Long-Term Weight Loss: What Does It Feel Like?
July 5, 2011 5:33 PM   Subscribe

If you've lost a considerable amount of weight, and kept it off for more than five years, I have a question for you: How do you feel?

Specifically, how do you relate to eating and exercise? Do you have to avoid eating when you're hungry? Do you have to stop eating before you're satiated? Is any exercise you've taken on a joy or a chore? Do you love food, or has it turned into a rote metabolic function?

Please, dear AskMeFites, I'm not looking for general information on weight loss or maintenance. I'm looking for first-hand (or intimate second-hand, as with a spouse or partner) reports of what it's like to be a formerly-obese person. And please let me know how long you've been formerly-obese, that's very important to my understanding.

Anyone who doesn't want to tell their story publicly can mail me at lorejoberg+longterm@gmail.com. Your mail to me will not be shared with anyone.
posted by lore to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Is your email address correct there, or is there an "s" in your name in the address?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:39 PM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: Both lorejoberg+longterm@gmail.com and loresjoberg+longterm@gmail.com work.

It was a typo, but I registered the name as soon as you pointed it out. So thanks!
posted by lore at 5:47 PM on July 5, 2011

+100 lbs lost, less than 5 years ago, currently 6'1" and 210lbs.

I still track calories on a daily basis, I still eat very low carb. I'm almost never tempted to binge, but I tend to eat the same 5-10 meals over and over again. Eating 'outside' my normal meal plan generally means non-specific anxiety for the rest of the day.

I exercise very frequently, almost daily. I have a rigorous weight lifting schedule (every other day) and do HIIT on the off days with around 1 day of rest per week. My lifting numbers have moved into the 'advanced' category according if you go by the Basic Strength Standards. Weight lifting is a joy, HIIT isn't but I wouldn't classify it as a chore. It is something that Must Be Done, a priority in my life.

I've come to accept that I need to be one of those people who need to workout often, who need regular, structured exercise in my life. I'm okay with it and have found things that bring me enjoyment while doing them.

I like talking about this. Feel free to send me a private message and I'll blab for hours.
posted by unixrat at 5:49 PM on July 5, 2011 [8 favorites]

Hello. I didn't follow a straightforward weight loss trajectory - slow, progress, small regains and plateaus along the way - but I'll hit the general points: In 1999 I weighed about 230 pounds. By 2003 or so I was down to about 180 and stayed that way until about 2006, when I dropped to 140. I spend my entire teenage years obese. Currently I am 5'5'' and 142 pounds.

I often hear debate about how much of weight gain is genetic and how much is behavioral. I have a personal theory about this based on my own experience. The weight gain and loss itself isn't genetic. When I cut calories, I lose weight. But my natural inclinations and behavior is where genetics come in. I love food. I love sweets. I will eat until stuffed.

Like an alcoholic or drug abuser, I've accepted the fact that this is something I will have to manage for the rest of my life. I will never be able to not think about what and how much I eat. If I do, I start to gain weight. It sounds grim, but it becomes second nature.

To be specific: I do not keep sweets of any kind in my house. (If they are there, I will eat them. I will never be the kind of person who can keep a half gallon of ice cream in the freezer for weeks without touching it.) I do not keep a lot of food in my house, and I try to keep only healthy foods in the house. I do still eat junk food sometimes, but I track my calories so I can compensate for it over time. If I've gained some weight, like after a holiday, I track religiously, in a computer program. If I'm maintaining weight okay, I just keep a little tally in my head. I weigh myself every day. I try to stop eating when I'm not hungry, rather than when I'm full, but it requires conscious effort and I sometimes fail. I definitely scarf food down too fast if I get hungry. If I shop when I'm hungry, I definitely fall to temptation. This is also where the calorie count comes in handy -- it's a more tangible limit. I still love food.

I don't care much for exercise, at least not the type where you go to the gym. I will get into certain activities like yoga or weights or running for awhile but not stick with them consistently. I've been very fit at some times (able to run several miles, lift a lot of weight) and then have been very unfit at other times. Mostly I try to work more activity into my day so it's something I don't notice -- I'm not exercising, I just always take the stairs/park far away/walk instead of drive. It becomes second nature after awhile.

Feel free to MeMail if you have additional questions. Also, you didn't get into the mental side of things, but I will just say that it feels great but it wasn't an instant fix for the mental issues that you can develop when you are obese (I had low self-esteem from cruelty from others, for example, and battled that for years and years afterward.)
posted by unannihilated at 6:08 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

Lost about 110 pounds around 12 years ago. I felt really, really different for a year or two, then I got used to it and didn't think about it too much. But it was wonderful to be able to play sports and be competitive with people my own age, run up a flight of stairs without getting winded, wear normal clothes, etc. My relationship with food is definitely strained, but I wasn't on a rigorous diet, my attitude for the last 10 years is to try to mostly eat well and limit my feasting to relatively moderate levels. I also made it so that if I didn't engage in some significant exercise almost every day, I would feel anxious, guilty, lazy. That caused a problem about 4 years ago when I hurt my foot and ended up slowly gaining about 50-60 pounds, I relied too much on exercise to keep me fit, not enough on good eating. Now that I'm older, I'm trying to change again and both eat better and exercise in a way that I can keep up into my 40's, 50's, etc. Right now it's working okay, I've lost about 25 of the 60 I gained back, looking for the next 25 over the next 6 months or so.
posted by skewed at 6:13 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I topped out at around 240 lbs 5 years ago, and since then have slowly made my way down to 180 with some off-and-on dieting/exercise. I still consider weight loss and body improvement to be an ongoing process, but I don't generally find it a chore. On the whole, I have been very happy with the changes I've made.

Regarding food - At this point, I mostly just eat what I want and exercise accordingly. Food is still very important and interesting to me, and I can still gorge myself on occasion, but my appetite really did go down somewhat as my body just didn't need as many calories as I lost weight. I very rarely feel like I'm undereating or starving myself, though I did in the early part of the process. That said, if you do have a particularly caloric vice (soda, alcohol, candy, whatever), you will likely have to cut back significantly or stop entirely. I went from 3 sodas a day then to fewer than 3 a week now, and I have also learned to avoid junkier food.

As for exercise - I didn't really make exercise a major part of my routine until fairly recently, which is part of why it's been slower going for me. Early on, I mostly just did light exercise while watching TV. This was easy, but less effective. I won't say I love the gym, but I've learned to not really dislike it either. What I *do* love is the improvement in my appearance and general energy levels.

To answer what I think your main question is: No, I don't feel like I have to suffer or live without pleasure to stay thin. You might have to at first, and I did have to give up a few things, but I've gained plenty of new things in return. The pros far outweigh the cons for me. Good luck.
posted by tau_ceti at 6:17 PM on July 5, 2011

I'm 5'5" and used to weigh 285 (that's called morbidly obese), and I weighed that for a good six years. Before that, I hung around 225 to 250 for a good ten years. Before that, I weighed about what I weigh now, except that two years right before and after my first divorce when I weighed 160. That was a good couple of years, the 160, but steroids for asthma put the weight back on. Anyway, I now weigh 195-ish. I meant to get back down to 160, but 195 is where I plateaued so I said "okay." and left it at that. At 285, I wore size 24W pants (USA); I now wear size 16-18W pants. I've had this weight off for about five-ish years.

Do I count calories? Not really, but I never really did to begin with. I kept a food diary for about a year to keep track of what i was eating but I didn't beat it to death. Do I exercise? I didn't *start* exercising until this year! and that's only for health reasons, not weight control.

My weight loss was more because I needed to give my poor knees a break, and I was tired of huffing and puffing just to go down the block. Calorie counting, dieting, exercising, blah - I never did any of it. If I let food and exercise control my life, I'd never have a life outside of food and exercise -- and life is too short for that. My relationship with food is like this - if I like it, I'll eat it, because if I deprive myself of it, I'll just eat more of it later. So, eat a little (serving size) now and I won't eat more later. It's worked for me so far.
posted by patheral at 6:18 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lost about 160 lbs when I was 19-20 years old. I'm now 27. I've kept about 135 of the pounds off, (currently 215 lbs at 6') so I suppose I'm not perfect and am honestly still looking to lose more weight or at least to continue to work on my health, but I think I've done pretty well. I gained back about 15 of the pounds that I lost originally within the first six months or so of ending my diet, which in retrospect isn't too surprising to me because I think the last 10-15lbs I lost in a rather unhealthy and unsustainable way. Since then, I've crept up a little but the past four years or so have stayed roughly within the same 15-20 lb range, yo-yo-ing up and down a bit.

As may be apparent, I still struggle with things a bit, I think largely because of emotional eating and force of habit. However, I am way more active than I was when I was so obese, and I think that has been one of the main things that has helped me keep off most of the weight. I enjoy biking, walking, swimming and had a period for a year and a half when I loved running (that was put to an end with some back problems last year). When I was losing the weight, I was very consistent in terms of exercising 5-6 days a week, usually a work out of 45-60 minutes or so, alternating swimming with working out on cardio machines and doing weight lifting. Since then, my routine has varied depending on what kinds of activity I'm interested in pursuing and how much time I have. I'm coming off of a period where I got less exercise than I wanted to because of a very busy work and life schedule. However, I'd say on average I do 3-4 days of exercise a week and generally try to keep active otherwise. I think I have a positive attitude towards exercise, that I really do enjoy it and I think that shift in my mindset is what has allowed me to feel secure about keeping off the weight.

In terms of eating, I won't say I never binge or that I never eat too much. I will say that I'm open to a much wider range of food than I was when I was younger. I will basically eat anything and try to make an effort to consume a varied diet, with varying levels of success. I do not need to starve myself to keep the weight off. I'm working on paying closer attention to my bodily signals because I really do think if I can get to a point where I respect my body and what it is telling me, I will be able to eat when hungry and stop when I'm full most of the time. As is, I'm currently pretty aware of when I have eaten too much, so if there have been a few days or hours of excess, I will try to put a stop to that as soon as possible and start eating a reasonable amount of food again and usually get some more exercise to even things out a bit.

I used to count calories religiously but decided after many years that the only real effect that that had was to make me obsessive over everything I was putting in my mouth. I think it was a good tool starting off when I first lost the weight because it gave me a good idea of what was a reasonable amount of food. However, in the years since then it ceased to be useful to me or effective in helping me lose any more weight. I haven't counted calories for over a year now and I don't think it's made any difference in how well I was maintaining my weight or if I lost any weight. If anything, I think for the past year I've been more consistently maintaining my weight than before, with less yoyo-ing.

Anyway, I don't know if the above rambling is useful to you, but that's my story. I would say I'm still a work in progress, but I feel pretty confident about keeping the weight off that I've lost so far.
posted by Rinoia at 6:26 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's some non-specific rambling in response to your questions about eating/hunger. It is an interestingly specific question for reasons that some people might understand. I'll just dump all my thoughts on it and I hope you find an answer...

My existing goals are to reduce the amount of loose skin that I have. I've spoken to a number of other people who have lost large amounts and the non-scientific, informal scuttlebutt is that there are three ways to reduce the skin/appearance.

1. Surgery. $10k-$30k and up, $USD. Out of my price range for now.
2. Fill with muscle. Working on it. I've done my hypertrophy homework and am aggressively pursuing it.
3. Bodyfat < 10%. My current weight target. I have a lot of loose skin, so I have a difficult time getting a handle on what my current BF% is, no pun intended.

In pursuit of #3, I've switched to IF (Intermittent Fasting). Since I already track calories and nutritional macros it was straight forward to shift my eating window. Since starting IF I've occasionally experienced Hunger, which is something that I haven't felt in years. Even when dieting via keto/low carb I was never hungry. That being said, I rarely feel satiated and I have no doubt that I could easily consume 3500-5000+ low carb calories a day if I tried.

So generally I exist in a purgatory between hungry and satiated. I've learned that 'not-hungry' is an acceptable default state and have mostly given up the pursuit of satiation. I generally eat according to a plan and when the plan says stop, I stop.

I enjoy the food I eat, but eating doesn't bring me happiness.
posted by unixrat at 6:29 PM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of your responses. I just want to emphasize one aspect of my question.

I'm especially interested in how you interact with hunger. How often are you hungry, but have to not eat because it's not time to eat yet? How often do you have to stop eating while you're still hungry? How often do you remain hungry between meals?

Some have answered these questions and some haven't, and that's fine. I'm grateful for any and all stories. I just wanted everyone to know what in particular I'm looking for.

And unixrat, feel free to blab. All of this is fascinating. I've heard plenty of stories in my life about how someone lost wait, but very few of how someone kept weight off for years.
posted by lore at 6:32 PM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: "Lost weight," not "lost wait," but you knew that.
posted by lore at 6:36 PM on July 5, 2011

I'm especially interested in how you interact with hunger. How often are you hungry, but have to not eat because it's not time to eat yet? How often do you have to stop eating while you're still hungry? How often do you remain hungry between meals?

When I first started to control what I ate my main goals were these - eat smaller meals and wait at least two hours between meals. The thought was that if I'm still hungry after two hours, then I'm actually hungry and not bored, sad, upset, etc...

Before I started to control what I put in my mouth, I ate around 2300 calories a day (via my food diary). After I started eating a serving size, I ate about 1800 calories a day. What I found was that I actually got fuller faster and on less and didn't get hungry as often. So after about a month I didn't even worry about waiting two hours, I just ate when I got hungry (though I still checked to see how long it had been since I last ate).

Now, after five years, I eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full but not stuffed, and never remain hungry between meals - unless I'm in a place where I cannot eat... I look at it this way, if a baby cries, you feed it. If I know I'm hungry (not bored, sad, tired, etc...) then why would I not feed myself? As long as I don't stuff myself every time, I'm good. The trick I had to teach myself is to learn the difference between "hungry" and "other reason to reach for food."
posted by patheral at 7:01 PM on July 5, 2011

I've lost 95 pounds through diet and exercise only, and I've kept it off the last 6 years. FWIW, I am a female. I'm 5'11"

My relationship with food has changed. I think intensely about what goes into my body. I count calories every day still and track my food. I can still enjoy food, but it's within the caloric limits I've had to assign myself. My eating is very structured and even now I still struggle with social events. I also struggle with friends who think now that I'm 'thin' that I no longer need to watch what I eat. So in a way, I think I cannot enjoy food in the way I used to. It's been a complete change of lifestyle and mindset.

If I am feeling hungry, I wait and see if my body is actually hungry or it's boredom or some other emotion telling me to eat. While I am waiting out the hunger, I drink water. Very rarely do I wait and come out on the other end being actually hungry. I notice now that I am not very hungry between meals, and my body gets naturally hungry every few hours. I eat small meals through the day as I find it keeps me from potential hunger lows. I actually find for me that sometimes I know I need to eat (as to avoid headaches) and I have to force myself to eat as my body isn't really telling me its hungry.

I never was a real binge eater (more emotional) so binging is not something I feel like I have to control. The desire to binge just isn't there, and since I eat a lot less now (and am used to it) it takes far less food for me to feel satiated.

I always loved exercise, so it's never felt like a chore for me. It's always been a part of my life. I do change up my exercise routine though as I like variety and so does my body.

Emotionally and mentally? That's been an entirely different ball game. There are a lot of things I think no one tells you when you significantly change how you look on the outside, but still have the same feelings on the inside. Physically, I am in great shape, but it took me many years for the inside to catch up with that.

Please feel free to MeMail if you have any specific questions.
posted by carmenghia at 7:31 PM on July 5, 2011

There are at least two previous questions in the same neighborhood as yours; thought I would link them just in case there are useful responses there too:

If you've lost more than 50 lbs and kept it off for more than 2 years, tell me about your experience.

If you've lost more than 20 kg and kept it off for more than 5 years, how did you maintain that long-term?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:33 PM on July 5, 2011

How do you feel?
I feel freaking awesome, even when I don't - like I've been off work for a month and have been very low energy so I'm not feeling as awesome as I was a month ago. I am 5'5" and was 240lbs in 1996 (and had been over 200lbs all through adolescence), 170lbs by 1998, 150 in 2001 and was as low as 140lbs in 2002. I don't have a scale now and rarely weigh myself but I would guess am in the 175 range right now.

Specifically, how do you relate to eating and exercise?

I initially lost weight in 1996 with the weight loss drug combo "Fen-Phen" which has now been removed from the market. I took them for just over a year and maybe again for a few months a year after that. The drugs pretty much acted like amphetamines and so I had a suppressed appetite and a lot of nervous energy. Having my previously seemingly insatiable appetite pretty much obliterated meant that I wasn't binging on things like fries or kraft dinner and was instead picking at salads and learning about nutrition. My Mom bought me a Susan Powter kit (bless her heart) and my entire attitude towards food and exercise changed. I used to eat the crappiest crap - McDick's drive through, the whole lot. Now I'm pretty much a food hippy. I eat as local and as whole food as I can. There are no canned or pre packaged foods in my house, no white sugar (I use sucanat or local honey), no cookies or "treats" and I never ever eat chips unless "it's a party". Basically if I want to eat, there's nothing in my house that can get me in too much "trouble", nutritionally. I eat a lot of salads, sandwiches and soups. A big thing for me is : no butter or margerine in the house. I will eat it on anything and it's just not necessary. I have trained myself to use low fat options. Sandwiches get mustard, avocados etc, I use olive oil for cooking and I can't think of any other time butter is actually "needed". It just tastes too good to keep around. I'll have it when I'm out as a treat and that's about it.

There are always compromises, and the rule of thumb is something like 80/20 - eat awesome whole foods with a focus on whole fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grain high fiber bread etc 80% of the time, and 20% of the time you can indulge in eating less than healthy options. I used to count calories and I still keep my eye on them but I'm not obsessive about it. I've kind of internalized the general rules so I just know that I'm going to be way fuller and healthier with 2 lbs of blueberries if I need to indulge, rather than a something like 2lbs of ice cream, if you see where I'm going with that. I still get the urge to binge now and again but really try and make it something like a salad binge.

I also rearranged my life so I do a lot less sitting. I now work at a very physical job and that is on purpose - I found myself in an office like setting and realized that I need to force myself to be active, as I am naturally sedentary, and having a job that involved a lot of sitting and computering just added to my problems. So, my various "active" jobs have included: shelving books in a library (my favorite work so far) which is very light but constant activity, working in a photolab/retail - involves standing and doing things all day, and my current job - working at the post office, in the sorting plant. So now my job is basically walking up to 5 km a day and doing a number of hours of what amounts to moderate lifting and carrying.

Do you have to avoid eating when you're hungry?
No, but I'm much more aware of what kind of hunger I'm experiencing. If I haven't eaten all day and I can't even think straight, I can be pretty sure that is a valid nutritional hunger. However if I have eaten enough food throughout the day and am craving something specific, or perhaps find myself staring into the fridge aimlessly, I might consider that I'm not really technically hungry. Then I can either have a glass of lemon water and try and distract myself (if it's just boredom), or I can maybe direct myself to something like the previously alluded to "salad binge" if necessary. Or sometimes I just freaking go for it and buy three chocolate bars and ice cream and eat them all at once. But, I will try and buy direct trade organic chocolate bars and the local "I can pronounce all the ingredients" ice cream.

Do you have to stop eating before you're satiated?
If I'm truly just in need of nutrition I often naturally stop eating before my food is done if I feel like I'm getting full. Sometimes I do have an insatiable hunger, and that's when I turn to huge bowls of brothy soup with noodles and lots of veggies or massive salads - like we're talking huge, bulky, crunchy salads with at least 4 different veggies in a bowl that basically holds a gallon. I use oil and vinegar type dressings and generally throw some low fat cheese in there as protein helps fill you up.

Is any exercise you've taken on a joy or a chore?
I love my exercise ball and those stretchy band things. I hate working out in public so I have these at home so I can have my privacy. I like dancing for exercise as well - just blasting my favorite music and shaking my booty. My main aerobic exercise is my work and I have a bicycle which I use for all my around town needs. So really, it's both, but I try and find things I will actually enjoy. Once I'm at a certain level of fitness, I naturally crave more activity - it's a positive feedback loop, once you're there.

Do you love food, or has it turned into a rote metabolic function?
I love food, but real awesome good food, not that you microwave for 5 minutes and the ingredient list requires a science degree to understand, or whose top three ingredients are variations on "sugar". I have times when I have to force myself to eat now (working night shift can kill my appetite) so it can be sort of a "requirement" as opposed to a pleasure.
posted by smartypantz at 7:41 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

5'10" guy, 217 lbs, down to 164, kept most of it off for about 10-12 years, gradually climbed back up to 200+ (stopped weighing myself), currently bringing it back down again.

One fun fact: When I exercise regularly, I don't get as hungry as often. Makes no sense, but it's been my experience.

Relationship to food: Last weight loss was mostly will power. This time I've consciously decided I need to change my relationship to food. One thing I've realized is that some kinds of food don't contribute to satiation -- I can eat and eat and eat them, and I'll never feel like I don't want to eat more. Potato chips, milk chocolate, Doritos. So I now think of those foods as drugs. I like the way they make me (and my tongue and mouth) feel, but I have to be careful measuring out the quantity, and not keeping them around the house too much. I bought a pint of ice cream a while back, and it was gone in two days. There are also substitutes for me — dark chocolate takes a while to melt in my mouth, and I just don't want as much. Salted nuts are another drug, so I keep unsalted almonds around. They provide the crunch I sometimes need, and without the salt they seem to be self-limiting as well.

But I love food, so I'm sublimating with doing more of my own cooking, but learning to cook with healthier stuff.

I definitely distinguish between 'hungry' and 'wanting something to munch on'. I remember last week feeling a bit of real hunger, but before that I can't remember the last time I was hungry. I frequently some food, think "that's yummy", and have to exercise some will power.

Since you asked about how people relate to hunger, right now that I am concentrating on losing weight, I try to think of hunger not as something to be suffered, but as a goal. I want to shrink my stomach size so that smaller amounts of food will feel satisfying, so it's going to have to spend some time being empty. Hunger is a sign that I'm making progress. I'll probably change my thinking when I switch to maintenance mode.

I think this question has caught me in a moment of optimism, so you can take what I've said with a grain of salt.

Wait! Put down the grain of salt — it's not good for your blood pressure!
posted by benito.strauss at 9:09 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's going on ten years since I lost all my weight, and I still have the stretch marks to prove it.

I can tell you this: I have *never* forgotten how easy it is to put that weight on. Getting rid of that weight changed my world and I have found that I now have a "healthy" hangup with paying attention to it.

Do I avoid eating when hungry? sometimes. But only in the sense of waiting a little longer before eating. If I get hungry at five and I normally eat dinner at 7, I just hold out for a little longer then have an early dinner, say at 6, depending on how hungry I am. I have also learned what it means to be "hungry" - this I did not know before. For example, french fries are always edible. I love them, even when I am not hungry, even when I full. This is how I *used* to define hunger. I.e I see food that want to eat.. NOW. After a lot of dieting you really learn what hunger is: you feel empty and weak; and even carrots look damn good. When I eat a meal now I would not say I feel "full" at the end of it. But I think this is because I used to define "full" as being "stuffed" - it is the difference between "I would like to eat more" and "I NEED to eat more". Sometimes I note that I could happily eat several more slices of pizza but I have faith that my brain will kick in after a while and the hunger will go - but in the mean time get away from that leftover pizza.

But I have a strange relationship with a lot of bad food now. Particularly snack foods like cookies and candy, as these are what made me fat in the first place. After the hell of dieting I find I look at these foods in a different way: instead of "ooh yum I want one" I now see "You caused me so much misery - please stay away from me" Come to think of it it is a bit like how you may view an ex after a bad breakup.

The strange thing is, recently I got a free cookie from subway because they stuffed up my order. It had been so long since I ate anything like that so I allowed myself to enjoy it. I did NOT enjoy it. It was gross, sweet and sickly. I felt like I needed to brush my teeth afterwords - what happened to my old fat self? he use to love these cookies? now I just wanted a salad.

Regarding exercise, well it is now like brushing ones teeth: I do it every day without fail. It is like putting on clothes or showering. Just a daily ritual, and if I don't do it (like brusing your teeth) I tend to feel gross. I do it when I am tired, I do it when I am stressed. The only excuse not to do it is sickness. Time? I always make time, just like you make time for showering every day. It is non-negotioable. Do I enjoy it? .. well, do you enjoy brushing your teeth? I certainly enjoy how calm and relaxed I feel after a jog. And on the rare days where I haven't jogged I find myself edgy and distracted. But *while* I am jogging it can be tough: getting over that hill or pushing yourself out the door on a cold day, but it always pays off later.

I am more focused, relaxed and content and that feeling has become "me" now. If I don't exercise I am "not myself" - it is not who I am.

What is it like to be formally obese? It comes into your life in a lot of different ways. I am very sensitive about my weight, despite partners, family etc talking about how great I look. I watch myself in mirrors a lot and freak a little if I see a photo from an angle that makes me look chubby.

I also look at other overweight people and I understand why they have not simply "stopped eating so much" - it's hard to loose it. Really hard; more mental than anything else. When someone says they have tried so hard but are not getting anywhere - I get it - I don't call them lazy. It's hard to loose a lot of weight; really hard.
posted by scott.ashton at 10:36 PM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

These are interesting questions:

I became overweight after college – was a college athlete. Was relatively “normal” - not really obese but maybe more “overweight” at times. I am 5’8” (female) and weighed normal adult 150-170. After college my top weight, in 7 years ballooned to 308. No health issues that caused me to gain weight (no thyroid, etc). Had some injuries that left me sedentary that I really never got “moving” again, and I continued to eat as if I was an athlete. I also grew up in a home where I wasn’t allowed to eat processed foods, which was great, but since “finding” processed foods and all the fabulous awfulness I began eating things I didn’t know existed and were horrible for me that I didn’t really understand/know about.
I’m not at 170 yet, but I am close. It’s been hard and for the exception of “feeling like myself again” I’ve actually hated the process every step of the way. Hunger really doesn’t seem to be an issue, I’m one of those people that can eat one meal a day (very bad for you obviously and part of my problem). I proportion issue and quantity issue for me, I always want more to be emotionally satisfied. And that isn’t really even for the “bad” foods. For example, I can have a tbsp of peanut butter for about 100 calories, good protein and enough calories to keep my metabolism running at the speed it should to burn calories, or I can have a cup of raw green peppers at 40 calories. I should be eating the peanut butter (for my specific weight loss plan) but I’d rather have the veggies because there are more of them and to me that’s more satisfying. There will be some foods that I will most likely never be able to eat because I can’t control it emotionally. Like the concept some have made to addiction, I think there will definitely be things I cannot do or eat. The process has been very depressing for me. Obviously I feel great about how I look, but I feel really awful that I cannot eat the things I want – and that is a void emotionally I haven’t been able to fill yet. Somewhere along the line I’ve let food control part of my happiness and I am not sure where that started but so far it hasn’t been something I’ve been able to stop. I have binged a few times, but binging for me again isn’t about junk food, it’s about having two servings of something, or an “extra” of something. That could be a cookie or it could be 5 apples (just an example). Like others eating multiple times a day is the way to go – but for me again it’s hard. Eating when I am not hungry I hate doing – again no “satisfaction”. And since my body is not hungry there is no enjoying the food, or I enjoy it much less. Just wanted to share some aspects of the emotional side.
posted by lutzla23 at 10:57 PM on July 5, 2011

I eat any time I'm hungry. Or rather, if I Just ate and I'm still hungry I'll sometimes try to wait 20 minutes before getting something else? But I'll usually just grab something like fruits and veggies. One of the keys to losing the weight for me was to eat more, and more often, and while I've ventured back toward BMI obese a few time since losing the weight, if I switch to eating healthier foods more often (instead of calorie-dense stuff less often) I always feel better and lose weight.

I exercise a lot. It's kind of addictive and feels great. Focusing on fitness always makes me feel better and stronger and is more successful than trying to "lose weight". Being able to DO things is the BEST.
posted by ldthomps at 6:40 AM on July 6, 2011

scott.ashton - everything you said is so familiar to me. The perception of what hunger is. Analogous to your reaction to cookies and candy - I've gone to the kitchen to get something sweet to nibble on, taken it out of the box, looked at it, looked at it hard, said to it "I don't need you", and put it back. Feels good.

The other interesting thing you mentioned is you sensitivity about weight. I feel much the same way. The panhandler who asks me "How 'bout some change, big guy?" doesn't realize with that 'big guy' added on he's getting nothing. I realized that I probably have some degree of Body dysmorphic disorder. It's not awful, and I think it's a little useful in keeping me on my toes, but at least intellectually I know that I'm not perceiving myself realistically.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2011

I don't know if my story will help, since I was never obese, but I lost about 20 pounds, 10 years ago. One of the things that I changed was the way I feel about hunger.

Before I lost the weight, I thought of hunger as something that had to be stopped right away. If I felt any rumbling in my stomach, it was time to immediately stuff something in my mouth to stop it. Now, I think about how it's okay to feel a little hungry at times, and that a little hunger pang 30 minutes before dinner time isn't going to kill me.

I also found that I feel less hungry, and get full quicker, than I used to. I lost the weight mainly by cutting down on snacking, and I did feel hungrier at first. After a few weeks, my body adjusted, and I no longer felt hungry between meals. In fact, one way that I've been able to keep the weight off is by knowing that I might spoil my appetite for the next meal - I keep my lunches to a reasonable size because I know that if I eat something too big, I won't be hungry at dinner time. (And since my husband and I eat dinner together, after we get home from work, I like to keep to a similar schedule each day.)
posted by LaurenIpsum at 10:47 AM on July 6, 2011

I lost 100 lbs on the Atkins Diet about 10 years ago. My highest weight was 249 and my dieting low was 144, I think. Over the years as life circumstances have changed I've gained and lost some weight, but my weight is currently stable just above 170ish, and I'm happy with this weight/size/athletic performance level.

(My lowest lowest weight was 129, but that was horrible breakup-related scary weight loss.)

It was only after the weight loss that I began playing sports, I had been obese in high school and college. Sports has become a huge part of my life; I play roller derby. I workout 2+ hours 4-6 times/week. Being on a team makes practice a very high priority in my life. I enjoy it.

What my life looks like on a day to day basis is I have become very, very good at knowing what I should, can, and can't eat. Green light, yellow light, red light. I still eat pretty strictly low-carb, fairly close to strict Atkins, but there are some foods that according to Dr. Atkins should be yellow lighted that I have green lighted for myself (onions, tomatoes, alcohol.) There are foods that I know cause me to binge that I keep as strict red lights (potatoes, rice, sugar, popcorn.) I will occasionally make some exceptions--I may have a few bites of rice and beans when eating Mexican food. I try to keep these occasions rare, but if I'm going to feel miserable and deprived if I don't have a bite, I'll have the bite, but then have the food taken away to prevent a binge.

I'm currently dating a chef and she does an excellent job of cooking delicious food for us within the boundaries of my healthy food choices. She brought me wings from the restaurant one day and I took one bite and said "there's honey on these" and she said it was a tiny bit, and also a tiny bit of hoisin sauce. I did eat the wings but then found I ate like 4 more meals that day, which wasn't quite a binge but I was very aware of the effect that even a small amount of sugar has on me, and it helped her understand that too. I just cannot have sugar. Opting not to eat sugar doesn't make me feel miserable because the effect that sugar has on me makes me absolutely feel miserable.

I definitely still love and enjoy food. I eat very well.

Like several others have mentioned, I love talking about this and anyone can feel free to contact me if they'd like to chat about it.
posted by palegirl at 2:45 PM on July 6, 2011

So--I have kept off about 65 pounds for 6 years--I still have about 28 to go, but I have not gained back the weight I got off--

I am after all these years finally at a peaceful place, managing my hunger and food choices without angst. I lost the bulk of the weight with weight watchers, and then shifted to a lowcarb diet (atkinsish with lower fat). Lowcarb made my thyroid totally tank. I kept at it for a number of years, mostly because I believe that we are not meant to eat so many grains, etc. However, about a year ago, I shifted to a more primal diet --organic, more oriented to fish, got rid of 06 oils, etc--and that helped--but still something wasn't working for me--I was still obsessive, still thinking of food all the time and what I could eat and when I could eat it and just generally WAY to involved with food.

I had dabbled in the NoS diet before. I had dabbled in intermittent fasting. I had dabbled with primal eating. I put them all together, and wallah. No More Food Obsessions. I eat 3 meals a day with NO SNACKS. I fast intermittently which for me means I eat nothing after dinner and I don't have my first meal until 10-11am, second meal at 2-3pm and third meal at 6-7. I eat whole foods with fruit and tubers and try to stay away from the grains unless I am having an S day (snack, second or sugar). The last hunk of weight is starting to leave me. I feel so happy and so relieved and so free of hunger. I can eat some carbs without having immediate carb bloat. It feels like a miracle to me. Feel free to message me as well if anyone is interested.
posted by chaoscutie at 6:53 PM on July 6, 2011

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