well on a low-carb diet.
posted by Durin's Bane at 4:39 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Like every single other response here, I can't give you a really good example of someone who has succeeded in keeping off a whole lot of weight. I will say this, though:

I think that Oprah's very full life may have something to do with it. Some people probably have to really focus on being healthy in order to be healthy. I know that my healthiest times have been those when I've had the fewest other things in my life: I had one main goal (which required me to be healthy), and most other things fell by the wayside. I was very self-centered and not that productive _except in this one area_.

So, as they say, it's a matter of priorities.
posted by amtho at 4:40 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The National Weight Control Registry keeps track of this.

I was pretty fat for a long time. One day I Googled "calorie requirements" and "calorie counts" and I have found it only moderately difficult, with some ups and downs since.

It's just math, and diet and exercise. Like everyone says. Everyone wants it to be something other than that, but that's what it is.

The points Muddgirl and Sondriliac made are good ones. You can be healthy and overweight. You can be unhealthy and skinny. What's right for you is the point where you feel good about yourself and do the things you enjoy, feel good in your clothes, and live in accordance with your values.

If it's a big deal for you to lose weight, it's a Google search away. If you want to get happy with your body, and take this pressure off yourself, you can do that too. You have a choice.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on December 17, 2008


True, weighing less is not an indicator of health. And being healthy ought to be the goal.

But being thin/fit/trim can be a laudable goal too- if someone wants to be healthy and also look good in spandex, I don't think it's helpful to question their motivations.

It takes a LOT of hard work and will power. Along with healthy diet (meat, eggs, veggies and fruits) and cardio, building muscle is key. Don't worry about looking muscular, I guarantee you'll be fit and look the way you want to long before you start looking like Charles Atlas. Once you get to your goal, simply maintain. Continue the exercise and healthy eating, content in knowing that you can have the occasional treat (or gulttonous meal in my case) because you know how to work it off.
posted by gjc at 4:47 PM on December 17, 2008


I recently found out I lost about 40 lbs over the past 5 years. (Keep in mind I am ~6'4" so this is, relatively, not quite as much as you'd think at first.) I certainly prefer the lower weight, but I WAS NOT EVEN SPECIFICALLY TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT. I was but slightly overweight and I say "recently found out" because while it was obvious I lost weight I hadn't bothered standing on a scale in those five years. (I also think watching your weight so closely isn't a useful tactic. Merely drinking a pint of water increases your weight by 1 pound temporarily.) I just improved the healthiness of my lifestyle.

For me:

Live your day-to-day, if not your entire, life without a car, using self-powered transport such as walking, a bicycle, a skateboard, or whatever you'd like, possibly in conjunction with public transportation. You get to combine exercise with a more pleasant commute, saving money, and increased sustainability.

Minimize highly processed foods and sugar water drinks. You will enjoy better-tasting food as well!

That's all I did. You see how I set it up not as a difficult thing, but as an easy thing?

People's concept of this often seems implicitly to be "Unhealthy aspects of my lifestyle have made me fat. I shall live a healthier (or at least weight-losing) lifestyle until I am less fat. Then I shall return to the lifestyle which made me fat, but somehow I will not become fat again." Obviously that doesn't work.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:52 PM on December 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


There's one really important area where you can choose to have a distinct advantage over Oprah: attitude toward physical activity.

Oprah has said MANY times on her show that she despises exercise. Hates it, it's a chore, only does it because she "has" to. I've always thought this was a huge contributor toward her failure to keep the weight off.

I also don't believe she ever thought that the changes to her eating habits were permanent. Like many people, she completely eliminated foods that she knew she could not give up permanently, and waited until she hit her goal weight to start eating them again, thinking she could maintain, once she just lost those pounds.

Learn to love some type of exercise. Running, swimming, dance, rowing, inline skating, triathlon, traditional "aerobics", kickboxing. It doesn't have to be hours of mindless "cardio" each week. Or team sports! Soccer, basketball - there are tons of adult leagues everywhere.

Good luck! I know you can do it. Plus, learn to cook regardless. It's fun, satisfying, and cheaper than the alternative.
posted by peep at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


The most important thing you can do is focus on making gradual lifestyle changes. That will be the easiest way to maintain your "diet." Just don't think of it as a diet. Make it part of your daily routine. Eventually, it'll feel wrong to eat fast food/drink soda/snack on cookies and chips. Don't try to go from 5 fast food meals a week to none, but instead try cutting it back to 2 or 3 at first and work your way down.

Also, it's not too hard to learn how to cook. Make that a priority. It's often as simple as knowing what ingredients to mix together. I don't know any difficult cooking techniques, but I can make a few dishes that taste great simply by throwing the right ingredients into a pan on the stove. There are plenty of resources online that teach you how to cook for yourself. Check out allrecipes.com. Try to learn a few recipes there and incorporate them into your diet. If you run into a recipe with steps you don't understand, do a youtube search (there are multiple videos, for example, teaching how to beat egg whites). If it looks too hard, just move along and find a simpler recipe. If you can turn on the oven, you can cook something.

Last, it sounds like you don't exercise anymore. Start it up again. Just do it once a week at first. Do whatever works for you. Try a less-intense version of the exercise that you used to do at the gym when you worked our routinely. Or perhaps join a class with people that are in your fitness range.

Keep gradually changing your lifestyle until you eat mostly homecooked meals, exercise 3 times a week, and don't have any unhealthy snacks in the house. Eventually you will be living a radically different lifestyle, but you don't have to make those radical changes all at once. Ease into it, and it'll be easier to stick with.
posted by Team of Scientists at 5:06 PM on December 17, 2008


As someone upthread said, weighing yourself regularly is a terrible way to lose weight; so I don't know how many pounds I lost, but I did go from a size 14 to a size 4 over the course of about 2 years, back in 2001, simply by exercising regularly (I run 4 miles 3 times a week, and go to a pilates mat class twice a week) and eating whole foods. I really didn't eat much less at first, because I thought it was unrealistic, but now I definitely eat less than I used to (and doing so contributed almost entirely to the last bit of size-change -- maybe 2 dress sizes?).

To be honest, it's been a mixed blessing. I'm actually far *more* body-conscious (and guilty about food) now than I was when I was larger; and I have a perverse feminist resentment of how much more positively people who don't know me react to me (from getting favors from service employees to getting partners at a swing dance) now that I'm more conventionally attractive.

But more importantly, at the end of the day, I feel better both physically and emotionally; I have learned how to cook (a little, I don't really enjoy it that much) but also how to order healthily in restaurants (because let's face it, eating out is more fun); and I can find more things that fit me in thrift stores. And it's those lasting benefits that have made me stay this size, for sure (yes, even -- maybe even mostly -- that last shallow one).
posted by obliquicity at 5:09 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Others have said this already, in different words, but: the only person who can determine whether or not you lose weight is you. I have no concept of what level of serious commitment and will Oprah has brought to the game, but the fact is that no amount of material resources can help one with this sort of a goal if one does not approach it with utmost seriousness and commitment.

I won't argue with those who say there are a subset of humans who have intense trouble losing weight and keeping it off for physiological reasons (as there are those very few lucky bastards who have wonderfully fast metabolisms and naturally sculpted physiques until they're 65, but who cares about them? Most of us are in the middle of the bell curve) but the fact remains that, for the vast majority of us, getting and--more critically--staying in good shape is fucking hard, and if you want to do it, you have to fight for it and be committed to it, and that's all there is to it. You don't need a ton of money, vast armies of personal trainers, etc. You just need commitment and a plan.
posted by dubitable at 5:25 PM on December 17, 2008


when someone like Oprah who has personal trainers and personal nutritionists and personal chefs and personal minders

Do people really believe this?

I'm here to say don't believe it. That's all. Good luck keeping the weight off.
posted by Zambrano at 5:26 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was also going to link the Protein Power post that Durin's Bane linked. I'm not sure I totally agree with everything said there, but Oprah has totally shitty advisers when it comes to diet and exercise. I also personally believe that she has a financial interest to yo-yo diet like every other average American woman of her age; it gives her things to sell and makes her seem more like a real person.
You can lose the weight if you want to lose the weight. The most important thing to do if you really intend to lose it and keep it off is to lose it via permanent lifestyle changes. Don't make Oprah's mistakes and crash diet with nonsense fads.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:27 PM on December 17, 2008


Oh, and I'm always ranting about this on Ask MeFi, but stop worrying about losing weight, specifically, and think about losing excess body fat. This won't necessarily correlate to body weight. Weight isn't the best metric for getting either attractive or physically fit.
posted by dubitable at 5:28 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


if someone wants to be healthy and also look good in spandex, I don't think it's helpful to question their motivations.

Except this implies that fat people can't look good in spandex, which is part of the whole "self-acceptance" thing that keeps fat people from, say, buying proper gear to comfortably ride on a bike. Once you drop the whole "fat people look bad wearing X" or "fat people look funny-ha-ha doing Y", it becomes a lot more likely that you will wear X and do Y, and perhaps you'll look hot and feel pretty darn good.
posted by muddgirl at 5:29 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind that getting healthy depends - in Oprah's case - on Oprah, not on her trainers and nutritionists and what not. So, you don't have any worse of chance of losing weight because you don't have an entourage.
posted by ignignokt at 5:30 PM on December 17, 2008


I'm pretty average, and I've managed to keep 50-or-so pounds off for about two years. I'm still fat, but I'm less fat than I was. So, yes, the average person can lose weight and keep it off.

Now, I'd go into the specifics, but they may or may not apply to you. Everyone's different; you need to find what works for you.
posted by lekvar at 5:41 PM on December 17, 2008


The only reason I gained part of my weight back is I started eating a lot of crap again. While I was losing the weight I allowed myself small portions of things like ice cream and such and still lost weight, so I had no one to blame but myself.

Just started a new job, I am very busy (and it is an active job) and I am losing weight without really trying.

As for Oprah, you gotta remember that just because she has the trainers and cooks and money doesn't mean she doesn't wanna eat for comfort reasons or for stress reduction. Maybe if she just relaxed and did stuff in moderation (and quit expecting herself to be our role model for weight loss) she'd be fine.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:50 PM on December 17, 2008


the drill sargent's perspective:

losing weight is easy. in fact, it's one of the easiest things in life to do. there is a direct, unbreakable relationship between the number of calories you consume and the number you burn. if you reduce the former and increase the latter (healthily), you will lose weight.

what's hard is overcoming your own rationalization of the notion that it's hard, that you can't do it, that being fat is inevitable. how long would you stay employed if you applied the logic in your question to your work life? "sorry, i can't take that assignment because it looks too hard, and i'm just going to fail anyway..." would an intelligent, determined woman like oprah be where she is now if she said, "well none of my friends can get off welfare, so there's no point in me trying."

having a bad diet and gaining weight aren't things that happen to you. they represent the cumulative effect of decisions you make. everything you put in your mouth you do because you make a conscious, rational decision to do it. every time you turn on the TV rather than going for a walk, every time you drive to work instead of riding your bike, every time you eat a hamburger instead of a salad you make a choice to harm yourself.

your question reads like you want people to say, "yeah, you're right. there's really nothing you can do." well, that's rubbish. and it's a good thing too.

there are no quick fixes. stop reading self-help books and go to your doctor. there are only three things you need to do:

1) find out what healthy food is and how to make it.
2) figure out how much food to eat and eat it.
3) exercise.

#3, if you keep it up will change your body, making it possible for you to eat more while burning more calories. your body will become more efficient. you'll feel better. you'll look better. you'll live longer.

my diet is pretty bad too, and i'm the classic endomorph. but i keep my weight under control by exercising. when i slow down, i get fat. when i intensify, i slim down. it happens quickly and the benefits of exercise are shockingly clear once you learn to understand your body. plus, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

it sounds simplistic because it's simple: just do it.
posted by klanawa at 5:54 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't go to the gym or have a personal trainer, I'm dead broke, and I'm "my own nutritionist." I think education is key - start with Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" for a crash course.

I did manage to lose about 40 lbs in 2003 and have kept most of it off ever since, after changing my eating habits permanently (no sugar, few grains, high protein).

But it's not easy. I struggle with it every day, debating what I can and cannot eat.
posted by chez shoes at 5:55 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I watch what I eat to a certain extent (avoid bakery/trans fat items) but my salvation in terms of keeping my weight in normal range for my height is jogging.
You don't have to look good or go fast - just put on a baseball cap, baggy tee or sweatshirt and some pants and get out there and go.
First you can walk, then you can go a tad faster, and on and on.
Start out with a block or more and gradually increase your distance.
You will begin to feel so good about yourself and see progress each week plus its great for a sense of psychological well being.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 6:08 PM on December 17, 2008


I want to encourage you, because until two years ago, I'd been overweight my whole life. I just thought it was in my genes, that I was destined to be pudgy. No problem with that, except we live in a society that likes to give women shit for their pudge. I can't tell you how FREEING it is to be rid of all those neuroses about clothes, my body, and food. The single most astonishing moment of my life came when I was sitting opposite a new friend at a restaurant, buttering my spinach, and she asked me how the hell I stayed so thin. Whoa. New world and all that.

I can't even motivate myself to try because it looks like I'm just setting myself up for disappointment--I'd have to radically change how I eat (learning to cook, for a start, which is a whole other hurdle).

You've already figured out the hard part, which is that you're totally right -- if you want your body to look radically different, you have to do something radically different. But you have to like the change, because you are what you eat: if you go back to your old habits, you will go back to your old weight. Oprah doesn't gain weight again because she sticks to her diet. She gains it because her diet is hard to stick to.

The final ingredient for losing weight is faith, I think: faith in yourself and faith in the way you eat. The process of changing your diet is challenging, but ideally it should make you feel better, both mentally and physically, even while you are losing. If the food makes you feel good, you can focus on that feeling as a reward of its own. Meanwhile, relearning how to eat, learning how to cook (as I had to), becomes an adventure, rather than a chore. It absorbed me when the weight loss was ongoing but slow.

I keep reading that none of it works anyway, and everyone has a "set point" or something, and only 5% of people manage to keep weight off after losing it.

I thought this too. My body disproved me, in the end. I now weigh less than I did in ninth grade (seventeen years ago).

I have deliberately refrained from posting what I did to lose the weight, because 1) I know I am a bit of a nut in thinking that the way I eat is the only right way to eat, because 2) I know people who have lost weight in other ways, according to different nutritional philosophies, and seem pretty happy with themselves. But in case you're interested, I once posted about it here.
posted by artemisia at 6:12 PM on December 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


If you're happy why bother? If you think you can get happy in some easier more sustainable way than losing weight, again, why bother? If only losing weight would make you happy, then self acceptance and therapy might be useful.

I don't fully mean, why bother? If you want to - being thin is fun. I didn't grow up thin but I'm pretty thin now. I'm not counting on it lasting forever but it's super fun to shop this way, etc.

But I'm kind of convinced that losing weight is like being popular in high school - it only happens if you don't *really* care. When your life is full and happy then adding in a bit of exercise and cutting out a bit of food doesn't feel like a big deal and it can add up and end you up thinner. Otherwise, it can take over your life. Apparently to some people tracking every calorie on a spreadsheet doesn't feel like your life being taken over - but that's a big difference from happy eating, imo. And yeah, given the risks of yo-yo dieting, the unpleasantness of dieting, and the ease of gaining it back, then I say again, if you can be happy and feel sexy without dieting, why bother....
posted by Salamandrous at 6:13 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


All of Oprah's money can buy her chefs and personal trainers and nutritionists, but it can't buy her willpower. Which is fabulous - because it can't buy yours either.

Weight loss, on the most part, is simple. Expend more calories than you consume and then continue a healthy calorie/exercise balance while you are maintaining your weight. I lost a hella lotta of pounds this way - 6 years later I'm the same weight. I found the willpower to do it - how you will find yours is something only you can answer.
posted by meerkatty at 6:20 PM on December 17, 2008


An opportunity to wax eponysterical...

Speaking as someone who as tried and failed, I haven't the slightest doubt it can be done. And there's no mystery about how to do it. The path lies straight and clear before our feet. I suspect what they say of quitting smoking is also true here: once you really want to do it, it's relatively easy.

As yet, apparently, I don't really want to do it. Maybe I will some day, maybe not. But I'll always know that the only thing standing in my way is me.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:35 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I lost 30lbs or so about 4 years ago, with no fad diets, just a few lifestyle changes. I started running and doing yoga, and ate better (6" sub instead of 12", generally smaller portions, whole wheat instead of white). I mostly just do yoga now and try to continue eating well, and I haven't had any trouble keeping it off.

I'd like to tell you it was more difficult than that, but that's pretty much it. I still have a latte or two a week, and occasionally I'll have a soda, but probably not more than once or twice a month.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:37 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have friends who have lost weight. They did so by eating less, replacing sugar and grains with green vegetables, and exercising.
posted by schroedinger at 6:53 PM on December 17, 2008


Oprah was also severely sexually abused as a child. I don't know if this is your issue or not but that adds another aspect to the problem that I don't know how well she has confronted. People who have experienced child trauma have dysregulated stress systems and that may contribute to weight problems.

Also, people who were sexually abused in particular sometimes use weight as a "defense" against sexuality in order to protect themselves from being seen as a sexual object and/or to protect themselves from the relationship issues that they would face as sexual beings.

Oprah seems to be a woman whose whole life is dedicated to work-- she's not married and some people say she's gay but it's my sense that she's almost "asexual" in terms of devoting all her time and energy to work rather than relationships and that could be part of the weight thing, too.

My point in all this is that if you *were* sexually abused or traumatized as a kid, if you haven't looked at how that may be driving your eating, you probably won't be able to keep weight off long term. It's like an addiction-- it's driven by pain and so if you don't address the source of the pain, you're going to continue to seek escape from it.

OTOH, if you *don't* have that issue, that may be why it's harder for Oprah than for others.
posted by Maias at 7:03 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's a pretty old but nevertheless relevant article about the ambiguous numbers around weight loss recidivism.

The responses to this question are wildly divergent. Google search around stuff like "weight loss recidivism" or "percent regain lost weight" and you'll see stuff all over the map. I tried to get my head around it a bit when trying to figure out if the whole "fat acceptance" thing was at least partly a load of crap, I never did feel like I came anywhere near a definitive answer.

Does "anyone" do it? Certainly. Without a doubt. Probably not the majority. Diets as such don't seem to work. There's little question too that some people are genetic and/or psychological "hard cases," so something like the Oprah example isn't really relevant. The vet told me to make my cats lose weight, I took away a third of their food. They bitch all the time now but they'll live longer, I guess. There's nothing they can do about it without thumbs. Paying someone a bunch of money to tell you the obvious won't stop you from making bad decisions.

Learning to eat healthily and getting proper exercise are worthwhile ends in themselves, incidentally, from a health, well-being and longevity perspective. I'll never be skinny and I can accept that but people who can't cook? Now that makes me sad.
posted by nanojath at 7:03 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Has anyone here managed to lose real weight and never gain it back?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer to this is pretty much, 'no', which is exactly why even a billionaire like Oprah can't do it.

Everyone here needs to read this New York Times article from last year which is the most devastating argument I've every encountered on the subject.

In short, we have controlled experiments in hospitals where we can make fat people thin with a tremendous amount of work, and controlled experiments in prisons where we can make thin people fat with an even tremendous-ier amount of work. And almost without exception the fat people quickly regain their weight, and the thin people quickly lose their weight once these experiments end. Those who don't return to their previous weight are often people like Jared from the Subway commercials, whose livelihood revolves around not getting fat again. Their whole life has to be defined by not getting fat again, for it to happen.

The reason for this is this: Outside of a weight range of about 10 to 20 pounds your body has a weight it wants you to be, and it will actively force you to be this weight by regulating your appetites and your metabolism, putting you at a state that is physiologically and psychologically similar to the feeling of starvation. Your body will torture you night and day as if you were a yogi starving himself in the desert.

I think people with super-human will-power have more luck permanently altering their innate sexuality than their waistline, and yet I would never tell a homosexual that they can change if they just put in the effort. I think it's ridiculous to expect people to have such unreasonable amounts of will-power that they can win a war of attrition against their own fucking body!
posted by dgaicun at 7:22 PM on December 17, 2008 [11 favorites]


If you want an example, I'm one. I crept up over several years and starting 2 years ago it took me 6 months to take off 50 lbs and I've kept it off - no problem - since. Not the longest track record, but I feel pretty stable now. I'm 41 but I'm now the same size as I was when I was 25 and much more athletic (rugby and alpine skiing).

I did it strictly through portion control and not being stupid about food. I still at steak, but instead of a 300g steak with a side of fries, half a baguette and a fat caesar salad I'd have a much smaller steak with just a couple of fries and a lighter salad. That kind of thing.
posted by mikel at 7:23 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


In short, we have controlled experiments in hospitals where we can make fat people thin with a tremendous amount of work, and controlled experiments in prisons where we can make thin people fat with an even tremendous-ier amount of work. And almost without exception the fat people quickly regain their weight, and the thin people quickly lose their weight once these experiments end.

Did they correct for attitude? Isn't that the whole point?
posted by gjc at 8:28 PM on December 17, 2008


dgaicun: I think people with super-human will-power have more luck permanently altering their innate sexuality than their waistline

FYI, wrong.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:39 PM on December 17, 2008


It can be done. I had always been heavy growing up, but about 7 years ago I had kind of an epiphany and lost close to 100 pounds in less than a year. 7 years on, I have maintained the weight loss and fluctuate within about a 5 pound range. I fall squarely in the 'normal' weight category for my height. I know, I KNOW, that I will never, ever gain the weight back.

How did I do it? Seriously, just diet and exercise. My epiphany was that I was in control of my body, and that every single morning, I had the ability to make choices that affected my body. Every morning was a new opportunity to start being healthier, or to continue on the path to illness and unhappiness. I hated that I was fat, that I couldn't walk without being winded, that I couldn't wear cute clothes and that none of the guys I liked found me attractive. I told myself I couldn't lose the weight, without ever really putting in honest effort. When I realized that I was choosing to keep myself fat, I set about changing it. I started "running," which mainly consisted of walking with short bouts of jogging. I started keeping a food journal, which helped me realize how bad my nutrition was, and also helped me to slowly start making better food choices. I also weighed myself every day and took my measurements frequently, because good progress was great motivation, and if the numbers went up, well, that was great motivation too.

I know it's not the most original advice, but I hope my story inspires you. I am not a superfreak who works out twelve hours a day and only drinks kelp, I am a real, normal person who lost mad weight and has kept it off. Yes, it was a lifestyle switch that required making changes and committing to it, but no, it wasn't impossible and I don't regret it for a second. Good luck!
posted by Bella Sebastian at 9:05 PM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


dgaicun: if the OP was slim for much of her life, and then put on so much weight, what exactly is the weight her body wants her to be? She says she used to exercise but doesn't anymore. We don't know anything about what she eats exactly, other than that she doesn't think she eats well. In these controlled experiments you're talking about, you say that the thin people gain their weight back and the fat people drop their weight off--but you don't say if the controlled experiments were continued, or ended. If they had a massive change in eating and exercise imposed, and then taken away, of course they're going to gain the weight back.

My advice is just to make tiny changes over time, as so many above have said. A study published last year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine said far more people are keeping their lost weight off than in the past, due to fewer people using fad diets and more understanding the idea of changing eating habits and getting more exercise, and that it's not temporary, but permanent. You can read about it here.
posted by tzikeh at 9:07 PM on December 17, 2008


FWIW, Oprah still weighs significantly less at 54 than she did in her late 30s - not exactly easy years to stay in shape for most women.

Don't give up, sweetie...focus on small gradual steps just like Team of Scientists said.
posted by txvtchick at 10:01 PM on December 17, 2008


Well, I've struggled to lose weight for a long time myself. I was a skinny teen, but gradually filled out until I was 210 ... 230 ... and I just kept going. A steady diet of Doritos and soda combined with a stressful tech support job and all-night Team Fortress didn't help any and I hit 290.

At which point I developed fuzzy vision and a constant need to urinate. Basically, I became prediabetic (aka metabolic syndrome). I lost weight until those symptoms disappeared, but I pretty much stayed at 265 for a while. Not my goal, but I couldn't break through the 260 floor.

Then I got diabetic symptoms again, only much worse, including headaches, tingly feet (neuropathy = nerve damage), night sweats, and a roller coaster of blood sugar effects such that I experienced both hypo- (low) and hyper- (high) glycemia. The crashes were awful. About the most awful I've ever felt in my life. In fact, I ended up in the emergency room, convinced I was dying of something else. (It was an expensive freak-out, but it probably saved my life.)

Well, they put me on metformin, a cheap but tried-and-true blood-sugar controller, but told me I had to change my diet. I can tell you that I never felt more motivated. I've lost almost 15-20 pounds so far, I'm no longer symptomatic, and hopefully I can control it primarily through nutrition for several more years.

The thing is, I never could, until I realized just how damned necessary it was. I had to accept this time that I was a diabetic for life and that it was in my control whether I slid back into feeling bad again. This wasn't temporary, this required a lifestyle change, not a "diet".

Once I had the proper frame of mind about things it became surprisingly easy to start eating right.

Since I'm diagnosed I think I have the authority here to say that Class Goat was full of crap. Once you're diabetic there are a number of things that could easily push you into gaining more weight. (And gaining or losing weight unexpectedly is one indicator you might have it. And while blacks do have a higher incidence overall, when they eat the wrong diet, it's still very much a disease that affects whites, with obesity becoming an American epidemic.) But the relationship is primarily in the other direction. Excessive weight carried on your body too long increases your risk of diabetes every year you let it continue. It screws up your body's intricate blood-sugar management signalling and control mechanisms. Once they are out of whack it is very hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

The good news is that it's been astonishingly easy to make minor changes that over time have big effects. The biggest change I made was just switching to whole grain shredded wheat as my default breakfast. I also eat with an emphasis on vegetables rather than a main meat dish and a carb like potatoes. Honestly, I skip all the hard stuff like counting calories, the stuff that makes eating a "diet". I may not have it so easy forever. But for now I'm enjoying getting my weight down without really working at it, and knowing that this is my new life, healthy and feeling good.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 PM on December 17, 2008


if the OP was slim for much of her life, and then put on so much weight, what exactly is the weight her body wants her to be?

If it wanted her to be much slimmer it would simply not desire food as often, or make her crave different kinds of foods, or speed up her metabolism to whatever necessary extent (read the Times article about naturally skinny bodies fighting off 10,000 calorie diets!). I get hungry for maybe one meal a day. I feel fine. Apparently my body has a weight that it likes for me.

If it wanted her to weigh more it would make her feel starved and physically uncomfortable until it got what it wanted. So like the Times article indicates, she is probably somewhere in her in 10-20 lb. comfort window.

The upshot to all this is that the body likely knows what is doing. What has been reported is that a) "overweight" people are actually healthier than "average" weight people, and b) that 50% of overweight people and 33% of obese people are actually physically fit. That means "that despite their excess pounds, many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of “good” cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart disease", as well as good cardiovascular health as revealed by tasks like running on a treadmill.

And this is the important part too: I am not excusing the OP to live an unhealthy lifestyle. The OP needs to get to the gym ASAP, and start running on the treadmill or get in the swimming pool, or whatever, and make that a life-long routine. The OP also needs to find the healthiest diet her body can agree with. But the ultimate goal shouldn't be to get thin or lose weight, but to get fit. She needs to make sure vitals like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, etc, are healthy, and she needs to exercise, because that's just basic human maintenance like brushing your teeth.

But if the ultimate goal is to look as thin and sexy as you did 10 years ago, you won't get there, and if that's your goal, you'll use that failure to justify not watching your diet, or to stop going to the gym. The focus on weight over fitness is harmful.

You can be fat and healthy, and that needs to be your goal. Go to the gym ASAP, not to be skinny, but because that's what all humans, fat and slim, need to do to be healthy.

... and if you do end up getting skinny in the process anyway, congratulations, God must like you.
posted by dgaicun at 11:43 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are we going to set all our standards by Oprah? Anything she can't do, you can't do? She's not perfect, she's human like the rest of us. Money doesn't loose you weight (unless you use it for surgical operations.)

To paraphrase Rushmore, you can buy anything but you can't buy backbone.

Anyway, I'd try to find a way to surround yourself with people who are positive about body image. Theirs and others. People who are working to stay healthy. If Weight Watchers was too cult-like, is there a Curves gym or similarly positive environment you could try?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:51 PM on December 17, 2008


In a word, yes, you can. You need to figure out why you're overweight, and what your definition of fat really is. If you're asking if someone can achieve a healthier weight and maintain it - of course they can. If you're asking if someone can be Keira Knightley thin on a consistent basis, er, not really. Not without as many health issues as someone who's overweight might have.

Lost 80 lbs here... still have a few more to go. When you have that kind of weight to lose, the conventional wisdom about dieting (2 lbs a week) sounds like a bit of a joke. It's really hard to stay motivated. Someone with a lot of weight to lose has to either be very patient or be willing to do a lot of work. Some of that's physical, and some of that's emotional.

How exactly I've lost my weight from a diet standpoint is actually the less important bit. Aside from upping my overall level of physical exercise, the main thing I did was to read a lot about CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), NLP (neurolinguistic programming), and TA (transactional analysis). Thinking about things like ego states and learned behaviours and assumptions about how the world works made me realise that I really was carrying around a lot of weight for a lot of reasons that had nothing to do with just food. I'm still learning and still losing (well, ahem, maybe not so much this festive time of year). But it's only a couple of weeks in a year, and once I gave myself permission to eat the damned mince pie if I want it, it's amazing how I only truly am satisfied with one and not three.

So yes, you can, if you're willing to figure out where you want to be weightwise, it's actually a healthy weight for you to be, and you're willing to figure out why you are making yourself fat in the first place.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:51 AM on December 18, 2008


I used to be morbidly obese and do not intend to ever be obese again. For me, the most important thing was motivation. I learned how dangerous being obese really was. I always thought that diabetes was a non-disease these days. You just take some insulin and that's it. It turns out that diabetes is not that benign.

I also learned about the importance of healthy eating, and that one simple milkshake had more calories than an entire lunch, etc. For me, just knowing that was almost enough. Yeah, I liked milkshakes, but not THAT much. It also helped to know how much I was eating. I used to think that being fat was just who I was (I had never dieted before and was pretty happy with my weight) and that I did not actually eat that differently than other people who were not fat. That turned out not to be true.

Let me repeat what other people say: you are not a statistic! You have one big plus over all those other people: you do not have a history of dieting and failing. I found that that really helped me. Statistics about large groups of people are mostly useless. You will probably also find the statistic that being thin is actually less healthy than being fat. Read "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" (by Walter Willett, from Harvard) for a good response to that, and a sensible approach to weight loss (though I don't agree with everything he says).

dgaicun: You can be fat and healthy, and that needs to be your goal.
No it doesn't. It may be your goal, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, and that's what anonymous asks about. People already pointed her to fat-acceptance movements, and that's okay, but saying that there is actually something wrong with wanting to lose weight crosses the line.
posted by davar at 12:58 AM on December 18, 2008


Oprah hates excersize, whereas you must have enjoyed it if you did it every day in your youth.
posted by delmoi at 1:14 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


People already pointed her to fat-acceptance movements, and that's okay, but saying that there is actually something wrong with wanting to lose weight crosses the line.

davar, I think you need to reread dgaicun's original comment. Focusing on weight loss rather than a generally more healthy lifestyle leads many people to crash diets--like Oprah's recent liquid diet--and rapid and repeated subsequent weight gain. Which is as dangerous for your body, particularly your heart, as being overweight. Focusing on, say, exercise will get the OP up and moving and will likely have her feeling better about herself. Ditto not eating crap all the time. Don't do this for appearances, because it's difficult to make long term changes for your appearance alone, but do it so that you feel good, physically and mentally. Chances are, you'll lose weight. But if not, why not at least reap the benefit of feeling good about yourself for making positive health changes instead of feeling crappy for "failing"?

OP: People do lose tremendous amounts of weight and keep it off, but it often requires a focus on diet that some people find either difficult or impossible or just unpalatable (ie, while it's great that artimisia feels good about her body, it would never be worth it to me to make the dietary changes she has, for a variety of reasons). Some peoples' goals--Oprah's desire to be 130 pounds, for instance--are unrealistic for their body types and lifestyles, and that's part of the problem.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:55 AM on December 18, 2008


Yeah, just wanted to say my friend's spotted her grocery shopping at Whole Foods, like a lot of middle-to-upper-class folks. I don't think she has any special secret weapon. Aside from, well, the Secret I guess, but that's something else entirely.
posted by naju at 8:38 AM on December 18, 2008


Who is going to tell Oprah "No, you can't eat that cookie" when she's paying their salary? Just because she can afford nutritionists, personal trainers, etc., doesn't mean she's going to heed all their advice. [NOT OPRAH-IST]
posted by desjardins at 8:58 AM on December 18, 2008


Thanks PhoBWanKenobi. I guess I just disagree with dgaicun then. I lost a lot of weight, and met quite a few people who did the same. Neither of us has super-human-powers. All of us had bad habits that we changed. For me exercise was important, but I never went to the gym, I just walked everywhere with my child. Cutting out soda and potato chips were probably the most important changes I made. I do agree that crash diets, yoyo diets and setting an unreasonable weight goal are harmful.
posted by davar at 9:18 AM on December 18, 2008


Let's not forget that Oprah hit her highest weight ever, 237, in 1992, and it's been many, many years since she weighed anywhere near that much.

And I liked what she said to a woman in her audience on the subject of dieting once years ago when I happened to be watching the show with my mother. The woman said something along the lines of, "Oh well, I don't have money to eat special diet foods the way you do." Oprah said, "You don't have to eat expensive or special foor to diet. You can lose weight eating regular food. You can just buy ordinary chicken and take the skin off." The woman confusedly stammered her way through an attempted rebuttal, and Oprah said, "I think you're just making excuses."

Excuses and self-discipline are both free. You just need to figure out which one you want to choose to use.
posted by orange swan at 12:06 PM on December 18, 2008


when someone like Oprah who has personal trainers and personal nutritionists and personal chefs and personal minders

Do people really believe this?

I'm here to say don't believe it. That's all. Good luck keeping the weight off.


Zambrano, what do you not believe? That she has personal trainers and personal chefs? I don't understand your comment.

She does; this is well documented. Bob Greene became famous because he was her personal trainer. She has had her longtime chef on her show several times.
posted by peep at 12:58 PM on December 18, 2008


Has anyone here managed to lose real weight and never gain it back?

I gained a lot of weight in college and had a hell of a time losing it. But I've been pretty slim now for 10 years, and getting slimmer (maybe too much so.)

Thing that have really helped me.

1) I stopped using birth control pills

2) I try never to eat out more than once a week. Sometimes, people visit and there are exceptions, but normally I try to stick with this rule.

MOST IMPORTANT STEP: 3) do your weekly grocery shopping RIGHT AFTER eating out. you will be like, yuck, nothing looks yummy, and be inclined to buy less food.

4) try to only survive on the food you bought for that week, until the next grocery shopping trip. have a weekly spending amount you do not want to exceed. you will be forced to cook, and rummage through your cabinets. don't worry if your cooking isn't that great to begin with, that's even better. because you'll only eat for the nutrition and not the taste.

5) i hope, that if you're lazy, you'll be too lazy to go out and buy more food during the week. Laziness actually helped my weight loss, in this respect. I am too damn lazy to do grocery shopping or even go to the nearest fast food joint, a lot of the time. I'd rather sit and eat the stupid what-have-you in the cabinet. Or just be hungry for a while. A lot of time I end up eating just a bowl of veggies (microwaved from frozen) with some salt and butter. Because I'm that lazy!

6) if you like video games, that can really help the process. Basically, immersive video games can keep your mind off of food for long periods of time.

The pros of this method are that you will save money, be forced to learn how to cook, and most importantly, lose weight. Keep reminding yourself how expensive food is, and how cheaper it is to cook for yourself.

The cons of this method: I don't think this really works hand in hand with exercising, but I could be wrong. Good luck!
posted by uxo at 1:22 PM on December 18, 2008


Some people are just meant to be fat,

Ok, my problem with this remark is that many people, pre-World War II, did not seem to fighting the "fat epidemic."

It's just that in this day, we have an abundance of food, particularly an historically unprecedented access to fatty sweets.

Change the circumstances, and this "meant to be" business makes no sense, IMHO.
posted by uxo at 3:44 PM on December 18, 2008


If you eat right, take in less calories, and burn more calories on a daily basis, you will lose weight. Burning more calories than you eat sheds weight.No two ways about it.

People say this like it's some kind of natural law, but the research shows that it's not true.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:25 PM on December 18, 2008


ottereroticist, the article says: Struggling against the brain’s innate calorie counters, even strong-willed dieters make up for calories lost on one day with a few extra bites on the next.

So it's still a matter of math and willpower. It may be unrealistic, but if calories are precisely counted and consumed, you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume.
posted by desjardins at 6:00 PM on December 18, 2008


it's still a matter of math and willpower
Exactly. This is also why the controlled experiments dgaicun mentions do not mean anything at all to me. I looked inside "Thin for Life", recommended by t0astie above, and stumbled upon a page that said exactly what I noticed myself: most people who lose a significant amount of weight had this "click" moment, a defining moment after which they really knew they wanted to lose weight. It was not an external motivation, not something you are supposed to do because someone tells you to, but something internal. One men nearly drowned and could not save himself because he was extremely heavy. His brother nearly killed himself trying to save him. After that incident, he knew he wanted to lose weight and could find the willpower to go on a very strict doctor-supervised diet. For me, it was the birth of my daughter. It was only then that long term health things (like diabetes) started to mean anything to me.

I think it is somewhat comparable to stopping smoking. You know what to do, but your body struggles against it, so you have to *really* want it. But it is not true that stopping smoking is therefore impossible.
posted by davar at 12:07 AM on December 19, 2008


This excellent article by someone who advocates a no-grain, high-vegetable, high-protein-and-healthy-fat diet addresses this very issue.
posted by schroedinger at 5:52 PM on December 21, 2008


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