My ticker used to go to 20, but when I got to 20 yesterday, the target turned to 40. I was telling my husband, and he congratulated me, but when I said it will be 104 before it predicts continued success, he looked at me like I was crazy.
Though as it happens, I've been digging into the research again and it appears that 5-6 months is when many people start to regain. I hadn't seen this before because I had been focusing on the National Weight Control Registry, which is a self-selected population that has made it to the 1 year mark at minimum (and their findings are that 2 years or more of maintenance is the best predictor of continued successful maintenance). The theory is that the costs of continued maintenance come to outweigh the benefits. (Jeffrey et al. 2004)
What are the costs of continued maintenance? Some are literal costs. In the study I just mentioned, participants were encouraged to use shakes and prepared meals in weight loss and maintenance. From my own experience, our food budget doubled during the bout with Body for Life when I was 31. There is a cost in other finite resources like time to work out and prepare healthful meals. And then there's the psychological costs of cognitive restraint and dietary vigilance, of avoiding situations that encourage overeating and reduced variety.
I've heard it described as a life sentence in dieting jail. But you could also see marriage as a life sentence in monogamy jail. How many years of marriage does it take to feel like there is certitude in the arrangement? Certainly more than 2. In some cases, the duration of the marriage seems to be a risk in itself, as with midlife crises and empty nest syndrome.
On the benefit side of the weight maintenance equation, I guess there's always cheating death. In theory, that should be enough to overcome any cost. Though if we had a clear view on the equivalence of self-gratification and dire health consequences, would we have been overweight to begin with?
Then there are the day to day benefits of weight loss and management: being able to wear flattering clothes, being able to participate in active pursuits, and compliments from others. These were never a big deal for me, as in, I didn't tend to get them, but they do slow down after a time as people get used to your new weight.
I think the key is to keep in mind how things used to be. Maybe people don't compliment you anymore, but they don't look at you with that mild awkwardness of deliberate acceptance in spite of your weight. Maybe your goal weight does not make you the statuesque beauty you had hoped for, but you don't have to wear elastic pants. Maybe you can't run a marathon, but watching those who do makes you feel inspired instead of guilty.
Jeffrey et al. 2004, The Weight Loss experience, a descriptive analysis
This got me to the article via my public library.