I undertook an interesting little experiment today. I wanted to find information on one of the most difficult aspects of weight control: maintenance once a goal weight has been achieved. I was looking for specific techniques or programmes to follow, couched in language aimed at the general reader.
A quick scan of the magazine stand in the local supermarket should have given me a clue as to what I'd find: masses of weight LOSS material, headline after headline promising quick, effective weight loss - celebrity examples, meal plans, exercise programmes, before-and-after photographs - there they all were, in abundance. Weight loss sells.
Next I tried the city library catalogue. This library caters to about 400,000 people; its catalogue gives access to the nation's other collections and to international data bases. Nix.
Keyword and subject searches for weight maintenance brought up many topics: Plumbing was prominent; there was a lot on golf, archery and recreational vehicles.
Weight did get a look-in: for weight "loss" you could choose from at least 379 titles, AND you could choose your own method! Short of time? There were titles promising a difference in 17 days or 4 days or whatever number you chose (e.g. "The 17 day diet: a doctor's plan for rapid results", "The 4 day diet", ), 8 seconds (Although the title indicated the author or publisher were a bit confused about the actual time involved: "8 Second Secret: The scientifically proven method for lasting weight loss: A fitter, firmer you in just 20 minutes a day"), 4 hours ("The 4 hour body"), 6 weeks ("Just tell me what to eat", The 6 week cure for the middle-aged middle"),8 minutes (but you need to be an early riser - it HAS to be in the morning but is definitely the way to shed 2lbs a week!),you can even do it "Now", in "easy steps" (varying numbers of steps, however, depending on title.
Want something to blame? Tackle the villains and all will be well (and thin)!
Titles suggest you rein in the fries, the sugar,the fat, the hormones, the portions, the carbohydrates, the soft drinks, the fast food, the bread, the potatoes, the fries. Adjust to the effects of childbirth, syndrome X, Y or Z,your cells, your metabolism, your blood-type, your D.N.A.your body type, your features ("The facial analysis diet"). Deploy known weapons (hypnosis, various "magic foods", brainstorming, weights, pilates, cardio) and add all plants, coffee and tea (especially green varieties); eat less/all you want, omega 3. Follow the 10 dietary commandments or the 3 simple rules or the 50 steps to 50kgs gone. Harness your sleep ("The Doona Diet:sleep yourself slim", "The hibernation diet: it works while you sleep")
Harness your sleep ("The Doona Diet:sleep yourself slim", "The hibernation diet: it works while you sleep")oryour pets ("Diet with your dog"), follow celebrity plans, the French, the Japanese, the Kiwis (The Kiwi KISS workout"). Get on shank's pony and walk away the kilograms. Meditate and melt the fat. There's a diet for those who want to enlist their clothesline ("The Clothesline Diet") or their workplace (The Magazine editors' diet") or to improve performance in a myriad of sports. Even Spark is there as an e-book with the promise of a 28 day breakthrough plan for losing weight, getting fit and transforming your life.
Weight loss is commercially profitable. There is one title on prevention, "How not to get fat" and one which suggests maintenance, "Keeping it off", although even it seems to be a sequel to a weight loss story and its author undertook body building as exercise; this is not an option for the majority. Many of the titles pay lip service to maintenance, they include words such as "for life", "forever", "keep it off" but these words are in few titles, are frequently in the sub-title and are rarely, if ever, followed up in detail in the text.
A wider search of the on-line data bases did produce more on maintenance. However, most of the articles were designed for medical scientists both in language and content.
It is a matter of debate whether or not any of the weight loss titles discussed above are effective in helping their readers to lose unwanted weight. But the number of titles available at least gives a choice of programmes to follow, and the better ones provide a great deal of sensible and useful information. Once goal is reached it's not like reaching the satifying end of an exciting book and the sequel is definitely less enchanting! There are few exciting scale or non-scale victories, before-and-after photographs lose their impact and there is the ever-present fear of regain.
Maintainers still struggle with issues of diet, exercise, mindset, motivation, cravings, time management, social and work demands, confidence, stress and emotion, and pressure from friends and family just as they did in the weight loss stage. But the solutions to these issues are often difficult to identify and there is little help available in the public domain. The shared knowledge and experience of those who have been through the difficulties of weight loss and now aim to maintain a healthy weight is all that there is.
Weight maintenance doesn't hold out the necessary commercial carrots to be a popular candidate for investment: which is why the Spark team At Goal and Maintaining+Transition
to Maintenance is so valuable to its current and prospective members.
If you want to check out this team it's a mere click away at: