Wednesday, August 01, 2012
I believe maintenance can be learned. Iíve been at this for over two and half years, and I seem to be getting better at it. Hereís a way of looking at my progress in terms of what is going on in my head at any given time. See the bottom of this post for a related blog post about framing my progress in terms of levels of maintenance.
Over the past 2+ years Iíve noticed some phases that I seem to go through. I donít think I ever saw these phases so clearly before because I never got this far in maintenance in the first place. This time around is different because I havenít given up - Iíve persisted enough to gain some longer perspective. And I have some very good buddies who keep an eye on me and offer up tuff love on the occasions I need it.
Phases of Maintenance
1) Honeymoon Phase
ďWoo hoo! Iím smaller! I can wear normal-sized clothes! Who IS that person in the mirror, anyway?!Ē
ďWait a minute, what should I be eating, now? How much should I be eating now?Ē
2) Is this it?
ďIs this all there is?Ē
ďHow come my life isnít magically better in all aspects?Ē
ďSure I look better and can move better, but this sure feels like a lot of work. Can I stop tracking, now?Ē
3) Regain. Ouch.
ďMaybe Itís just water gain. Maybe this is just normal fluctuation. Maybe the goal weight Iíd picked isnít sustainable.Ē
ďOMG, itís starting all over again. Iím going back to square one, I can feel it. Iím going to gain it all back again! Damn, damn, damn.Ē
ďDo I have enough courage to admit thereís a problem and I need to track more carefully and increase my exercise?Ē
4) Re-loss. Sigh.
ďWell, this situation isnít pretty, but itís reality. At least I know how to get the weight back off. Ugh.Ē
ďI canít believe I let this get away from me. Never again.Ē
5) Yay, Iím finally back in my ďHappy Range.Ē
ďThis isnít as exciting as it was the first time I was here, but itís nice in a homey sort of way. I like wearing my favorite jeans.Ē
ďYeah, tracking is a pain, but I like my life at this size, so Iím gonna do it.Ē
6) Body Recomposition and new goals.
ďI wonder if I could benefit from skin removal?Ē
ďWhat about body fat and muscle? How can I manipulate them?Ē
ďI wonder if I would prefer to be more (or fewer) pounds?Ē
ďWhat would it be like to run a marathon? Squat more than my body weight? Kayak cleanly down a class IV-V river?Ē
You can see a graphic example of these phases here:
Phase 1 (Honeymoon) happened once to me in this most recent bout of weight loss. It lasted about 6 months, from January 2010 until June 2010. By June 2010 Iíd slid thoroughly into Phase 2 (Is this it?).
I stayed in Phases 2 (Is this it?) - 3 (Regain) until around March 2011, with the result that I regained about 30 lbs. At that point I went into Phase 4 (Re-loss). I seem to have amazing abilities to sit around and watch myself gain weight in Phase 3 (Regain) and KNOW what to do about it, but delay flipping the switch and going into Phase 4 (Re-loss). :-/
I reached Phase 5 (Happy Range) briefly in June of 2011, only to cycle back into Phases 2-3 with the result that I regained 20 lbs by September. At which point I went back into Phase 4 again, and returned to Phase 5 in December 2011.
As you can see from the chart, I have continued to cycle through Phases 2-5, but every time the ďbumpĒ up in weight is smaller, and the length of the cycle is smaller too.
Phase 6 (Body recomposition) has been kind of going on throughout the process, but I seem to focus on recomposition more when the overall weight is stable in Phase 5.
The reason I think Iím getting better at this is because over the past 2+ years I seem to be spending more time in Phases 5 and 6 and less time cycling through Phases 2-4.
I am spending more of my time with my head in the game and my eyes on the prize, doing the work I need to do in order to keep myself where I like to be. It isnít necessarily less effort, but itís certainly becoming less of a struggle to make myself do it.
Here is a related blog post about learning maintenance framing the subject in terms of definition and stringency:
...and here is a similar recent blog post by THETURTLEBEAR who has been fortunate not to get stuck in any cycles:
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
I believe maintenance can be learned. Iíve been at this now for over two and half years, and I seem to be getting better at it. Hereís one way of looking at my progress, based on the number on the scale. See the bottom of this post for a link about how I frame my progress in terms of mental phases.
There are various levels of maintenance. You can define weight maintenance in many ways. www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
I have several nested weight-based definitions Iíve been using.
1) Keeping off at least 10% of my original weight (under 302 lbs)
Iíve managed this since January 2010. This is the broadest definition I use when Iím talking about my overall maintenance path since losing the weight in 2009. Iíve been within this definition consistently since January 2010.
2) Keeping under 160 lbs, with attention paid to body composition.
This was my original goal, since at this weight my BMI is under 25. I removed the emphasis on BMI in order to be consistent with my more recent philosophy that any BMI under 30 can be considered ďhealthyĒ (since BMI doesnít account for muscle mass or bone weight). I like how I look and feel here. When I am above 160 itís usually because I have more fat on me.
Iíve been inside and outside of this range since January 2010. I had a 4-month streak within that range January 2010-April 2010. Then I gained out of this range. I briefly dropped back under 160 in June 2011. Then I regained. I again dropped back under in December 2011 and Iíve managed to stay here for the past 8 months. In two weeks Iíll have managed 9 months here. Iím shooting for a year - that will be an accomplishment, for sure.
3) Keeping within +/- 3% around 150 lbs (145.5 -154.5)
This is the most stringent definition that I use. Itís based on the paper described here:
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=4924102 . Itís also the definition we use for the maintenance challenges in the At Goal and Maintaining Team teams.sparkpeople.com/maintaining .
My central goal weight has slowly dropped. At first it was 155 (150.4-159.7), then it was 152.5 (147.9-157.1), and now itís 150. Iíve discovered that I can do more stuff in my kayak at a smaller size, so thatís where I like to be. As with the previous definition, if I weigh more than this range itís usually because I have more fat on me.
So far I havenít yet managed to stay within my chosen +/- 3% weight range during one of our team maintenance challenges. I keep trying, though, and I think Iím getting better at doing it. We just started a new one this month, and Iím going to do my best to hang in there for the next 12 weeks. Part of the reason I run these challenges is to give myself the accountability and motivation to keep working at it.
The good news is that I am getting better at staying within a goal weight range, with less and less fluctuation. There are people on the At Goal and Maintaining team who consistently manage this, so I know itís possible. And since I am getting better at it, I think itís reasonable to assume that if I keep working at it, one day I can be one of them, too.
Perhaps in a couple of years Iíll discover I like life better at a higher weight or a lower one, or maybe Iíll have found a more accurate way to assess body composition and that will become how I gauge maintenance. But for now, watching the scale and my % body fat and my athletic performance suffices.
(Update and clarification; I DO track my body composition, and here is a post explaining how: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Here is a related blog post about learning maintenance, framing it in terms of mental phases:
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I've had a recent email exchange with SOULOFWELLNESS who had some questions about the steps I took to remove a lot of weight (body fat).
I really like her questions, because they show that she is putting a lot of effort into understanding this monumental task she's set for herself. I see that as a sign she is likely to succeed - especially because so much of this process has been one of discovery for me. I've had to learn a lot about myself and about nutrition and about the various forms of exercise, and had to come up with individual solutions that work for me.
I like her questions so much that I've decided to post them here, with my answers, in case anyone else finds them helpful or thought-provoking.
1.) Since starting what is the main thing you personally have learned?
That I need to track my food. Not only to control my intake, but to understand patterns in how I feel, what gives me energy, what makes me hungry, what triggers binges, what I can't stop eating at "just one," etc. Yes, tracking is a PAIN IN THE BUTT. I hate it. Iíve done everything I can to make it less painful ( LoseIt.com app on my iPhone & iPods, scales at home and work and in my purse, etc. etc. etc.) I consider this just something I have to do, the way a nearsighted person has to deal with glasses or contacts if they want to be able to see.
2.) If you knew then what you know now, what changes would you have made?
That's a hard one to answer, because so much of my self awareness and mental approach to this whole fitness thing has evolved. I didnít have the knowledge, tools, and experience back then that I do now. I had to learn about myself by tracking stuff - weight, % body fat, food, exercise, etc. and watch the effects. I also had to read and learn about how food and exercise affect metabolism, weight gain, loss, and maintenance in people, etc.
I can say what things I think I did right, that led me here, though, so maybe that will help?
A. Tracking my food. All of it. Every day.
B. Weighing myself regularly and using a weighted average like the one at physicsdiet.com so the fluctuations wouldnít wig me out. For more information about weighted moving averages, you can see teams.sparkpeople.com/hackers
C. Lifting weights AND cardio, both. On a fitness class schedule, so once my routine was locked in, it became a habit. As things got easier I found ways to challenge myself more, eventually sometimes switching to harder activities.
D. Logging everything somewhere I could see the progress in a graphical format and make sense of it ( physicsdiet.com )
E. Having realistic expectations of how the weight loss would go if I stayed on the plan. The difficulty of getting weight off is proportional, not in terms of actual pounds. It is roughly equally difficult for everyone to lose 5% of their body weight. For example, it is about as hard for me at 153 to lose 8 lbs as it is for someone who is 350 lbs to lose 17 lbs. This is why they scale the losses on shows like The Biggest Loser. www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
F. Setting up frequent milestones that were only about 5 lbs apart, or less. This way I always had another milestone to celebrate, just around the corner.
This is a war won in tiny little battles, day after day after day. I found it really helpful to always have a carrot waiting just around the next bend.
3.) Correct me if wrong here, but.... From what I see you are high protein, low carb and low fat? Did I understand that correctly?
Iím not sure what my diet would be classified as. At the beginning I just started with trying to make my nutrition pie chart look like the RDA one at the bottom of the Spark tracker. Later I explored more of a South Beach Diet approach. For most of the year I lost 160 lbs I ate pretty equal percentages of carbs and protein and very low fat.
Now Iím aiming for these numbers each day:
at least 150g protein
at least 40g fiber
at least 50g fat
less than 100g sugar
I kind of settled on this after watching how my body responds to stuff. Iím working with a dietitian now to see if we can reintroduce more starches (complex carbs) into my diet. Macronutrient ratio is the sort of thing that you can tweak and refine forever. And your requirements change depending on where you are in the process.
4.) Your eating plan - Has it lowered any lipids? I have high cholesterol and am nervous about high protein. We are fed so much by media and such about what is best.
Getting my body fat down overall has definitely made my numbers look better. See this table:
Higher amounts of protein help me personally eat less overall (because protein is so filling). In general I seem to do really well on a low glycemic index type of diet. So for me eating a lot of protein helped with the overall goal of getting rid of body fat, which helped with my general health.
5.) Ohhh speaking of protein, I noticed you also use Whey... Now is that once a day or more often?
I supplement with protein powder when I need more lean protein in my day. I often have a shake after a workout, and sometimes mix some protein powder in with my Greek yogurt. Iíd say on average I have about 1-2 scoops of protein powder per day. While itís usually whey, I also sometimes use rice, hemp, pea, or soy protein, just to get some variety. I also use protein bars, especially for emergencies. Here are some blog posts Iíve written about protein and whey supplements:
6.) After beginning your lifestyle, when was the point you noticed you had more energy?
The amount of energy I have goes through phases. It sort of snuck up on me so I canít put my finger on a specific date. Whenever I start a new exercise regime at first itís sort of hard and I have to force myself to do it. Over time it gets easier, and then one day Iím like, ďGee, I canít WAIT to go over there and pound out some miles on the bike (or in the kayak), lift some heavy weights, etc.Ē And I stop and go, ďWhoa. when did THAT happen???Ē I suspect it takes at least 2 weeks of consistently doing whatever it is, to feel that way.
The amount of energy I have also is greatly affected by whether Iím getting enough sleep. Even if Iím eating well and doing my workouts, if Iím not getting enough sleep I lose motivation, start making unhealthy decisions, etc.
If you would like to follow SOULOFWELLNESS on her journey, here's a link to her Spark Page:
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Lots and lots of folks have been sending me kind words about the segment in which I appeared on the TODAY show this week. Thank you!!!
And wow, Iím very happy if anything Iíve ever done or said has helped anyone else on their own journey. Iíve been (and continue to be) inspired by plenty of other people, both here on Spark People and on other sites. Iím not very good at keeping track of friends on websites, but I do try to answer comments and emails, etc. There have been a lot of these lately (thank you, again!) and please donít be offended if it takes a little time to respond or if I somehow miss replying to you! If you have a question, feel free to shoot me a private Spark Mail (or two) and Iíll do my best to help.
There was fun involved, and it went very fast. Everyone was friendly, professional, and efficient. They run a well-oiled machine.
I enjoyed comparing notes with Joy Bauer on our favorite ways to buy and store almonds, grape versus cherry tomatoes, etc. She is very down-to-earth and accessible. I think she genuinely enjoys her job.
After I changed into the clothes I wore on set we had to duck around the corner at one point so Hoda and Kathie Lee wouldnít see me before my ďreveal.Ē
We took pictures on the set (Joy's idea), and even snuck onto the main TODAY set downstairs and tested out the couch.
Although it is very nice hearing kind things, and it was interesting and fun to see the show from behind the scenes and meet new people, that isnít the reason I agreed to go on TV.
I did it because I spend what feels like a lot of time complaining that maintenance doesnít get enough attention, compared with weight loss. And so when I was given an opportunity to make the issues of maintenance more visible in the media, it seemed like I should either step up and make a difference (even if only a small 4-minute one) or shut up.
Having been there myself, I know first-hand how awful it feels to fail at maintenance. And Iím not alone. The statistics on regain are appalling. Iíve heard from several people in the last few days who say they are also on a mission to get the weight off - AGAIN. There is a lot of pain out there, and people are suffering physically as well as mentally. Not because they canít GET the weight off, but rather because they canít KEEP it off.
Because he understands my perspective, Spark People head of media relations Bruce Corwin (THESLOWESTLOSER) kindly submitted my information to the Joy Fit Club, which is pretty good about acknowledging maintenance. People are only eligible if theyíve kept off 100+ lbs for at least a year. And since Joy is interested in maintenance too, she and her producers were happy to go along with a maintenance theme.
If you watch some past segments, you can see that they have focused on maintenance before:
Jan. 5, 2012: Strategies for Avoiding Weight Regain
April 23, 2012: Meet Joy's Weight Loss Superstars
Starting at 2:55 see three Joy Fit Club maintainers affirm that it's work but it's worth it...
June 29, 2012: Best Diets for Revving Up Your Metabolism
Discussion about the recent study about macronutrient ratios and weight regain.
An interesting interaction occurred off camera; separately with both Hoda and Joy; they were saying the sincere nice things to me that they probably always say to guests. Which struck me as ironic, so I said,
"Hold on. You guys are inspiration, to ME. Because as hard as it may be for me to keep this shape, it's nothing compared with what you guys have to do, in order to be camera-ready every single day on national television. So when I start to feel sorry for myself I think about all of you women in the media, and I remember there are others who have to be much more vigilant about their size and appearance."
They seemed surprised and touched that someone was thinking about their perspective. I thought about how mean and nasty the tabloids can be, and was glad they could hear that some people out here appreciate their own work at maintenance. And itís really true. The closer you get to goal, and the lower you get your % body fat, the more difficult it is to stay that way. Those last few ďvanity poundsĒ are the hardest Iíve ever tackled. Seriously.
If youíve read my blog posts before, you probably know how disheartening the statistics on maintenance in general are. Depending on how you define maintenance, 80%-95% of people who reach their weight goals fail to stay there.
Here are three blog posts about the subject:
Wondering how to define ďweight maintenance?Ē Researchers do too.
Familiar faces from Biggest Loser illustrate how wildly maintenance definitions vary
Weight Maintenance Definitions, Revisited
So, what can we DO about this??? Are we all simply doomed to fail?
I donít think so. I think if we learn from the research and keep ourselves focused, we can raise EVERYONEíS ability to beat the odds (and in doing so, change the odds, themselves).
Fortunately for us there is scientific research going on in the field of weight maintenance. For example, studies gather and summarize data from folks in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR, www.nwcr.ws ) to tell us what works for most people. In short, we can learn from what works for those few who DO succeed at maintenance! Hereís a blog post about that:
Strength in Numbers: Predictors and Behaviors of Maintenance
(If YOU have kept off 30 lbs for at least a year, please consider joining the NWCR because the more high quality data we have, the better off all of us will be)
Hereís the bottom line, the ďsecretĒ to successful maintenance, as far as Iíve been able to figure out:
1) Frequent monitoring (checking how your jeans fit or weighing yourself, tracking athletic benchmarks, etc.)
2) Immediate correction (eating less, moving more - or eating more, moving less depending on the direction of the trend)
If you want details (and the devil is generally in the details), you can read about them in the link above. Some might surprise you.
There are places to go for help with implementing those behaviors. One of my favorites is the At Goal and Maintaining team, right here on Spark People.
We celebrate maintenance anniversaries and have a Hall of Fame where you can see who here is maintaining successfully and read all about what they do on their Spark Pages. You can ask for their advice and help, either directly, or through the team message boards. Here is a blog post about our own successful maintainers right here on SparkPeople.com:
Rockstars of Maintenance
We have periodic maintenance challenges, where we see who can keep their weight inside a +/- 3% range around a target.
The Team also has tons of links to information about maintenance research and other sites that focus on maintenance.
A couple highlights:
A site run by our own RUSSLANE (and also a Joy Fit Club member) that focuses specifically on accomplishing and celebrating maintenance.
Barbara Berkeleyís site, related to her 2008 book of the same name.
So, yeah. There ARE resources out there for maintainers. Could they be improved? Sure. For example, Iíd love it if the Maintenance Hall of Fame could somehow be built into the SparkPeople.com framework so we wouldnít have to manage it ourselves by hand on Google Documents. But the picture is far from bleak, as long as youíre willing to hunt down the resources and then actually USE them.
No matter where you are in your journey, whether youíre taking your first steps away from morbid obesity or whether youíre at goal and working to change your ratio of fat to muscle, there are people here to help.
And once you get to goal, please come join the At Goal and Maintaining Team. Weíre waiting for you!
Saturday, July 14, 2012
There is a fun link floating around on the blogs here lately, where you can see how your BMI compares with the averages in other countries and globally overall.
"You're most like someone from Tanzania*
* Compared with other females aged 45-59 in Tanzania"
It kind of underscores the meaninglessness of BMI between the values of 18 and 30. Below 18 can be unhealthily thin. Above 30 is often unhealthily fat. But between those values it's really about body composition. The accompanying article illustrates this pretty well, actually. (Click the "See it in action" tab.)
There are 3 women featured.
- One is Obese Class II (severely obese, BMI 35-40).
- One is underweight (BMI 16-18.5).
- And the third, while she has a "Normal" BMI of 23, doesn't look like she has much muscle - reminiscent of the "skinny-fat" body type we hear about a lot.
My take on the whole BMI thing is that unless you're a linebacker or a bodybuilder or someone with an obvious lot of muscle, you want to be under 30. If you're not an extreme endurance athlete you probably don't want to be much below 18. Between those values it's about % body fat relative to lean muscle.
Here's a blog post I once wrote about measuring body composition:
And here's one I wrote about tracking changes in body composition:
All of this sounds kind of ridiculous, considering my Spark ID, huh?
When I chose that ID, however, my own BMI was 52.6 and I would have been THRILLED to get it below 30. I'm not sure I ever actually believed it would get there, let alone under 25.
In fact, the technical medical term for a BMI between 18-25 is "Normal."
So I coined my OWN term "Healthy" to describe a BMI between 18-30. Because I can, and because it makes more sense to me.
So right now what I'm most concerned about is getting my body fat back under 19% because I feel stronger and more agile there. And I like how it looks.
That means moar lifting and lotsa nice lean protein, consistently over time.
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