how does a seriously FAT DUDE behave normally?
May 6, 2007 4:58 PM   Subscribe

[fat dude question] how do people with normal bodies keep them that way?

i've put on weight in the last 15 years, making me a seriously FAT DUDIE. it ain't pretty. and i realise that i've never had very healthy habits. when i was young and thin and pretty, it was because i didn't have a car and had to walk everywhere. i still ate and drank largely the same way.

now i drive a car, and my arse is the size of australia. and my thighs should be called sequoia...

so my questionsare for folk who have always had a healthy/appropriately sized figure....not the naturally skinny, and not the ones that have dieted to become a healthy size.

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
do you do it with pals?
did your parents do this too?

how often do you eat sweet things?

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?

i just wanna get in the head of "normal" folk, and see if i can change my head (and ENORMOUS arse) in to better habits.

ooooh... and what is your attitude to incidental exercise?

just blurt it all out for me, i'm dying to know.
posted by taff to Health & Fitness (67 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it may also be important that (as I understand it) most people's metabolism slows down a lot around the age of 30. So even people who could stay trim while eating all the time and never exercising at 25 will start putting on weight if they continue the same lifestyle at 35.

I'm starting to find this. I'm responding by starting to exercise more (my motivation is helped a LOT by doing it with a friend or as part of a pre-arranged paid class) and eat better.

The way to eat better, I'm finding, is to make healthy snacks easy and unhealthy ones hard. Ie, no chips or ice cream in the house, but lots of bananas, pre-cut pineapple, carrots, yogurt, etc. Only buy whole grain pasta, bread, etc rather than white. Only drinking water and milk in a normal day - no sodapop in the house, no fruit juice.

I've always been a many-small-meals type, rather than a two-big-meals type, which I think is also supposed to be good. (The idea being, you never get out-of-control hungry, and you don't go on big blood-sugar highs and lows).
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:17 PM on May 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

5-foot-9, 150 pounds. Normal, I guess.

Living in San Francisco, I bicycle around 15 miles a week, at about as fast a rate as I can. That's my only exercise. I bike alone. I eat not a whole lot, habits aren't great, I like ice cream and beer, but on the other hand my intake of soda is less than 10 cans a month, and I don't eat much candy. I drink a lot of milky tea, sometimes with a teaspoon of sugar, but not if I'm eating sweets. If I'm eating something for pleasure, I draw it out. I do have a sweet tooth.

Incidental exercise might be a good thing. I enjoy walking and occasionally walk a couple miles. I often run up stairs, and sometimes prefer taking the stairs to the elevator (occasionally even in a 10-story building).

So, I guess I'm you when you were young (I'm 24). I must admit I half suspect I will become you when (if?) I get a car and get older.
posted by alexei at 5:22 PM on May 6, 2007

Best answer: For me, The trigger is when my pants become uncomfortable to bend over in. I have worn a 36" waist since high school and I am now 35 years old. I, too used to eat crazily until fairly recently: frozen pizzas, burgers, copious alchohol. I have realized that a slowing in metabolism is part of aging. I don't see it as growing old, just continuing to grow up.

So: Tight pants. When I am made uncomfortable by the act of bending over to tie my shoes, I know it is time to lose weight. This weight-control has little to do with exercise (though I do lift weights casually, the tiny number of calories burned by this process is a very small part of the equation). Rather, I am all about diet and portion control. When this first occurred, I cut the booze out almost entirely. I used to have up to five drinks nightly, now am limited to a single beer or shot with dinner except for saturday night. Then, breakfast and lunch are sharply limited in volume: Breakfast is a cup of yogurt and a single muffin washed down by unsweetened hot black tea. Lunch is a light sandwich, with more hot tea. That's a single sandwich, as on two slices of bread or a bagel, not a 12-inch sub.
Dinner is a controlled portion of something I like and heat up/prepare myself: A single hamburger, or a no-name steak, and a banana or an apple, with a bottle of beer. If I will be eating late, I will count out 8 crackers with some cheese, and a banana or something to keep me from getting crabby before dinner, when I get home from my day job. No Chips, no other snacks during the day. No ice-cream or other treats kept in the house. Keep a barren pantry, that way if the munchies strike you don't end up eating the entire damn bag of chips; because you don't have any chips in the house. Identify whatever YOUR problem food/vice is and eliminate it from your shopping plan. Take hourlong walks at least once a week.

I think of hunger as my friend: If I am in diet-control mode and notice I am hungry, I smile because that means my gut is shrinking. I weigh myself regularly to check progress. When I have reached my target weight, I can relax discipline A LITTLE and indulge, but as soon as I creep back up, I crack back down. For over a year I have been able to keep my weight within a five-pound range of what I consider my target weight.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 5:24 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Start by cutting out big-cal, no-gain items: Soda, candy, ice cream etc. Swap to water or 100% juices, but watch the sugar intake on the juice.

Start cooking for yourself! You'll know how much crap is in there and have more control over how much butter, sugar, fat, etc ends up in your food. As above: Swap to whole grains! Learn to read a nutrition label.

I'm a notorious snacker. I don't even care what it is half the time, so stop buying snack chips and cookies, start keeping fruit around. Make some granola at the start of the week and portion it out.

I'm not really a big exerciser, but I learned to ride a bike last month and I'll take half-hour rides whenever I'm bored. Walk wherever you can. You don't need to make one HUGE change, but a number of small ones will really add up. Good luck! It's about taking control of your life in a world where it's easier and easier to sit back and let someone else manage it. Consider it nutritional and personal rebellion.
posted by GilloD at 5:25 PM on May 6, 2007

My parents' baseline meals are fairly healthy, lots of veg. But my dad has a terrible sweet/salty tooth and is a big midnight snacker - so he's put on a lot of weight. He's unable to exercise regularly because of a disability (and disinclination), but we're working on exercises that will work for him. My mom has been doing a dance class for years (she calls it The Fat Old Ladies' Club), and walks quite a bit as part of her commute, and she manages to keep her weight in line.

I eat sweet things a lot, but mostly fruit. As in, two small meals a day are fruit or fruit and yogurt. I eat granola for breakfast, which is also sweetened. I probably eat candy once every few days, and something like a cinnamon roll at similar intervals.

I'm exercising out of the house 2 days a week now; eventually I hope to do it 4 days a week, but I need to either get over my phobia of going to the gym alone or just start running on city streets. I do yoga classes and in the past have done pilates classes; I also walk a lot.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:26 PM on May 6, 2007

Best answer: Okay, you wanted me to blurt some things out, so here goes:

- I'm a 'normal' sized person, and I'm that way because I keep pretty good habits. I think your problem may be that you view this weight loss as an enormous task. It's much easier to modify your behavior in small steps.

For example: don't try to give up sweet things completely, but limit yourself to ONE cookie after dinner. Don't try to cut soda out completely, just limit yourself to one per day (or better yet, just switch to diet). Start by trying to add one serving of healthy vegetables per day, and build up from there. Before you know it, you'll be eating right.

- By 'incidental exercise', I assume you mean little things like walking to the car or taking the stairs at work. Those are great ways to burn a few more calories, but aren't a substitute for regular cardiovascular exercise, medically speaking.

- Exercise: I mostly just play sports with friends, or ride my bike from time to time. Find some friends who aren't super-athletic, so they won't embarrass you into not coming. It's always more fun when everyone has similar skill levels. Just shoot some hoops, throw the frisbee around, or do anything that gets you outside and having fun. That's the first step.

- I think you'd be surprised how many normal sized people really do watch what they eat. They don't think of it as 'dieting' persay, but it certainly is choosing what you eat carefully. The only difference is that they're doing it all the time, instead of treating it as a temporary thing.

I hate it when people say "I'm on a diet this month". You should be eating a diet that's both healthy and fulfilling all the time.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:32 PM on May 6, 2007

Best answer: Ok here's my info. I'm a slim dude (182cm, ~78kg, early 30s). I walk to work and home most days (30 mins each way), I do some situps and pressups in the morning when I get up, and I recently started playing ultimate frisbee once a week.

I don't eat much sweet stuff because my teeth are full of holes, and I have a pretty healthy diet in that I don't eat burgers or pizza much. But I do eat a lot of mammal fat - I love that stuff. Oh, and I rarely drink soft drinks, I drink lots of water, some tea and coffee, and some booze.

When I came back from a long overseas trip on which I lost a lot of weight due to lack of protein, I put the weight (and more) back on in about a week by drinking lots of beer. I lost the extra by cutting down on the beer and walking to work every day.

If you want a suggestion, from what you've said it sounds like you would benefit from walking more. I've never owned a car and I'm sure that makes a difference.

On preview: yeah, jeans are the best first indicator of a waistline expansion. Unforgiving, is what they are.
posted by nomis at 5:32 PM on May 6, 2007

I always have a water bottle on me and I drink when ever I feel like snacking. The truth is a lot of hunger is really thirst and if you can drop soda and coffee for water that’s a big improvement. Besides that I just try to avoid processed foods. I don’t spend any time counting calories or fat. Fast food, fried foods, and any pre-packaged/ prepared foods are pretty much out. Also I try to control portions, eating small breakfasts and lunches, and then eating my fill during dinner. As far as exercise I have a fifteen-minute bike commute, but I don’t think it dose much for weight loss. In my experience diet is much more important for controlling my weight. My family always ate healthy, but it wasn’t until I started shopping for myself in college that I really started to pay attention to what I was eating and body weight. The truth is healthy food is usually cheaper.
posted by CaptMcalister at 5:33 PM on May 6, 2007

I grew up skinny and able to eat anything I wanted, but my metabolism has slowed way down (I am a lady in my mid-30s). I now have to pay attention to what I eat and how active I am. I've never dieted and have never been truly overweight, and if I always ate what I craved I wouldn't be skinny, so I think I can answer your question.

How do I know I've indulged too much over the holidays etc? My pants are tighter. It would feel like a big waste of money to have to buy a new wardrobe; eating less is cheap.

I stay thin by following the "everything in moderation" rule: I eat sweet things every day, but I don't eat very much of them. Two squares of premium chocolate instead of an entire Snickers, for example. I try to eat healthily otherwise, but I'm not stringent about it.

Several months ago I started working out with the Yourself Fitness DVD (which I discovered through a previous AskMefi answer!) and it's been working for me. I'm definitely stronger and more "toned". Now that the weather's nice I've been going on hikes and riding my bike. I do this stuff alone because I only like to exercise when the mood strikes and not by someone else's schedule. I usually do a half-hour of the DVD every other day or so, and I try to do a one-hour hike and a long bike ride once or twice a week (on non-workout days).

My parents had the same skinny-as-kids, mid-20s-metabolism-slowdown thing I did, but they let themselves get a bit overweight. They're fairly healthy and not too sedentary but for whatever reason they've never gotten back down to their "fighting weight." They really love food and have trouble limiting their diets. And, of course, it's easier to stick to the size you have, once you get there (see above re: pants getting too tight).

On preview: Um, what everyone else said. I very rarely have ice cream, chips, and cookies in the house. Makes a BIG difference.
posted by chowflap at 5:35 PM on May 6, 2007

Normal sized portions of healthy food. No sugar or hydrogenated fat. If you really want something sweet then having something with sugar every once in a while is no big deal. Walk for 30 minutes a day. Overall just control your portions. I never get the concept of diets, because it sounds like something temporary. "Eat nothing but grapefruits for 5 weeks," etc. To maintain a healthy weight you have to change your eating habits for life.
posted by koshka at 5:36 PM on May 6, 2007

I'm more of the naturally skinny variety, but my mom has been the same weight (apart from pregnancies of course) all her life. She eats mostly healthy foods all year round, but anytime she notices that she is gaining a little bit of weight (we're talking 3-4 pounds, not 15), she simply stops eating dessert until she gets back down to her normal weight. This generally takes a few weeks at most. By nipping the weight increase in the bud, she's been able to stay skinny her whole life without ever going on a diet.
posted by snoogles at 5:38 PM on May 6, 2007

Oh yeah; One addition to what I said above: Learn to stop eating well before you get "full." I am a big guy (6'3" 225 lbs) and was startled by how little food I actually needed to keep going, once I made "the change."
Also, I have to re-emphasise what others have said: Water, water, water (and unsweetened hot tea). No soda pop, no chips, no ice cream. Just don't buy them.
For my part, I have made Tuesdays at work "snack day" when I get to have a single bag of chips or something with my sandwich.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 5:39 PM on May 6, 2007

a very straight answer.

most people with normal bodies don't do anything to keep them that way.

Their day to day lives and genes work together.

The outliers on both sides are the ones that actively change their body by pursuing actions to do so.
posted by crewshell at 5:43 PM on May 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
I try to do cardio three times a week: usually alternating jogging and running on a treadmill, or alternating jogging on a flat incline and jogging on a steep incline. I also try to do some sort of weight training three times a week, or sometimes I'll substitute a pilates class for one of my weight-lifting days.

Many weeks, I don't accomplish this. But that's the goal.
do you do it with pals?
Alone now, but I've jogged with friends in the past.
did your parents do this too?
My parents walk a lot.
how often do you eat sweet things?
Often, but in small amounts. I tend to indulge my sweet tooth, because if I don't, I binge. I think it's better to have a cookie every day than to binge on an entire box of cookies once a week.
if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?
I think I'd notice if my clothes didn't fit. Unless or until that happens, I don't worry about it. I don't own a scale.

I don't know what I'd do if I noticed my clothes didn't fit, because I'm morally opposed to dieting. Well, not morally opposed. But I devoted my entire adolescence and a big chunk of my early 20s to dieting, and I'm not ever doing that again. I'd rather be fat than that miserable, to be honest.

My main things are that I eat three meals every day (which does not preclude snacks, but I don't skip meals, ever), I pay attention to hunger and try to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not, and I don't drink sweet drinks. Also, I get plenty of sleep, because I often think I'm hungry when I'm really tired. Finally, I concentrate on positive things, such as getting plenty of vegetables, rather than negative things, such as not eating sweets. And that's pretty much it.
posted by craichead at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2007

Female here, 5'2" and about 125 lbs.

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?

3 days a week now, but it's been as much as 5 when I've been trying to get back into shape.

I go to classes at the gym, and I'm not too hard on myself once I get there. Showing up is the hardest part for me, and having a gym with interesting classes is crucial. Once I'm there all I have to do is follow the instructor's orders as much as I feel like it. I don't give a shit what people think of me, so if I feel like taking it easy and taking breaks, I let myself.

I'll admit to "rewarding myself" by putting a smiley face on my printed gym calendar next to every class I go to. Silly, but for some reason I'm proud when I have a schedule full of smiley faces.

do you do it with pals?

I wish I could. Most of my friends aren't gym-inclined, as I am.

did your parents do this too?

Absolutely not. I'm the only one in my family without weight issues. We all know how to eat right, and for some of them it's a will power issue, for some it's a lack of time (it's hard to eat right if you eat out a lot).

It helps that I got into being active when I was in high school, and ever since then it's just part of what I do. It's hard to picture not doing it.

how often do you eat sweet things?

Whenever I want to, but never in the quantity that I would if my mouth were in total control of my actions. Probably just a couple of times a week on average, but sometimes more.

I always have a healthy snack on deck. I eat a single serving of the sweet stuff, as it's listed on the package (which is usually a very small portion), and then switch to the healthy snack to get the sweet taste out of my mouth and the "keep going!" craving out of my head.

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?

I notice it in the mirror and in how my clothes fit. I very rarely weigh myself because I think the number is arbitrary, while how I feel and look in my skin means everything. When I gain weight I'll step up the difficulty of my workouts, and be more strict with myself in terms of giving it my all when I'm at the gym rather than just going through the motions. If I've really let the weight gain accumulate I'll add days to the workout schedule. I also take a closer look at my food intake (which I didn't have to do when I was under 30).

For me, weekday breakfasts are an easy target for cutting calories. If I've been eating bagels or cereal, I just switch to nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit. Breakfast is a meal I eat for fuel rather than real enjoyment, especially during the week, so I don't feel like I'm giving much up.

I allow myself to splurge budgetarily on produce so that the veggies and fruits I have are always appealing and/or conveniently pre-cut. I make sure dinner has plenty of veggies in it regardless of what I'm making.

I try to get inspired to make healthier food by getting a recipe magazine like Cooking Light or something like that, so I don't get bored with the same couple of meals. I stay away from recipes that call for lowfat dairy products though, those are never satisfying.

I guess I just stay pretty vigilant about it, knowing that it's much harder to lose weight than it is to never have gained it in the first place.

Good luck!
posted by nadise at 5:59 PM on May 6, 2007

Other than a cursory glance at the old outdated Food Pyramid during health class, most of use receive the entirely wrong ideas about portioning and the kinds of food that should make up most of our diet our whole lives. At the time, I am not trying to lose any weight, simply trying to change my eating habits so that I maintain my weight while getting more of the nutrients people need to live long healthy lives. Please feel free to change my advice to fit your own situation as you see fit.

It is impossible to, cold turkey, cut all the stuff that is bad for you completely. You can do it for a diet, but if I knew I was never going to eat fried chicken ever again, for the rest of my life, it would kill me. I don't like looking at food, saying "no! you can't eat that," eating it anyway, and feeling guilty. So my system that I can eat whatever I want, as long as my meal includes fruits or vegetables in some form.

If you're eating the good stuff, then you are eating less of the bad stuff, and getting more vitamins and fiber and less fat and protein.*

Learning to pick out and prepare healthy dishes is the first step. Once you have a repertoire of good foods, and are used to including them in every meal, work on increasing the portions, and decreasing the portions of everything else. This is hard to do. I rely heavily on my laptop lunchbox, myself, but any divided container works; sectioned "cafeteria" trays, sets of small plates and ramekins, sectioned tupperware.

I started out with a fruit or vegetable in one small portion of my lunchbox everyday, and gradually increased this up to most of my lunch. It wasn't that hard, and I still get to eat normal people, non-rabbit food. It works for me.

*Protein is good for you, yes, but unless you're anemic, impoverished, bodybuilding, vegetarian, etc, you probably get enough without trying. The extra goes the way of anything else-to bodyfat.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:00 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know you said you didn't want to hear from the naturally skinny (which I am -- though even I, as I hit my late 30s, find that my own metabolism is slowing down), but I will say that the way I've naturally eaten most of my life is apparently supposed to be a good way to stay slim in general: grazing. I rarely eat 3 full meals a day (with or without snacks); I simply eat 5-6 light meals/large snacks throughout the day (though the one full meal I will eat a couple of times a week is dinner). Here's a link I posted in another thread a few months ago to a week's worth of "grazing" menus.

Also, I am convinced that part of the reason I've always been thin is that I was a picky/slow eater as a kid, and so I learned very early on exactly what feeling full is like -- at which point, I just. stop. eating. Seriously, except in rare instances where I feel compelled by etiquette, I won't clean my plate on principle alone; when I'm full, I'm done, no matter how many bites are left.

I also have cut down on sweets over the years something fierce (less for weight reasons and more for dental reasons) -- I do still buy them, but in moderation: I no longer buy pastries AND cookies AND ice cream AND candy AND soda, the way I used to for many years; I'll pick one of those things to get at the store (usually something rich that I won't want to gobble down all at once -- say, some dark chocolate), and make myself spread it out till the next major shopping trip. (And I no longer buy candy in the checkout aisle at Target, the drugstore, etc.)
posted by scody at 6:03 PM on May 6, 2007

Exercise. I'm not very regular about it, but it seems that if I work out regularly (enough to maintain my basic muscle tone), then my metabolism stays ahead of what I eat. If I'm in decent shape, my body will tell me what to eat, whether it's vegetables or fruit or protein. If I'm craving chocolate, I eat a small quantity of something good quality, but I don't have dessert regularly. I drink water constantly.
I do belong to a gym, which I use for swimming or biking or the elliptical trainer. I also walk to work most of the time (20 minutes each way). I enjoy outdoor exercise (hiking, etc.) more than I enjoy the gym, but the gym is convenient for bad weather. I don't really like working out where anyone can see me, but I'm trying to get over that and just do it.
posted by bassjump at 6:05 PM on May 6, 2007

I was always skinny as a child, became more "normal" through young adulthood. Here are some of my lifestyle tips, some of which have already been mentioned:
- Always eat breakfast. Seriously, you may not be hungry in the mornings now, but if you make it part of your routine, you will be. It makes a huge difference in terms of food cravings come lunchtime. This is the meal I find easiest to be "healthy". I usually have something like egg whites with salsa, toast with peanut butter, fresh fruit and some yogurt. Maybe a cup of coffee or tea if I need some caffeine.
- Drink more water. This is easy, just carry around a water bottle with you. Going to the cooler to refill it is a great work break.
- Exercise good portion control. I eat dorm food, so I have zero control over what's being cooked, but generally I like to feel like my plate has a good balance of vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates.
- I have a pretty strict exercise schedule because of sports, but for the "layperson" I would suggest cardio (meaning: sweating, getting your heartrate up, not just taking the stairs at work) three times a week, and weightlifting too if you can join a gym. I hate running with a burning passion, so I like biking or anything that's a game (tennis, pickup soccer, frisbee). Lifting weights is seriously one of the best things you can do for fitness and self-esteem. You just have to stick with it. Sometimes it's easier with a personal trainer, if you can afford that.
- I avoid snacking by being at the mercy of the dining hall schedule, so I nth the suggestion to keep sweets out of your pantry.
- On Sundays, I eat whatever the hell I want.

In general, I try not to stress too much about specifics--no calorie counting, for example--or being too strict about being on a "diet." (If you don't treat yourself occasionally, you'll go crazy and will definitely give up.) I think it's better to look at it in terms of a lifestyle change rather than going on a diet. You're not restricting yourself, you're learning better eating habits. There's a difference. As for with exercise, if you make it a habit, it sticks. You really just have to stick with it long enough for that to happen. I like to schedule it into my day as a definite commitment. If you wait until the mood strikes, you'll never go to the gym (but you will feel awesome after you go, I promise).
posted by cosmic osmo at 6:07 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've always been on the slender side, but when I reached my late 30s I noticed that I didn't shed extra weight effortlessly like I used to. So I've paid some attention to weight lately, and here are a few thoughts.

1. Incidental exercise is huge. I hate exercising just for the sake of exercising, so I get my exercise in the course of doing things I need to do anyway: running errands or commuting by walking or cycling instead of driving. Or take the stairs rather than the elevator. It's just a little bit of exercise but if you do it regularly it adds up.

2. Think about what you eat; don't just pound down junk food. My employer provides unlimited free snacks and it's interesting to see who eats what. We have a couple of chubsters and a couple of skinny folks and the chubsters unfailingly (and probably unthinkingly) grab the higher-calorie options. Thirsty? Chug a soda with about 150 calories of sugar, rather than mineral water. Hungry? Grab a mozzarella stick and a handful of nuts rather than a banana or some pretzels. The skinnyfolk, of course, do the opposite, and ride bikes to work as well.

3. I notice if I've put on weight by the way my clothes fit (I don't have a bathroom scale). Since tight pants are uncomfortable, there's my motivation to lose the extra weight. (Buying new pants would be an admission of defeat, plus I hate shopping for clothes.) I try to cut back gradually and lose the weight over a week or so, by drinking lots of tea or mineral water when I feel hungry, rather than eating snacks. I don't follow any particular diet plan, I just eat less altogether.

4. I eat the aforementioned snacks when I get hungry but I opt for the healthier ones (lower fat, mostly). If my pants start feeling a little snug, I back off. Otherwise, I eat as much as I want. However, I usually have a cup of tea on my desk and I think the little bit of milk and sugar in there probably suppresses hunger pangs pretty effectively. YMMV, of course.

5. I find that I need a lot of starch to feel satisfied. I can eat all the meat/tofu/cheese/protein/fat I can handle but I still won't feel full. (Obviously, no low-carb diets for me!) With that in mind, I plan meals around rice or pasta etc with flavorful stuff on top (think Asian or Mediterranean cuisines). I eat a reasonable amount and feel satisfied, rather than overeating protein and fat and still feeling vaguely hungry.

6. Another thing I find is that foods that make me chew a lot leave me feeling more satisfied - I'm currently addicted to some yummy dried mangos that take a lot of chewing and gnawing (almost like rawhide bones for people), and after that workout I feel like I've eaten enough, thankyouverymuch.

I think people can train themselves to like healthier foods. Junk food appeals to the lowest common denominator (sugar! fat! salt!) but you can seek out healthier alternatives.

On preview: I see the Pants-O-Meter is pretty common. Hah!
posted by Quietgal at 6:09 PM on May 6, 2007

I'm not naturally skinny -- I have a soft belly and I'm busty -- but I am in the average zone. I have always wanted to be skinny, but I long ago recognized that this is the way my body is meant to be. I'm not willing to deprive myself for life (which is what would be required) to lose 20lbs.

I don't own a scale. About 10 years ago, when I was probably at my heaviest, I stepped on one in an Ikea, and I was so upset by what I saw that I haven't since. When I go to the doctor I stand backwards on the scale and tell them I don't want to know my weight. I think when I have a number in my head it triggers not just bad feelings but a kind of preoccupation. I monitor my weight by my clothing.

There are a few small things I do to prevent food mistakes:
- I don't keep pop in the house. If I expand I cut it off completely.
- I keep cookies in the house to curtail the need for sweets so that I won't buy a chocolate bar on the way home from work or something.
- I never buy white anything. This has become a preference over time.
- I am all about labels.
- I'm always concerned about money, a factor which influences my eating habits a LOT
- I just never really eat fried food. I rarely eat out except at lunch at work (I love a couple of amazing sandwich places nearby) or ordering pizza every couple of weeks. Again, this is a budget thing.
- I'm vegetarian, which I'm sure helps.
- I live in the city. I don't own a car. I bike to work from April until December, about 25 minutes each way.
-I walk as much as your average big-city dweller does, which is probably a lot by some people's standards.

Honestly, it probably sounds like a cop-out, but I think so much of this stuff is just the way we're made... I know lots of skinny people who eat like pigs and don't exercise. They're just biologically blessed.
posted by loiseau at 6:14 PM on May 6, 2007

I think you'd be surprised how many normal sized people really do watch what they eat. They don't think of it as 'dieting' persay, but it certainly is choosing what you eat carefully. The only difference is that they're doing it all the time, instead of treating it as a temporary thing.

This really rings true for me. I find that for me, unlike some of my friends who are steadily gaining weight through their thirties, that I am very sensitive to small changes in my weight. If my pants don't fit so well, or my cheeks feel fatter, then I immediately cut back on rich and heavy foods, and go on more walks. If my pants are loose and my cheekbones are right under the skin, then I have the bacon cheeseburger and a third beer. I guess I am really sensitive to what feels "normal," and I'm not comfortable deviating far from that midpoint.

Once or twice, because of changing work schedules and eating out more, I've had to consciously seek out exercise. But mostly I just make sure that every day I take a long walk, take a bike ride, or go for a hike. What varies is how much of that I do. And pretty much everyone in my family does this -- someone who sat around all day and refused to go for a walk after dinner would be seen as a weirdo and social pressure would be exerted to make that person change their behavior. (Yes, it's kind of fascist, but we seem to like it that way, I guess. And fof weight control, it really works.)

In terms of food, I'm very conscious about avoiding excessively prepared foods, but not for weight reasons -- prepared foods tend to be expensive, salty, and not very nice tasting. I love eating at restaurants, but I'm also really happy eating a bagel, cheese, and salad in the backyard. This is what I grew up with and think of as normal -- I'm always a bit shocked when I visit a friend's house and see the fridge full of "lean cusine" and the cupboards full of canned soup and so on -- I just don't think of those things as "food" in the sense of it being stuff you would eat on a regular basis. But I also don't understand people who eat in very austere ways -- food is such a fundamental pleasure, and I don't want to deprive myself of the wonderful flavors in jamon serrano, or a really nice enchilada, or good pizza.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

"fof" = "for"
posted by Forktine at 6:21 PM on May 6, 2007

I'm constantly making little changes in my diet, trying to make healthier choices, because I noticed that I feel better when I eat less crap (and hey, whaddya know, it keeps my weight down, too). My current obsession is high fiber cereal for breakfast- Fiber One with the almond clusters, this very moment. DELICIOUS and keeps me healthy in that way fiber is known to (I won't elaborate, but you get the picture).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:25 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am about 5'11" and about 225 (big frame, decent muscle - but I have a spare tire). I am down from about 231, and want to be a bit under 210. Today I sprung for a bunch of personal training and I find that works, but isn't exactly cheap.

The PT will work, but when I am doing things on my own I have a few techniques for when I get a little undisciplined. First use your belt as an indicator, when it starts to fit tight - make a few adjustments. Make sure you are looking at yourself honestly in the mirror, and making the call based on honest analysis. When things go the wrong way, I do about 10 minutes more cardio a day on my workout days, and avoid booze (which is not just the booze, but the pizza, chicken wings, and poutine which a boozed up body wants) for a few days. Usually it corrects quite shortly. That said, I already go to the gym. I also try to step up the yard work, and things like foot trips to the store.

My parents are heavy, while I don't eat a lot of sweets I do drink pop --- mostly because I tend to make it a fetish object if I don't and substitute things which are just as bad. Use your better judgement here. Just my personal opinion, its bad for you - in the metaphysical sense - to really, really want something. I don't seem to store carbs, but have to watch my fat intake - I think this is an individual thing.

Some easy, practical and affordable things I do include keeping a box of instant oatmeal in my desk - health nuts have problems with it, but its way healthier than anything you will get quickly in an office cafeteria. Keep a spoon around, and you can eat it out of a coffee cup. Meat substitutes (especially the meatless chicken and hotdog) taste pretty similar to their meat counterparts but have better nutritional stats, and are just as easy to prepare - throw these into the mix on the days you are up a bit.
I also suggest that when you are up a bit, to eat a lot of vegetables (I cover my plate) - I usually use green beans, asparagus and mushrooms; they will give you the "mouth feel" of eating a lot and the weight in your stomach but have very few calories. Drinking water is good, but I don't think its necessary to be obsessed with it (drinking lots seems to be the conventional wisdom).

I can hold steady and my weight is coming down slowly and slightly. I think most of what I said should apply generally.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:28 PM on May 6, 2007

I second a lot of what everyone is saying here - my metabolism has slowed down in the last year (I'm 31), but I'm extremely vigilant about what I eat. For the most part, I'm a pretty healthy eater, but when I indulge in a "bad" food it's rarely a full portion. You don't have to finish everything on your plate in a restaurant (or anywhere). As scody said, you will find that if you eat slowly, you will be more attuned to the feeling of being satiated.

Unlike some other folks here, I am lost without my scale. I can't trust myself to properly interpret how I look in the mirror, or how my pants feel, so I weigh myself every morning before I eat or shower. I generally fluctuate within a five pound range, and if I hit a weight that's outside (above) that range, I know I need to more carefully watch what I eat for a week or two to get back to where I want to be. That way, I never feel like my weight is out of control or an overwhelming problem -- I nip it in the bud immediately.
posted by amro at 6:35 PM on May 6, 2007

- I eat fruit like oranges or bananas instead of dessert.
- I never drink soda. I avoid high fructose corn syrup or processed foods.
- I don't cook with butter, I use olive oil instead. Monounsaturated fats in olives and avocados are very healthy.
- I pour Tabasco on everything. It burns excess calories and lowers your cholesterol. Even some red pepper flakes in your pasta helps.
- I don't drive a car, but that's because I live in SF and I don't like cars. I walk or ride a bike everywhere.
- I eat little meat, but I especially avoid pork, because I love pork so much and it's very fattening. I went on a pork kick two years ago and gained 20 pounds.
- I have standardized my meals in a way that I can know how much my body is going to get. I eat the same thing every morning for breakfast and love it: scrambled eggs with tarragon and tumeric between two toasted slices of bread with avocado and Tabasco. It's a great way to start the day.
- I avoid heavy eating at night, especially rich foods with a lot of carbohydrates.
- Low fat milk.
- Wine instead of beer.
- Cigarettes.
posted by bukharin at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2007

(the above advice is coming from somebody who was a chubby kid and who tends to get chubby again if he lets his guard down. it really affected my self-image to have that extra weight, and it's really important to me now to be in shape, because I know how bad it feels and how others treat you differently for appearing unhealthy. it just makes life a lot better if you take the time and effort to shed the pounds. if you can change one habit at a time, and realize that healthy foods are in fact quite tasty and just as fulfilling, then you should be able to do it. good luck!)
posted by bukharin at 6:43 PM on May 6, 2007

I've been normal, then fat, and repeated that pattern several times. Why? Not overseas vs. living in the States.

Overseas thin state caused by:

1. Walking everywhere
2. Not as much variety in the food = less desire to eat
3. No fast food
4. Drinking more water (Soda there tastes awful)
5. Smaller meals
6. Pattern of daytime starvation = stomach shrinking (Ramadan)

Fat in States:

1. Mountain Dew
2. Driving everywhere
3. Job where I sit on my butt a lot
4. Access to all kinds of fattening ethnic food

And that was it. It amounts to about 30-40 pounds in a six month period.

I've started to turn it around by cutting out the Mt. Dew (diet now), joined a gym that's a pleasure to go to, walking to work once a week, putting more water in the fridge - basically trying to emulate the conditions that caused natural weight loss before. I hate diets, since my Mom's always on one, and she never keeps off the weight.
posted by Liosliath at 7:12 PM on May 6, 2007

I'm female, 32, 5'8" and 133 lbs. I run four days a week, ride a bike instead of driving and ride long distances for fitness. I eat sweets once or twice a day but am mostly pretty moderate in my food intake-- I find that my body only has an appetite for the type and amount of food it really needs. I have pretty healthy eating habits-- mostly meatless with occasional indulgences in sushi or a turkey sandwich. I drink a lot of water, don't drink high calorie sodas, coffee drinks and am moderate in my alcohol intake.

I've been pretty thin most of my life, with a few years when my metabolism dropped about five years ago when I weighed almost 170lbs-- I was inactive, smoking a lot and generally miserable physically. I lost the weight over about a year, which culminated in running my first marathon. My parents are both fairly thin as well, so I'm sure my genetics has something to do with my tendency toward thinness/athleticism. My day job requires me to be up and about a fair amount and I make it a point not to sit all day.

Making activity part of life, as opposed to a cordoned-off, scheduled obligation, is really key. Walking or biking instead of driving is HUGE. Think of it this way: to get somewhere, one should burn calories and not gas. This seems ridiculous to our car-obsessed culture, but if you take the car out of the equation, keeping one's weight down becomes a more intuitive and natural part of life.
posted by hollisimo at 7:18 PM on May 6, 2007

Asking skinny people how to lose weight is like asking someone born and raised in China how you should learn Chinese. It's natural to them, but they have no freakin' idea how hard it will be for you.
posted by IvyMike at 7:32 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

If I want to lose or maintain my weight, I:
1. Eat very lightly at night (or not at all)

2. Have my "big" meal in the middle of the day

3. Cut back on snacks, but only eat 1 handful when I do snack

4. Moderate my portion size. I like to clean my plate but I am just as satisfied out of a small bowl as a big one, so I tend to eat out of the smallest bowl in the house.

5. Drink lots of water and tea, never soda

6. Avoid high frutose corn syrup for the demon it is - I won't eat yogurts or drinks that have it. Or anything else for that matter.

7. Go for high quality over quantity. Eat a few squares of super dark chocolate instead of a candy bar.

8. Cook for myself as much as possible and eat whole grains, beans, veg etc.

9. Substitute fruit for dessert whenever I can.

10. All my excercise is incidental - try to walk as much as possible - I have a dog so that is fairly easy. Also, I'll decide to go somewhere and deliberately leave the car at home so I have to walk more.

11. Cut sugar completly out of my diet - I use honey instead. At first it was a bit of a moral thing and I did it for principle. Now I prefer honey and have come to dislike the taste of sugar.

12. I love to weigh myself, because I like seeing effects of my own behavior. I weigh myself every day, and if I see my weight going up, I'll cut back on going out, cook more, eat more ruffage and veg, etc.
posted by zia at 7:53 PM on May 6, 2007


One of the best, easiest ways to squeeze in a small extra percent of exercise in that won't take any time is to just stand instead of sit if at all possible. Talking, get a higher desk to surf the web, watch TV standing, eating if you can still separate eating distinctly from everything else. Anywhere it can fit. More calories are burned standing then sitting, and if you can do it on top of dieting, you'll notice a big difference.

A lot of people wonder how a skinny person can eat more then a fat guy in a restaurant and not gain weight, and the answer is that when they pig out, that's ALL they eat that day. They don't have a huge lunch and then go home to eat two huge dinners; they have a huge lunch and a late night snack.

I struggle with these myself, but I've noticed my skinniest friends do both of these without thinking.
posted by sandswipe at 7:55 PM on May 6, 2007

Female, 29 years old, 5'4", ~110 pounds

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
I walk at least 3-4 times during the workday (~2 blocks around the office). If I have the time, I also walk to the store (several miles away) instead of driving. Sometimes I hike. I also lift free-weights once a week. I have hip troubles, so sometimes I go without lifting if I'm in a lot of pain, but even occasional lifting helps a lot. EXRX is a good place to find out more about weightlifting -- if you're a big guy (yes, even a big fat guy) you should be able to get plenty out of it. The best part is that muscles burn calories even when you're not using them.

do you do it with pals?
Yes, for the walking. I have some walking buddies in the office.

did your parents do this too?
They walk a lot (Mom has a similar workday-walking regimen to mine, Dad is a tour guide).

how often do you eat sweet things?
Reasonably often. I don't eat complex carbs, though, so I can have ice cream or chocolate now and again with no troubles. Also, I do not drink soda -- avoiding soda is probably the single greatest return-on-investment you can make in terms of weight loss. Try to replace it with water with lemon juice, diet drinks or tea/coffee.

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?
I weigh myself at least once a week. Anything over 10 pounds of gain is a red flag. Usually I cut back on sweets and try to walk and lift weights more often.

Other advice:
-Cook meals from ingredients at home rather than eating prepared foods, it's healthier and usually cheaper
-Popcorn (no butter, try nutritional yeast instead) is a killer low-calorie snack. So are pickles.
-A pedometer is a fun way to get yourself to walk more. Set a target number of steps per day and challenge yourself to meet it during your daily routine.
-FitDay is a free online calorie-counter than can help you figure out what your calorie culprits are. You put in what you ate and how much you exercised each day, and it figures out the rest. It also shows you the daily balance between fats/protein/carbs, and you can use it to see if you're getting enough vitamins.
-The Hacker's Diet has a pretty straightforward exercise-and-calorie-counting-based diet plan. If you use it in conjunction with FitDay, it might help.
-Find a sport or physical game you enjoy. Even something relatively low-activity like billiards or golf will help if you do it regularly.
-Coffee, coffee, coffee! (or tea, tea, tea!) (but with no sugar!)
posted by vorfeed at 8:11 PM on May 6, 2007

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
Mostly walking. Sometimes 2+ hour walks every night through the city. Its not just idle. I'm usually walking the dog or running errands.

how often do you eat sweet things?

Every day. But I've discovered just a couple bites will satisfy that sweetness craving. I tend to have a pint of Ben & Jerry's in the freezer for a week or two, grabbing a few spoonfuls here and there.

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?

Pants, as many others have said. I tend to wear fitted clothes so its very quickly noticeable around the wasitline.

ooooh... and what is your attitude to incidental exercise?

Thats actually the key. Most of the thinner people I know dont use gyms. They are just always moving, walking instead of driving, standing instead of sitting. Over the course of a day all these tiny movements add up to a HUGE amount of calories.

Even in office environments, they are the ones I see rapidly going up and down the hall to talk to different people. The chubbier folks are like immobile statues at their desk, picking up the phone if they need to talk to someone on the next floor.
posted by vacapinta at 8:41 PM on May 6, 2007

I don't overeat, I'm not a snacker, and I don't care much for sweets. I was always slender until I got my first car (like you, I walked or biked anywhere I needed to go). I do enjoy unhealthy foods, though, like friend chicken and pizza. I've noticed, though, that even without a change in diet, exercise takes the weight off. Unfortunately, my current career is sedentary and it's hard to find the time to get out and move.

A few years back, I was without a car for about two weeks. I had to walk four blocks to the bus stop every day and two blocks to my office after it dropped me off (and the reverse procedure on the way home). After two weeks my clothes were noticably looser just from that little bit of exercise, and I wasn't even trying to lose weight at the time.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:43 PM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Male, 5'7"ish, 140 lbs ish

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
I commute about 10 miles by bicycle to work. Depending on where I have to be, that could be from 3-5 times a week. I race mountainbikes, so I train maybe another 3 days a week with rides up to about 30 miles and then again on the weekend for say 3 hours. Martial arts one night a week, swimming, running and table tennis as it fits in. I don't know if this still falls within the 'normal' experience you're asking for...

do you do it with pals?
Some of it. I prefer to exercise alone, but am more motivated if I have other people relying on me. My job has a very erratic schedule that means some days I can be out on a training ride at midday while everyone else is at work. Makes it hard to keep a regular training partner.

did your parents do this too?
Nope. My parents are completely sport-averse. Perhaps as a consequence I was a very sedentary child, and was quite porky by my current standards. My parents are now in their 60s and are building a house. They don't 'exercise' per se, but their concept of a day's labour would cripple most people. They both appear - to me - to have a healthy weight.

how often do you eat sweet things?
Rarely. I'm just not that motivated by sugar. I like sweet things, but I rarely if ever crave them. Alcohol is my sugar. Beer bad...

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?

I keep a training log and weigh myself regularly. And I just know if I'm carrying too much. Right now I know I'm about 5 pounds over ideal. Getting rid of that last 5 pounds is another story!

Like may other posters, I experienced a marked decline in metabolism after 30. For a long time I could essentially eat and drink what I wanted, knowing that my exercise levels would account for it all. I'm probably fitter at the moment than I've been for 10 years, but weight is easier to put on and harder to keep off. Portion control is one tip I can advance. Cook your own food, serve what appears to be the correct amount, then decant any leftovers into lunch containers and put it in the freezer. There's no temptation to come back and graze on the leftovers. Seconding the suggestion to have a big drink of water before a meal. If your stomach is totally empty, you will invariably over-eat.

I'm careful with what I eat and careful with how much I exercise. I often have people say to me 'look at you, you of all people shouldn't need to watch what they eat'. Which misses the point: I am the way I am precisely because I watch what I eat and do.
posted by tim_in_oz at 8:53 PM on May 6, 2007

so my questionsare for folk who have always had a healthy/appropriately sized figure....not the naturally skinny, and not the ones that have dieted to become a healthy size.

What's the difference between healthy and naturally skinny?
posted by smackfu at 9:18 PM on May 6, 2007

Best answer: If there is one trend I've noticed between my skinny/normal-sized friends and the bigger ones (including myself), it is that skinny people eat less.

Crazy, I know!

But really. My skinny friends are the ones who eat slowly. They order small things at restaurants and do not gorge. They eat when hungry and stop when full. They do not overeat because a lifetime of eating when hungry, stopping when full has taught them to naturally listen to their appetite and has honed this appetite so they're only taking in approximately the number of calories they need. They "eat whatever they want"--but what they want is not everything in huge quantities that leaves them in a food coma at the end of the meal, just what's enough to keep them going.

They're the ones who don't go for the extra slice of pizza, who don't always order dessert, who skip a meal once in a while when they're deep in a project. When they're not feeling hungry they do not order food. Sometimes they have salads because they feel like a light meal.

Basically, they practice portion control. It is ingrained in them, maybe from their parents, maybe from never developing emotional eating, maybe they just never picked up on our subtle cultural messages to eat as much as you can whenever possible. But it comes down to just eating less.
posted by schroedinger at 9:26 PM on May 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

The women in my family tend towards obesity and as I've gotten older, I'm watching my waistline start to expand. I'm an very average weight right now, but I used to be super skinny. I was raised by sedentary parents with poor eating habits. We ate lots of hamburger, processed foods from boxes and large bowls of ice cream for desert.

As an adult, I changed my eating habits significantly. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, with a little bit of fish now & then. I eat only whole grains, low-fat dairy products, no soda pop, no fried food and no fast food. We cook a healthy dinner each evening in my household and make enough so that there are leftovers to bring to work for lunch. We cook lots of Indian, Japanese, Thai, African & Indonesian food. Brown rice instead of white rice...a rice cooker is a helpful thing to have for cooking brown rice. Substitute olive oil for butter in recipes. I eat a lot of big salads with beans and raw vegetables and nuts in them. I get a lot of pleasure in picking out vegetables at the farmer's market and finding new ways to prepare them. We do a lot of bean soups in the crock pot and freeze them.

I'm all about fat-free microwave popcorn, flavored mineral water, low-fat string cheese, fresh fruit, individual cups of yogurt and frozen fruit bars for snacks. Cups of miso soup are good for sipping & staving off hunger. I get frozen edamame & snack on that as well. Sometimes I bake a handful of frozen french fries in the oven or make a quesadilla with a whole wheat tortilla. When I buy fresh fruit, I cut it up right away and put it in the refrigerator so that it's readily available.

This isn't really a diet to me, it's just become the way I eat. Despite this, I'm still on the thick waisted side. I know this is due to the fact that I sit on my butt in front of a computer most of the day. I exercise on an elliptical trainer for 20 min 1 or 2 times a week and try to walk places and take the stairs when I can (the incidental exercise). I'm physically pretty lazy, but trying to change. I also really like to drink a couple of beers or glasses of wine every evening but don't really feel like giving that up right now as it's something I look forward to during the day.

I know that I need to up my exercise in order to lose weight. It's hard, but I'm working on making it a part of my lifestyle as much as the way I eat.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:57 PM on May 6, 2007

I should have added: my partner comes from a family of naturally plump people. He runs for an hour, 4 days a week, and still has to watch what he eats to avoid gaining weight. His body just wants to put on weight.

His method is no snacks ever. He eats small portions for breakfast and lunch, and medium-sized portions for dinner -- and NEVER snacks under any circumstances. Like "hey, want this tiny mint?" "No thanks." No eating at all, except during those meals. He eats basically whatever he wants for those meals - usually vegetarian, but it can be cheese topped with a different kind of cheese, so not always healthy. He finds this kind of system easier than the "eat only very healthy stuff, but as much of it as you want whenever you want" system.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:00 PM on May 6, 2007

my arse is the size of australia, and my thighs should be called sequoia...

Don't forget about fiber intake, or they'll be calling your wind Maria.
posted by rob511 at 11:30 PM on May 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

posted by smackfu: What's the difference between healthy and naturally skinny?

I think the he means the naturally skinny people who can eat and do eat anything.

One of my friends is pretty skinny and he eats junk food all the time(he doesn't cook), drives everywhere and has ATLEAST a 2 litter bottle of coke everyday. He just drinks them straight from the plastic bottle, his room/car is full of empties. MMORPGs are the closest he gets to sports too.
But he never gains any weight.
I don't know what that is doing to his health, but it cant be good, I know he is physically addicted to the pepsi now, if he tries to cut it down he gets crippling headaches. But he looks fine.

That would be the difference between someone naturally skinny and someone healthy skinny...
posted by Iax at 11:33 PM on May 6, 2007

You're going to get -tons- of responses to this, but maybe a frequency analysis will be helpful, so I'll chime in, too.

How I keep from getting overweight (I'm 5'4" and 120 lbs, female):

- I don't keep anything in the house that I'd be upset to eat in one sitting.

- I try not to drink any calories at all if I can help it. (Diet soda, splenda/aspertame, water, etc.)

- I'm too broke to eat out frequently. This probably helps. I am also a vegetarian, so I can't really eat at places like McDonald's, even if the mood takes me.

- If I notice that my pants are getting tight, I start running (I can't seem to keep up running for more than six or eight months at a stretch -- a long story, let us just say that I'm sort of hapless).

Running itself doesn't necessarily cause me to lose weight (although being in shape is a -great- feeling), but after running 6 miles, the idea of eating something that would entirely negate all that hard work and exercise is almost too much to bear, so I find that I eat more healthily when I'm exercising. Also, eating junk food just feels -wrong- when I'm exercising a lot. When I run I usually run four times a week, about twenty five miles a week (although it takes a while to work myself up to that.) Running is great because it's relatively cheap and you can do it almost anywhere. A great running website is They have some awesome message boards for new runners (and experienced runners, for that matter...)

This is a cycle that repeats itself, for me. I tend to start out, at the beginning at around 115 pounds, then gradually creep up onto 130 pounds, which is where I start to feel a little uncomfortable and some of my pants stop fitting. I'll bust my ass exercising for a while, then start the cycle all over again. This usually takes about a year and a half.
posted by ZeroDivides at 11:55 PM on May 6, 2007

For a 24 year old guy, I am pretty small (5'6", 140 lbs). I believe this is because I:

- have a really small mom
- CANNOT sit still
- make almost everything I eat at home, and most of that is vegetarian (because it's tasty and easy, not for humanitarian reasons)
- am a teacher, which keeps me on my feet for hours a day
- don't own a television

I have never tried to exercise; I've just decided to arrange things so my lifestyle is healthy. I changed jobs last year because I was wearing myself out and didn't have enough time to cook at home and relax after being up and about all day.

Secrets revealed!
posted by mdonley at 1:05 AM on May 7, 2007

Best answer: Two things, and I'm sure you know them already, but since they are Absolute Truth, I'll state them again.

1. Reduce your caloric intake. Skinny (or "normal") people simply don't consume that many calories during the day. That's it. Period. For overweight people, I can guarantee that their caloric intake is over the accepted limit. Period. Reduce your caloric intake, and you lose weight. Maintain a sensible (not draconian, mind you) caloric intake every day, and you'll maintain a normal weight.

2. Exercise. If you drive everywhere, then make time to exercise elsewhere. Buy a treadmill and walk or jog while watching TV. There's a million ways to do it, so just do it.

(disclaimer: though I'm not fat, I've got a spare tire/lack of abdominal muscle that I've been really lazy about getting rid of, so I'm not really one to talk. But I do know what to do...just as soon as I get off my ass and do it.)

I think diet and exercise are each roughly 50% of the equation.
posted by zardoz at 2:57 AM on May 7, 2007

Response by poster: i wish i could mark you all as favourites. i'm very grateful for all your anecdotes and experiences. i should clarify that i don't drink soft drink (what you call soda or pop) and i'm off chocolate currently (much to my chagrin... still breastfeeding mini-taff). and i don't eat chips (crisps) very often. sob.

looks like exercising semi-regularly for the rest of my big FAT life is the go. bugger. oh, and portion control. bloody buggery bum, i love to feel full. really full.

how do you achieve that feeling? or don't you? i usually eat good nosh up, then eat something sweet.... or eat an enormous amount instead. the sweet thing seems to achieve satiety faster...

urgh.... is healthy satiety possible for slim folk?
posted by taff at 3:26 AM on May 7, 2007

I think you get to have a choice: eating to the point of extreme fullness at every meal and not exercising, or being slim. The two are not compatible, in my experience. It's not that being stupid-full isn't fun once in a while, but I (and I think many non-fat people) reserve that for a once-in-a-while special pleasure. A lot of days, I end meals still with room for more. But I know that if I eat more, my pants won't fit, and I'll feel bloated, and so on.

Just the other day I was eating lunch with a friend, and I ordered something fairly heavy (a really super-loaded cheeseburger with fries at a pub, I think), and my friend said, "oh, I hate how people like you can eat anything and not get fat!" I didn't really respond, but I really hate it when people say that, because in fact if I ate like my friend does, and exercised like he does, I'd be plenty fat --- I'm not fat because I don't eat everything, and when I eat that cheeseburger for lunch I go for a really long walk that evening and eat a really light dinner. It's not at the forefront of my brain all day long, but it does play into food choices and decisions about where to live and what to do for fun and so on. I'm sure genetics plays a role, but there are a lot of personal decisions involved, too, and it's easy to not see those because they are internal and invisible, and the result (fat or not-fat) is the result of a tremendous number of very small decisions made over the course of every single day.
posted by Forktine at 4:23 AM on May 7, 2007

i love to feel full. really full ... is healthy satiety possible for slim folk?

Interesting question. Why do you love to feel really full? For me being really full feels really unpleasant - my stomach feels uncomfortable, I feel sluggish, and I know that if I overeat at dinner I will have a hard time waking up the next morning and feel like crap the entire morning.

The only "diet" I have been on was where I just had to make sure I was only eating one portion of anything I ate, the portion sizes being ones generally accepted by nutritionists, and that I stayed within recommended caloric guidelines. In one month people remarked how much weight I had lost and all my clothes were loose. One side effect was that I felt full with smaller amounts of food than previously. (I had been working out at the gym 4-5 times a week for some time, combination of cardio and weights, and had not lost noticeable weight until I added the portion control.)

Since you are still breast-feeding, you should probably consult with a nutritionist before embarking on portion control. Then you have to retrain your mind and body about what amount of food is "a lot." A big part of this will be paying attention to how you feel physically as well as emotionally as you are eating, how you feel after eating, and why you love feeling really full. I think this last one is really important. From reading the responses, none of the slim folk reported feeling pleasure from feeling really full. Their pleasure from eating came from the quality of the food they were eating, not the quantity. So it sounds like what you have to work on is your attitude or responses to food, in addition to portion control and exercise.
posted by needled at 4:55 AM on May 7, 2007

i love to feel full. really full ... is healthy satiety possible for slim folk?

No, unless you're filling up entirely on lettuce. I understand your feeling. There is something comforting about feeling full after a big meal. And I bet your eating habits have conditioned you to thing "gorged" is the equivalent to "not hungry," which just makes things worse. You have to recondition yourself.
posted by schroedinger at 6:26 AM on May 7, 2007

I love to feel full as well. I just love to eat and feeling full has always for me been a part of enjoying food. I have found though that once I get onto a diet of healthy eating and a bit of calorie restriction, the need to stuff myself goes away over a period of time. As schroedinger says, I think that it is possible to recondition yourself.

Good luck, I know that it's hard.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:06 AM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, depending on how heavy you are, you might be able to. Eating fruit/vegetables until you're full will be a lot less calories than eating, say, bread, or something else until you're full. Eating some fat/protein will keep you feeling more full than eating noodles/rice/carbs.

There's a book called "Mindless Eating", by some professor at Cornell that you might want to look at...
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:07 AM on May 7, 2007

I'm an average guy. I exercise at least once a day in some manner (be it walking/biking to work, going to the gym, taking a jog, or playing team sports). Usually about 30 minutes to an hour a day of exercise.

I also rarely eat sweets, but that could be because I'm vegan. So I guess, yeah, I'm not certain, but I'd imagine that most "normal" looking people do a lot of stuff in terms of diet and exercise that may not be obvious on the surface. At least, I know I do. I've made it a part of my lifestyle that won't change until I'm dead, because I only have one body.
posted by dead_ at 7:08 AM on May 7, 2007

This is a great question and there are some great responses. I'll throw in mine. I was a lot bigger three years ago. No one would have called me fat but I was pretty close. I started exercising and that helped me loose some weight, but when I combined a sensible strength-training routine with a healthy diet is when I really noticed results. So that's the mystery that all these weight-loss supplement and ab-trainer adverts don't tell you. You will loose weight if you exercise regularly and control calories in a sensible way by means of a healthy diet.

FWIW, I lost around 30 lbs (I'm male, 5'10 and 174lbs, btw) which doesn't sound like very much, but I'm quite stocky so whilst I have a propensity to put on weight (ahh genes!!) I also have a propensity to put on muscle. This is something that us stocky fellows have going for us.
posted by ob at 7:28 AM on May 7, 2007

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?

I weigh myself every week or two, and when my weight creeps up to 5 pounds above the "acceptable weight to me" level, I watch what I eat more carefully until I get it back down again. This weight gain generally happens once or twice a year: during the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year season, when it's really hard not to overeat, and when I periodically get lazy about exercising.

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
do you do it with pals?

I don't get much in the way of "incidental exercise," although I don't really like sitting at my desk all day so sometimes I'll just get up and walk to the front desk at work to chat with people, walk to the snack room to look around, walk to my car, walk to the printer to see if anything interesting is there. I also drink A LOT of water (2-3 Nalgene bottles every day at work, several tall glasses each morning and night), so I walk to the bathroom with great regularity. I think the water helps me distinguish between "hungry" and "thirsty," too.

I still need to get regular intentional exercise, though, especially as I get older. (I'm in my late 20s now, didn't really start exercising until a few years ago when I noticed that my metabolism seemed to need it.) I like setting goals and then developing workout plans aimed at meeting the goals. For a while it involved periodized weight training. Then I was trying to run a mile under 10 minutes. Then I wanted to be able to run 3 miles on a treadmill. I was in to bike riding for a while, and I've had swimming goals too. Right now I'm trying to develop as a long-distance runner (even though I'm verrrrrry slow. I work out a minimum of 30 minutes 4 times a week, but I regularly work out for 45 minutes or an hour or more during one or two of my workouts every week.

I get bored if I stick with the same program for too long, so if I notice I've had a hard time motivating myself to exercise for a week or two I look for something new to aim for.

did your parents do this too?

Mine don't really exercise and don't watch what they eat. My mom used to lose huge amounts of weight on massive diets from time to time when I was a kid, but now they're both just fat. Whenever I visit my parents at home, which I do every few years now, I'm guaranteed to gain at least 5 pounds within a week.

Why do I gain so much weight when I visit? They keep a lot of junk around the house, and when it's there I really can't resist -- potato chips, cheese slices, cookies, muffins, soft drinks, they bake cakes, they always have a supply of ice cream, etc. And they always have orange and apple juice around the house, which are relatively healthy but are also calories that don't really fill a person.

how often do you eat sweet things

It's not that I never have junk around the house, but I do it in a bit more moderation. I'll buy low fat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, and I only get maybe two cartons a year. I buy cheese when I have plans to use it in a specific recipe. I buy tortilla chips every month or two. I almost never buy or make cookies, and if I really want a cookie I go to a coffee shop and get one there.

The types of things I like to snack on include:
* apple slices with peanut butter (premium peanut butter makes this a truly decadent experience).
* yogurt with fresh fruit (sometimes I buy whole milk cream top yogurt -- fatty, but out of this world)
* popcorn with butter (I really like fancy butter)
* A bowl of Cheerios.

Instead of having junk food around, I try to keep my fridge completely overflowing with produce. Right now I have fresh carrots, broccoli, green beans, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, 2 kinds of potatoes, mushrooms, apples, oranges, and bananas at home. I also have frozen peas, corn, mixed veggies, edamame, rasperries and strawberries in the freezer, and canned corn, beans, tomatoes, pears and pineapple in the cupboard. And there are only two of us in this household.

I also have lots of grains to eat this stuff with: whole wheat bread, English muffins, pita bread, pasta, cous cous. And I have lots of sauces: marinara, salsa, soy sauce, and several low-fat salad dressings, etc.

None of this comes easily to me. I do it because I've realized that the only difference between me and a fat version of myself is that I make a conscious effort every day to avoid becoming fat.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:40 AM on May 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

I few years ago I moved from Australia to Japan for a couple of years. One thing I immediately noticed that was making a huge difference to my weight was social sport (or the lack of.) In oz it's very easy to find and join many kinds of local social leagues for all kinds of sports. Find something you love and people you enjoy doing it with and you'll be amazed at how much you look forward to that day in the week you get to hang out with your friends and get physical.

I think if you have tendency to play sport, especially several different kinds that each stress different strengths, your body tends to kick your metabolism into gear.

A few other things I've found have helped are keeping a weighted skipping rope around. When I get sick of staring at the screen, I'll walk out the back and jump rope until I stuff up. Also water, lots and lots of water.
posted by Mil at 9:41 AM on May 7, 2007

The best thing on the subject I've ever read: The Hacker's Diet
posted by the jam at 9:45 AM on May 7, 2007

I hate to cook and I live alone so it is not wise for me to buy a lot of fresh produce. I just can't get through it on my own before it goes bad.

My life changed when I realised I could put frozen vegetables in with the rice in the rice cooker and in 25 minutes I'd just have to add soy sauce or something to have a meal. LIFE CHANGING.
posted by loiseau at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might want to look at the No S Diet for another approach to portion control, snacks, and sweets.
posted by medusa at 12:14 PM on May 7, 2007

I got a Nintendo Wii a couple of months ago. I am seriously losing weight playing at least half an hour tennis (almost) every day. After the first days, I had to have a break for some days as my hole body was hurting, but it felt good and now I am even sleeping better than I did for ages :-)
posted by KimG at 12:21 PM on May 7, 2007

urgh.... is healthy satiety possible for slim folk?

I went from obese to merely at the higher end of healthy weight for my height by eating 8 small meals throughout the day. 8 small 300 calorie meals, one every two hours, is is 2400 calories, which will support a 200 lb. sedintary human. There are a number of resources online for figuring out how many calories you need to be eating to maintain your weight. When I started it was a hassle to eat that much and I wanted to skip meals because I hadn't adjusted to the new way of eating yet. BTW, this is not a "diet," this is just an alternate way of eating.

I don't drink sodas, I switched form beer and/or cocktails to sipping good whiskey or tequila.

I take a walk on my lunch-hour. I do light weghtlifting on the weekends, about 15-30 minutes worth.

I drink coffee with half-n-half instead of mochalattefrappechinos.

I cook most of my meals at home. (it's easier to stay away from junk-food at work if I take pre-portioned leftovers)

As mentioned by serveral posters above, I switched from quantity to quality in as many ways as possible.

Water. Lots of water. Feeling snacky? You're probably just thirsty. Seriously.

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?

I'm really, really vain. I like it when women give me a second glance or a smile. When that happens less frequently I know it's time to lose some weight. Or shower.
posted by lekvar at 1:56 PM on May 7, 2007

I'm 5' 6" and 135 lbs . at age 29. I'm not stick-thin or toned but I've been well within the target weight range for my height my entire life and I've never been on a diet or worked out. Both of my parents are, unfortunately, obese, and have been for as long as I can remember. I figure the fact that I've (so far) escaped this has to have something to do with my lifestyle being so different from that of the rest of my family:

-I don't have a car; thus lots of walking just in order to live my life (I also take the stairs whenever possible).

-Watch an hour of TV per week.

-Eat fast food like twice a year, maybe.

- Almost always drink water in lieu of all other beverages (coffee notwithstanding).

-Always eat breakfast.

-Never eat anything with high fructose corn syrup in it.

-I try to eat healthfully but am not fanatical about it. I try to keep healthy food at home, like fruits and veggies peeled and cut up for snacks. I allow myself sweets but only if I bake them myself. I rarely deny myself or try to skip snacks as I have very little willpower.

-I don't have a lot of extra money so when I do eat out it's a specal treat and I'll be damned if I'm ordering a salad. I really let myself go and enjoy myself on these occasions as well as at social gatherings.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:57 PM on May 7, 2007

I'm 163cm, currently 70kg, and have always had weight issues, which once again, I am trying to fix.

I live with a naturally skinny person.

how often do you exercise and what kind do you do?
This time around the weight loss roundabout, I'm combining exercise and diet control. When I am not injured or ill, I do these things for exercise:
a) attempt to walk at least 10,000 steps a day (my 'incidental' exercise
b) Do a weights class, a weights workout, and a wieghts-focused personal training session once a week.
c) do a pilates class once a week
d) do a yoga class once a week
e) do a cardio workout (eg, 30+mins cardio) once a week.
It is largely weights-focused because my metabolic rate is seriously screwed, and I'm attempting to change that. Side effect is I'm gaining muscle mass instead of losing weight, but oh well. I'm also eating around 1500 calories a day, of a moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat diet. I eat 6 small meals a day, where each meal has carbohydrate, fat and protien, and the carbohydrate is usually low GI. I eat chocolate or other sweets once or twice a week, fried foods much less often.

The protien with every meal combined with less simple carbs seems to be working towards making my appetite manageable, by the way. This is a very good thing.

do you do it with pals?
Well, my husband supports my goals, and occasionally works out with me. He helps me by cooking and reminding me to go to the gym as well.

did your parents do this too?
Heck no. They're obese, and I don't want to be like that.

how often do you eat sweet things?
Once or twice a week. More if I'm PMSing or ill or otherwise feeling crap.

if you notice you've put on a bit of weight over christmas or something... what do you do? how do you notice....i.e. what tells you? at what point do you do something about it?
I weigh myself daily. When I hit 72kgs, I do something about it. This time around my scales broke, and when I got new ones ... I was 80kgs. That was at the end of January. *sigh* I've since lost 10kg, and dropped perhaps half a dress size. No so much as you'd notice visually, unless you saw me in a bikini. As for what I do - this time it's diet and exercise, because I caught it early enough; other times it's just been diet, under medical supervision, because I haven't caught it early enough (eg, while I can still exercise).
posted by ysabet at 10:09 PM on May 7, 2007

Side effect is I'm gaining muscle mass instead of losing weight, but oh well.

This is why so many non-fat people here have said that they use the "pants test" rather than the scale to tell that they are getting fatter. If your fitted pants (not the kind with a stretchy waistband) get tight, you have gained fat. But if this happened at the same time that you stopped exercising, you will have lost muscle mass, and the scale might even say that you have lost weight (because muscle is heavier than fat). The scale does tell you something -- I wouldn't suggest not using it -- but it doesn't tell you the really important thing for this question, which is "when am I adding fat?"
posted by Forktine at 4:20 AM on May 8, 2007


For me, unfortunately, the pants test does not work. I can gain (or lose) around 5kg before my clothes start changing fit, and it is only really noticeable at around the 7kg mark. For most women, that's over a dress size - for me, it's a barely noticeable change in fit, due to my weight loss and gain pattern. So I rely on the scale, because that's the first indicator something is going sideways. Incidentally, a change of that magnitude can happen in under a month, without serious overindulgence - see 'my metabolic rate is screwed'.
posted by ysabet at 4:25 PM on May 8, 2007

I'm a 36-year-old woman, and I spent most of my 20s weighing more than 200 lbs (I am 5'4".) A few years ago I began losing weight, not because I set out to do so, but because I got laid off and had time to work out more; I also had to prepare many of my own meals.

Four years later, I've maintained my 70-lb weight loss. Here's how:
1. I weigh myself almost every day. I try to weigh within 3 lbs of 150 lbs. (So, still not skinny.) When I get beyond that limit, my rule is that I have to take action. Right now, that action is working out more and cutting out sugar.
2. Ice cream was my downfall. Now I barely allow it in the house. Same goes for other sweets -- I don't want to have them in the house in large quantities, because I'll just end up eating it. It's worth it to me to pay $3 for a scoop of ice cream even if I would get more for my money at the grocery store. Economy packs are not always your friends.
3. I began eating a lot of peanut butter. Sounds counter-intuitive, but I have a PB&J sandwich for breakfast (on whole-grain bread) almost every day. The protein and fat in the peanut butter keep me full for a long time. Before, I'd often eat a couple of bagels, which wasn't doing me much good. I usually have PB&J and fruit for breakfast.
4. I try to have protein and a green vegetable for lunch every day.
5.I watch my carbs, but not like a crazy person. Carbs fill you up temporarily but make you hungry a few hours later. Eating whole grains and combining carbs with protein will keep you more satisfied.
6. I eat when I'm hungry. I try not to eat first thing in the morning, because most of the time I'm not hungry, and I only want to eat when I'm hungry.
7. Exercise. Sorry, but there's no way around it. Four years ago I went to the gym a few times a week but couldn't run for more than two minutes on the treadmill. I started a running program for beginners (found at I was incredibly slow, and it took me way longer than the program said it would to be able to run. But I did it, and I've since run three half-marathons. These days I spend 45 minutes five days a week hiking with my dog or running, and I also do yoga a couple times a week.

I spent years feeling that I had so much weight to lose that dieting felt overwhelming. So I don't advocate going on a capital-D diet. Most of the time they fail. Instead, I'd come up with a few things to start with to make some changes. Try to walk three times a week for at least 30 minutes (consider buying a heart-rate monitor), cut out a food item that you have trouble with, try to eat 10 to 15 percent less at a meal than you would normally. Decide what you can live without: for me, it was easy to give up juice and soda.

My biggest advice: don't set up a program for yourself that's so structured and difficult that you feel deprived all the time. Because eventually you will fall off the wagon, and when you do so, it won't be pretty. Most of the last four years I've eaten sweets regularly (I love to bake, and Splenda and the like are not allowed in my kitchen). Sometimes I've cut out sugar when my weight has crossed the line, but the rest of the time I let myself have it in moderation. Otherwise, I'd sit around feeling sorry for myself all the time, and eventually I'd eat my way through a Ben & Jerry's.

Best of luck to you.
posted by stonefruit at 1:24 PM on May 9, 2007

This is an excerpt from an article in New Scientist about an experiment replicating Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me documentary.

Even if you have never tried to cure your cravings for fast food by overdosing on it, you may be getting a sense of déjà vu. That's because Karimi was a volunteer in an experiment based on the 2004 documentary Super Size Me. In the movie, film-maker Morgan Spurlock spent 30 days eating exclusively at McDonald's, never turning down an offer to "supersize" to a bigger portion, and avoiding physical exertion. Karimi followed a similar regime, gorging himself on energy-dense food and keeping exercise to a minimum.

That is pretty much where the similarities end, though. By the end of Spurlock's McDonald's binge, the film-maker was a depressed lardball with sagging libido and soaring cholesterol. He had gained 11.1 kilograms, a 13 per cent increase in his body weight, and was on his way to serious liver damage. In contrast, Karimi had no medical problems. In fact, his cholesterol was lower after a month on the fast food than it had been before he started, and while he had gained 4.6 kilos, half of that was muscle.

Some people can lose it by cutting out cola, others have a harder time. If these suggestions don't work as well as you expect, don't get too discouraged.
posted by stavrogin at 6:41 PM on May 11, 2007

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