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Tara Parker-Pope NYT Article on Rigors of Keeping Weight Off, Once Lost
Old 01-09-2012, 12:20 PM   #1
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Tara Parker-Pope NYT Article on Rigors of Keeping Weight Off, Once Lost

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/ma...ewanted=1&_r=1

I think we had a thread here where many people testified that they had lost meaningful amounts of weight, and kept it off. Here is an article that maintains that keeping weight off after a diet is either impossible, or a life long Herculean task.

I have no personal experience. My former wife would occasionally gain 10-20 pounds, and much more with her pregnancies. So 2 pregnancies and maybe 3 periods of dieting, equals 5 round trips For the last 25 years she has maintained her weight very steadily at about a 21 BMI, which is a very attractive weight for her. Parker-Pope's article maintains that it takes unwavering almost obsessive focus to keep even part of the weight from returning. I have no idea about the truth of this, but it definitely does not describe my former wife who has an iron will but mostly focuses on her work.

Many things that seem typical of people on this board would take a suspension of disbelief in almost any other context. We are mostly better at everything, other than putting up with work. We report that we adjust better to retirement (in fact we are ecstatic usually). We get along much better with spouses or SOs (present writer excluded). We are happier with small spending, or we have plenty of money to spend a lot.

Do we also keep weight off better, after successful weight loss attempts?

Ha
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:52 PM   #2
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I was normal weight as a child, but put on quite a bit of weight during a stressful time in high school. I ended up losing over 50 pounds and have kept it off now since 1995, so for 17 years. More than half of my life!

I eat pretty much whatever I want, though do try to eat lots of veggies. However, I don't count calories or obsess over food.

I do, however, exercise a lot. That has to do more with my mental well-being than physical. If I take more than a day off without running, I just don't feel right.

I'm currently at my lowest weight probably since age 12 or so; not sure that's healthy.

ETA: Everyone I know who has lost significant amount of weight and kept it off for more than a few years became an athlete -- marathons, triathlons, etc. That could be partly because those are the people I know, but it seems that diet is more important for losing weight while exercise is more important for keeping it off.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:24 PM   #3
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For more on the futility of dieting, I recommend "Confronting the failure of behavioral and dietary treatments for obesity" by Garner and Wooley. (google for the pdf)

Recently, I maintained weight about 10%-15% below my set point for five months, and encountered the exact phenomenon Parker-Pope describes. Weight loss can be maintained, but takes so much time and energy that it prevents you from living life. I'm currently restoring my weight back to my (probably newly elevated) set point so that I can get back to living.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:09 PM   #4
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I've been significantly overweight most of my life. Defnitely had lost weight and gained it back several times over the years.

Starting in 2010 I lost 115lbs putting me at a normal BMI of 174 pounds. I've managed to maintain that weight for 2 years now. The main reason is that I've become a runner. I run 6 miles almost every day. In addition, I'm pretty obsessive about checking the scale several times a week and looking for opportunities to skip meals or eat less. So many of the things in the OP article applies to me. Keeping it off will remain an obsession and gaining it back quickly a constant threat.

RE was actually a huge motivator for my weight loss. I already had enough health problems at age 47. What's the point of retiring early and being unable to enjoy it for a long time? BTW, magically all the health problems I had are long gone for now.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:35 PM   #5
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When I was younger throughout my 20's, I ate whatever, whenever, and smuggly thought these overweight people I see must really eat like pigs. Well, now that the metabolism has slowed down, I see a different side of the story. I keep my weight at a good level though probably 10 more pounds than I did 20 years ago. That 10 pounds will never come off. Though I feel like I am at the point in my life where my weight could explode if I let it. I go on various trips throughout the year for 4-6 days and this disrupts my eating habits. I always gain 5-7 pounds immediately, and it takes a couple of weeks each time to get it back to where I want it when I return home.
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Old 01-10-2012, 05:16 PM   #6
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I'm finding that, for me, it's much easier to maintain my weight since I'm now living by myself. In my former life, cooking and trying to make what everyone in the family wanted and liked, plus the stress of just every day life (work/home) - I would stress eat. It was so easy to fall into a trap of eating while watching TV at night and picking up junk food at the grocery store. I very seldom bring junk food home any more.
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:48 PM   #7
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I keep my weight sane the same way I keep my portfolio in control by discipline . I have a weight I will not go above . After retirement I did cross that threshold by ignoring the scale . I got back on track and lost 24 pounds by weighing in weekly and cutting portions . I eat a small amount and put the rest on my SO's plate . He does seem to be gaining a little weight but I like heavy guys so no problem there .
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:50 PM   #8
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I read the article when it came out and find it very accurate. I spend time on a weight loss forum and most of the maintainers basically find that they have to exert a lot of effort to stay at a normal weight.

The research I've read indicates that after losing weight you may have a permanently lowered metabolism. That is, the person who weighs X pounds and was never overweight may be able to maintain that weight on, say, 1800 calories a day. The reduced weight person who weighs X pounds (same gender, similar height, similar amount of lean body mass, etc.) may gain weight on 1800 calories a day.

90% of the people on the National Weight Control Registry (i.e. those who have maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for at least 1 year) exercise an average of an hour a day.

It is very, very hard to maintain a weight loss. I failed at it when I was in the working world. I lost weight became a lifetime member of WW and slowly gained it back, had a child, gained more.

I am now back to 15 pounds away from my goal weight having lost almost 40 pounds. I was only really able to do it once I went to very part time work. I have been using my Concept 2 to exercise an hour on most days and that does help. I expect to continue doing that forever if I don't want to regain weight. That would have been very hard to stick to when I was still working full time.
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Old 01-10-2012, 11:07 PM   #9
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I remember watching a documentary before I came to the USA about 30 years ago and it was so frightening I can still remember the sad conclusion. The body has fat cells that hold fat and expand to a point where they divide into 2 and continue to grow to absorb more fat. When you lose weight the fat cells shrink but don't go away. Consequently when you've put on weight and lost it again you are going to struggle to maintain that original weight because of all those extra fat cells.

How depressing is that?

The article posted here reflects what I've gone through and I'm just thankful that I never got as heavy as the subjects in the study before I got serious about losing weight. Over about 8 years in my 40's I put on 35lbs to weigh 210lbs (BMI of 27.3). I took about 9 months to lose 45lbs then over the next year put back 10lbs and ever since then I have struggled to stay below 175. This is a continuing struggle and I can fully understand why those who have had to lose much larger percentages and maintain it have struggled so much and why the long term failure rate is so high.
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Old 01-11-2012, 12:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan
I remember watching a documentary before I came to the USA about 30 years ago and it was so frightening I can still remember the sad conclusion. The body has fat cells that hold fat and expand to a point where they divide into 2 and continue to grow to absorb more fat. When you lose weight the fat cells shrink but don't go away. Consequently when you've put on weight and lost it again you are going to struggle to maintain that original weight because of all those extra fat cells.

How depressing is that?

The article posted here reflects what I've gone through and I'm just thankful that I never got as heavy as the subjects in the study before I got serious about losing weight. Over about 8 years in my 40's I put on 35lbs to weigh 210lbs (BMI of 27.3). I took about 9 months to lose 45lbs then over the next year put back 10lbs and ever since then I have struggled to stay below 175. This is a continuing struggle and I can fully understand why those who have had to lose much larger percentages and maintain it have struggled so much and why the long term failure rate is so high.
175 is the same for me. I could get to 180 in about 2 days if I wanted too. I havent figured out a way short of an Ethopian diet to get to 170.
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Old 01-11-2012, 12:51 PM   #11
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175 is the same for me. I could get to 180 in about 2 days if I wanted too. I havent figured out a way short of an Ethopian diet to get to 170.
Same here, in fact every short trip (~5 days) we make to visit our daughter in Austin will immediately put on 4 or 5lbs which can take weeks to get off again.

When I did my weight loss program in 2002, essentially counting calories, I went all the way from 210 to 163 which was what I was in High School at 17 and 18 yrs of age, BMI of 21.2, in the middle of the "healthy" weight range. But, it was completely unstainable for me, and I put on 10lbs over the next 12 months. I don't count calories, or anything else, just eat much smaller portions and have almost given up some of the things that I used to consume all the time, such as beer, ice cream, milk shakes etc. Those things are now a special treat only
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Old 01-12-2012, 06:23 PM   #12
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I'm at that stage in (at least) my life where weight is not so much a cosmetic issue as it is a medical issue. I have to agree with the article. I have never been successful at keeping off lost weight. I've read numerous articles on why this is true (Alan's - "never losing the actual fat cells") is indeed depressing.

I suppose the only thing which would make one willing to take on the "life-long Herculean task" of maintaining weight loss would be to consider the illnesses and early death associated with obesity. Let's face it, if someone held a gun to your head and a weight gain would be met with a bullet, most of us could lose and maintain weight. So, difficult as it is, it's not impossible. I suppose it's just that the "cost" is not immediate as it would be with a bullet. So, putting off dealing with it is much easier to rationalize.

I don't know the answer, but I sure wish someone would develop a reasonably " safe" pill that would lower appetite or (preferably) allow one to eat anything but not gain weight. I'm sure such a pill would be a money maker. Any ideas?
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Old 01-12-2012, 06:38 PM   #13
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I started at 243 pounds. I am now at 195 pounds after 8 months. Still have a ways to go. Would like to get to about 165. Its hard and takes dedication. I am sorry that I allowed myself to get so heavy. No excuses, all my fault. Blood sugar is now normal.
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:13 PM   #14
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... Let's face it, if someone held a gun to your head and a weight gain would be met with a bullet, most of us could lose and maintain weight.
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I started at 243 pounds. I am now at 195 pounds after 8 months. Still have a ways to go. Would like to get to about 165. Its hard and takes dedication. I am sorry that I allowed myself to get so heavy. No excuses, all my fault. Blood sugar is now normal.
A medical condition is often that bullet that gets us motivated. With me it was a short physical for life insurance, and for the first time ever I had borderline high BP. The nurse took it 3 times, both arms with 5-10 minutes in between. Couldn't get a systolic reading below 135, and I was used to readings a lot lower than that. A few months later I was 20 - 30 lbs lighter, and systolic bp was back to ~110. Not sure how much longer I'd have left it until that wake-up call.
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:50 PM   #15
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A medical condition is often that bullet that gets us motivated. With me it was a short physical for life insurance, and for the first time ever I had borderline high BP. The nurse took it 3 times, both arms with 5-10 minutes in between. Couldn't get a systolic reading below 135, and I was used to readings a lot lower than that. A few months later I was 20 - 30 lbs lighter, and systolic bp was back to ~110. Not sure how much longer I'd have left it until that wake-up call.
I hear you, but, then again, there are "vests" for bullets (BP pills, in my case) to put off the life-style change. I know it makes no sense, but not all of us humans live totally by our logic. If we did, we'd all be the proper weight and level of fitness no matter the difficulty.

Well, at least I'm back on the "wagon" so far this year. Not much weight loss, but at least, some better food choices - so far.
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:54 PM   #16
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I hear you, but, then again, there are "vests" for bullets (BP pills, in my case) to put off the life-style change. I know it makes no sense, but not all of us humans live totally by our logic. If we did, we'd all be the proper weight and level of fitness no matter the difficulty.

Well, at least I'm back on the "wagon" so far this year. Not much weight loss, but at least, some better food choices - so far.
I certainly agree with you there.

Keep up the good work on your progress.
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Old 01-12-2012, 08:19 PM   #17
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When I did my weight loss program in 2002, essentially counting calories, I went all the way from 210 to 163 which was what I was in High School at 17 and 18 yrs of age, BMI of 21.2, in the middle of the "healthy" weight range. But, it was completely unstainable for me, and I put on 10lbs over the next 12 months.
This is I think very important. 20 years ago I lost weight and became a lifetime member of WW with a goal weight of 125 which was middle of my goal range. I even got down to about 117 for a week (toward the bottom of the range). But there was absolutely no way to sustain it and when I went over my goal weight by a few pounds (but still well within my healthy weight range) I just gave up.

This time I've set a goal weight at the top of my range. If I can maintain that awhile then I'll try losing a few more pounds.

My favorite collection of stuff about weight loss and maintenance:

GoingSkiing | My Not So Humble Opinions on All Things Weighty

Several things she points out is that for health being at the lower BMI for your weight range isn't really healthier than being at a high BMI within that range. That is a person with a BMI of 23 has a lower death rate than the person with the BMI of 20 although both are "healthy."

Also she points out how hard it really is to get to and maintain the really low BMI.

So, even if I could maintain 125 I'm no longer sure that it is the heathiest thing to do.
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Old 01-12-2012, 10:27 PM   #18
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This is I think very important. 20 years ago I lost weight and became a lifetime member of WW with a goal weight of 125 which was middle of my goal range. I even got down to about 117 for a week (toward the bottom of the range). But there was absolutely no way to sustain it and when I went over my goal weight by a few pounds (but still well within my healthy weight range) I just gave up.

This time I've set a goal weight at the top of my range. If I can maintain that awhile then I'll try losing a few more pounds.

My favorite collection of stuff about weight loss and maintenance:

GoingSkiing | My Not So Humble Opinions on All Things Weighty

Several things she points out is that for health being at the lower BMI for your weight range isn't really healthier than being at a high BMI. That is a person with a BMI of 23 has a lower death rate than the person with the BMI of 20 although both are "healthy."

Also she points out how hard it really is to get to and maintain the really low BMI.

So, even if I could maintain 125 I'm no longer sure that it is the heathiest thing to do.
You're right, t's all about balance. I'm happy enough being at the upper end of the "healthy" weight range, and striving to get lower will be really hard work for little or no return.
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Old 01-13-2012, 12:42 AM   #19
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On a low-carb forum I asked people who had regained weight how it had happened. Many replied that it happened during a stressful period (e.g. death in family).
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Old 01-13-2012, 11:33 AM   #20
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I have a weight I will not go above .
I use this system as well. It may seem obsessive, but by weighing every day, I can catch an upward trend before it gets very far. My "must not exceed" weight was 168 for about 10 years. Now it is 157.
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