The five-year plan
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.