Weight loss plateau, now what?
October 22, 2017 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I lost 110 pounds in the last year, but now seem to be reversing. Any tips to get back into "drive?"

Last October I had to go to the hospital for a cardiology pre-check. It turned out they didn't even need to do the procedure, but the scale told me I weighed 520 pounds. Ouch! I hadn't been on a scale in years, I knew it was up there, docs had been telling me for years to lose weight, but that number set off something in my brain.

So I started cutting out carbs, no potatoes, no rice, no beans, no bread. Read the labels and dodged sugar as much as I could. I sorta live on drive-thru, so I threw away the rolls, grilled instead of fried chicken, no fries. It surprised me how the weight came off. I started walking around more, by the end of July I hit 399. Then I started to fall of the wagon. They'd bring in bagels at work, so I'd have one (or two.) Order a small fries with dinner. Ben and Jerry's instead of carb smart Breyers. So naturally the number starts going up, not down.

I really want to drop another 150, I don't understand why I'm doing this. My mom's been sick and I'm her primary care giver (Alzheimer's is a bitch,) but that shouldn't change what I stick in my pie hole. The stuff I shouldn't eat doesn't even taste that great, but I eat it anyway. I really don't want the weight back, I already bought new pants and got rid of the old ones.

Any ideas on getting my mind right?
posted by Marky to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing that works for me is obsessively tracking every calorie I eat and making sure that it's less than my total daily energy expenditure.

It's a LOT of effort making sure not only to track everything but to make sure you're eating ONLY things you have precise and accurate measurements for. In the past, doing it for six months hasn't worked either; I've had to do it for more than a year for calorie restriction to really stick.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:16 PM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Are you receiving any type of emotional or mental support for being your mom's sole caretaker? Have you spoken to a professional about your relationship to food, stress, etc? It's absolutely awesome that you stuck with the plan and lost that amount of weight. The wall you're hitting now isn't something that needs a new diet plan, it's the harder part - you have to work out why you're eating things you don't really want or like and learn how to short circuit it.

For more practical food advice - I totally understand lives where fast food is about all that can be managed and if you can't change that right now that's the way it is and that's ok - if there is any room to wiggle on that have you looked into ready made meals for the microwave or oven? This can help keep you from getting the small fry or the ice cream because the choice is already made and in the freezer/fridge. What about a crockpot? You can cook meals once a week, portion them out, and have that choice already made. This has been the only thing that regularly helps me accomplish my being healthier goals. If i react to feeling depressed or anxious by choosing food when I'm hungry, it's almost always something I'd rather not have. This can also be accomplished with fast food - some places will let you order online or over the phone. Write down what you want to eat - what you know you'll enjoy in all the ways - and pre-order the food so when you're looking at all their advertising you've already paid for your meal and are just picking it up.

This stuff is hard. You're not bad for hitting a wall. You (understandably) sound overwhelmed. Consider ways you can make choices ahead of time and get some inter-personal support (through groups or 1 on 1 therapy) to help you untangle the underlying stuff.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:34 PM on October 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

You might look into Julia Ross's books -- she has a new one, "The Craving Cure" coming out in December. She uses amino acids to help people stop their cravings for unhealthy food, paired with an eating plan.
posted by tooloudinhere at 6:37 PM on October 22, 2017

Best answer: Track all the small mental tricks that help you stay away from the carbs. Never shop if at all hungry or the wrong state of mind, forbid yourself from the most dangerous aisles. One nurse said that the satiation occurs 20 minutes after eating so plan an activity away from nibbles right after a meal. Fake your brain out in all the ways you know. Keep stuff out of the house. If you can get it to work a single very tasty very small treat (less than one oz) in a nice box tied up in a hard to reach spot that you can treat if you stay away from the bagels or chips for a few days.

Don't get down on yourself, it leads to madness and treats.

Do rejoice on feeling better and how much better when the next hundred lightens.

As was pointed out this is hard but wow, you're doing really great!! We're thrilled for you! Keep at it!!
posted by sammyo at 7:08 PM on October 22, 2017

Best answer: It's hard to maintain low carb over time, at least in my experience. I remember reading a long time ago that Lisa Lillien (of the Hungry Girls cookbook series) lost a bunch of weight on low carb but then switched over to a reduced-calorie plan to maintain (which is when she started developing her recipes which are lightened-up versions of tasty "normal" foods.)

Maybe try changing up your plan for awhile. One plan that works well for me is what Weight Watchers used to call the "core" plan, which they now call Simply Filling. It focuses on low-fat whole foods, eaten in enough quantity to help you fill full. As long as you stick to the list you don't even have to track points or calories or anything.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:12 PM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rather than trying to cut carbs or treats, I allow myself to eat whatever I want-- but I have to have a fist-sized amount of fruit or veg first.

I keep baby carrots, sliced cucumber, washed apples, clementines, cherry tomatoes, and small bananas very visible- right at the front of the fridge, on the kitchen counter, and in a bowl on the coffee table, so they are very visible. If I want a snack, I eat a handful of veggies or a fruit first. You can keep apples in the car too, and eat one when you crave drive-thru.

By the time you eat the fruit or veg, you probably don't want the unhealthy snack as much. And even if you eat the treat, you'll be less hungry so you'll eat/order less. Plus overall you'll be healthier from the nutrients, and have faster digestion from the fibre.

Also, drink 2 L of water a day. Thirst often pretends to be hunger.

Good for you for losing that much, it's amazing!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:18 PM on October 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I find that whatever is most convienent and accessible to grab in the kitchen is what I’ll eat if I’m hungry. It makes sense, we’re creaturea of habit. That means having heathy meals and snacks on hand works for me. If cut up veggies, or homemade soup is in the fridge, I’ll eat it first, but if not, I’ll eat something processed because it’s just there to grab. Making individual servings of something daily can feel like a pain, but making a giant green or quinoa salad will last me through the week. Advance planning helps a lot.
When I have a craving, I always ask myself what it is that I want in that moment. Say I want ice cream, is it that I want something creamy, chocolatey, something cold? I’ll then make something healthier accordingly. Creamy= plain whole milk (you need some fat to help with satiety)Greek yogurt and frozen berries. Cold and chocolatey= frozen banana slices with melted dark chocolate spooned over the top.
If ice cream is what I really want and I’m not just hungry, then I’ll have ice cream. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty or deprive yourself of food, everything in moderation. I’d also recommend a nutritionist if you’d like to keep track of your diet and get an expert’s eye on the situation. You’ve done a fantastic job already, so please don’t be too hard on yourself!
posted by Champagne Supernova at 7:20 PM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have tested positive for MTHFR, which is a slight genetic abnormality that, to keep it simple here, basically means you don't metabolize B vitamins very well. Since learning that I've been pretty good about taking a larger dose of a good quality B complex supplement.

When I did low carb after baby number one I was really good about taking my supplements, plus not drinking*too* much water (that whole 8 glasses/day is too much for me) in order to not flush out extra nutrients. I lost 60-70lbs quickly and had no trouble maintaining. Until I got pregnant for baby number two.

So now I'm doing the low carb thing again. Weight has been coming off more slowly and I've been having more carbs than is normal for me. I couldn't really figure out why I was eating that way. Recently I've noticed some other shifts in my mood that I know are linked to B deficiency for me, and I realized that I have not been diligent at all about taking my supplements for quite a while (there were reasons why that was, but they are no longer relevant in my day-to-day plan). So I started upping my supplements again, and I have less cravings for carbs again.

My theory is that in our food supply our carb products are fortified with various B vitamins, and maybe I was having that particular craving in order to get that nutrient. I don't have any cites to back up my theory; my story is just anecdata that might give you some insight into what's happening with you.

I'm not on any medications and you didn't mention meds in your post, but my understanding is that you can add B vitamins into your diet with very little risk of side effects; your body will eliminate any excess via urine. But if you're on anything heavy duty like a heart medication then always best to do some reading before adding something new.
posted by vignettist at 7:30 PM on October 22, 2017

Best answer: It's not for everyone, but the only place I've had success is Bright Line Eating. I read the book, did the quiz, and joined the 14-day challenge, which is very similar to the way you ate last year. I started doing it because there was a very good chance I would die in my sleep from apnea.

Another book I found very helpful to see why I continually sabotaged my own health was The Secret Life of Fat. Both these books explain the science, both cognitive and physiological, of why permanent weight loss is so hard for many (not all) people.

It also took the realization that I do not react normally to sweet things or flour things, in short, refined carbs. I'm also getting used to being hungry, not all the time, but often enough. I'm 17 weeks into the plan, have lost over 40 pounds, and have been able to stop nearly all the diabetes/heart meds. Blood pressure, heart rate, A1C are all well within normal range. I have 40 pounds more to go, which is a shorter journey than you're on, but what is true for the rest of my life is that I will never be able to eat "normally"--what I want, when I want--again. Or rather, of course I can, but I'll be unhealthy.

There are lots of things I can take in moderation. Alcohol isn't a problem for me. I can have one drink and enjoy it, or not drink at all, and it's the same to me. Gambling isn't a problem for me. Narcotics aren't of any interest to me. Food, especially processed carbs, and eating to reduce anxiety (and boredom, and fatigue, and etc.), now that's a problem, and I have to take a total abstinence route. Just one bite will lead to more and so the only thing I can do is not take that one bite.

Not everyone who struggles with weight loss has the (for lack of better term) "addiction" to food that I believe I have. Maybe it's not an issue for you, either. But "moderate" and "controlled" eating is just not in my skill set, and I've been a whole lot happier since I admitted it.

(I also think as a society we need to get over the notion that being between-meals hungry is a crisis which must be addressed as soon as possible. I think weight loss programs that say, "Do our program and you'll lose weight easily and never feel hungry or unsatisfied" are unmitigated bullsh!t.)
posted by angiep at 7:45 PM on October 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You’re getting some good advice here. I’ve just lost 70 pounds following a gastric bypass with a low-carb diet. I find the better I plan ahead, the better my chances are of resisting temptation in the moment. I buy Greek yogurt and cottage cheese for breakfast. Or make a batch of egg muffins and eat them all week. I don’t bring carbs and sweets into the house at all, so they’re not around in moments of weakness. I buy healthy snacks like protein bars, nuts, cheese, fruit, etc. I buy pre-packaged salads, pre-grilled chicken, things that are easy to throw together for meals. I also find that it helps to track carbs and calories in an app. LoseIt and My Fitness Pal are both great. I currently use Baritastic, an app designed for bariatric patients. It’s good for food tracking, but also lets me track measurements, weight, BMI, etc.
posted by jhope71 at 8:23 PM on October 22, 2017

Best answer: TL;DR: come hang out on reddit at /r/keto for support. Reddit is mostly awful but that sub reddit is incredibly friendly and supportive. There are MANY very large people in the community who are losing or have lost literally hundreds of pounds. You will be completely welcome, and lots of people will help you with figuring out challenges like this.

It sounds like low carb mode really works for you to take the weight off. If you're a really big person, I'm not surprised by that. More and more, nutrition and medicine are coming around to the idea that people don't get fat because they eat too much, they eat too much because they're getting fat, and that much of that is driven by an individual's metabolic response to eating carbohydrates (short, silly film clip explanation here). In short, for people who get really, really big, your specific metabolism is just very easy to tip over into fat storage mode.

Carbs play a huge role in this. Insulin is the main hormonal driver of whether your fat cells are in a mode of storing fuel or releasing fuel, and insulin levels are heavily dependent on blood sugar levels. That's usually driven by carbohydrates that we eat. But bodies can and do also synthesize glucose and other carbohydrates from scratch (because they can by synthesized from scratch, they are not essential nutrients and so you just don't need to eat them; your body will make what it needs.) Separately, stress hormones also influence blood sugar levels. So, it's possible that even if you're kinda-sorta eating on the low carb end of the spectrum, getting stressed out spikes your blood sugar, the insulin spike follows, your fat cells start pulling fuel out of your bloodstream, and you get hungry, particularly carb cravings.

So, I agree that being the primary caretaker for someone with Alzheimers is likely to be a piece of the puzzle. That is a LOT of stress. Getting some help with that, and some care for yourself, is a very good idea. I would also say that making the commitment to try going full-on keto for a couple of months is likely to help a lot. Getting into fat burning mode changes the experience of hunger and satiation dramatically and the urge to overeat goes away. Also harder to "eat your emotions" when your body just is not able to overeat.

Finally--If you live on drive-through, I think it's pretty likely that you're getting carbs sneaking in even where you don't expect it (sauces, ketchup, I think the major hamburger chains even put sugar in their meats.) That's not helping you. If you are not used to cooking or buying groceries, /r/keto can help you out even from there: what kinds of things you can buy that don't even need to be cooked, you can keep in your car, or are super duper simple to prepare.

Best of luck. Come hang out at /r/keto. We will have your back.
posted by Sublimity at 4:08 AM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've been told this advice is unhealthy. But, if I was ever on dire straights, I would strongly consider intermittent fasting or flat-out fasting. There's a lot of resources out there for both. An online-friend of mine dropped 120 lbs in 3 months through fasting, eating a multivitamin and drinking water. He said he stopped feeling hungry after a few days. He would fast for 3 weeks, then eat normally at 2000 calories, then fast for 3 weeks.

I would consult a doctor and nutritionist about this. But, it was all that worked for my online-friend. He's around 175lbs and functioning normally again, it's completely changed his life.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:18 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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