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I've already forgotten exactly how big I was... (or maybe I never actually knew?)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In the "overweight" and "normal" categories, the BMI number is not very helpful because it doesn't reflect the amount of muscle versus fat contributing to weight.

However, in "obese" and above, I think it's a pretty good gauge of the relative size of people for their frames.

As recently as December 8 2008 I was "Super Morbidly Obese," (BMI over 50).
On December 23, 2008 I dropped into "Morbidly Obese" (BMI under 50)
On May 24, 2009 I dropped into "Class II Obesity" (BMI under 40)
On July 31, 2009 I dropped into "Class I Obesity" (BMI under35)
In 7.8 lbs I will drop into "Overweight" (BMI under 30)

The reason I mention this is that I watched some of the excerpts from Biggest Loser on Hulu last night and was amazed at how LARGE all of the new contestants looked. Because last season I recall that only a few of them started at a BMI similar to mine.

So I went and looked up the numbers, and was shocked.

My starting BMI was 52.56 back in May 2007. In December 2008 it was 52.53

Of the contestants on the current show, only 5 of the 16 are actually larger than I was 9 months ago. None of those are as old as I am. Most contestants are the size range I was in until May 24. Only two are older than me, and the rest are younger.

Body image is such a bizarre and fluid concept. Most of the time I still wonder if a chair will hold me or if I can squeeze through a space occupied by other things. I have no clue what I really look like, anymore (I don't recognize recent pictures of myself, and don't even get me started on my reaction to the mirror - it's basically like viewing a Cubist Picasso. An eyeball here, something else there, some things look surprisingly small, others look big, and others just look strange - I simply can't process the entire image as a whole). Apparently this is not uncommon: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31489881/ns/hea

But I didn't realize that I'd forgotten how big I looked - or maybe I never really accepted it in the first place. Yes I have a pair of "fat" jeans I saved from last December and I have some "before" pictures on my spark page, but I think perhaps somewhere in the back of my brain I wasn't really *seeing* it, because it was too painful to actually contemplate.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HEALTHQUESTER 10/31/2009 8:45PM

    I know what you are talking about...I have recently had a wake up call from my friend who lovingly but firmly told me that I was fat...obese even....and I was like who are you looking at? But when I would see pics of me...I was like who is the person in that picture?? I asked my husband once why the camera was so distorted. He looked at me with some pity and said 'it's not'.

But I am on my way to making my outsides match what I feel they look like on the inside!

Good luck continuing on your amazing journey to do the same!

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SECRETMUSIC 10/26/2009 12:14PM

    This is a really thought-provoking concept. I think I'll reflect on this today. One of my issues is that I have never felt as large as I really was. Thanks for writing.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 9/23/2009 1:53AM

    OK, just watched episode 1.

Every woman on there aside from Shay is considerably smaller than I was last December. And I can honestly say I don't remember being even as big as they were, except perhaps Amanda, and she's the size I was in at the end of May.

So yep, I think my mind has actually blocked out my previous size, because it's just too painful to contemplate.


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WINTERWINGS 9/21/2009 8:04AM

    Just found your page and blog. Congrats on what you've acomplished so far. I like your comment about being able to ride horses again. My gelding is a trooper and packed me around before I got pregnant. Now I don't have the time, sadly, but I keep looking at him and thinking about it. Perhaps I'll make that a personal goal of mine too.

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CARRIE1948 9/17/2009 8:46AM

    As usual, I am in awe and wonder about your accomplishments.

Body image is weird. I don't feel that I look any different, which may be part of the reason that no one notices that I've lost weight.

When I look in the mirror, all I see is the weight. Then again, I can do that when I'm 100 pounds.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 9/17/2009 7:59AM

    How funny - I was playing the BIGGER or SMALLER game by myself in airports all the way to and from England last week. But I didn't have someone there to confirm or deny my impressions. And it didn't occur to me that we all do this...

I think I'm bigger than I actually am now, but I never realized how big I was when I started. Even now I'm not sure I understand how big I was at 335.6 ...

I'm looking forward to next week when I can watch Episode 1 of season 8 (Hulu delays streaming for a week) and take a close look at Rudy and Antoine, because they are the closest in BMI to where I was when I started.

Perhaps we need to take "before" and "after" VIDEOS of ourselves, to get the full impact of what we've accomplished?

Comment edited on: 9/17/2009 12:44:30 PM

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DDOORN 9/17/2009 7:39AM

    Our "personal" lens is SUCH a tricky thing...the way we can distort things to be either LARGER than life...or SMALLER...

It can certainly help us to "function" better if we aren't CRUSHING our self-esteem every waking moment when our size is so extremely huge. But on the other hand this also enables us to continue such a self-destructive lifestyle.

What an AMAZING transformation you've gone through! I think it is testimony, also to your past "normal" size that you can adjust your perceptions so quickly as you have.

I still battle the HUGE perception of myself and sometimes double check with my DW while out & about, playing the BIGGER or SMALLER game: I ask her when I see a fellow: am I BIGGER or SMALLER than that fellow...? It helps a bit to correct my "lens."


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Back in the Saddle

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I used to be a long-distance cyclist.

I bought my first (and only) bicycle, a steel touring Peugeot U-O9, around 1981 with babysitting money. I earned $1.50/hour. The bike cost $250.

Over the years with the help of my brother and later a boyfriend I modified things – Saturae rims from Wheelsmith in Palo Alto, side-pull brakes, various incarnations of seats and pedals, and most notably – a custom repaint and braze-add-on job by JP Weigle when I lived in CT. With the rack and saddle bag, etc. it weighs 30 lbs.

In high school the bike represented freedom. Freedom from the restricted weekend bus schedules, freedom from asking for rides from people with cars. I even commuted to school on my bike a few times – a very hilly 14-mile round trip on busy streets, leapfrogging with buses, etc.

In college I rode with the team on their easy days. I learned how to ride in a pace line. I learned to pedal even when going downhill. I learned how to tuck myself into an aerodynamic shape when descending. In those days I used to sign up for 100-mile club rides, called Centuries. My first was the Pajaro Valley Century, noted for a 2000 ft climb within the first 25 miles.

In grad school I continued to ride my trusty Peugeot with a friend, until life got the better of me, I was spending too many days in the lab and the library, and started gaining weight. That was in the mid 1990s.

Fast forward to four months ago. I’d been losing weight steadily since December and doing water aerobics 4x/week. Eventually I noticed that one of my classes was not challenging me very much. So I decided to investigate other arthritis-friendly options.

On April 23 I tried a spinning class for the first time. I thought I was just about going to DIE. At times my heart rate monitor was spiking so high (158 bpm) I wondered if I might be at risk for a heart attack. I deliberately slowed down, just in case – I didn’t want to keel over right there!

The class lasted 45 minutes. They were jumping up and down, sprinting, and standing out of the saddle in simulated hill climbs. All to music. And using resistance bands for upper body strength “as a break.” The instructor seemed more like a machine than a human. And that tiny little seat was KILLING my rear. By the time 45 minutes were up and it was time to stretch, I begged the instructor in a small voice, to get off and stand next to the bike for the stretching.

It took me a week to recover. Working at my desk while NOT sitting down was a challenge. During that 45 minutes of pain I’d had ample opportunity to observe the other people in the class (I was in the back). They all looked really really fit. I decided that I would try and stick with it, because maybe the REASON they were fit was that they were in there doing this thing. I figured, even if I couldn’t keep UP, at least I could keep GOING.

So a week later I went back. By then I’d purchased a gel seat cover, and that helped a lot. I considered it a victory to simply stay ON THE BIKE for the whole 45 minutes. A week later I went back again. By then my rear was recovering pretty quickly – within days rather than weeks. By the fourth week I decided I was ready to try doing this twice a week. So I did.

And eventually I started to get better. I hatched a plan. I’d supplement with road riding. If I had improved to the point that I could keep up with the class by the end of the summer, I’d one day ride to work (14 miles each way), go to spinning class afterward, and then ride home. My instructor said I was crazy. So did the other students.

Last week I went to see Lisa and Steve in the UK. I rented a bike and we went on lots of nice rides. Outside. On the road. On the LEFT (but never mind that). I discovered that all the spinning had translated into very strong legs and cardiovascular system. Once I got my balance and my road habits back, I was good to go.

So today, four months after starting spinning and 70 lbs lighter, I’m DOING it. I rode this morning 13.73 miles in less than an hour on a bike that weights 30 lbs (still my trusty Peugeot), carrying 20 lbs of gear. In a few minutes I’ll change back into my jersey and shorts and ride over to the spinning class and ride in there (on my bike on a trainer, for a fun change of pace) for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of crunches. And then I’ll ride the 13.73 miles home.

By God, I think I’m back!

Edit: I’m home now. Here are my final numbers:

To work

* 13.73 miles
* 57 minutes
* 13.7 mph average
* 535 cal
* 142 bpm average
* 155 bpm max

Spinning (2.5 miles to get there from work)

* 19.47 miles
* 61 minutes
* 18.5 mph average
* 642 cal
* 126 bpm average
* 153 bpm max
Note: I discovered that spinning is better on a spinning bike - not enough resistance with the trainer to do all the jumping and standing.


* 13.03 miles
* 55 minutes
* 14.2 mph average
* 402 cal
* 125 bpm average
* 141 bpm max

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4A-HEALTHY-BMI 9/16/2009 8:51AM

The fact that I *have* enough energy to do stuff like this I think proves that I'm eating enough... LOL

Comment edited on: 9/16/2009 8:51:23 AM

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    OMG-- I hope you eat enought to have the energy for all of that-- you are super impressive and super inspiring. Way to go!


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CARRIE1948 9/16/2009 8:03AM

    Way to go.

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DDOORN 9/15/2009 10:48PM

    I'm so EXCITED for your VICTORY! Triple WOO HOO!!

It's curious to hear your history of biking also... I never biked like that, just HAD to bike around Michigan State University to get from one end of the 45 acre campus to the other...lol.

Since dusting off my son's Diamondback Wildwood last fall I have LOVED getting out on the roads and biking 20-40 miles at a time, depending. Even though I cover roads over which I've driven a zillion times it feels like I "own" the road in a whole new way once I've "conquered" it with my bike. Certain hills are a challenge...especially at the beginning, feeling like the proverbial ant and the rubber tree...pedal as fast as I can...oof, only a quarter way up...get back at it, a little further, and when I succeeded in biking all the way up I was ecstatic and woo-hoo'd all the way down the other side!

I would just LOVE to be able to work up to biking a long distance...LOGHOUSE recently biked 300 miles over 4 days, averaging 70-90 miles a day....what exhilaration that would be!

My greatest obstacle is finding time to keep up my biking. Which is why earlier this year I had been inspired to consider biking to / from work 2-3 times a week (not on days where I would stay late with my private practice).

But then they started tearing up the road between home and work. A fellow I know tried biking this and had a nasty fall. I knew better than to even try. So this has let the steam out of that plan for NOW, but am hoping they'll wrap up this fall and next Spring I can put this plan into action.

Spinning has appealed to me, but again, finding time & $$ to pursue has stopped me from pursuing just yet. Sounds just AWESOME!

This biking has to feel so VICTORIOUS to you! I'm so happy that your trip to England has inspired and jumpstarted you so!


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ADDISADDICT 9/15/2009 10:21PM

    That is so awesome! You are such an inspiration! I hated spinning class -- maybe I'll give it a second chance!

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Get a more realistic prediction of your rate of weight loss

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I don't know why SP calculates the predicted weight loss rate as a straight line (X lbs/week) because that is not how weight comes off, in my experience.

It comes off exponentially (i.e. faster at first, slower near goal). Also, the difficulty of losing 5% is roughly the same no matter what your starting weight is. This means that in order to get a clear idea of the amount of effort required for each stage in the process, you have to calculate your loss in net percent intervals, not X lbs/week intervals.

Here's how I predict my weight loss over time, and figure out whether I'm on track:

Create a spreadsheet and put in your starting weight.

In the cell below that paste a formula that calculates 95% of the cell above.

Repeat, adding rows, until you've got the weight you want.

Then figure on about 4-5 weeks for each net 5% loss. You can put the dates in next to the weights, if you like. Each of these intervals is roughly the same amount of effort.

In general I believe the recommended rate of weight loss for mammals is about 1% per week. (At least, that's what vets recommend for cats and dogs, and I don't see why it should be any different for humans.)

Update: The 1%-1.5% per week figure has finally been addressed in humans. www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/t

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SASSYTHING52 9/12/2011 9:41PM

    it is hard and confusing so many people got different ways to lose

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LISAWILLBEFIT 4/21/2011 2:23PM

    Thannks for the info.It is really helpful

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DARUMA 9/17/2009 8:54PM

    Thanks! This looks like a good think to do.

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BIGOLEDIVA 9/11/2009 5:30PM

    now THIS makes SENSE! i was looking at me weeklt goal thinking damn! i've lost 18 pounds since the end of july and i'm STILL behind on my goal! I'm gonna redo using THIS! THANK YOU!!!

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    Thanks for this information and tips-- thanks for the flowers and all the wonderful words of encouragments!

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TRECECOOKS 9/2/2009 10:00AM

    Another thought-provoking, articulate and informative blog. Thanks.

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Maintenance & fighting regain

Sunday, August 02, 2009

This topic seems to be cropping up a lot around here, lately.

Birdie wrote a blog about it.

(Update: Birdie retired her personal page when she became DR_BIRDIE. There were some real gems among her blog posts. You can read her newer "official" posts here:

WALKWITME wrote a blog about it.

Nancy Howard wrote a blog about it.

We've been collecting information about it at my regional spark team page.

I believe this is the single biggest problem with weight loss, and too few discuss it. I think SP would be an excellent place to disseminate the scientific findings from groups like the team managing the NWCR. I would like to see a whole system set up for tracking maintenance on Spark People that is as visible as the weight loss.

After the initial loss a person is not even halfway "done." I suspect that there needs to be training in maintenance mentality before someone even gets to goal weight. I'm trying to train myself in this, now, so that when I get to goal I will have the hard realistic view I need in order to manage my maintenance, long-term.

I lost over 100 lbs in my 20s through diet and exercise and gained it all back plus a lot more. This time I am playing for keeps, because I will NOT go down this road again. I simply refuse. I've seen what can happen - from the inside - and I WILL NOT go there again.

To that end I've been drawing on all the resources I have, including my skill at reading the scientific literature (I'm a research scientist by trade). I am attempting to prepare myself mentally for what I consider the REALLY hard fight, the one that will come AFTER the loss, the fight of maintenance.

There are a lot of reasons why maintenance is harder. It's not flashy - you're not changing in appearance, so there aren't all those nice external encouragements from other people noticing. In fact, as time goes by, the people who meet you after the loss often have no idea where you've come from. To them you've always looked fit. It's tedious to log food and activity. The temptation to relax is strong, because you already do look and feel good; there isn't the pain of plantar fasciitis or the embarrassment of chairs with arms or airplane seatbelt extenders to remind you of why you're doing this.

When's the last time you saw a media story celebrating someone having maintained a large weight loss? Exactly. They don't, because it's not news, and it's not exciting, and won't sell commercials.

I've been combing the literature for articles about maintenance of weight loss and found a nice 2009 one written by the team behind the national weight control registry www.nwcr.ws

This paper (which is written a bit more with the lay reader in mind) summarizes statistically significant predictors for successful weight loss maintenance.

Here they are:

1) longer duration of weight loss maintenance (more than 2 years)
2) dietary consistency
3) less fast food consumption
4) less TV viewing
5) more frequent breakfast consumption
6) lower levels of depressive symptoms and dis-inhibited eating

Key behaviors identified as associated with weight loss maintenance in the article are:

1) activity levels of over 200 minutes per week (at least for women in the cited study)
2) high levels of dietary restraint, such as:
- a) deliberately taking small helpings
- b) avoiding certain foods
- c) counting calories
3) having lower levels of depressive symptomology
4) controlling overeating

They suggest that keeping contact with maintainers is important for continued maintenance if the loss was facilitated by a program of some kind.

An earlier paper by the same team says that one of the best predictors of weight loss maintenance is to have maintained the loss for 5 years. So once I get to my goal I am going to think about it like cancer. I will stay vigilant and won't consider myself "done" or "fat free" until I've maintained for 5 years.

I will celebrate every month that I've maintained on a countdown to 5 years (60 months).

Statistically, 5% of people who lose a large amount of weight manage to keep it off. That 5% is made of real, live people, living real lives somewhere out there. I am going to do everything in my power to be one of them.

All this points to the need to remain active in places like SparkPeople for many years after reaching goal levels. Which is probably good anyway, because it helps encourage the people just starting out, too.

P.S. There's also a really nice 2005 paper reviewing weight management behaviors by a pair of Swedish scientists:

P.P.S. Here's a nice USA TODAY article from 2005 about weight maintenance: www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-10

P.P.P.S. RAYLINSTEPHENS reminded me that the chapter on weight maintenance in the Hacker's Diet is excellent:

There is a Spark Team for people using the Hacker's Diet tracking tools:

P.P.P.P.S. RUSSLANE has a site he runs, focused specifically on articles about maintenance. It's well worth checking out:

P.P.P.P.P.S. There are some detractors to the NWCR, although they may be misinterpreting the data (see ELISADEL's comment):

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CAROLJEAN64 1/21/2010 6:33PM

    A clue to maintenance is keeping portion control in mind, keeping exercise as a regular part of my life and being as patient with myself as I was during losing.

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HILARYMM 12/7/2009 11:38AM

    Awesome resources!

Thank you so much!

-- Hilary

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TELERIE 12/5/2009 6:10PM

    Great resources, thanks for paving the way! I'm going to need good resources for maintenance in the not too distant future - hopefully some time next year!
What I have found helpful on my way there is practicing a mindset like this: To not do anything to lose weight that I couldn't do every day for the rest of my life. Teaching myself new habits and un-learning my old bad ones instead of being on a diet creating a new "normal" for myself. It's a slow process, and I realise that it's a lifelong process, but I also hope it is a sustainable one.
I haven't been losing weight before so I don't know if I'll be one of the successful 5%, but I aim to be, and I aim to always be aware and not slip into denial again.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 12/5/2009 5:44PM


Very good points! I actually didn't catch that.

Not surprising, though, given that Eades' opinions are listed in a blog rather than a peer-reviewed journal. LOL

Maybe I'll move it to the bottom of the list...

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ELISADEL 12/5/2009 5:33PM

    Thank you for putting all of this together, very interesting stuff!

I have some serious doubts about the value of the Michael Eades blog, unfortunately.

He says:
"If you analyze these figures something interesting comes to light. 87.6% of successful maintainers (the NWCR database) lost their weight by restricting certain foods, i.e., fat, carbohydrate or protein. No one really restricts protein; it’s always fat or carbohydrate. According to the above data, 25% of the people lost their weight by counting fat grams) a low-fat diet), so subtracting this from the 87.6% means that 62.6% of them must have counted carbs, which, I’m sure, was a bitter pill for ol’ Jim to swallow. And is no doubt why it’s reported as it is, i.e., in such a way that it has to be dug out instead of presented directly."

That's "restricting certain foods" but he immediately interprets that to mean "restricting certain macronutrients".

I haven't personally seen the NWCR questionnaires to know whether the original questions are phrased in a way that implies that restricting foods means that you're restricting fat, carbohydrates, or protein instead of... you know... actually restricting FOODS.

Were I a person who just could not be around Oreos and could not eat one Oreo without trying to gobble up an entire bag, so I kept Oreos out of my house entirely, and someone said "Did you lose weight by restricting certain foods?" I would say "Yes, absolutely".

Unless there's something in a piece of context he didn't include, or in the way the questions in the original forms are phrased that I'm not seeing to justify the interpretation (entirely possible, but I'd have thought he'd cite that context to back up his point if so), it really gives the impression that Dr. Eades is so eager to look for something he can jump on that he didn't consider what it actually says and just ran with what he wanted it to say.

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ZELLAZM 12/3/2009 4:28AM

    Good info, thanks for sharing it with us!

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JCORYCMA 12/2/2009 9:11PM

    You are so right! I always thought weight loss business' like Weight Watchers didn't do much with maintenance because it was financially more lucrative to keep you needing to pay for their services. SparkPeople is free and while the friend support is phenomenal, you are right that it's so tempting to backslide on tracking nutrition and fitness. Maybe some additional incentives for us maintainers would be beneficial! Thanks for addressing this!

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DDOORN 12/2/2009 2:06PM

    Thx for summarizing, re-visiting and sharing NCWR's insights and findings!

Maintaining is tricky, treacherous territory...we need to be SO careful...as I've found during some recent travels and backslides...back to SPARKIN' away again, though!

I've been a member of NCWR and HIGHLY recommend anyone here at SP to join if you are able. There is much that we can contribute to their research and findings which in turn can benefit ourselves and others!


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ENLIGHTEN74 10/13/2009 2:40AM

    Very fascinating information. Though I haven't reached the maintenance spot yet, definitely something to bear in mind!

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SLCB1023 8/6/2009 1:44PM

    YUP, been "at goal" too many times to even count. NEVER maintained. Like you though this time yes, it will be different. This time I am not losing weight, I am working at getting healthier. No maybe it is just a fancier way of saying I am losing weight but I am not feeling that way. Symantics though just might be the mind jump start I need. emoticon

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    WOw--5% that shocking but thanks for the post b/c now I feel like I have more information then I did before and I agree I think maintaining will be the hardest journey! Good luck and keep it up!


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WALKWITME 8/3/2009 11:04AM

    emoticon I Love All This Information...

Knowledge Is Power

I Take It 1 Day At A Time


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From MSNBC: ‘Phantom fat’ can linger after weight loss

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Losing pounds doesn't automatically shed larger-than-life self-image

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TDEMJANEC 3/4/2010 6:29AM

    Sounds like you've tackled the hurdle of not having a particular goal. Great plan and I know you can do it!

I just love your planning and organization skills exemplified here. It's inspiring. Sometimes I feel like I'm on the brink of becoming obsessed with it all and wonder if I should back off. But no! It TAKES planning and organization (for me) -- and I LIKE planning and organization anyway. Glad I'm not the only one!

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KIKICANADIAN 11/5/2009 12:20PM

    Thanks for sharing this...I"m so gld to know I'm not the only one that struggles with this.
I was told yesterday I looked skinny...and my mind went instantly to the fat I know is still there under my clothes.
It's going to be a long road to mental recovery...but one I'm more than willing to work towards.

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WOLFKITTY 7/11/2009 3:32PM

    Thanks for sharing this! I'm going to also add this as a link on the Hooray 100 team. :D


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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/24/2009 3:02PM

    Yeah, I thought it was interesting. Enough anyway, to start a blog to store it!

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KEEPITMOVING 6/23/2009 1:18PM

    “dysfunctional appearance investment” ....hmmmm...good article and well put. it's always a reorientation when there's major weight loss involved, isn't there?

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