At my wit's end, weight-wise. Please help.
May 27, 2014 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I've struggled with my weight all of my adult life. Now I'm 34 and I feel like I'm at my wit's end. I just can't bring myself to fix my diet. What can I do?

I'm a classic yo-yo dieter. I lost a lot of weight, gained it back, and then have spent the last 15 years of my life losing 25 lbs, gaining 30, losing 20 lbs, gaining 25, and so forth. Now it's really starting to catch up with me.

I've tried to lose weight. I really, really have. I've tried everything. Just about everything works--for a while. But I've never been able to keep up with anything for the long term. I'm good for a while, then I binge eat. Or else I go on holiday and never come back, diet-wise. Now I'm at the point where I can't even get started on anything. Every day I say that today's going to be the day. I have a healthy breakfast, but by lunchtime I'm grabbing a candy bar and saying "Well, one last one" and we're off to the races. The task just seems so insurmountable that I can't bring myself to get started.

I have been to see a therapist but it wasn't terribly helpful. I don't think it was the therapist's fault, though. There was an awful lot of good advice but I'd be in a session and talking through it rationally and I'd feel like I'd made huge progress, but by the next day I'd be cramming my mouth full of chips again. I have absolutely no willpower. I can't say no to any snack, sweet or salty.

I read and read and read about healthy diets and nutrition and just get more confused. So then I try something simple (counting calories, the "No S" diet) and fail. I'm just so tired of it. I feel like this body's not mine--like things have gotten away from me somehow.

I don't feel like I'm depressed or anything like that. I'm happy with most of my life, but deeply dissatisfied with my health. I feel like I should be able to do better but mostly I just sit around feeling envious of people I see who are in good shape. And I remember when I used to be an athletic guy and get mad at myself for letting it all slip away.

How can I break out of this? How can I get myself to eat healthier?

Throwaway account:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I would try meeting with a nutritionist, preferably a registered dietician, who has experience with eating disorders.

Note: I'm not saying that you have an eating disorder / disordered eating - I'm not in a position to know whether you do - but that type of professional should have a lot of experience with people who feel out of control w/ regards to food, and is likely to have helpful strategies to move forwards.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Normally I'm the last person to suggest surgical intervention, but if years of conventional methods have yielded nothing, could it be time to explore some of those options?
posted by Behemoth at 11:48 AM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you looked into intuitive eating? From what you've described here, it seems like much of your struggle with weight is linked specifically to your attempts to lose it - i.e. if you weren't dieting to start with, you might have avoided the corresponding binges that led to your weight gain. In contrast, the intuitive eating mindset specifically works to normalise the relationship with food: instead of seeing weight loss as an 'insurmountable task', as you put it, it's all about developing a functional relationship with food and not struggling against it.

There are lots of books on the subject; the one that worked really well for me is the (self help-y) How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too, but I've heard good things about Geneen Roth's stuff, and The Thin Woman's Brain. (All of these are very much marketed at women, but they're applicable to men as well.)
posted by littlegreen at 11:53 AM on May 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

You can work with a therapist who is familiar with Health at Every Size and who subscribes to the ideas within it.

It is kinder, there's no Good/Bad associated with food, it will teach you to be more in tune with your body, your emotions and your relationship with food.

Also, accept that while you may alter your diet and increase your exercise, that you may continue to be fat. Sometimes that's the hand we're dealt.

I have to say that since I've learned to be more mindful, and more accepting of myself, that I am happier and more at peace with my body.

It sounds like you need some peace.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

There's an interesting (at least to me) theory that mood affects cravings. For various reasons related to your endocrine system, we reach for different kinds of comfort foods when we feel different ways.

Sugars could indicate you are feeling depressed, or perhaps anxious. If you are, and it's low-level, an easy fix is walking for an hour.

For me, it takes about 30 minutes of walking before I no longer feel stressed, and the second half hour is a real pleasure.

If you think there is nothing going on emotionally, I would also suggest just dropping all refined sugars and carbs immediately. Basically, this means no bread, no pasta, no cookies, no flavoured yogurt, none of that stuff.

It has really worked for me (I have dropped about 70 pounds since September).

Introducing carbs (say by eating toast for breakfast) into your blood stream does a number of things, notably boosting your insulin level, which removes glucose from your bloodstream. The insulin spike from eating carbs makes you hungry again in short order.

If you can remove refined flour and table sugar from your diet, and replace it with nuts (almonds and sunflower seeds work well for me, plus unsweetened 3% yogurt) in the mornings, the rest of your day will be much easier.

I typically have no carbs until the afternoon, when I have Japanese rice for lunch. Dinner is a lot of vegetables and a protein, ideally fish.

But getting rid of flour and sugar makes it way way way easier to manage your appetite. It also gets rid of "puffiness" after a couple of days, meaning a slightly looser waistband.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:56 AM on May 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

You don't mention exercise, which may be a backdoor to dealing with all of this.
posted by rhizome at 11:57 AM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am not your doctor, nutritionist, etc., but what jumps out at me from your question is that you have trouble not grabbing whatever sounds tastiest when you're hungry. Have you tried carrying fruit/vegetables/low-calorie packaged snacks around with you? Having a banana or a bag of carrots or whatever close at hand would allow you to satisfy your hunger without even getting close to a bag of chips.

Also, yes, exercise. If you're not the running type there's elliptical machines, cardio routines, free weights – many ways to use a half-hour a day to get your body into gear.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Part of the solution here is often BABY STEPS. Don't try to change too many things at once. I struggled with my weight for years. I used to say "Okay, starting Monday I am going to go to the gym every single day and eat totally healthy all the time!" I failed at this every single time. I only started feeling like I regained control of my body a couple of years ago and the changes I made back then were very small.

I started off extremely sedentary and 50+ pounds heavier than I am now. When I say sedentary, I mean no physical activity whatsoever. I started with one exercise class a week and promised myself I would not miss a single class (I didn't). Then it was two a week. And so on. Two and a half years later, I exercise six days a week (two kettlebell classes, two hula hooping classes, a boot camp class, and I play in an ultimate frisbee league). You would think I'd be exhausted but I actually love being active and including more hooping and some 5-15km hikes on the weekend. I am now one of those people I used to wish I was and didn't think I could be.

I know your question is primarily about eating but I have to add that being physically active really helped me to rethink what I was putting in my body. All of the sudden I wasn't just trying to eat well to lose/maintain weight but also to properly fuel my body for all the fun things I do.

As for the eating, yes junk food is bad for you, but there's much more to learn than that (on preview, KokuRyu has some fantastic advice). Again, with my eating I started small. First goal was to start drinking more water. Then it was to remove sugar from my coffee. Then it was making sure I got enough veggies and protein. This did not happen overnight but the changes stuck.

Last of all, how are your cooking skills? Being able to cook healthy and delicious food has been one of my most important skills with regards to losing weight.

Best of luck. I know exactly where you are because I was there too. You can do this.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2014 [10 favorites]

+1 for intuitive eating.

I used to have some imbalanced eating too. I basically had to re-create my relationship with food until it became a non-issue. I needed to get back in touch with what real hunger physically felt like.

The problem with 'diets' is you spend so much time overriding your natural senses, and you judge yourself sooooo much. Hunger is 'growly' feeling in the body (or light-headed if you're low blood sugar) and feeling satisfied is not "ugh I'm so stuffed" but a pleasant "ah that was enough!" feeling.

So I decided no food was off limits. One day I just said to myself Yup as of today there is no such thing as a "bad" food. This good/bad thing was killing me. Instead, I could eat anything I wanted. The only 'catch' was I had to be hungry for it. So want a chocolate bar? Buy the chocolate bar. And then set it aside and wait until I'm hungry. And when I'm hungry, eat the bar. Easy peasy.

You'd think I'd go hog wild but the novelty wears quick. After about a month of eating whatever, I found things sorted themselves out pretty quickly. If I was full, I'd stop eating, even in the middle of a delicious dinner. (I would just put the dinner aside and eat it later, when I was hungry again.) My weight stabilized off and my mind had so much free space....

As a result, years later I am now more of a grazer and I get full quickly.

Also after years of developing this casual comfort with eating, I also
- play sports that I sincerely enjoy (you can take my soccer ball from my cold dead feet)
- read up on nutrition to make sure my diet is balanced (made some tweaks and am feeling a lot better and sleeping better!)
- try to keep my refined sugars to 25-50g per day, as per an article I read about refined sugar being 5-10% of a 2000 calorie diet. I eat lots of fruit though. And it's not a strict rule by any means.

But the above 'restrictions,' if you'll call them that, came after I had years of comfort with just eating naturally and not judging myself so damned much. It is a world of difference between choosing to eat a certain way vs feeling like you have to eat a certain way, or else.

good luck! peace!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Have you thought about (or tried) an eating plan with a group component or a group like OA?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and flavor! The North American diet teaches us that flavor = salty, sweet, fatty. But there is so much more to flavor than this. When I cook with recipes that emphasize flavor, I am much more satisfied than something flat & tasteless or fatty and salty.

This UK-based cooking show Cook Yourself Thin has tons of recipes (scroll down) that are healthy and satisfying. I've learned a lot by cooking with them.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:33 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am going through the same thing. I have gained 70 pounds in the last decade - from a size six to a sixteen - and sometimes I feel like my body is this "other" thing I don't connect with anymore.

Ruthless Bunny said: Also, accept that while you may alter your diet and increase your exercise, that you may continue to be fat. Sometimes that's the hand we're dealt. This approach is radically changing the way I relate to my body. Instead of fretting over the number on the scale, I focus on actions. For example, instead of admonishing myself to not eat any sugar EVER AGAIN (HAHAHAHAH no), I check in to make sure I'm on track to eat five servings of vegetables today. Instead of despairing because no one will EVER love my, er, "curvy" body, I take a long walk outside while listening to music. Yesterday I walked the length of Ocean Beach in San Francisco while collecting shells. So wonderful, and miles away from the punishment of "going to the gym."

tl;dr: Aim your energy toward healthy food and activity choices that make you feel good, instead of a specific weight.
posted by Munching Langolier at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I used to have real trouble with eating in secret and with not eating junk food whenever I wanted it and three things really helped me break those habits and lose weight (maybe 15-20 lbs or so, nothing drastic, but I've kept it off for a decade now). I'm not sure if they'll resonate with you, but, in case it helps.

1. I ate exactly the same meals as always, but cut my portion in half. I then always carried a couple of healthy (or healthy-ish, at least) snacks in case I wound up starving while I was out and about. I usually carried an orange or bag of crudites and a protein bar in a flavor I didn't like that much (so it wasn't a tempting snack, just something so I wouldn't be too uncomfortably hungry). Even if I wound up eating all my snacks, I was still eating an appropriate amount of food. This might be worth a try if you have trouble with portion control. I also found diet soda/unsweetened iced tea/seltzer really helpful as a snack substitute. I usually snack when I want a distraction, so a no-calorie drink and walk to the deli to get it works just as well as food.

2. I increased the amount I walked, by a lot. This was probably the magic key. I now do other exercises for strength and fun, but just walking for at least an hour a day really made a difference for me. I still spend about 2 hours of my day walking (I've gone to some trouble to set up my life to allow that). I'd also highly recommend strength training exercises along the lines of p90x when you feel you're ready for them (free short workout). I started doing those more recently, but have found I can be much freer with what I eat when I do them regularly.

3. I stopped reading about food so much. I found reading cookbooks, food writing, etc super enjoyable, but always wound up snacking while doing it. I just cut that out and it really reduced my tendency to sit and eat junk. You may not have the same habit, but if you have an activity that tends to go along with mindless snacking, you may want to try cutting it out for a while to see if it helps. I just replaced it with reading the news and novels and that was enough of a change to break my habit.

bonus 4. I got rid of my scale. I grew up in a house with a lot of disordered eating and competition about who was thinnest, and not having a number to obsess over really, really helped me get over it. I'd highly recommend it. You can always use the scale at the gym or doctor's office if you need to weigh yourself occasionally.

Also, yes to St Peepsburg's suggestions! Also yes to a nutritionist or RD if you're confused about healthy eating. I'm a vegan who grew up in kind of a hippy environment, so I've always been good about eating my veggies and usually not overdoing it on the refined sugar and flour, but it can be good to get some objective advice on that if you're not sure where to start.
posted by snaw at 12:46 PM on May 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I suppose a way to reduce guilt about what food you eat and focus on a more achievable goal is to look at BMI, waist size, and neck size.

For each of the three measures, if you are above a certain threshold you are at risk for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

So you can take the focus off of foods and aesthetics.

In my case, I had a 40+ inch waist (indicator for the diseases and conditions mentioned above), a BMI in the high 30's (an indicator for the diseases and conditions mentioned above) and an 18-inch neck (an indicator for the diseases mentioned above).

And, lo and behold, I developed high blood pressure at the age of 42.

So you do need to pay attention to your weight and get it under control.

For me, I have gone down to a 36-inch waist and a 16.5 inch neck, and my blood pressure is coming down a bit.

However my BMI is still around 30, too high. I gotta do something in order to ensure I have a long and happy life. I don't want to die. Something you may not think about at the age of 31, but let me tell you it becomes real at 40.

So ignore the "fat is beautiful" rhetoric if you can, because it could kill you.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:46 PM on May 27, 2014

Behemoth: Normally I'm the last person to suggest surgical intervention, but if years of conventional methods have yielded nothing, could it be time to explore some of those options?

Yeah, it's not right for everyone, but when my wife went to her doctor with basically your same question he basically said that it was time to stop hitting her head against the wall of diets and try a more drastic intervention.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:52 PM on May 27, 2014

You can see a nutritionist, or find a good nutrition plan in a book or online, not a 'diet' plan. Standard rules apply:
- drink a glass of water before eating in case you're really thirsty.
- and/or start with soup
- keep healthy food and snacks around.
- don't keep unhealthy food and snacks around.
- consider Weight Watchers for the social reinforcement.
- make sure you're getting enough sleep.
- increase the veggies in your diet. I've started planning my veggies 1st, then adding meat and/or carbs.
- have protein in every meal.
- use lots of herbs & spices.
- eat lots of fiber.
- build exercise into your day - take the stairs, park farther away at the grocery, walk instead of drive, etc.
- do cardiovascular exercise & lift some weights.
- track your weight and use a reward system for every day/ week/ month you eat healthy and exercise.
- avoid places with junk food, plan your meals, and shop with a list.

Most of all, if you can, change your focus from weight to health. If you have a smartphone, get a fitness app and track your heart rate. Track how much weight you can lift. Take pride in being able to walk farther, faster, then being able to bike/swim/kayak farther, faster. Take an exercise class and/or find an exercise buddy if that will help.

Give yourself a break. We're surrounded by food that's had the flavors amped up, and it takes some time to stop with the sugar, fat and salt. There's food and food ads everywhere, triggering us to think about food.
posted by theora55 at 12:56 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is how I learned to crave fruit and vegetable snacks: I tricked myself.

Every week, I buy a bunch of produce, spend 30 minutes washing/prepping/chopping it all, add it to every meal I eat, bring something with me every where I go, and I don't wait until I am famished before eating it. None of that is new, and I had tried it before with limited results.

The game-changer for me was this: I take a minute to think about the fruit or veg I've got to eat right before I have it. I think about how great oranges smell when you first rip into them and how they satiate my hunger and my thirst; how satisfying it is to take a big bite of an apple; how I'm surprised every time a banana satisfies a sugar craving; how roasting vegetables brings out flavors I didn't even know existed. I enjoy seeing how many different colors of produce I can get on a plate. I feel the security of knowing I've got a snack with me and I don't have to stop or think or spend unplanned money. I savor all of this for just a moment, and then I savor my snack, preferably without distraction.

I didn't used to feel this way about the food I eat, or take the time to appreciate what I've got. And at first, it wasn't even really true. I kind of hated bananas. I thought oranges were too messy and a lot of work. I just came up with positive things that I didn't even think I cared about... but now I do.

It's also started to mean that when I get hungry, the first thing I crave the snack I've got. Compare this to the familiar cycle of: "I'm fucking starving, I'm getting crap from the vending machine, ohgodthisissoooodelicious, fuck why did I eat that, oh god I'm still hungry," and the payoff became huge. I feel emotionally better after I eat, not worse. Mindfulness made the difference for me.

And finally: fruit and veg calories don't count for my daily caloric totals. If I want produce, it's guilt-free and I have it.
posted by calcetinporfavor at 12:57 PM on May 27, 2014 [17 favorites]

Have you ever tried logging/counting calories? There are a lot of apps or websites that can help (MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople and Loseit, among others). Some of the apps even have a bar code scanner. It can be a pain at first, but it gets easier as you enter more foods and can use features like recent, food groupings, favorites, etc.

Logging really helped me with the "I had a candy bar so I might as well have ALL of the candy" mentality. It just went into the log, and sometimes I stayed under goal and sometimes I didn't, and then eventually I made connections about the things that I ate and the way that I was feeling, and ate less of the things that made it harder to stay under my goal because they were not as satisfying (in terms of being filling) as other things.
posted by amarynth at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can relate. It's not about diets and it's not about willpower. It's a complex issue that is mostly habit -- ingrained bad habits.

I'm 41-years-old. At your age I was binging more than I do now. With age, increased self-esteem, and better self-awareness I was able to stop most of my binge eating. I still binge at times.

I think intuitive eating is the optimal goal. If we all ate intuitively we would be at normal weights. However, intuitive eating doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of practice and self-awareness. In the meantime you may need to train yourself to stop eating so erratically and start eating on a more normal eating schedule. If you are a binger you may skip breakfast or try to cut calories the day after a binge because you feel guilty about ingesting so many calories, but the madness starts all again when you become hungry.

You are most likely using food to soothe uncomfortable emotions. Food is used to distract. If you are like me, you may be eating at certain times of the day even if you are not hungry. For example, after a big lunch at noon I am not hungry at 3pm when I arrive home from work. I might eat something at 3 pm out of habit because I want to unwind and relax. That big bowl of cereal, or whatever I can find, momentarily gets my mind off of a stressful day. If I were to delve deeper, maybe I am eating the cereal because I feel uneasy about the dishes in the sink and the pile of laundry I have to do. Or, maybe I'm just plain exhausted and I am using food to perk myself up. After I momentarily zone out while eating my big bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, the dishes and the laundry are still there, I'm still tired, and the shame cycle begins. Eat, regret, repent, repeat. It's maddening.

In the past several years I am more forgiving of myself and don't beat myself up over eating like I used to. If you are an emotional eater you have to love yourself and be very kind to yourself. You have to practice not being mad at yourself for the body you have now. This will require hard work. In order to stop emotional eating you will have to be in tune with your emotions and know what your body and soul needs. You may have childhood wounds that are unhealed and you are using food to soothe your inner-child as woo woo as that sounds. Better awareness and mindfulness are new behaviors you will need to form. When you are binging you are almost in a trance. Binge-eating is the opposite of awareness.

I don't have all of the answers but with this kind of thing I think you need to dump all diets and take eating day by day, hour by hour. When you label a candy bar as bad and this makes you feel guilty and the diet shame cycle begins. Forget about dieting and "good" or "bad" foods, it only makes you feel guilty. It's just food and there shouldn't be shame wrapped around it.

It's easier said than done, but stop diets forever and learn to be more in tune with your hunger and your emotions. Practice being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself. Ask what your body and mind might need instead of food. If you are on auto-pilot on the way to the vending machine, it may take some meditation and a moment of self-reflection at your desk before you go to the vending machine. Maybe you're hungry or maybe you're bored, tired, stressed out, overwhelmed, etc. Find out what's bothering you and call it what it is. Learn to check in with yourself often throughout the day. It could take a full year or more of hard work to learn healthy coping strategies and to stop using food to soothe.
posted by Fairchild at 1:28 PM on May 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

No doubt you know and have tried most of the healthy eating/diet hacks so I can only say what works for me are intensive exercise and one hardcore "cheat day."

I run 3-5 miles, kayak for hours, hike, lift weights or do HIIT training 6 days a week. Saturday I exercise at maximum capacity for 2 hours, but every day is at least 45 minutes of heavy duty aerobics where I'm sweating profusely. I rest on Sunday and that's the food cheat day.

And I give myself one cheat day a week. I can have all the foods on that day. I found this cheat day actually boosts weight loss.

The other six days I have a pretty dull diet: no breakfast, carrots and celery sticks all day, baby peppers, lunch is 8 cups of leafy greens with beans, tomatoes and maybe avocado or olive oil. Dinner is grilled tofu and another huge amount of vegetables, an entire spaghetti squash with tomatoes and basil, but no grains. Snack is a small square of dark chocolate.

This is my lose weight diet, and when I need to back off and maintain, I add in breakfast oatmeal or rice cakes with almond butter.

I really reframed my thinking into food is fuel, not a treat.

And when I exercise hard 6x a week, I find that I can eat much more food and lose weight.
posted by kinetic at 1:51 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

And I remember when I used to be an athletic guy and get mad at myself for letting it all slip away.

You don't have to change your diet to get back into sports and exercise. How much exercise do you get on a regular basis? If it's not that much, it might be worth it to start out at the gym with a trainer. I know this question is mostly about healthy eating, but one thing that helped me in the willpower department was exercising including weight training. It made me way more in tune with my body. I could really see the effects of eating too much sugar when I couldn't hit my exercise goals at the gym because the sugar was making me sluggish, and I couldn't build enough muscle because I really needed to be eating more fat and protein and leafy green vegetables. This started me thinking how food was affecting other parts of my life - sleep, mood, concentration at work, etc. Connecting the food I eat to how my body feels provided a lot of motivation for me to eat healthier. And, if you need some help figuring it out, as everyone said you could ask a nutritionist.

Anyway, it's something to try, and since you seem to have enjoyed athletic pursuits in the past, maybe this could be your way in to a healthier lifestyle.
posted by bluefly at 4:16 PM on May 27, 2014

I really, really think you'd do well with Judith Beck's approach to weight loss.

Because it's not really about finding The Perfect Diet. You know you *can* lose weight, right? So the problem is that you don't know how to eat well for life.

So basically, her premise is this: Pick a diet that you like. Pick one you can live with, that doesn't make you miserable, that works with your lifestyle. Don't even do the diet for like, 2 weeks into buying the book. Instead, you start doing her cognitive behavioral exercises that really examine your relationship with food, dieting, and poor habits. Lots of people have food anxieties, false beliefs about eating, and self-delusions that make eating better really difficult. If you start examining those delusions, they begin to lose their power. And you'll notice that most of your thinner friends think about food totally differently than those of us who struggle with food issues.

Beck doesn't really focus on what you're eating, but rather how and why you eat, and she helps change your bad thinking patterns that compel you diet like a champ, mess up, give up all hope, quit your good habits, binge eat, and ultimately gain 30 lbs. She includes a ton of various positive thinking regimens and really insists you follow through on them. They sound cheesy at first, but they can provide an enormous buffer against your bad backslide-y tendencies. Good luck!

Just as an example, one of her helpful thinking techniques is to imagine your ability to indulge as a muscle. Now imagine your ability to abstain as a muscle. Every time you pass up a plate of cookies left in the break room at work, rather of thinking, "It sucks that everyone else can eat those but I can't," you instead congratulate yourself on building up your power to abstain and weakening your power to indulge. That's just a small example but it helps me a lot!
posted by zoomorphic at 4:35 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fuck diet (for now), hit the gym.

a: working out will moderate your food intake - if all you've eaten is a candy bar and you go lift weights, you're gonna feel like shit, so you quickly learn what works as far as intake and your own metabolism (low/no carb works terribly for me for example)

b: fitness is not a straight line between thin:fat - I've 'lost heaps of weight' according to onlookers, except the scales don't say the same thing because my body is changing to be more fit (and dense apparently) and if I went by weight alone I'd be frantically changing what is actually working to make me fitter

c: it's hard to feel angry at your body when you're progressing with a training regimen - I'm totally and utterly stoked that I can bench 25kgs for 10 reps, and that I'm finally getting some muscle definition through my arms, which all means I'm less likely to lay on the couch hating myself and thinking 'fuck it, gimme the candy' and poking the belly fat and muffin top and bingo wings because I have a reason to keep going

d: that fitness increase, muscle density, cardiac fitness, whatever, is the protective mechanism behind the measurements KokoRyu is talking about

e: it provides a shape for your day around eating.

So, I joined the gym in February. I started with classes and swimming. I liked swimming, hated the classes, and there was no real change apart from being able to swim more laps. I did get this routine on gym days where I had a proper breakfast (before the 10am swim or class) or held off on lunch (for after the 12pm class), and made sure my snacks were something dense because a muffin/piece of fruit didn't cut it after 20 laps. Then I switched over to weight lifting in March, and using the rowing machine and the occasional pilates class.

Since then, I've gotten a bunch of comments about my weight loss. I've gone from benching the bar 10 times, to improving my reps and form and adding weights to the bar. I've gone from 2kg weights for my shoulder exercises to 5/6kg ones. I've gone from squatting the bar to squatting 60kgs. I've had this very easy to track, very concrete advancement. I've actually put on 2-3kgs, but how my body feels is different. I still eat chocolate, and carbs, and breakfast, and meat, and so on. But I am much more at ease with my body and diet than before. I have a concrete shape for eating on gym days (oats, nuts, dried fruit and greek yoghurt for breakfast, milky coffee and a little bit of chocolate after weight-training, protein heavy lunch, whatever for dinner) and my body feels good. Albeit my arse is killing me this morning and stairs are the enemy, but I can still roll out and spring out of bed without pain and creaking.

And I'm not even doing it properly! I go to the gym twice a week usually, I don't have a trainer or a plan. I've got a bunch of issues that mean I'll never be running on a treadmill. But I'm happier and healthier than before because I found the exercise that works for me (walking and running are awful and I hate them and I tried so hard for so long because that's what the prevailing wisdom is). You don't have to have it perfect, or optimised, or whatever. Get up, do something that you can feel good about and hopefully has either the payoff the walkers are talking about, or the obvious increase in ability, so that you have a reason to keep doing it. Then, once you're moving and doing stuff, food seems a bit easier to moderate and understand.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:44 PM on May 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

The one thing that helped me significantly was going on a ketogenic diet (high fat, moderate protein, low carb). There are various opinions on this diet as there are with other diets, but it worked for me where other kinds of diet hasn't. And it's easy for me personally to maintain. Check out readdit's /r/keto subreddit for info (in particular Keto in a nutshell and the FAQ.
posted by pyro979 at 8:37 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be an athletic guy. At 42 I'm more athletic than I've been since I was 12 and that's with a lot more inches on my waist than I'd prefer. Biking, skiing, golf, and tennis are awesome big guy sports.
posted by MattD at 8:40 PM on May 27, 2014

nth'ing don't worry so much about the weight, get more exercise.

Skinny people can be unhealthy too. Whether you manage to lose weight or not, you won't really be healthy until you're getting enough exercise. I'd argue that you're better off being heavy and exercising than being skinny and sedentary.

I too have struggled with my weight all of my life. Dieting just doesn't seem to work for me and/or I'm just not very good at it. Instead, 8-months ago I decided to start lifting weights. I've joined gyms in the past and found it to be to much hassle to get ready, drive to the gym, get checked in, and then figure out how to workout. Instead, I bought a good weight set on craigslist and put it in my basement so now I just throw on some workout clothes and go downstairs. I removed as many of the barriers to working out as I possibly could and then worked hard to establish the habit.

I started with starting strength and then moved to a similar program when that stopped working for me. It's simple, doesn't take a ton of time, and it really works.

I haven't really lost any weight but I have lost a few inches around my waist and my clothes fit better. My blood pressure has gone down a bit as has my resting heart rate. The strength training along with the twice daily brisk walks with the dog has left me feeling MUCH healthier even if I still look fat. It's not ideal but I feel as if I have some control over my body. I also like the idea of having this ripped physique under a layer of fat that all I have to do it get really serious about my diet to uncover.
posted by VTX at 5:58 AM on May 28, 2014

Branching off from Fairchild's comment, perhaps it would be useful to start a meditation practice or otherwise work on mindfulness and being present. If you feel good about your therapy and those sessions are helping you understand what causes your eating issues, the next step is to help your brain remember that when the next craving comes. That's a hard thing to do when the habits are old, but with practice, it could become easier.
posted by benbenson at 9:54 AM on May 28, 2014

I use MyFitnessPal to log everything I eat & drink accurately & honestly. What a wakeup call! It took me several months to get totally honest with myself, and then it took some trial & error to find what works for me.

Logging before I eat or drink makes me mindful. It shows me how my choices will impact my options for the rest of the day. I eat “healthy” 80% of the time and fit yummy, portion-controlled treats into my calorie goal. (Think healthy lifestyle change, not deprivation.) There’s even a MeFite Cheering Squad. Feel free to friend me.

And I joined the MetaFilter team on Health Month. (Previously.) Health Month helps build healthy habits through gamification, with rules like “think of one tiny thing you could do to improve your health every day” or “eat bright vegetables x times a week.”
posted by editorgrrl at 11:09 AM on May 28, 2014

There are surgical options outside of gastric bypass. A lap band might be the right choice.
posted by feste at 12:12 PM on May 28, 2014

Hey there! This sounds painfully familiar unfortunately... I too have lost weight and put it back on, and here's what I've found helpful

Build the exercise habit
So I find it easier to DO something rather than STOP doing something (binge eating) so I have this 'don't break the chain' page in my journal where I make sure I exercise 5 times a week. It's easy after you do two or three in a row, and after a few more runs you will start to look forward to them. SERIOUSLY. So add exercise - this is great for literally everything, concentration and mental health in addition to your weight. And if you work out you won't feel like as much of a failure if you overeat one day, and it will seriously give your whole healthy day some momentum. I could not recommend exercising enough.

Build the mindful eating habit
So I'm trying to eat one meal a day with these questions in mind (what does it look like? what does it smell like? how hot is it? do I like it? what's the texture like? does it taste like anything else?) and the result is mindful eating! So this is mega hard for someone who's used to cramming food but I've read that mindful eating is one way to heal one's relationship with food, so I'm going to keep doing this and see what happens.

Allen Carr's smoking book
I have pretty serious binge eating problems, but I realised that I always binged on the same food groups. This is good because I can just excise an entire food group out without having to worry about the rest of my meals, so if you have several foods you always binge on, then you can consider reading through this book and replacing 'cigarette' with '(food groups)' and 'smoking' with 'binge eating'. I did this a few days ago, no binge eating so far! YAY!

So far not much has happened, but I do feel like I am doing something, and that in the long run it will lead to a healthier lifestyle and a more relaxed attitude towards food (your exasperation and diet fatigue I can 100% relate too). So GOOD LUCK! I'll keep you updated (and if you want a health accountability person I want one too! We can support each other! Memail me! :) )
posted by dinosaurprincess at 2:07 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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