I have lost well over 100 pounds and have maintained the majority of those lost pounds for over 3 years. Because of the length of time I have been on my weight loss/maintenance journey, I am at a point that I really spend much of my free time (which is not much at all), looking back and reflecting upon my journey. One of the questions that I have asked myself on many occasions is, "What was different about this last and most successful attempt?" If you have read any of my blogs then you may know that it’s hard for me to give credit to any single factor. I almost always attribute my outcome to a multitude of things.
I have tried to lose weight on many occasions. My first formal "diet" was at age 15. I started at 180 pounds and dieted (starved) down to 140 in 3 months, utilizing a national weight loss program. At the end of the diet, I went back to my old ways and it probably took me about 3 months to gain it all back. I can’t really blame my teenage self for that and all of the subsequent failures to come. I had not yet learned about the concept of calories and the importance of balancing my energy intake and output. Not surprisingly, I went on many more "diets" with my last major attempt in 1996, when I lost 25 pounds on yet another national weight loss program (this was my fourth national weight loss program!). I then went on to gain about 100 pounds in that following year and gave up on losing weight for about 10 years.
During those 10 years that I spent being morbidly obese, I accomplished quite a bit. I got married, graduated from medical school and gave birth to 5 beautiful children. So, it’s not like I wasn’t busy. I was very busy with the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I was also very busy with avoiding my increasing girth.
Over time I became extremely unhappy with my size and I was no longer able to ignore my nearly 300- pound body. The denial techniques that I used for years were no longer working and I reached a point where I had to make a decision. It was time to either lose the weight or face a future of early disease and probable early death. My innocent children were growing up and witnessing me (and my husband at over 340 pounds) model unhealthy habits and we knew this could and would ultimately lead to them adopting our unhealthy ways. A combination of uncomfortable thoughts and my fears that our ever more observant children would follow in our footsteps become too much to ignore.
Just as many others, I had reached an impasse and I was forced to make a decision. I chose to lose the weight. But, knowing that this was not my first rodeo, I needed to know how this attempt was going to be different from all of the other ones.
I believe that the biggest shift that occurred in me was that from day one, I had decided that I was going to have to make these changes permanent and to continue to model healthy habits forever. My children will be watching me throughout my entire life and I have teach them healthy habits through my life choices for the rest of my life. This understanding helped to solidify my need to make sure that I got it this time. I don’t quite remember the details of the first day that I discovered SparkPeople, but I’m pretty sure I found it while I was on my mission to find out what I needed to know to reach my goal of permanent change.
When do you need to start thinking about weight maintenance? I believe that your maintenance plan starts at day 1. The day that you start your weight loss journey should be the day that you are thinking about what you are going to do to keep it off forever. You are either going to keep striving for a healthy lifestyle and continue to shed excess weight until it naturally stops or you are going to go back to your old habits and gain it back.
I guess I can call myself an expert at weight loss maintenance. I’m not perfect and my weight certainly fluctuates (darn holiday pounds) but I’m not even close to where I started. I can’t wait to say that I’m a 5 year maintainer which the National Weight Control Registry has pretty much defined as the elite weight loss maintenance category. But, I have maintained over 2 years, which has reduced my risk of weight regain to about 50 percent-- much better than the reported 95 percent.
Please take some time to learn about the characteristics of those who have maintained a significant weight loss over time. Strive to learn from and hopefully model what these weight loss superstars have done so that you may one day join the ranks of those who have mastered weight loss maintenance.
Here are a few of my tips:
I’m going to be hanging around SparkPeople for a long time because I’m in it for life! How about you?
Keep sparking, everyone! Never give up!