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The five-year plan

July 12, 2009

Let’s put something out there: Most people who lose weight end up gaining some or all of it back. Depending on the study you look at, a good number of people also end up gaining back more than they lost in the first place.

Despite my general interest in the mechanisms that may or may not be behind weight regain (leptin, adaptive metabolic response to dieting etc..) and the ever-present debate of how much these things matter in comparison to our environment, I actually don’t want to talk about studies and science for once. I might post about some of that stuff at a later date.

For now, let’s forget about whether the regain rate among dieters is 95% or 67% and just agree it’s pretty damn high. Depressingly high if permanent weight loss is a goal.

Personally I think anyone who wants to lose weight should start out by asking themselves to really imagine losing weight only to gain it back a few years down the line. And they should take a long, hard look at the numbers most diet studies are producing in terms of people managing to keep weight off permanently. It might also behoove them to check out some of the info from the national weight control registry to see what people who are currently maintaining do. (This information is, imo, limited by the fact that it’s all based on surveys and personal reporting.)

So what about me? Am I going to beat the odds?

I have no idea. Five years from now my life might be totally different from how I imagine it. Any plan I make with regards to maintaining weight loss might come up against life and completely shatter. I’ll be frank, I don’t want to regain the weight I’ve lost. I want to lose more and then effortlessly maintain that new weight for years. I also want to win the lottery and buy an island. I also never want my dogs to die and I want an epic and unending love with a woman who never ever fails to make me giddy when she walks into the room. Let’s throw in a unicorn for good measure.

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer here though. I do think there are practical things people can do that will probably improve their chances of maintaining. Understanding that any change you make must truly be for the long-haul. Keeping track of one’s weight even after reaching a point where you’re comfortable and not looking to lose any more. I’m sure there are a ton of suggestions out there from people. I think there might even be a book out there on the topic.

For me, the most important thing is enjoying the changes I make. Finding exercise that makes me feel good physically and mentally. Eating well without feeling deprived or forcing myself to eat foods that I don’t find appealing. And then, even if I do gain some or all of what I lose back, I won’t feel as if I’ve lost precious years of my life suffering for nothing because I won’t have suffered at all. The physical things I’ve accomplished. The healing of certain aspects of my relationship with food. Feeling strong and powerful. Being able to move more easily and do more. These things are all absolutely worth it even if the lower weight is temporary.

I consider myself and realistic optimist when it comes to life. I think a lot of people I read about who are dieting are almost unrealisticly optimistic both about what weight-loss will change about their body and how it will improve their life. In a funny way though, I think a bit more realism could lead to a lot happier people and perhaps even some better outcomes. I doubt I’ll see it though. Too many people just think they’re going to be the exception and they’re not ready to let go of the idea that all their happiness rests on their ability to lose weight.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2009 8:02 pm

    Funny that you put out a 5 year outlook. I began my (latest) weight loss journey 4 1/2 years ago, and sometimes wonder what I would have thought if I knew then what the next 5 years would hold. 5 years ago, I was fairly content to be the weight I was, If I knew it would take 2 1/2 years to lose it all, I might have never started. It wasn’t easy, sometimes it’s as hard as hell, but it has been worth it. I feel much better, and younger, with less weight. The only advice I could give is: see this as a job to work at every day.

    BTW, here’s a website I like: Also, its sister site, Lynne’s Weigh

  2. July 12, 2009 8:18 pm

    I was slow (17 years?) to undertake this effort for that very reason– I had no interest in losing weight I couldn’t keep off. But my blood sugars are climbing and a little weight loss plus exercise is supposed to be the best thing for insulin resistance. So far clean eating + cheat day + 2.5 hours weekly of combined weight training/cardio is pretty comfortable, but it remains to be seen where the weight will end up.

  3. July 13, 2009 1:25 am

    I wonder about this, too, what if my life gets busy and I don’t have so much time to exercise, or cook, or shop for veggies. Five years ago, I had lost the weight (5 pounds less than I am now), kept if off for a while, then moved in with a boyfriend, gave up the gym, and slowly adopted his eating habits. I gained 45 pounds, still less than when I started, but it sucked. Hopefully I learned my lesson, even if that lesson is just to get on the scale every morning so I can’t be in denial. Hopefully I’ve developed much better eating habits, I certainly eat less, if not always healthier. I haven’t really had a bad time of it, maybe a bit of resentment when I really came to terms with the harsh reality that I can’t eat as much as others, especially male others. OTOH, I eat more and better than “dieters”, and it seems sustainable so far.

  4. July 14, 2009 7:09 am

    A few small changes will make you lose weight. Maybe not rapid, but eventually.

    Drink lots of water,
    Eat smaller portions,
    Be more active,


  5. brahnamin permalink
    July 18, 2009 11:14 pm

    For me, the most important thing is enjoying the changes I make.


    But you really shouldn’t be throwing unicorns. It’s generally not safe – and it’s very demeaning for the unicorn. πŸ˜‰

  6. July 25, 2009 2:32 am

    Well, Helen clearly hasn’t got the point πŸ™‚

    I’ve only ever tried to lose weight once, lost 15kg, and 4 years later it’s all back. But some stuff has changed in my life, so it’s not really a big surprise. What I have most trouble with is sustaining the exercise part of things.

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