[I am thrilled to present my first-ever guest post on Weight Maven! Debra is on the National Weight Control Registry, and until she stopped blogging in October 2011 to pursue other opportunities, she was one of my go-to reads at Debra's Just Maintaining. She's been recently working through some regain and reloss and offered to share some of her thoughts in a two-part series. -- Beth]
By Debra Sapp-Yarwood
Once upon a time, I blogged on weight loss maintenance. In one post I talked about the painful process of relatively rapid regain as I had experienced it in the past. At the time, I was also taking a slow but annoying (1 to 2 pounds per year) yo-yo ride upward, and I mentioned it from time to time. I’m guest blogging for Beth today and tomorrow to share a little more about regain and how I recently managed a partial reloss of seven pounds. If you aren’t a weight-loss maintainer, that may not sound like much. If you are, you “get” the challenge. Losing the first seven pounds is a cakewalk compared to relosing pounds near the bottom of one’s weight spectrum.
This isn’t Beth’s usual fare, but I am a fan of hers because she has correctly identified obesity as a symptom of other issues – medical, psychological and social. She isn’t a zealot or proselytizer and she acknowledges that our understanding of weight loss and maintenance is nascent. As a radical weight-loss maintainer for more than a decade now, I am a fluke of the universe (HT: National Lampoon). Perhaps my self-conscious journey may be of value to others who wish to become flukes or a cautionary tale and reassurance to those who just want to be happy in their current body.
First, the basic facts about my weight: my highest established weight (according to the scale in my bathroom – the only one that matters) was 205. That was in 2002. (A doctor’s scale might have said 210.) I established my lowest plateau (according to my scale) in 2003, at 137. I maintained a weight below 140 for four years by running an average 24 miles per week and eating 1,800- 2,200 mostly wholesome (not particularly paleo) calories per day. After foot surgery and a nasty fall on my face one year later that put me in the emergency room, I discontinued my running. My hip and knee joints were also telling me to rethink my exercise regimen. My goal: to maintain my weight loss and postpone joint surgery. By this time, my weight had crept up to 143.
After trying on a number of other regimens, I ended up daily eating 1800 calories, on average, and doing 50 minutes of aerobics intense enough to sweat up my bra. I took a break from the exercise three days per month and never allowed myself an “off” day with regard to food management. I did not become a strict paleo eater, but in addition to calorie counting, I have borrowed some principles from the movement and began using informal macronutrient management – mainly to help minimize insulin-triggered hunger and other hormone-fired “eat impulses.” I have limited my grain- sugar- and starchy-carb intake, but I’m a fruit freak and I love all things dairy (lower fat, but not nonfat, to my taste). When I do my aerobics I wear a weighted vest, and sometimes I wear ankle weights, totaling 25 pounds (give or take) of extra weight. No personal trainer would recommend weighted aerobics, for all kinds of orthopedic reasons, but I am careful not to twist my joints, and when I started to use the weights I noticed that my weight slide upward slowed. I used to exercise as a heavier person, and I’m just trying to recreate that effect. For me, this routine promotes a good 7.5-hour per night sleep pattern, which also helps with weight management.
Despite this regimen, my weight climbed to 158 over another five-year period. When the scale read 158, I was distraught. Up 21 pounds from my lowest plateau! Yikes. Barbara Berkley talks about “scream” weight in her book, Refuse to Regain. The theory is that you weigh daily and when you see your “scream” weight, you gently tighten your food intake for a few days to put your regain in reverse. This is not so far from the advice we get from women’s magazines and diet plans to merely “return to the diet” when necessary. While this is great in theory, the high rate of radical regain among dieters (97% according to empirical research) is testimony to how difficult it is to do, and I think I know why.
For me, by the second day of restriction (no matter how gentle) I’m battling continual impulses to eat (or even gnawing hunger) and my night-time sleep becomes hard to initiate and fitful once I’m finally dozing. I don’t know how these are related: whether the eat impulses and hunger disturb my sleep, or my sleep disturbance raises my ghrelin and disrupts my other hormones, thus causing the eat impulses, or whether a vicious cycle sets in with each process ramping up the other. Regardless, I cannot keep up the restriction, especially if my work or academic load requires that I be modestly competent. Therefore my “scream weight” sets a new, higher ratchet-point in my maintenance. This 158 on the scale was roughly six screams up from my lowest plateau. I wept at 140 and 143 (and tried valiantly to throw my regain into reverse). I raged at 147. I raged and blubbered at 151 and 156. At 158, I stood silent and flabbergasted on the scale. The third day in a row that it read 158, I knew I’d locked into my highest weight ratchet-point in a decade, and it wasn’t going to let loose of me quietly.
Tomorrow: Managing a Reloss