Beating the Odds

Over in the 3FC forums, a member asked, “….Do you get discouraged when you hear statistics about, basically, how rare it is for people to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF? Or facts that say that the majority of people end up gaining it all back, and then some (like me)…    And if so, what motivates you do keep fighting to ‘defy the odds’….”

It’s a great question.  One I’ve been contemplating a lot recently.  Here’s my reply:

I’ve been trying to lose weight since I was 5 years old, and I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded (in the past). I lived the statistics. I really think I failed just like nearly everyone else because I went about losing weight “just like nearly everyone else.”

In my mid-twenties I found FA (Fat Acceptance) literature, and encountered the theory that dieting results in weight gain, rather than weight loss (it’s sure been my experience). So for a while I vowed to not diet, and my weight didn’t skyrocket. It stabilizied. I was afraid to try to lose weight, because in my experience dieting made me fatter, and refusing to diet did not. I wished that I had never dieted (and still wonder if I’d be nearly as overweight if I did not).

Then I started getting health problems and really didn’t know what to do. Dieting didn’t work for me (that is dieting the only way I knew how to do it).

I don’t think I would have attempted dieting ever again, except that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and my doctors said I would probably lose some weight “without even trying.” I chuckled at that, because I had never, ever experienced an unintentional permanent weight loss (the flu doesn’t count).

Well, what do you know? I lost about 20 lbs without trying (and without noticing. I didn’t even own the scale and I was six months between doctor’s visits).

It made me realize that losing weight wasn’t entirely impossible – but how to go about it? Certainly not “like I always did,” because “if you do what you always do, you get what you always get.”

I do not believe that “every diet works.” I know that the cliche is “every diet works, if you work it,” but many diets are so difficult that they’re practically impossible. How to find a WOE that I could make permanent?

From the time I decided to “diet differently” about 4 years ago, I’ve not had a significant regain. My weight is moving consistently downward (a trend I’d never had in my life last more than 2 years. And even my no-diet vow (and no-gain/no-loss period) didn’t last this long. So something is different.

80 lbs in 4 years, doesn’t sound like success. But it’s so different than what I used to experience, that I know I’m “onto something.” I’ve been trying all this time to find the WOE that works for me, and I have found it (low-carb, the only WOE I never attempted for more than a few weeks – always giving up because I thought the diet wasn’t healthy). Now, I’ve known for almost 2 years that low-carb, virtually no grain is the diet that I can physically follow and lose and manage myt weight. In fact, on low-carb eating I feel better, fewer health issues, and the crazy hunger disappears.

I was losing weight slowly (and not much at all in the last several months) because while I knew my best WOE, I couldn’t accept it. I kept trying to find ways to make it not true (kept trying to find ways to include grains and other high-carb foods at least occasionally).

I’ve been thinking about it, talking about it, and I finally hit my turning point when I realized that learning to eliminate my problem foods entirely was going to be easier than trying to learn to incorporate them – so why was I even trying?

The book that helped me gain that realization was Dr. Barbara Berkeley in her book, Refuse to Regain!: 12 Tough Rules to Maintain the Body You’ve Earned!

The book changed my life, even though the information isn’t new, it’s just consolidated. Reading it, I wondered why I hadn’t come to the same conclusions she did, much earlier in my experience, and I only can say that I was so busy trying to lose weight, that I never gave maintenance any thought. I never concerned myself with how I was going to keep the weight off.

I’m not discouraged any more by the statisitics. I can now see why diets have such a high rate of failure. Maintenance needs to be stressed from the beginning. It’s the most fundamental thing I have changed. I vowed from the beginning that I would find a way to maintain every pound lost. Even when I felt like giving up, I told myself I could decide to stop losing, but I would not decide to accept regaining.

I think I can now beat the odds, because I’ve realized that I can’t eat or diet like I did before. I can escape the fate of “nearly everyone else,” by approaching weight loss in a way that isn’t just unusual – it’s revolutionary.

The idea of giving up grains entirely (or even 99% of the time) is a “crazy” idea by modern standards, maybe it’s just crazy enough to beat the odds. I’m betting on it.

4 Responses to “Beating the Odds”

  1. fillupthesky Says:

    you have a way with words…this is well said, thoughtful, totally insightful. i’m inspired!

  2. brseay Says:

    Wow, this is exactly what I needed to read right now! The book sounds intriguing, I’ll definitely add it to my “must read” list.

  3. Screaming Fat Girl Says:

    I think that there are deep psychological (as well as difficult to track physiological) reasons for most people’s weight issues, and diets address things in a specific manner which never reconciles the individual’s problems or issues. Most people in modern society eat psychologically, not physiologically. I don’t think that it’s a condition that we can undo intentionally because we are inundated with food cues and seductive ways of getting us to want to eat certain things. It’d be impossible to remove ourselves from those influences, but we can be aware of when we are acting on them and try to mitigate our acting on them in a way which is personally destructive.

    I have always felt that the biggest issue with diets is that they only address food and not our emotional relationship with it. Once the diet is over, the way in which food is regarded does not change so people tend to regain. Though I think there is a personal alchemy at play (low carb works for some, doesn’t work for others, for instance), I think that we have to know about our mental relationship with food as well as the biological one or we are doomed. Some people, the ones who are lucky and happen to fall into a situation where the psychology resolves itself while adapting to the biology, can carry on, but the majority obviously cannot. I think those people believe something has happened (they’ve gained “willpower”) that has not, but they will never recognize that fact.

    The statistics don’t bother me as I’m already a part of those numbers – I lost a lot of weight and regained it and more. That doesn’t mean that it’ll happen again, nor does it mean that I’m not better off for trying now even if the future will be a return to my past state. You have choices and you can choose to not even try for fear of becoming one of those statistics or you can try and enjoy the fruits of those labors in the here and now.


  4. kaplods Says:

    I also once thought that deep psychological issues were behind most cases severe obesity (including my own) and thought that physiological issues rarely played a signifcant role.

    Now, I suspect the reverse. Because all my attempts to find and address the emotional issues had very little impact on my weight loss.

    Instead of resolving emotional issues leading to weight loss – I found that changing my diet resolved emotional issues and resulted in weight loss.

    When I’m eating paleo (no grain, relatively low carb) – I feel much better physically and emotionally. If psychological issues were my main problem, there’s be very little reason for a diet change to change my psychology.

    I think physiology plays a much larger role than it is often acknolwedged. It’s certainly been my experience, and I think one of the reasons it took me nearly 40 years to find the physiological factor – because I wasn’t looking for it. I was looking for emotional factors, not physiological ones. I was looking for my solution in the wrong place.

    Maybe there are people out there with emotional problems who are looking for physiological solutions. Maybe they too are failing because they’re not looking in the right place for their solution.

    Regardless, I think that attitudes such as “any diet works if you work it,” and “diets don’t fail people, people fail diets,” encourage people to try the same (ineffective) tactics over and over – believing they only need more willpower “this time,” when what they may really need are different strategies.

    To some degree “any diet” can be made to work in the short-term, but there’s very little attention paid to weight maintenance in our culture. I have read thousands of books on weight loss, and only a couple that deal with maintenance – and only one book written exclusively about weight maintenance (Refuse to Regain by Barbara Berkeley).

    What do the “successful” weight loss maintainers have in common?

    We really don’t know much about that yet, because the question is just starting to get attention.

    I think the answers will surprise us.

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