Weight and weight loss and healthy living and diets have been on my mind lately. This is probably largely (heh) because I stepped on the scale this week and I had to really face the fact that I have gained just about twenty pounds in the last three years.
It’s not that I simply was blissfully unaware that the number on the scale was climbing. I’ve noticed the evidence, when workouts are harder than they used to be, when I’m saying yes to foods I used to easily say no to, when a once-cute outfit now won’t zip in the back. I’ve previously acknowledged that I was struggling with re-gaining the weight I had previously lost. I tried diets like Medifast and Dukan to get myself back on track, had mixed results, and ultimately ended up weighing more than I did before I started the diets.
What I learned years ago, what I know even though my actions say otherwise, is that diets don’t work. There is no shortcut, there is no quick fix, not when it comes to weight loss or really to anything else in life. Yesterday I read this article about the contestants from Season 8 of the Biggest Loser, which talks about how the majority of them have gained back some or all of the weight they lost on the show six years ago. What’s worse, their metabolisms are now burning far fewer calories than the average adult their age.
While this information could be defeating (if my body is going to actively work to gain my weight back, why bother trying to lose it in the first place?), it’s also a very extreme example. These were very overweight people, who took extreme measures to lose drastic amounts of weight in a very short time. The study’s results would have been more well-rounded if it had also followed other groups, like a control group of overweight people who didn’t diet and a group of people who incorporated exercise and changed their eating habits very gradually.
I look at the BL contestants and I see this six-year study as more proof that diets do not work. They couldn’t maintain their eating or exercise rituals long-term, so slowly old habits crept back in. That is normal, but also devastating because their metabolisms were now even less effective. This is also seen in eating disorder patients: when someone eats so few calories and exercises so much that they push their body into starvation mode, their metabolism slows to a crawl to preserve every ounce of fat available so that the person doesn’t die. This renders their bodies less efficient at burning fat and calories when they do begin to eat more, making fat storage unavoidable.
There are still a lot of gaps in the science. I know that in order to lose weight, I have to run a calorie deficit (burn more calories than I consume). But where’s the sweet spot where I’m not harming my metabolism by doing so? Does that sweet spot even exist? Was my weight three years ago just not sustainable, no matter what choices I made?
All is not lost, though: there are also several BL contestants from various seasons who HAVE maintained healthy weights. Maybe they aren’t as thin as they were at their season finales, but they are active and they have a healthy relationship with food. To me, that is the goal to strive for. And while it may be completely possible that I couldn’t have kept myself at 125lbs over the last three years, it’s also possible that the majority of my weight gain is attributed to poor diet and not being active enough. Those are conditions I have control over and can change.
To get back on track, I reached out to a close friend of mine who is a personal trainer and something of a health and fitness guru. Awesome chick that she is, she jumped at the chance to help me out, and constructed a four-week meal plan for me. Because she knows me so well, she was able to include a lot of the foods she knows I enjoy, since I’m a lot more likely to stick with a new plan if I like what I’m eating. What she set me up with is NOT a diet. She didn’t cut out fat or carbs, I get to eat balanced healthy meals that will fill me up and give me energy. Realistically, what she designed for me is a way of eating that I should be following the majority of the time anyways, and is remarkably similar to the way I ate before I gained weight.
I know it won’t be easy, but I have a lot of support and am determined to be healthier.