How do I lick this weight problem for good?
August 19, 2011 2:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I break the gain/lose/gain cycle?

I am a woman in her late thirties. I have struggled with my weight since I was about six or seven years old. I have repeated this pattern many times: gain weight up until life sucks unbearably (I've been a plus size and a single digit size, many times) then hold for a few years, then starve it off for a year. Maintain for five minutes....regain. I have done Weight Watchers, I have done Nutrisystem, and very low-carb. I have done hard hard work and exercised daily. I hate it and the weight always comes back.

Last year I actually took doctor-prescribed stimulants to lose weight, it was the BEST THING EVER although I still had to restrict what I was eating very mindfully. I lost eighty pounds in a bit less than a year. Life was grand, I had ten to go until goal, and then the shit hit in a number of ways and now I'm in the regain cycle. I have been off the drugs for a few months and I've put half the weight back on.

How do I stop? How do I ever get to where I want to be and stay there? I've done it slow, I've done it fast, but I don't know how anyone licks a weight problem for good. I don't want to take the drugs again, but as the pounds stack on alarmingly fast, I have no idea what to do next. I've gone up three sizes in two months and I've stopped wanting to go anywhere or do anything. I don't want people to see me, I feel ashamed.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you'll get a ton of various answers. But the only thing that has worked for me is stopping the dieting cycle altogether. Studies show 95% of diets fail (95% of the time the person regains all weight lost within 1 - 4 years). Yet we, as a society, keep doing something that has a 95% failure rate. It's absolute insanity. We keep thinking we're the failure when we gain the weight back. It's not us - it's that diets simply do not work. The deprivation that a diet puts us through is insidious.

A therapist friend gave me the book Intuitive Eating and it's changed my life. It teaches you how to get back to the natural signals your body is sending you regarding hunger and satiety. To reject the diet mentality, the "food police," the unhealthy obsession and guilt/shame cycle we have with food. But, you really have to want to end the yo-yo cycle. And, this is important -- your primary focus cannot be quick weight loss.

Anyway, check out the reviews of the book there on Amazon. It's a wonderfully healthy (emotionally & physically) approach to ending the yo-yo dieting cycle forever. I can't tell you the relief I have felt to finally be at peace with food. And, as a bonus, I've been losing weight effortlessly.
posted by Falwless at 2:21 PM on August 19, 2011 [16 favorites]

You could get checked out to rule out any health issues that might be causing the weight gain, but for the most part, you just have to eat better, and probably less. Counting calories worked for me. When life sucks, don't take it as an excuse to eat poorly. Exercise helps, but diet is the biggest factor in losing weight. Basically you need to keep eating mindfully.

Some people think counting calories is a lot of work, but eventually you'll reach a point where you know a bag of chip has xxx calories and that salad has xx calories, so you'll know what to eat more of, and what to stay away from. You want a deficit of calories until you reach your "where you want to be" level, and then you want to find the right number of calories where you're maintaining the same weight (more or less) and stick with that. Some days you'll be a little higher, some a bit lower, but the end result should be weight maintenance.

If you're drinking any calories, stop now. Water, and most tea is pretty low calorie. Stay away from soda (there seems to be evidence that staying away from diet soda isn't a bad idea either). In fact, drink lots of water - it fills you up and the body likes water.

Good luck, you've done it before, so it's certainly possible - just don't fall back into the same bad habits that have caused you to cycle in the past. What you need here is a lifestyle adjustment, not a temporary fix.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:41 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

"What you need here is a lifestyle adjustment, not a temporary fix."

No one can put it an better than this. Eat less food but real food, move more, and less a healthier weight be a side effect instead of the goal.
posted by brozek at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Someone told me a long time ago that the only way to lose weight was to lose a pound a week (or less), such that by the time you've lost twenty or twenty-five pounds, half a year's gone by and your eating habits have changed.

This has definitely worked for me the few times I've really felt a need to lose weight.
posted by philip-random at 4:40 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding Falwless, and I recommend How to Become Naturally Thin by Eating More: The anti-diet book by Jean Antonello. Dr Arya Sharma referred to gaining weight through intentional weight loss in his Obesity Notes blog post titled Will Losing Weight Make You Fat? which begins with "I often joke that the easiest way to gain 25 lbs is to lose 20!"
posted by Pigpen at 7:30 PM on August 19, 2011

How do you feel about exercise? Do you enjoy it? If you can choose a sport or kind of exercise to pursue, set goals with, etc, this could help a lot with maintaining weight. I think the key is to find a type of exercise you want to keep doing and keep challenging yourself with. And then, not looking at regular exercise as a way to lose weight, but rather as a way to stay healthy and feel good.

A lot of people on this site talk about eating habits being more important than exercise when losing weight; this may be true, but I believe that for maintaining weight, exercise is key. You will be hard-pressed to find someone who works out vigorously at least 5 times a week to be at an unhealthy weight.
posted by bearette at 8:18 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, not everyone is mean to be naturally skinny, and I find that regular exercise helps you recognize what your body type naturally is- if you are active and healthy, I feel your body settles naturally into a healthy weight. Do you think the problem might be that you are setting the "weight bar" too low, so you keep "failing'? Maybe you should focus on being strong and healthy, moreso than being a certain weight, which may not be realistic for you to maintain anyway.
posted by bearette at 8:21 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't have the answer - I'm in the same boat, really - but I'm trying to be sensible now without actually dieting (I've drastically cut down on sweets, snacks, and seconds a-la No S Diet, and I'm doing more exercise). I'm losing, slowly, and I'm OK with seeing my lifestyle now as a permanent thing not a one-off lose the weight fast system. I hope it works for me, and it seems as if something like this is what you need to do too.

I'm finding that Health Month with a Metafilter team, no less is really helping me stick to small changes. Good luck.
posted by handee at 5:30 AM on August 20, 2011

You don't need a diet; you need a lifestyle change. You need to think of the change that you're making as the way you're living your life. The alkaline approach has made the most sense to me and it is something I have been doing (budget-allowing) for a few months. The key things I've noticed about it are that I really do feel better -- mentally and physically -- when I'm eating this way. The problem that it gives with most diets are that they are damaging your body while you're losing weight -- thus it's impossible to keep eating that way because it's unhealthy. The eating philosophy given in the book goes back to what is natural for us as humans. The normal American diet [as in what we normally eat] (and even the vast majority of "fad" diets, including Atkins, Weight Watchers...) cause the body's environment to be more acidic. Our bodies are supposed to be more alkaline. Fat deposits form because of the acids in our bodies -- it is a natural protection against the acids eating away at our cells. Same with cholesterol -- it's a plaque that forms to protect against tears from acids in the bloodstream. Also, microorganisms thrive in an acidic environment -- this means they are stealing your nutrient supply, depositing their waste in your body, and spreading around your body. This can make you tired, undernourished despite being overweight, and prone to illness. The alkaline approach basically gets you eating the food -- and taking the supplements -- that create a higher alkaline environment in your body. Because your body's chemistry is balanced, the natural guards against an acidic environment naturally go away -- such as all that fat. This approach has also been successful against health conditions, such as diabetes, for the same reasons. Also, I strongly recommend actually reading the book. I'm not a diet-book-reader, but I did read this one and it was the first "diet" that made sense to me from a science standpoint. It's also the most energetic I've felt in a while. I had serious energy problems (and I'm only 26!) because of an illness a few years ago, but when I eat right, I feel good!
posted by DoubleLune at 6:38 AM on August 20, 2011

The alkaline approach has made the most sense to me and it is something I have been doing (budget-allowing) for a few months.

Don't believe this garbage either. The 'alkaline diet' is another pseudo-science fad. Your blood pH is very strictly regulated so that enzymes can function. Eating more alkaline/acidic food is only going to change the pH of your urine.
posted by t_dubs at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

if you have regularly been in excess of BMI 30, then the problem you face is with obesity. The very best results suggest that 20% of people can lose 10% of their starting body weight and keep that off over 5 years.
So if 10% brings you into a healthy weight range then by all means an approach like intuitive eating can help.

If however 10% would still see you at an unhealthy weight then you should consider a Gastric Band.

Most obese people have an extremely efficient metabolism that sees them gain weight as soon as they go over a certain number of calories. Weight gain is a simple function of too many calories for your metabolic needs. Many, many years ago with a history that sounds exactly like yours I had mine tested and found that above 1200 calories I gained weight. So I increased excercise and basically dieted most of my adult life. It was miserable and you simply cannot explain to a non-obese person what a mindfuck it is when you can gain 10lbs a year just by eating an apple worth over 1200 calories a day.

When I hit 40 I found everything slowed down, I could no longer exercise as much so in order to avoid a lifetime of trouble I had a Gastric Band fitted. You still follow a diet but it is so much easier to eat healthy when 1200 calories makes you feel satisfied.
posted by Wilder at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

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