All my life I’ve yo-yo dieted. I’ve lost. I’ve re-gained. But I’ve never successfully maintained a weight loss.
My last major weight loss was in the 1990’s when I starved, swam, and biked myself thin... lost 30 pounds in 3 months. But when I went back to “normal” eating and had to cut back on the swimming due to a rotator cuff injury, I regained it all plus a few pounds.
Admittedly, my weight loss goals were unreasonably low. I wanted to be model-thin, and to be that thin meant living in a constant state of deprivation. A state that few can live in forever. Eventually, my cravings for “forbidden” foods would begin to erode my resolve. A bite of this... a handful of that... before I knew it, I’d thrown care to the wind.
Then the awful reality. I was gaining and was powerless to stop myself. Once again, I was a failure as a dieter and as a person. That must sound extreme, but understand that I grew up in a home where being thin was valued above almost everything.
My mom was a compulsive dieter. She and I dieted together (Stillman, Grapefruit, Atkins) and we both suffered from poor body image and an obsessive need to be thin. As a kid, I wanted to be a figure skater, and as a teen, a dancer, both of which demand thinness.
In my teens I developed anorexia. I blame the extreme attitudes in my home, along with fat-shaming messages and ultimatums from my coaches and dance teachers. My back-story can be found in this series of posts.
Finally, 4 years ago I began a quest to heal my body image/food issues... abandoning my forbidden food lists and calorie counters, I decided to let my body seek the weight that it would be if I ate freely whatever and whenever I wanted. As my guides I used two marvelous books, Ellyn Satter’s, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, and Frances Berg’s Women Afraid to Eat.
At the beginning of my quest, I weighed in the mid-160’s (heavier than I like to be.) 4 years later (last January) I was in the mid-170’s.
During those 4 years, I worked hard to accept my larger size, reading books like Fat So!, by Marilyn Wann, Hungry, by Crystal Renn, and Unbearable Lightness, by Portia De Rossi. I also frequented blogs like Dances with Fat and did daily affirmations to bolster my resolve to accept my body at whatever size it wanted to be.
I tried. I really did. But no matter what mind-games I played with myself, deep down inside I wasn’t happy about that growing fat-roll spilling over the top of my jeans. It got in my way when I tied my shoes. It added stress to my arthritic knees. It sapped my energy and made me feel old and washed-up. And all my clothes (and I like my clothes) were getting too small.
Just about when I was about at the end of my rope, in walked a whole new realm of possibility... Intermittent Fasting.
There are several different flavors of I.F. but what it boils down to for me is: limiting my eating to one 6-8 hour window out of every 24, and then not eating the other 16-18 hours. My window opens around noon and closes around 7 p.m.
It took a while to get used to not eating breakfast. (I have been an enthusiastic breakfast eater all my life.) I was ravenous, cranky, spacey, and had difficulty sleeping for 3 weeks. Since then I have learned that I took things too fast, that I should have skipped breakfast one day a week for starters and worked my way up to daily morning fasts, but I am an all-or-nothing sort of gal, so I toughed it out.
And now I don’t even miss eating in the a.m.
I spend my mornings writing, catching up on email, exercising, and sipping herbal tea. I almost never feel hungry and my mood and energy level is excellent. I’m sleeping well too. (And if I get a craving for “breakfast food,” cereal, pancakes, eggs, French toast, bacon, I fix them for dinner.)
Noonish, I break my morning fast with a nutrient rich smoothie. I also have a handful of almonds, an ounce of dark chocolate, and a cup of coffee. Sometimes, if I’m extra hungry, I’ll add a half-sandwich or a bowl of soup.
Dinner is a balanced meal... no forbidden foods! I eat what I love, in satisfying quantities, including dessert.
The good news... one year later I’m 18 pounds lighter.
It’s just simple math. By eliminating breakfast, I reduced my daily caloric intake by 500-700 calories... thus the slow and steady weight loss. Because let’s face it, there’s no magic about it. Eat more calories than you burn... you gain. Less... you lose.
Now to maintain? I’m a little nervous about this, since I’ve never managed to maintain a weight loss before.
On second thought, maybe it’ll be easy... looking back, in September my weight loss slowed and stopped of its own accord at 153-156. There it has stayed ever since. So maybe I slid into maintenance mode through a side door. Wow. And happily, what I weigh now is a size I can live with. And I don’t have to be model-thin to be happy with my size. I’ll settle for normal.
Now a word about exercise. Though exercise burns calories, that’s not why I exercise. I exercise because it feels good and I feel good when I exercise. I want to maintain a healthy level of strength, stamina, and flexibility but I don’t want what I weigh to depend on how much I work out.
Back in the day... when I was compulsively lap swimming to burn as many calories as possible, and fighting a rotator cuff injury, a wise doctor asked me, “Is what you’re doing building you up or tearing you down?”
These days, I have arthritic knees (from my dance days) plantar fasciitis (from fitness walking) and bicep tendonitis (from weight lifting.) What’s my definition of “tearing down?” If it hurts, my body is trying to tell me something. These days, I listen.
This post is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be medical or dietary advice. Please consult a reliable health care practitioner before starting any diet/fitness program.