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Thin For Life/The National Weight Control Registry

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Old 01-07-2004, 02:01 PM   #1
Meg
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Default Thin For Life/The National Weight Control Registry

The first book that I ever came across on weight maintenance (hmm, it may still be the only one!) is Thin For Life by Anne Fletcher. If you’ve never read it, it’s worth your time to take a look. The author interviewed “weight control masters” — people who had lost at least 20 pounds, often much more, and kept it off for a least three years. She organizes the book into ten “Keys To Success”, describing ten strategies that the weight control masters used to lose their weight and more importantly, to maintain their weight loss.

Though originally published almost a decade ago, the book and Keys are still timely advice. I recently re-read it and found a lot of useful ideas and information. More important, though, was the reassurance that there are quite a few people out there who have lost a lot of weight and keep it off without a great deal of thought and effort — it seems to just become a natural part of their lives.

Anne Fletcher found her own weight control masters for the original Thin For Life. However, in the new 2003 edition, she includes members of the National Weight Control Registry http://www.lifespan.org/services/bmed/wt_loss/nwcr/ , founded after the original Thin For Life was published. The NWCR is an ongoing research study of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept if off for at least a year. From its web site: One of the most popular myths about weight loss is that everyone who loses weight will eventually gain it back. The National Weight Control Registry is a research study which has exploded this myth and shown that successful weight loss is indeed possible. Developed by Rena Wing, PhD, at Lifespan, Brown University and the University of Pittsburgh, and James Hill, PhD, at the University of Colorado, the National Weight Control Registry has identified nearly 3,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. They’ve published a number of studies (listed on their web site) based on their findings — if you ever turn on CNN and they say that “the average American gains 5—8 pounds over the holidays …” and you wonder where they get their statistics? It’s likely from the NWCR.

I marked my one year anniversary of reaching my goal weight on my calendar and applied to join that day as an anniversary present to myself. I got a preliminary questionnaire, returned that, and was accepted into the study. I’ll fill out a questionnaire per year for the next five years about my current weight and food and exercise habits.

Recently I was contacted by the NWCR again and asked to participate in a special study of weight maintenance and stress over the holidays. It involves three surveys — one each in November, January, and March. And they wanted me to find a normal weight family member or friend to participate in the survey with me — someone who had never been overweight. Well, I’m married to a naturally thin guy who has never weighed more than 175 (at 6’ tall) in his life and he agreed to do the study with me. I figured it will be a little nudge to help me stay on track during this most diet-unfriendly time of year.

I got the first packet last week — 27 pages of questions! — and thought it would be worth sharing some of it because it provides a glimpse into what the researchers thinks affects our weight maintenance during the holidays. It started off by asking current weight, how difficult it has been to maintain that in the last month, and what do I want to weigh at the end of three months from now? I said that I wanted to lose five pounds in the next three months — ambitious goal for me! Then it asked if I had a specific plan for controlling my weight over the holidays and whether I planned to be “strict” in my diet and exercise (I said “yes”).

I was intrigued buy the next section because it was all about food variety — questions about did I eat the same breakfast or lunch every day or different? What is my #1 breakfast, #1 lunch, how many days per week do I eat them, etc. (I’m curious whether they think that food variety leads to excessive eating.) There was quite a bit on eating out also — how often, kinds of restaurants. The next section was exercise — how much? How often? Kinds? Then came a section about stress and mood and the last section was about eating behavior — like eating at night, watching portions, weighing daily, shopping while hungry etc.

Filling out the questionnaire was a good way for me to focus on where I want to be in three months and how I’m going to get there. Instead of vaguely thinking that I want maintain over the holidays, I realized that I’d love to be five pounds less and there are things that I need to do if I want to get there.

I’m telling you guys all about this so that maybe you’ll do what the survey forced me to do — take a few minutes and think about the holidays and stress and what your plan might be for making it through without gaining. I also urge any of you who are eligible for the study to consider enrolling. The statistics about weight loss and long-term maintenance that we hear are so bleak (I always hear that 95% regain) that I think it’s important to counter them and show people that it’s possible to lose and KEEP OFF a large amount of weight. We’re a group here that has lost (or are losing) their excess pounds and every one of us is bound and determined not to put them back on. I think that, with support and encouragement, we can turn those statistics around and help each other stay “thin for life”.
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Old 01-13-2004, 08:11 AM   #2
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Default Part Two

I just finished Part Two of the three-part NWLR Holiday Survey that I wrote about in the post above. Of course it started out by asking my current weight (136, which is down two pounds from the November survey date) (I had put that I wanted to lose five pounds over the next few months). In contrast, DH, who’s doing the survey with me, put on a grand total of (only) four pounds after eating and drinking vast quantities of eggnog and Christmas cookies and holiday goodies, going from 162 to 166. All four of those pounds will come right off as soon as he goes back to eating normally (I’d hate the guy if I didn’t love him so much ). Then they asked how difficult it had been to stay at that weight and I said moderately difficult and he said easy. Different brain wiring, I tell you.

Section Two focused on eating variety again — what do I typically eat, do I tend to eat the same meals every day (yes) and how did that change over the holidays (very little)? I think they’re looking at the correlation between the larger the number of foods available over the holidays and the quantity that we eat — the buffet phenomenon. The next section was on exercise behavior and if that changed over the holidays (no — I made a point of not letting that slide), and then a section on stress, an “eating behavior inventory” (how fast you eat, do you shop when you’re hungry, eating after dinner, weighing yourself regularly etc) and then the “Stunkard Eating Inventory” that seems to focus on head hunger vs. body hunger.

Reading through DH’s survey and mine, it’s really obvious that we have totally different relationships with food. He never feels guilty about eating, there’s no “good” and “bad” food, he doesn’t weigh and measure portions or write it down. It reinforces my belief that, though I’m at a normal weight now, I’m not “normal” with regard to my eating behavior and issues. Which is no big deal so long as I’m aware of it and think and plan. Sure, it would be nice to have a carefree and effortless intuitive approach to eating, but for me, it’s not possible at the moment.

The last part of the survey will be coming in mid-March, so I’m motivated to stay on track for that one!
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Old 01-15-2004, 08:00 AM   #3
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I sent off for the packet and have received it. With the repost, Meg, I've got the nudge to finish the survey and add my 'before' picture from October 2000.

I was very focused over the holidays and didn't gain - actually lost a bit. I ate what I chose to eat - I was just careful with my choices!
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Old 06-15-2004, 08:23 AM   #4
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Somewhere in the vast piles of paper in my house, there's the initial packet from the registry. Filling it out looked harder than losing the weight. Since we are embarking on a "get rid of the clutter" journey, I will fill it out when it surfaces. Interesting that you did the survey with dh and the answers were so different! I'm sure the same thing would happen here.

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Old 06-17-2004, 11:57 AM   #5
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So, Meg, whatever happened with the rest of the survey parts??
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Old 06-18-2004, 10:34 AM   #6
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Ah yes, part three of the holiday survey! It came in March and was identical to part two -- same format and questions. I guess the idea was to see if the study group gained weight over the holidays and if so, whether they got it off by mid-March.

I stayed in the same five pound range that I've maintained for the past two years, probably because I didn't change anything that I do (eating and exercise) over the holidays. On the other hand, DH put on five pounds due to eating MUCH more than usual (it would have put 25 pounds on me, easy ) and had it all off by the last survey. He did it effortlessly, by just going back to his everyday eating habits. We're wired completely differently, I'm convinced! Case in point: we went out to dinner last Saturday night and on the way there, I asked him if he was hungry (I was famished). His response? No, he really never gets hungry!
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Old 07-03-2004, 11:50 AM   #7
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FYI - Thin for Life was revised in 2003, and I highly recommend the new edition.

Eating Thin for Life is also available, just as excellent as Thin For Life was!

Another excellent book that preceded Thin for Life was written in the 80's called "Keeping It Off" by Colvin. You can purchase it used from amazon.com (it's out of print), and I believe it was the original springing board for Thin for Life. It's filled with stories of weight loss maintainers and how they do it.

All three books are truly excellent and compliment each other.
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Old 07-03-2004, 01:36 PM   #8
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Thank you for the recommendations, Joycelyn! I didn't realize that Thin For Life had been revised and am interested in the updates. I'll be sure to check the others out too -- thanks for giving us the heads up ...
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Old 08-15-2004, 10:16 AM   #9
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I sent off my paperwork to the registry a few weeks ago. I sent my story into Prevention and the editor called me. She's going to try and get my story in the mag. But she's the one pointed me to the registry.
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Old 08-15-2004, 12:19 PM   #10
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Congratulations, almost heaven -- that's really cool about Prevention! If you make it in, be sure to let us know so we can read the article. In the meantime, want to share your story with us? We'd love to hear about what you did to lose the weight and what you do now and how life has changed for you. There's nothing more motivating than a good success story!!
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Old 08-15-2004, 02:34 PM   #11
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Sure Meg. I've posted the story I sent to Prevention below. However, to add to it something the editor asked me...what motivated me to start. For me, it was the area I live in to some degree. I was cursed with a family that pretty much always kept me down, down about myself, down about life in general. And lived in an area that has a general mindset of the couch potato. I learned from my own dad how to sit on the couch with my face in the TV and my hand in the Ruffles bag.

And in childhood, with my mother who was afraid to let me do too much, as I was born with heart problems and had open heart surgery at age 12. If my face got too red, she made me sit down and stop having fun with the other kids. So exercise wasn't big on the list of learn to dos.

I actually met my hubby on the internet and moved 1,000 miles from family in order to give our relationship a chance. It was the scariest move I've ever made. I've never been this far from home. That was in 1997. And we married in 2000. He's a great self-esteem builder, and being so far away from the claws and clutches of the clan, there were no setbacks.

And the area we live in is big on exercise, organics and just all over fitness. I'd never seen so many joggers in one area before. And all the offices have showers because people jog for lunch. At some point, with my esteem ever higher, I decided I could do this.

I got stuck at the 150 mark since June until I talked to the doctor. She suggested I add some of the saturated fats back into my diet and eat more foods with protein, since I was trying to wipe out sat. fats altogether. So for the last week, I've had eggs every morning, instead of my multi-grain cereal, and I've had lots of fish, and I've dropped to 146 and a size 8 ladies/9 juniors.


**********************
Prevention story - 5/31/04:

It seems like I was always on “a diet”. I’ve gone through phases of eating salads and vegetables and depriving myself of everything I ever enjoyed to the point of feeling as if I was starving. And they’d work. I’d lose weight. But the moment I stopped “dieting”, all the weight would come back. Worse. It would bring a friend along. I ended up gaining more weight than I’d lost after each and every diet. At one point in life, I decided that if I dieted again, I’d eventually reach a point of not being able to fit through a doorway.

I was constantly upset with clothing manufacturers making what I thought of as “fat people clothes”. The shorts legs looked like they were designed for elephants. I felt like I was wearing a skirt rather than a pair of shorts. And tank tops? Tanks were fine, if you didn’t mind showing your 42D bra through the three sizes too large armpit holes. Then it hit me, it wasn’t the clothing manufacturers I should be concerned with. I could lose the weight and be wearing those junior sized hip huggers I always imagined myself in, until I looked in a mirror. But it couldn’t be another diet. And it wasn’t.

I began researching online, asking my doctors, saw a dietician even. I started eating right and exercising. In the past year, I’ve gone from feeling like I was going to pass out after a quarter mile jog, to running 5K local races. The best part is coming in with ten-minute miles to show for my efforts. Next year I intend to drop that down to nine.

I first changed my diet. Not that nasty word “diet”, which means you eat like a rabbit, give up anything and everything sinful, and pretend you don’t want it when you know you do. No, I changed my daily diet. I started eating natural sugars found in fruit and cut out the artificial sugars. I began watching the sodium content and looking for high fiber content. Most of all, I started avoiding saturated fats in everything.

I looked for alternatives. I didn’t give up the cheeseburger. I gave up the “daily” cheeseburger. I realized that I could treat myself and not eat it as a regular staple of my daily diet. And even further, I could substitute that hamburger with turkey burger, or the cheese with a soy-based cheese substitute. I’ve experimented with hundreds of brands and recipes until I’ve found the ones that work for me.

I was somewhere around 240, although I couldn’t say for sure as I never bothered to look at a scale at that point. But once I began my diet, I purchased a scale. The weight started dropping, and I was soon at 230, then 220. Eventually, I was 210, but it just wasn’t fast enough to suit me of course. So a little under a year ago, I decided that I had to exercise. For this, I began with a morning walk before work. I thought about a morning jog, but the first tenth of a mile left me feeling that it was the stupidest idea I’d ever had. So I cut it down to a walk and built up to a run. However, I found myself in an internal debate every morning…Is it too dark? Is it raining? Am I too sleepy?

As I began seeing my exercising slacking off, I decided I had to keep it going, but how? I changed my time. Instead of each morning “before” work, I went each evening “after” work. Before I’d go home, before I’d sit down, before dinner, before anything to take my mind off the task at hand, I would head straight to the gym and the treadmill. No rain, no sleepiness, no darkness to keep me from my goal. As that began to get boring, I added a CD player with my favorite music to run to. The faster the beat, the faster I ran. As I got better at it, I began going back outside to run. No longer ashamed to “jiggle” at the passersby.

I’m now 151, have bought my first two-pieced bathing suit since high school, am wearing those junior sizes, and I’m in a size ten as opposed to a size twenty-four. The added bonus is people say I look ten years younger. I was in my twenties at one point feeling like I was forty. Now I’m almost forty, feeling like I’m twenty. Feeling so great in fact, that I’ve started taking night classes in addition to a full-time job. It’s as if I’ve discovered a huge reservoir of energy that was just hiding.
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Old 10-15-2004, 10:14 PM   #12
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Default Thanks, I needed that!

I'm going to look for "Thin for Life". It seems like there is all kinds of advice for losing, but not much for keeping it off, and keeping motivated! Help!
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Old 10-16-2004, 10:15 AM   #13
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A quick followup...

Prevention didn't go with my article afterall. Ahh well, I'll have to send it off to some other mags. But the registry has accepted my entrance, I'm now an official registry member.
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Old 10-17-2004, 01:28 PM   #14
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Congrats on being part of the NWCR! I'm just finishing my second annual survey and want to post about that before I mail it back. I can't believe Prevention didn't use your story! Maybe they're looking for stories involving "name" diets or something trendy? The funny thing is that a lot of us here at Maintainers did it "our way" -- came up with our own customized diet and exercise plans that fit the way we live our lives. Exactly like you describe!

LBS -- you are SO right that hardly anyone talks about or writes about maintenance. It doesn't make sense because, even though it might take us a year or two to lose the weight, we want to keep it off for a lot longer than that!! But what gets all the attention? How to LOSE weight, not how to keep it off. I've lost literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds in my life, so I can do that part just fine -- the hard part is keeping the weight off.

Stick around here with us and we'll all help each other stay motivated to keep it off for life.
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Old 10-17-2004, 04:15 PM   #15
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Meg, I have noticed that all the Prevention weight loss articles so far have been either WW, Jenny Craig or bypass surgery. Maybe you're onto something there.
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