Been there, done that, got the smaller t-shirt!
November 11, 2006 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Weightlossfilter: For those of you who lost 50 pounds or more - and have kept it off for 2 years or more, say: how did you do it?

There have been several questions here on weight loss that were helpful, but not quite what I'm looking for. While there's a lot of information and advice around, it's mostly by people who haven't struggled with weight issues themselves. I would love to hear from those of you who were successful in terms of quantity and duration of keeping the weight off and lived to tell the tale. How did you do it? What worked, what didn't? How long did it take? What changed so that it did work, if it didn't before? How did it impact your life during/after weight loss?
posted by meijusa to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I did Atkins four or five years ago. I shed 50 pounds in just a few months, and gained it all right back as soon as I quit the diet.

I hit the gym regularly for about a year, doing weight training. I didn't change my eating habits, though; if anything, I ate a bit more. So while I got more fit, I didn't lose any weight, and didn't lose my gut.

I've since lost about 50 pounds the "right way". Well, sort of the right way. Rather than dieting, I've changed my eating habits so I just eat less. I let myself eat anything at all, just keeping track of calories. I aim for about 1500-2000 calories a day.

I think it would be difficult for me to eat many small meals like everybody recommends. So while I know it's not the approved way to get healthy, I've cut my daily intake to one or two meals. I get to have large meals, which keeps me satisfied and not wanting. I keep absolutely no food at home. I have nothing but bottled water, diet soda, and vitamins.

I am very happy with this because I don't feel guilty if I have a big lunch with my friends, I don't have to avoid any particular food (I had unbelievable rice cravings when I did Atkins), and it's something I can do for the rest of my life. It's also a step on the road to a well-rounded lifestyle, if I eventually decide to limit my meal sizes.

I believe all the advice out there that says diets don't work because you're not making a longterm commitment. I think finding some type of healthy diet that you can live on for the rest of your life is key. You can't do low carb for your whole life. Low fat is tough for me because that means lots of food becomes off limits. I rarely eat red meat, but I hate to be forced not to eat it. Low calorie has worked really well for me, for a long time.

I want to end this by saying eliminating my guilt was one of the most important factors in the success of my weight loss, and in the success of keeping it off. I knew I wasn't cutting out fat like I should, wasn't eating the right number of meals, and wasn't exercising like I should. But I said "fuck it." I'm treating myself a hell of a lot better than I used to. There's no reason to feel bad any more.
posted by Khalad at 5:11 PM on November 11, 2006

Oh, and to quickly answer your other questions:

How long did it take?
About eight months to lose fifty pounds. A relatively slow pace.

What changed so that it did work, if it didn't before?
Took my time. Didn't rush it. Didn't do anything drastic.

How did it impact your life during/after weight loss?
No negative impact. Plenty of positive: I can now wear my Dream Theater concert tee, which didn't fit at all when I was plus 50. I love that shirt!
posted by Khalad at 5:26 PM on November 11, 2006

I lost a lot of weight although not quite 50 lbs I don't think. It happened in two stages.
The first stage (about 6-7 years ago) took me down about 20-30 pounds from overweight to the high-end of healthy bmi. It took about 3-4 months. I mostly just started exercising 5-6 days a week and counted calories. After I lost the weight, I kept up the exercise but stopped being quite so diligent about the diet, and had no trouble keeping off all but about 5lbs.
The second stage, about 2.5 years ago now, I decided I wanted to lose a few more pounds. I tried doing it the same way I did it the first time-- running, eating less, but I was always hungry and couldn't stick to the diet. Then, I hurt my knee (ironically, on the elliptical trainer) and had to cut my vigorous cardio way down. I took up more serious weight training because I heard it was good for preventing knee injuries. Then I realized that lifting heavy, eating to support that (lots of good lean protein), and not running was helping me stick to my diet and I shed the weight, about another 20 lbs, in about 6-8 months.
So, I would say important thing #1 is to make the gym a priority. If you do that, and try to make sensible diet choices, you should be able to get to a healthy weight. Once you get there, you might have to switch things up to lose more weight. Write down what you eat, weigh yourself regularly and figure out what works for you, whether it be low-fat high-fiber, or high protein, running, or weight lifting, whatever.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:01 PM on November 11, 2006

Not my personal experience, but my father lost around 100 pounds in 1992 or so and has kept the weight off ever since. All through my childhood he hovered around 270-300 pounds, and he's around 175 pounds now. He was even more overweight when he was young; he's the only former 450 pound guy I know of who has been able to remain at a normal weight for many years.

As I recall, it took him around a year to lose the weight. He did the "ketogenic fast" thing that was in vogue at the time, which basically entailed weighing out low-fat protein on a little scale at every meal.

After losing the weight, he has successfully kept it off by weighing himself daily, walking around the neighborhood most days, and assiduously eating only half-portions at every meal. I think strict portion control has been the key to his success in keeping the weight off over the years.
posted by killdevil at 6:14 PM on November 11, 2006

Almost everyone I've heard who was successful counts calories obsessively for a while. There are tons of resources online that will tell you how many calories are in your favorite foods. Use the online calculators to figure out how much you burn daily (including your new exercise regimen), then shoot for a 500-calorie deficit per day. This puts you at losing about a pound a week, which is a healthy rate.

Your new rule number 1: 3500 calories = 1 pound of fat. You can create that deficit by taking in less or burning more, but it's the only way to lose weight.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:18 PM on November 11, 2006

I lost 70 pounds a while ago, and I've gained only about 15 pounds back (Because I just started college and I was eating a lot of junk). The easiest way to keep it off is just to think about what you're eating. You won't gain it back if you eat healthily and stay away from fatty food. Try to limit yourself to one day a week of indulging in fat foods, and even then be careful.

Another thing is to exercise, which I don't do enough of. It helped me lose a lot of weight, and if I hadn't stopped I know I wouldn't have gained back any weight at all.
posted by Aanidaani at 6:49 PM on November 11, 2006

I lost like 35 pounds in 4 months a couple years ago by doing a paleo diet (meat and fruit/vegetables no grains processed food or sweets) As far as exercise I switched train stations in such a way that I ended up walking 2.5 miles a day, other that that I did cross-fit style work outs 2x a week for maybe 45 minutes. I am never hungry, but eating out is tricky.

I'm not saying it is for everyone but it is very much in line with what worked for me and the best part is doing the same thing has allowed me to put on lean muscle after I lost weight from fat (about 20 pounds over the course of a year). And even though I eat 7 eggs and 21 egg whites a weak my bad cholesterol is at a serious low while my good cholesterol is at a crazy high.

I've attempted to be a vegetarian in the past and have found his diet much easier than not eating meat. Take me as an N of 1 but I wouldn't be surprised if others had similar results .
posted by I Foody at 7:03 PM on November 11, 2006

I lost 110 pounds about 4 years ago and have gained back 25. I lost the weight by counting calories (in a notebook) and walking a LOT (as much as 8 miles a day for a while. I had some extra time on my hands.)

Since then, here are the long term changes I've made:

- Gradually changed to a pretty consistent, mostly healthy diet consisting of low calorie staples that I enjoy (fiber cereal, tuna, PB&J, apples, yogurt, low cal popcorn, turkey sandwiches, etc).

- Went back on a more strict diet whenever I reached what seemed to me to be a crucial weight point (for the last year or two it's been 230. If I get near 230, I get scared and go back to calorie counting).

- Exercise as consistently as possible. I go through periods where I exercise 3-4 times a week, and some periods where I don't exercise at all.

- Count calories. I carry an index card in my pocket each day and write down everything I eat. When I get out of this habit for a while, I lose my focus and eventually gain weight.

- Identified my personal triggers which lead me to unhealthy eating, and try to deal with them. (Note: this takes YEARS).

Right now I'm on a strict calorie counting/exercise program to try to get back down to my low weight. Then I hope to use the maintenance skills I've learned over the last few years to try to stay there.

Good luck!
posted by kdern at 7:19 PM on November 11, 2006

I've lost nearly 90lbs. It happened in several stages, and about 50 of those pounds have been off and stayed off for 2-3 years.

The first thing I did was to cut out sugar cokes. I switched to diet. For me, that was a huge calorie reducer. I almost immediately lost 10lbs just from that. I also started to eat less red meat (although I ate it whenever I really wanted it). These plus a few very minor but sensible choices like these took me from 295 to around 270. This happened over 1-2 years.

A few years later exercise got me a bit farther. I took a weightlifting class at my local university. I usually did 30 minutes of lifting and 20 minutes of running. Of course, when I started I could run only about 4 minutes, but I worked my way up from there. I also started biking to school instead of getting a ride. It's only 5mi round trip, so this was not significant cardio, but it I'm sure it added up. I started to feel so good about my progress that I decided to learn a martial art, and started taking Kung Fu. I went 2x a week for about an hour and fifteen minutes each time. Granted, this adds up to a lot of exercise. I ended up around 235 or so after 6-8 months.

Then I had to stop because I went to Hungary for 6 months. The weight stayed off there (due to smaller portion sizes of food mostly), but about 10lbs came back on return once I had returned to my previous eating habits. I sat around 245lbs for a few years.

I started running again last year, but this caused me to eat a little extra and didn't really change my weight, although I'm sure my cardiovascular health was improved. I was effectively plateaued.

Last May I decided to get the rest of the weight off (my wife also jumped on the bandwagon at this point, which has proved to be a good motivator for both of us). Since my casual dietary changes and moderate exercise weren't cutting it, it was time for something more drastic. We joined a nearby gym and decided to start counting calories. We both wanted to make sure whatever changes we made at this point were going to be easily sustainable.

Diet: I aim for 1800-2000 calories a day, 6 days a week (my wife goes for a bit less). On Saturday we have "splurge day", and are allowed to eat whatever we want. We still eat at all the same restaurants we used to (and just as often), but we order better things, less things, or go on splurge day. This is pretty easy to do I find. It's pretty easy for us to wait until Saturday to satisfy some random craving we have, and we've not had any problems with being hungry. A typical day goes like this: 100-200 calorie breakfast (for me, some cereal, a Zone bar, or some oatmeal), 600-800 calorie lunch, and about the same for dinner, and in the afternoons usually a 100-200 calorie snack (buying lots of ziplock baggies and filling them with the appropriate amount of snack makes this really easy). If we eat a heavier lunch, we have a lighter dinner and vice versa. If we still feel hungry in the evening or if dinner is especially light, we'll have a 100 calorie snack or some apples or something.

Exercise: We go to the gym 3 times a week and do 20 to 45 minutes of strength training. One of those times each week we have a session with a personal trainer (it has been money well spent, but not something we plan to do much longer now that we are familiar with everything and pretty self-motivated) . We also do cardio about 3x a week. Sometimes we do the cardio at the gym before our strength workouts, and sometimes we do it at home in front of the TV. We mostly do running, but also have a stationary bike at home, and sometimes we go swim laps.

After 6 months of this, I am 205lbs average weight (which is 35.5lbs down from May 1st when we started). My wife is down about 20lbs average (she was healthier at the start than I was).

For me, it's been really worth it in ways I never expected. To give you an example, I recently found an interview I gave back when I was 295lbs. I was horrified that in that interview I talked about how I hate going outside and doing stuff and that I'd rather sit at home. It seems completely foreign to me now as someone who enjoys tennis, golf, and running on a regular basis.

footnote: I use PhysicsDiet for weight tracking, and I input my weight every morning. It shows my weight trend and makes sense of daily weight fluctuations. I highly recommend it. According to my graphs (which are public on that site) since may I have been losing about 1.6lbs a week, so that should give you some idea of the pace.
posted by metajack at 7:54 PM on November 11, 2006

Lost about 110 pounds over 8 months or so about 6 years ago. I've put on about 25 in the last two years though..

Drastic lifestyle change. Walking, walking, walking. Running some, a little bit of sports. More walking. (Being in college was the impetus for most of this).

I tried to consciously eat better, but still ate lots of hearty food. Pasta, turkey sandwiches and chicken veggie stir fries were my staples.
posted by bluejayk at 8:09 PM on November 11, 2006

In 1997, I lost over 40 pounds during six months. I did it by counting calories, eating well (though not perfectly), and through daily exercise. I didn't do anything strenuous: biked ~10miles/day and walked/ran around the high school track a couple days each week. I kept the weight off for a year by continuing to watch my diet and by continued regular low-key exercise. Eventually, though, I stopped paying attention, and the weight crept back. By the end of 1998, I'd gained back 10 pounds. By the end of 1999, I'd gained back 10 more. By the end of 2000, I'd gained back 10 more. And by the end of 2003 I had gained back the last ten.


I've struggled with fitness ever since. Just this week I had my first session with a "wellness coach". I was a little wary going in, but after spending a couple hours on the phone with her, I'm impressed. She doesn't promote gimmicks. She sticks to sound nutrition and regular do-able exercise. She also takes a more holistic approach (for example, she's suggested I spend less time on the computer, which is a wholly valid point). I'm hoping that a wellness coach can steer me in the right direction.
posted by jdroth at 9:26 PM on November 11, 2006

Oops. My 40 pounds for a year-and-a-half doesn't quite meet the 50 pounds for two years guideline. Sorry.
posted by jdroth at 9:28 PM on November 11, 2006

My mother lost over a hundred pounds when my father left her after 21 years for a woman he met online. She went super unhealthy and stopped eating nearly at all. She went to a psych ward for a while and they kept her there until she started eating again (which took longer than it should have, because she's allergic to corn and they kept trying to give her corn filled dishes). She got out, got her life together and put on a lot of that weight again.

Then she met a man (online, ironically enough) and he loved her no matter what her size. He was the rock she had been seaching for her whole life (see, she was molested by her step father and not protected by her mother). He is kind and gentle and sweet. She started getting smaller portions. She cut out soda all together (she had been trying the diet soda thing for years, and she could never take the weight off). Soda alone dropped 15 pounds or so from her. She still feels she is heavier than she'd like, but she's lighter and happier than I ever remember her (my most constant memories of her are when she was 275-325. She's now about 175-190).

I guess what I'm saying is that when she figured out that her own happiness is what was keeping her from really caring, it all turned around.

Eat, don't eat. Exercise, don't exercise. Do what you have to, but love yourself first and most and let those around you do the same.

Strangely enough, my father also dropped 50 or more pounds after he and my mother split. He got a farm, controlled his portion size, and started ordering salads when he went out instead of steaks. He is also happier than I've ever seen him.
posted by nadawi at 9:51 PM on November 11, 2006

I lost 60lbs and have kept it off, save for the odd 10lbs that comes back and I get rid of, for over 3 years.

I'd been a yo-yo dieter all my life, tried every diet going, WW, Slimfast, etc. Short-term solutions only. What worked for me was this:

- I had to work out what my 'trigger' foods are. It can be different things for different people - cheese, chocolate, chips ... For me it's starchy carbs, especially bread or excessively starchy + sugary foods. I'm a recovering alcoholic, and I've learned that a lot of us have problems with bread. After all, it's made of the same ingredients as beer - grain, yeast, sugar - albeit in different proportions.

- I had to learn not to 'eat my feelings'. Why did I want that muffin (or three?) Was I feeling angry, lonely, resentful? Once I was able to work on the feelings, the 'fuck it' switch was thrown far less often.

- Now the weight is off, I eat sensibly. I have oatmeal or muesli for breakfast, cottage cheese and a banana mid-morning, a big bowl of salad for lunch and a meat & veg dinner, followed by fruit in the evening. I buy fresh food, and cook for myself every day. I rarely eat packaged or processed foods.

- I exercise more. I walk. I hate gyms.

- Although probably not relevant to your situation, this study was very helpful to me, so I'm linking it for others who are recovering alcoholics struggling with weight loss. Since cutting refined sugar and starchy carbs out of my diet, my moods have stabilised. If I eat bread, I get a hangover! If I eat sugary stuff (and it's never in moderation) I am buzzing like I'm on speed and crash with depression the next day. So I try to stay off them if I can.

For me the trick was tackling the emotional reasons why I was overeating, coupled with eliminating the trigger foods from my diet. From time to time, a little bit creeps back on, and it's usually when I've started picking up the 'bad' foods again. Even one or two choc-chip cookies from the ever-present supply at the office has an effect. Plus it's that 'thin end of the wedge' business. One leads to another, always, for me.

But this is by far the longest time I've ever kept weight off, and I attribute it to the fact that I've dealt with the underlying reasons for my overeating rather than just applying, figuratively, a band-aid over my mouth.
posted by essexjan at 10:25 PM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I realize this is a long comment. if you don't feel like reading anything else of it, just walk away with knowing one thing: ask for help. ask professionals how to achieve your goals. you do not know by yourself and you will waste time galore if you try to figure it out by yourself.

the tough part for me wasn't so much losing weight but keeping it off. I struggled with that for many many years, yo-yoing back many times until I realized it was all about habits.

let's face it, we're habitual creatures. you need to brake certain habits and establish others. the tough part is that losing weight and keeping it off takes a lot of dedication. you're bad just once and you're getting punished very hard. it's extremely easy to fall back into your old habits and extremely tough to break them.

over the course of five years, I picked up running, got the lap-band surgery and signed on for a meal delivery service in new york that delivered all my food on workdays. (1800 calories. my friends said I was eating better than they did and lost weight but it was expensive as hell.) I paid ten times more for every pound I lost than I had paid for gaining it. habits I established were to run every single night and do a full weight-workout every other (with a personal trainer, which was the best decision I have ever made), cutting out certain foods altogether and actually asking for advise when I didn't know any better.

don't just go about it blindly. the advise you get from magazines is tailored to a lot of people and not just you. get a nutritionist to personally help you reach your set goals. get a personal trainer who actually knows what you need to do to achieve the goals you want to achieve. the rest will come by itself.

there are backlashes. I can't just eat a snickers bar anymore without thinking about the time it will take me on the treadmill to undo the damage. I feel intensely guilty when I don't run one night. I have become more judgmental of myself and others. worst of all: I cannot date out of shape people anymore. when I see someone overweight, it reminds me of who I used to be and what I felt like. it reminds me of all the fights I had with myself, all the tough times I had to go through. it puts me into a place I don't like being in and that effectively kills any romantic moods. I have caught a lot of flack for not wanting to date BBW's anymore.

but you know what? people treat me a lot different from what they used to. when you've spent twenty years in which women would look at you only for wrong reasons, if at all, it's the greatest thing on earth to suddenly get compliments, get checked out or even get hit on. I still don't know how to handle that last part.

oh yeah, for the record: I am 6"4, 29 years old, male and went from 347lbs to now 218lbs in roughly 5.5 years, the first three of which were a complete waste, in which I basically tried figuring out by myself how to do it.
posted by krautland at 2:17 AM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

A few years ago, I lost about 90 pounds in about 9 months and have kept it off most of it. I probably yo-yo the last 20 pounds or so most of the time.
The big changes I made were cutting out soda completely, eating breakfast, having my big meal at lunch time (not dinner), and not eating sweets.
When I first lost the weight, I counted calories for dinner and breakfast, and never ate out for dinner. Now that it's been a few years, I give myself one day a week where I'll indulge a little.
And of course, I forced myself to be more active. When I was at my heaviest, I walked. I worked that into a more active lifestyle as I was more able.
posted by sourmike at 5:10 AM on November 12, 2006

i lost 30lbs but i did plan on putting it back on. i know it sounds strange but i wanted to see what i looked like 30lbs lighter. i looked terrible! so i put 40lbs back on! [i do plan on putting another 10-20lbs on]. incase you aint guessed i do spend a lot of time at the gym :)

but the way i did it was to count calories insanely strictly for a few months. once you have done it for a decent amount of time you get to know what you can and cant eat.

i was just sensible with my cals and while i was cutting heavy didnt even lift weights.

i used to count cals, the hand thing is if you fill in all the info fitday even tells you what cals you should be eating.

but overall its a lifestyle change that you have to do gradually, change your lifestyle the weight stays off
posted by moochoo at 6:34 AM on November 12, 2006

I've lost well over a hundred pounds (and 10 pant sizes) and have never counted calories or gone to a gym. For me, a lot of it was just thinking about what I was eating and actually asking myself, "am I actually hungry?"

So I guess I kind of ballparked my calorie counting and got a lot better about portion control. It was kind of a snowball effect, too, where as I started to lose weight and eat smaller portions, I just continued doing it naturally and started realizing that I feel better when I eat better.

I did get really into biking (as a mode of transportation) for a few years, which I think helped, and now I walk almost everywhere I go since I moved to Germany and didn't bring my bike with.

The big thing for me, though, is just stopping myself from eating those snacks when I don't actually need them. I used to make a habit of eating before I went to sleep, or eating in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. And not like a light, healthy, snack. I think cutting that out was a huge benefit for me.
posted by atomly at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2006

I feel like a piker...

I went from 245 to 220 over about 4 months, primarily (as near as I can figure out) by replacing most of the sweetened drinks in my life with ice water.

I did it about 3 years ago as well, and it slowly crept back on. I had a thought the first time that it might have had something to do with having gone back on a hardcore regimen of OTC famotidine for GERD -- if you don't have the extra acid, you don't try to dampen it with *food* -- and I think that might have been an issue both times, but I can't prove it.

It's stayed off now, though, for at least 3 months, so...
posted by baylink at 1:45 PM on November 12, 2006

Response by poster: Obviously, these are all best answers, so I won't mark any. Thanks for sharing your experience and congratulations! I'll keep checking this thread in the next few years.
posted by meijusa at 12:16 AM on November 13, 2006

I lost 80 pounds over the course of 2 years, that was 3 years ago. Slim-fast worked for me, but there's nothing magical about it - it's just an easy way to reduce calories by substituting meals.

I swear by Zinczenko's Abs Diet book, which emphasizes the fact that 80 percent of the calories your body burns are burned not through exercise, but through day-to-day operation of your organs, body maintenance, "resting," etc (this is your basal metabolic rate, or BMR - the calories your body uses when you're just being you). Therefore, the most efficient way to lose fat is to build lean muscle, which boosts your BMR. It has a snowball effect on fat loss.

Above all, a positive attitude is key. Keep in mind that you have your health, you have the opportunity to do whatever you want with your body. You can do this! And you'll enjoy everything so much more when you're happy with the way you look/feel!
posted by jbickers at 4:19 AM on November 13, 2006

« Older Photoshop auto-levels inconsistency   |   Better print-on-demand options than Cafepress? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.