Weight Loss Attempts - Why Dieting Made me Fat
1985 high school, weighed around 140 lbs. I remember trying to eat lower cal, but not really knowing what that meant. I remember eating toast for breakfast with a thin scraping of butter and jelly and riding my bike all around the neighborhood. I remember the scale reading 133 lbs, the lowest it would weigh for 20 years. Just gave up and quit doing it, reverted back to old habits/way of eating.
1989 summer in college - weighed 151. For 4 weeks I ate nothing but a bowl of rice krispies and an orange every day (Dexatrim was involved) I got down to 137. Stopped "dieting," gained all the weight back and more and got 2 lovely stretchmarks on my stomach due to the weight coming back on so quickly. I distinctly remember what triggered the end - a binge on 4th of July. Specifically O'Boise's potato chips. I had been restricting so long, I had one chip and couldn't stop. I ate all day until I was ill and that was the end of that.
1992 college, sr. year - weighed 175. From Jan - June, I did "low fat." Pretty much anything I wanted as long as it was low fat (including stuff like Snackwells) Got down to around 141 for my lowest weight. I would constantly binge on low fat sugary stuff - those snackwells teddy graham's were a big weakness. Ate a lot of pasta and white baked potatoes. From this diet, I did incorporate some very long term healthy habits that have stuck with me through today - greatly reduced the amount of fried foods, no mayo, no more full fat salad dressing, no butter, very little sugary soda. I also really cut back on meat during this time.
1992-1999 Managed to gain/lose, gain/lose but stayed around 150ish. After losing all that weight, I knew "how" to do it. If I wanted to lose weight, I would just restrict for a bit and the weight would come off, and then I would stop. And the weight would come back on. Then I would lose it. Then I would gain it back.
99 - weighed 150, had my jaw wired shut for surgery, lost 10 lbs on a liquid diet, gained it all back very quickly. Unavoidable - I really couldn't eat solid foods. Was around 145 or so. I think this set me up for the rapid weight gain that happened in 2000 after I started working at my new job, I gained a lot of weight...quickly.
1999-2004 - weight went from 150 to 190. Lots of wishing to lose weight, very few real attempts lasting longer than 2-3 days. Got down to 170 one time before a big work trip, gained it all back right away though.
04 - weighed 195+ (I had stopped weighing myself, so I am not really sure of my highest weight), decided to completely overhaul eating and concentrate on whole foods with high nutritional impact and avoid foods with low nutritional impact. Super food diet! Currently weigh 128 lbs - 18 months maintenance.
Dieting made me fat. To me, “dieting” always meant a severe restriction in calories and attempts to be “perfect”. Two things always happened:
- I would restrict so much, my body would binge. I would feel like an out of control loser, a failure and just give up.
- I would reach a goal weight and immediately return to the unhealthy eating habits that made me heavy in the first place. Every I hear someone say “I can’t wait until this diet is over until I can eat X again” I just cringe.
When I decided to change my life, I carefully looked at my previous weight loss attempts to see why I kept failing. I noticed that I could lose weight but I could not keep weight off. This time, I concentrated on long term maintenance from from day 1. I had to give up that crazy idea I had been clinging to since high school - if you cut calories and lose weight, you can cut MORE calories and lose MORE weight. That fallacy is what made me go from a 140 lb high school student to a 200 lb 35 year old. Dieting made me fat.
I wanted this time to be different. No more being overly restrictive (no more 800 calorie days!), no more diets that I would "start" and "stop," it had to be sustainable. I needed a plan for what to do after I reached my goal weight.
How Super Foods Did Save My Life
In 1999, I weighed 150 lbs and got a great new job. I love my job, but it's very stressful and takes up a lot of my time. My job also has an awesome cafeteria. It was a combination of staying late at work and eating dinner out of the snack machine, not working out and basically just eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted - I ended up weighing around 200 lbs.
I spent a couple of years miserable with my weight - fantasizing and wishing I could lose weight. I knew I had to eat less and exercise more, but it just seemed like TOO MUCH WORK, I couldn't get over my depression and unhappiness to make any kind of positive change.
I let myself go, quit wearing make up, quit buying clothes, I basically wore the same pair of size 18 loose fit Eddie Bauer jeans for 2 years. I let my hair go long and curly - I kept telling people I was planning to donate it to Locks for Love, but in my heart I knew I felt too unattractive to bother with my hair every day. I quit looking at myself in the mirror, or down at myself in the shower. I tried to make myself disappear.
In July of last year, a couple of things happened. First, my size 18 jeans got tight. I complained to my boyfriend and he said just buy a bigger pair. I couldn't face the thought of buying size 20 jeans. Then, I was in a public bathroom and sat down and cut my outer thigh on a metal trash receptacle. I bled and I cried, I was too fat for a public bathroom. Finally, my mom insisted that I would come visit her for Christmas - she's a naturally genetically skinny person, she had never seen me that heavy, I couldn't bear to go to Texas and have her NOT mention my weight and talk around it for the entire visit.
I was in a bookstore and saw this book called Super Foods Rx: 14 Foods That Will Save Your Life by Steven Pratt. I was idly looking through it and what I read actually made me excited. The author thought that some foods were nutritionally more powerful than other foods - some foods could fight disease, maintain youth and prevent age-related brain degeneration (for the record, the super foods are blueberries, broccoli, beans, tea, walnuts, soy, oranges, tomatoes, pumpkin, yogurt, spinach, salmon, oats, turkey). The book was so exciting, I bought it - what happened next was pretty magical to me.
I decided that day to completely change everything. I wanted to make changes to be healthier, to lose weight and most importantly to lose weight long term. I did not go on a diet, I changed my lifestyle - this is forever. Whole foods in, processed foods out, 5 veggies, 4 fruits, 2-3 dairy, 2-3 whole grain, 10 different super foods, protein with every meal, green and black tea every day, between 1400-1600 calories - I concentrated on what I should be eating. My goal is to eat whole, nutritionally powerful foods every day and avoid foods which are not good for me. I gave up the following foods forever - fast food, processed baked goods, sugary soda. I limit the following foods - booze, home made baked goods, fried foods.
I completely changed my mindset - I am not depriving myself, I am giving myself the gift of health.
To lose weight, I did the following:
1. Count calories - be accountable for everything I eat. That meant keeping a daily food journal.
2. Eat 10 super foods a day, concentrate on nutritionally powerful foods.
3. Work out at least 3 times a week.
The weight just flew off, I weighed 163 lbs by October and 153 lbs by Christmas (good visit with my mom, btw). I now weigh 128 lbs. I went from a tight size 18 to a comfy size 8 (a size 6 sometimes!!). My waist went from 37" to 27", I lost 6" off each thigh. I lost nearly 8" off my chest - going from a 42DD to a 36C.
Changing my way of eating has given me so much more energy. I am constantly amazed by how good I feel, all the time. I have been sick one time since July 2004. When I was eating all that processed junk, I was drowsy and tired all the time. I used to fall asleep in my office every afternoon. I don't feel that giving up processed foods is a deprivation at all, I feel amazing.
Before and after pictures -
The big plateau - eat more to lose more
I started losing weight in July 2004. I weighed around 195 lbs. The weight came off very steadily, 1-2 lbs a week (with a few weeks of no loss here and there). In February 2005, I began to plateau at 140 lbs. This was very frustrating - my goal weight was 135 and I had a huge desire to see the scale say something UNDER 140 lbs. Just 1-3-something.
I tried eating less, working out more. I weighed myself everyday. I was pretty miserable. But, I never gave up.
Around May, I realized something pretty cool. The weight may not be going down, but it wasn't going up either. I was maintaining, something I had never been able to do before. I decided to quit being miserable and start enjoying all my hard work. I did look fabulous! I bought a bunch of cute clothes in size 10 and really enjoyed that summer.
I increased my calories very slowly to 1800-2000. Imagine my surprise when the scale said 138! I wasn't even trying to lose weight! In October 2005, I went on a 4 week business trip to Asia. I tried to make healthy choices and did a ton of walking, my pants were loose when I got home and I found out I weighed 135 (my goal weight!). I'm still not sure what happened, I think my body just started to feel like there was plenty of food coming in, no reason to hang on to fat reserves. In December - January, I lost 7 more lbs. I have been fairly stable at 126-130 since January 2006. My body seems to be very happy at this weight and so am I
I had to eat more to lose more. It seems counter productive, but it is definitely what worked for me to break the plateau.
It was interesting to look at my weight loss over time. I started in July 2004 around 200 lbs. I weighed 160 lbs by October and 150 lbs by December. I started plateauing at 140 in February 2005. I reached 138 in May 2005, 135 in October 2005, 127 in January 2006. It took me 6 months to lose 55 lbs and then another 9 months to lose the last 15 lbs. Weight loss DEFINITELY slowed down as I weighed less!