Where's the guidance for the newly not-fat?
November 19, 2020 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I was a Very Fat and Very Unfit person (female, 50s). And then I spent a couple of years figuring out how to move my body in a way that made me happy. Next I focused on food. And now I find myself Rather Fit and definitely Not Fat (though not precisely thin, I'm in straight sizes). And...here's where I need a new kind of guidance.

I'm no longer in the rush to "get fit!" and "lose weight!" and I want to adjust my thinking and my actions to:
-- Continuing long-term exercise. The two things I do are exercise #1 (which I *love* and provides good but nontraditional "exercise"; think ballroom dancing) and exercise #2 (which I enjoy for the endorphins but which is traditional exercise; think cardio and lifting).
-- Changing my mental processes from "lose weight" to "maintain weight."
-- Most importantly, dealing with the psychology of being in a radically different-sized body. This has internal implications (how I feel about myself now and reckoning with the parts of me that are different and the parts that are the same) and also external implications (the way other people react to me).
-- Avoiding disordered eating pitfalls.

Where are the books, articles, blogs, Twitter accounts, etc. that I should read/follow? Who are the smart leaders in this area for me to turn to? I know there's probably no equal to finding a therapist in this speciality area, but that's not a route I can take right this moment, so I'm looking for other sources. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a group on facebook for getting fit and everything that goes along with that, and a podcast that is often recommended is We Only Look Thin.
posted by poppunkcat at 7:39 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

I love the blog Fit is a Feminist issue - body positive group blog about enjoying being fit. Most of the writers are in their 50s but not all. They are definitely not all thin and not all world class athletes - feels very real and supportive.
posted by leslies at 8:05 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Thank you for this question. Remaining motivated when actively losing weight is easy compared to staying the course when maintaining. There's so much less excitement, change, and drama.

What is a safe--that is, not especially injury-o-genic--but nevertheless fun and rewarding physical pursuit that will allow you to get incrementally better and more skilled at it, like your #1? If you can keep up with #1 and #2 and add a #3 that's more on the "it is fun" continuum, like #1, then it might stay interesting? If you're not already using a standing desk, you could get one of those and add a tiny little increment to #2, too, by employing the "all-day standing fidget." So keep tinkering around with exercise forevermore and only mess with diet if you find you're gaining weight again--to let your mind rest on that front and not dip into disordered eating.

A fit body is more comfortable to inhabit, in my experience, than an unfit one. It can rest comfortably in a range of positions not available to an unfit body. You can perch. (How I long to perch...) There's strength and flexibility to allow for moving more quickly from position to position. Sleep is better. Soreness from exercise isn't crippling and resolves more quickly. You can pick up a cast iron pan and not have your wrist fold under the weight. Those are the things to make sure to notice, along with the sometimes weird and unnerving things--in my experience mainly the changed appearance and everything that comes with that, like the way people react, being startled by your own reflection, clothes not fitting, yadda. Keep noticing and deliberately celebrating and pursuing the comfortable and pleasant aspects of just being in your body and don't allow yourself to get used to them.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:15 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Thank you for that blog, leslies, it's definitely really interesting, but oh my gosh, so hard on the eyes with pale font on a pale background. Definitely a sign I'm gettin' old ...

I'm 61 and reasonably fit but also not thin. I like Fit in my 40s in The Guardian. Lots of ideas on different ways of keeping fit and staying motivated.
posted by essexjan at 9:26 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in the book ‘Passing for Thin’
posted by bq at 11:21 AM on November 19

I have two different approaches for you: one is to give this less mental space, and two is to start learning more about longevity/healthy aging/movement rather than fitness and losing weight. Shift your goals to longer term, to thinking about how you want to move and feel in ten and twenty and thirty years.

First, about less mental space: instead of keeping up with blogs and stories and books about weight loss and fitness, focus on lifestyle and sustainable practices. Cultivate a range of activities in your life that keep you moving. What if you get bored with your primary activity or have some random injury that precludes it (you break your toe and can't ballroom dance for a few months, for example)? Are there other ways you can incorporate activity into your daily life? For example, walk or bike to do errands rather than drive. Use this newfound fitness to pursue more and different sports and activities and hobbies so that active movement is just how you live. And watch for creep: if you have one very tempting food today, it becomes easier to have it next week, and then again and so on. You want to make your healthy activity and eating patterns habits so you don't have to devote mental space to them all the time. And, resistance training is so important. That's something where we have to have intention.

Then, for what to read and learn about: I suggest things on longevity and movement and healthy aging. Peter Attia is a doctor with a podcast and blog about such things, with a focus on movement and muscle mass. Katy Bowman writes and blogs about movement. Victor Longo is a researcher focused on longevity and has a book about eating for longevity. I'm sure there are more great folks out there writing about this, but in general, my suggestion is to shift from tips and trainers to thinking about how you want to be able to move your body when you are 85.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:52 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I have a slightly different take: Find foods that YOU ACTIVELY LIKE, which don't introduce a lot of calories to your diet for those times you just want to eat a little compulsively. Similarly, find exercise YOU ACTIVELY LIKE. It's not hard to stick to eat healthy meals most of the time if you like the food you're eating. Same goes for exercise: Do you like archery, boating, speed-walking with friends, rowing a boat in a pond, biking, dancing and on and on? It's easy to make healthy choices if the choices you're making are associated with pleasure rather than "shoulds." For that reason, I would resist labeling any food or lack of activity as bad. An occasional piece of cake isn't bad; it's just something occasional when you celebrate a birthday with a friend in the park. A couple of slothful days in front of the TV isn't bad; it's relaxing when you've had a hard week and need low-key entertainment and extra rest. Long story short, don't deprive yourself, just make habits of new pleasures.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:57 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

I don't have any real recommendations, but you might want to look into resources for people who have had bariatric surgery.

I was Beyond Very Fat (440 lbs) and now I'm Relatively Normal (177). I'm lucky because I have a therapist who helps me work through some of the issues you talk about. She's not a specialist in that area, but she did so some reading when I started my weight loss journey.

I like Violet Blue's answer about finding new pleasures. One of mine is chocolate rice cakes. It scratches that I want something sweet and/or crunchy itch.

As far as avoiding disordered eating tendencies, I've had to trick myself lately. I gained about 15 pandemic pounds quite quickly and I started freaking out. I had gotten away from tracking my food, which was the biggest problem and I really started to restrict myself. I told my therapist about this. She was concerned, but helped me talk through the fears (which it was what it boiled down to). I'm logging my food but not heading down the wrong path. I wanted to monitor my weight so I bought a scale. To keep myself from obsessing over the number, I made a rule that I could only weigh myself first thing in the morning. I log it in an app that focuses on trends. Habit tracking works well for me. I click my habit tracker when I do it. And if I weigh myself again that day, I have to unclick it. Tath's what I mean about tricking myself.

This is probably more than you wanted to know, but I hope it helps some
posted by kathrynm at 4:15 PM on November 19

The authors are both pretty running-focused (much higher milage than the average "fitness jogger" too!) but the cookbooks Run Fast, Eat Slow and Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow have a really great philosophy of eating for enjoyment and fueling. The recipes are delicious too.

For maintenance of your new healthy diet without the temptation to keep reducing, I suggest weekly meal planning. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. A personal history of low to moderate level disordered eating means I tend to restrict my calories without noticing whenever I feel bad about myself and meal planning is how I knock that back and remind myself that I need and deserve tasty, healthy food. Spend an hour or two once a week planning it all out and doing some basic prep and you're set up for enjoyable eating that will serve your body's needs.

I know it sounds like it would trigger disordered eating but for me, it's often a reminder/permission to eat enough. I keep nutritional needs in mind as well as what I'm doing that week and what will taste good.
posted by The Librarian at 2:54 AM on November 20

i found a great community of people who like exercise in Los Angeles and it totally changed my mindframe around what my body can DO, not what it is supposed to look like. Everybody Gym in LA is based on the ethos that all bodies are good bodies... the mission statement is for radical inclusivity, and i have found the classes (and the in-gym experience) deeply reflect this mission. the good news about the pandemic (?!?) is that all the classes and teachings went online.
May I suggest Hyperbody's classes (she does lots of different kinds of lifting/cardio classes. the vibe is very queer and very body positive and is very fun and funny.) And Pony Sweat is cardio dance that is SO FUN and changed my actual life. The vibe of that class is "fiercely noncompetitive dance aerobics." Emilia has an incredibly radical way of teaching which infuses each moment of the class with body positivity, of listening to your own body, and of making space for yourself and for others." When I started to take the class, my mindset changed from "ugh i look awful everyone is better than me" to "my body feels so good moving, everyone is amazing including myself"... it happened quite naturally because that is the entire goal of the class. That abundance mindset started seeping into my life everywhere and i started eating better, not to lose weight, but because it made my body feeeeeeeel better.
posted by andreapandrea at 5:14 AM on November 20

One of the reasons so few people are successful at maintaining is probably that their metabolism is different to someone the same size who has never lost weight. You may need fewer calories than what might otherwise feel like a natural set point for a long time.

I agree with the recommendation to look at what works for people who have had bariatric surgery. I'd also give a big pinch of salt to advice that originates from people who have maintained their weight loss for less than 5 years, since that's the timeframe during which most people regain.
posted by plonkee at 8:12 AM on November 20

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