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Why I believe maintenance gets easier (very, very long)

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Old 01-14-2007, 05:40 PM   #1
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Default Why I believe maintenance gets easier (very, very long)

Have you ever thought so much about a post that you became convinced you’d actually written it and posted it? Thus it is with this. I started thinking about this before Christmas when several other threads popped up, many dealing with the difficulties of, and challenges to, maintenance, and the others detailing the trials and tribulations of the holidays.

What I realized as I read them all was that while others were struggling, I was simply sailing through the holidays. In fact, I lost weight between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1. That, in turn, led me to reflect upon my struggles of last summer (always one of my most difficult times of the year), and why this fall was so much easier than other falls, and now, why this January is so much easier than other Januaries (January being the start of another usually tough couple of months for me).

It finally came to me that maintenance has become second nature to me, and that there is great truth in the statement that maintenance DOES become easier – not always easy -- but easier with time. I’ve got some ideas as to why that is, which I’m going to suggest. I hope that all of you will jump in and share your thoughts, too. These are not in any particular order, by the way … in fact, all of them are equally important.
  1. I’ve learned how to eat and what works for me: a satisfying, sensual and delicious Mediterranean diet that is heavy on the usual fabulous suspects (proteins, veggies, olive oils, a little red wine and chocolate, and various complex carbs). I also know that for now I can eat about 1,500 calories a day (if I don’t exercise) and not gain. I’ve come to know and love protein shakes, egg-white omelets, the glories of pumpkin, and the joy of soy. I know exactly what to buy and what to cook and what I need to do to keep myself on track. On those days when the cupboard is bare and I’m in a crazed rush, I know that if I have cottage cheese, Kashi crackers, an apple, a hard-boiled egg and/or a protein shake, I can make it through the day without cratering. And that means I don’t have to worry about it, and I don’t have to think about it again until I get home for dinner. That freedom-from-thinking-about-it is a blessing.

    2. I’ve learned to shop and I’ve learned to plan. I know that to run out of my usual “supplies” is to invite disaster, so ‘round these parts, I make it a point to never run out. Do I drive my ever-loving DH nuts, when I ask for two full quarts of yogurt at a time, or a dozen apples, or three dozen eggs? Well, yes, because our frig is always sagging under the weight of groceries. But I know that what I need is always there.

    3. I’ve learned a million tricks, like fork-dipping (dip your fork into the salad dressing, rather than pouring the dressing over the salad); always ordering sauces on the side; stretching a half-cup of pasta into a full entrée by adding ¼ - ½ cup of cottage cheese to the sauce; pouring almost anything (chili, beef stew, scrambled eggs) over salad greens instead of the usual starches; and that, for me, a half-cup of homemade applesauce mixed with a half-cup of plain low-fat yogurt and 1 Tablespoon of sliced toasted almonds is a wonderful – and filling – dessert.

    4. I’ve learned that I do best if I hop on the scale about once a week. And I’ve learned that the scale is just a tool – an indicator – that should be viewed in a much broader context.

    5. I’ve learned that I will not gain a pound, or pounds, of fat overnight and that fluctuations in body weight are often just that. Fluctuations. I’ve also learned that fluctuations can be caused by fatigue, medication, alcohol, salt, pasta, and, as far as I can tell, phases of the moon. I believe that bodies are forces of nature and, as such, do precisely what they want.

    6. I’ve learned that I cannot maintain my weight, my health or my sanity without exercise, and that I need to move my body at least five days a week. Fitness is my key to both mental and physical well-being. I tote workout clothes everywhere I go, just as I pack bags and boxes of my own versions of clean foods.

    7. I’ve learned that I do not need to live afraid if I live according to these lessons. I know, now, why I gained and carried excess weight for so many years; why I lost it; and now, what I need to do to keep it off. This, in turn, has given me incredible peace of mind.
I share this, not to say that I have all the answers, but to show that there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Habits become ingrained and a new lifestyle emerges.

I’m going to end this with a delightful email I got the other day. I was trying to arrange transportation for a group of 18 people. One of the drivers sent me an email that said, “My red Tahoe SUV can accommodate eight people in 3 rows, including the driver. Little ones, like you and Sue T. and Sue S can probably fit into the third row ….”

Did you catch that ... “little ones like you…” There was a time when I would have been looking all around the room to find out who he was talking about. This time, I thought, well, he’s right; the three women he mentioned are all small, including me. And I couldn’t have been happier.

It’s all worth it. It’s all attainable. And it’s all sustainable. What about the rest of you ... won't you share your insights?
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Old 01-14-2007, 07:03 PM   #2
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From one Robin to another let me just say . I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. It was so well thought out and informative. I am not a maintainer - yet, still on the losing side of the coin, but nevertheless I can see exactly where you're coming from. And many of your thoughts were things that I thought to be true of a "maintainer", such as that maintaining is not so different then losing. You've just confirmed it.

And I absolutely "caught" what you said right away, about little ones like yourself. How wonderful for you.

Thank you for getting your thoughts out so well and for passing them on.
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Old 01-14-2007, 07:33 PM   #3
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Thanks, Robin! This says it all:

Quote:
Habits become ingrained and a new lifestyle emerges.
Your insight into this maintenance thing will certainly help me once I finally get there! Thanks again.
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Old 01-14-2007, 07:43 PM   #4
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Welcome back, Robin I'm so glad to hear that you are doing so well. I'm always afraid when people disappear for a while that the opposite is true.

When I read the title of your thread, my first reaction was....uh, no. But I agree with everything you've posted. Every single sentence. OK, I can't eat that much, but that's probably a trivial difference.

I know all those things too, and do them all. It is second nature now...but I have to disagree that it gets easier for everyone. I enjoy the food I eat, I thrive on the exercise and can't imaging life without it. But like so many of us on the larger board, I still fight the impulse to bury myself in food when life gets nasty. My lesson is that I will be walking on the edge of the ridge for the rest of my life. But knowledge is power, and enables me to use the tools and habits which keep me in the center of the path 99% of the time.

That's why my signature says WORKING maintenance every day.

Congratulations!

Mel
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:36 PM   #5
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Hi Robin!! Loved your post and I'm thrilled for you - your happiness and strength comes through loud and clear in your writing.

Even though "amen" rang through my head as I read down your list, the thing that feels different for me is that maintenance hasn't gotten easier. I think I may be on the same edge of the ridge that Mel is... it's precarious and challenging nearly every single day. Some days are definitely easier than others, but overall, it's friggin' HARD!

I SO don't mean that to sound like a bummer... I'm totally fine with how tough maintenance is. In fact, I'm kinda thankful it's difficult for me because it's a constant reminder that I have to keep fighting. My strategies have become second nature for the most part, but I do continue to battle myself (the saboteur in me is quite the competitor). If it's not the holidays, it's date night, or a birthday party or PMS or family visits or a squabble with hubby or vacations or the flu or etc., etc., etc.

I've been maintaining my "big" weight loss since the Fall of '02 and it's been tough the entire time. I DO feel like I've turned a huge corner over the last 5 months so maybe it WILL get easier for me, who knows?

What I DO know is that your post was wonderful and it was great "seeing" you again!!
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Old 01-15-2007, 04:42 AM   #6
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I had to go away and think about this for a bit because my first reaction was like Mel and Karynlee's: nope, it hasn't gotten easier. But (again like Mel) I agreed with everything you wrote so .... what's going on? Why did I take the same facts and end up with a different conclusion?

Here's what I came up with: the actions of maintenance have indeed become second nature now. What and when to eat, how to shop, how to negotiate restaurants, how much exercise - yep, I know exactly what to do. In that sense, yes - maintenance is a no-brainer.

What I still struggle with is the mental component of maintenance. Even five years into maintenance, it's hard to stay focused all the time, 24/7, 365 days a year. Sure, I know what to do (the actions) but sometimes I don't always want to do the right thing. Sometimes I want to chuck it all away and eat X and not go to the gym. Sometimes I'm just weary of the amount of focus, hard work, and dedication it takes in order not to regain the weight. Sometimes it just seems like too high of a price to pay. Sometimes I make the bad choice, even though I know it's wrong and what the outcome will be. Sometimes my brain just doesn't care.

So I'd draw a line distinguishing the actions necessary for maintenance from the mental focus necessary for maintenance. Actions = easy. Focus = challenging, sometimes downright hard. For me, some days are easy and some are so, so hard ... and I expect it will be that way for the rest of my life (unless I have a brain transplant ).

Good to see you again, Robin, and thanks for such a thought-provoking post!
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Old 01-15-2007, 11:12 AM   #7
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I think maintenance is still very hard. And it is exactly the difference between knowing what to do, and actually doing it.

But as I've been thinking about all this, I think a lot of this agony is self-imposed. I know what I should do, and when I don't do what I should do, then I have a lot of knowledge to beat myself with. Hence, mental anguish.

But as we all know, slips and splurges and off-plan days are part of the process. These are our lives, not just our diets. We are human and all of our decisions won't be perfect ones, and that is exactly the way it should be. I think if I could wrap my brain around that, it would feel a lot easier.

Some days it is easier to pass up the cake than others. Some days I crave spinach. Some days I'd like nothing better than to wallow in a mound of chocolate and eat my way out. I don't know why it is like this, but I think it is normal.

I look at my toddler, and some days she eats like a horse and other days very little, and I wonder that I try to fight the same tendenices in myself. I eat supper on the days I could care less, and beat myself for having extra food on a hungry day, when obviously for whatever reason, not all days are equal.

And worse comes to worse, it really isn't that big a deal to watch food and eat well for a week to balance out some indulgence. It really isn't. It isn't punishment, it is just balance. But somehow I let it seem like punishment to me, because I violated a should.

I think I'm going to try to ban should from my vocabulary, and work with could more. Could implies choices, and where should eliminates them.

Thanks for starting this thread, Robin, and all the thoughtful responses. I think this one is an important topic.

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Old 01-15-2007, 11:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wndranne View Post
I look at my toddler, and some days she eats like a horse and other days very little, and I wonder that I try to fight the same tendenices in myself. I eat supper on the days I could care less, and beat myself for having extra food on a hungry day, when obviously for whatever reason, not all days are equal.
Some thoughts on this:

I was reading a thread in support about having a "starving day" where some days all you want to do is eat your way through a giant food mountain. Someone on there said that their teenager ate very little for 5-6 weeks, then occasionally had a huge pig-out stuff-your face day. (I'm presuming here there's no underlynig mental attributes) I know I have days like that, days when I'm tired (yes I KNOW about eating when I'm tired), but the last time it happened (Saturday) I'd had a REALLY low calorie day (1300) a day or two before, so methinks it really does all balance out.

Perhaps maintenance requires a little bit of listening to our bodies. I know some people listen and hear, "Give me peanut M&M's" but I also feel that if we're listening to our bodies about how hungry they are - rather than which particular food they want - then it WILL all balance out. I know I get hungrier the day after an intense workout, and the actual day of the workout not so much. I also believe in the old zig-zag theory, maybe our bodies naturally zig-zag our intakes depending on what we do, how we feel, how tired we are etc.

But anyway, onto maintenance getting easier... I think I know what you mean. I think once you have your reserves (like cottage cheese, apples, protein powder etc) and you know what makes a healthy meal, and you know what you can pick in restaurants then that's the basics done. Then of course life comes along and throws a birthday cake in our face, but I think that just has to come down to a sensible choice - do I want my trousers to fit tomorrow? Or can I substitute the bread in my sandwich for this small piece of cake and have a salad instead...

Something which is clicking with me at the moment is that the stuff I thought tasted good doesn't actually taste THAT good... Last night I didn't order a dessert at the restaurant we went to, because 1) I knew I'd feel sick if I ate it, and 2) I knew it probably wouldn't be as good as I thought it would taste, so I kinda imagined it and then bought a tiny treat at the supermarket on the way home (which tasted better than I thought it would!!!)

I also think that your head has a lot to do with it. If you tell yourself that maintenance is hard and it sucks that you can't eat a tub of peanut M&Ms without gaining 7lbs then you will find it hard. If you think that it's going to be easy, that there will always be fruit and it is always possible to have a healthy option then it will be easy. I believe in mantras (I've changed mine and it seems to be working better...) - "I'm slim and healthy" and sometimes, "I eat really healthy food" and I kinda equate the colour green with healthiness/salads/eating well/feeling good. Maybe I should paint my kitchen green!

Ok I've wandered off the point now but anyway... My 2c!
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Old 01-15-2007, 12:03 PM   #9
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2frustrated, I just have to say I love your posts. You always say what I was thinking better than I ever could have!

I was going to post a bunch of stuff, but I'm starving and it's lunchtime! For some reason that seems very ironic.
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Old 01-15-2007, 01:45 PM   #10
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I'm sorry FRU, but I think you are totally wrong for many people. If you are young, healthy active and haven't had decades of obesity and food-abuse or any other kind of abuse, maybe it works that way. What you are describing is basically the tenents of intuitive eating which work for very few of us.

My body is pretty much hungry all the time. 1300-1400 calories is about maintenance level for me, with a lot of exercise. I'm HUNGRY, truly hungry most of the time. If you read some of the scientific literature about hunger, hormones and the reduced obese, this is not uncommon. Maintaining a loss of 10-20 pounds does not qualify someone as "reduced obese". Your body chemistry changes when you lose 30-50% of you original body mass.

If I ate to match my hunger levels, no matter how clean the food, I'd be considerably heavier.

I also think you have to maintain for a few years to decide whether or not it gets easier.

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Old 01-15-2007, 02:11 PM   #11
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Maintenance for me some days seem easy, some days very extremely difficult. After 2 yrs. since starting to change my life, I know what I should do. I don't always do it. I'm aware of the consequences but sometimes it doesn't seem as important as it should be. Other times, it's the most important thing in my world and I do exactly what I know is best for me. I wish it were easy and automatic, but for me it's not.
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Old 01-15-2007, 02:11 PM   #12
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This is an interesting and thought provoking thread.
I'm reminded of another thread just lately in which the op talks about truly knowing when she has lost a few pounds or just a smidge. She thinks what she feels, steps on the scale and is right.
Not me.
I don't think I'm technically "reduced obese". I am perimenopausal and no spring chicken. I'm fortunate that my body responds "appropriately" to a reduction in calories or an increase in expenditures.
But I can't tell ... none of it!
If I wing it all day and then add my calories in the evening ... I'm over, and badly.
If I don't measure my portions grow astronomically.
Satisfied? Full? Over stuffed?
An actual growling empty stomach? Not very often.
Vigorous cardio? Not a hope in heck without my monitor.
I may feel slim and fit somedays to step on the scale and find I've gained three pounds.
I have no idea.
Perhaps I'm perceptually impaired.
I'm perfectly willing to accept that some folks are more 'my-body-tuned' than others but do I believe one can learn this??? I dunno. I hope so.
I think I'm leaning toward the notion that some folks have it, others don't and that the 'the actions of maintenance can indeed become second nature' with practice.
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Old 01-15-2007, 02:40 PM   #13
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Mel, or anyone, I've gotta ask? Are you saying that it is harder for formerly obese people to maintain there weight then someone who has never been obese. That if you compare two people are say 135 lbs, one always being trim and fit and the other one having been formerly 260 lbs., that the formerly 260 lber would have a harder time maintaining at 135? And not just the MENTAL part? Because if you are, and I think Mel, that's what you ARE saying, that terrifies me. Absolutely terrifies me. And if yes, why is that?
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Old 01-15-2007, 02:55 PM   #14
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I'm not in maintenance right now, so I'm not really one to comment on this thread, but I have found it VERY interesting. In particular, Mel's comment regarding her (and many maintainers) inability to eat "intuitively". I have to say that for me this is 100% TRUE... I can not eat intuitively at all. In fact, I can eat a CRAZY amount of food and not 'feel' full at all. If I relied on how I feel to determine when to stop, I'd be significantly larger. I also frequently see a thread where someone is talking about how they aren't hungry or can't get themselves to eat enough calories in a day. Here again is, IMO, a lack of 'intuition'. Our bodies DO need more than 800 calories a day for days on end, so if we don't 'feel' hungry at that level, something is off. I really do agree that for many of us (not all of us, thankfully!) something has gone wrong in the wiring and INTUITION is just not going to work for a healthful, slender lifestyle.

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Old 01-15-2007, 02:59 PM   #15
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Robin, some of the answers are in this thread: Some Answers About Genes, Environment, Obesity and Maintenance

I'm sorry to tell you but yes, we reduced obese (and that's the medical term for those of us who were obese and are now a 'normal' weight) are physically and biochemically different from people who never were overweight. One researcher told me that a simple blood test would distinguish between two 135 pound women, one never overweight and one a reduced obese. We reduced obese may look 'normal' on the outside but we're different on the inside. In a nutshell, we have to eat less and move more than 'normal' folks in order to keep the weight off (check my signature - that exercise recommendation is for those of us who have lost weight, not 'normal' people). And we have to contend with hormonal and biochemical signals to regain the weight. There's a reason that 95% of people who lose weight gain it back again and it's NOT a lack of willpower.

But please don't be terrified! Knowledge is power! When you know what you're dealing with, you can plan and strategize. Look around here ... there are plenty of people who have lost weight, sometimes A LOT, and who are keeping it off. But it takes focus, dedication, hard work, and a realistic assessment of what we're up against.

I'll never say maintenance is easy but it IS possible and worth any amount of sacrifice.
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