When people try to lose weight.....|
I've been hanging around in the fat acceptance community for a while, and there's a strong consensus there that trying to lose weight is a pretty reliable method of making your life worse, with many anecdotes
(read the comments-- and they don't even include the stories about eating disorders which started with diets) and some science
. On the other hand, for the world in general, mentions of efforts at losing weight get a lot of encouragement and stories about weight loss which improved health and quality of life.
This is a rather striking mismatch. Even better, I've asked at scholarly fat acceptance group about whether there are studies which look at weight loss efforts for the whole population-- how many people have tried what, and what the outcomes have been-- and I haven't gotten any answers. There are studies looking at the results of particular diets, but that's a different question. Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, but it's at least possible that the study I want hasn't been done.
So, I'm going to try some completely informal, unscientific, non-ethics-checked questions to an audience which hasn't been randomly selected. If you've tried to lose weight/fat, what methods have you used? How has it worked out? On the whole, would you say your life is better, worse, or about the same as the result of what you've done to lose weight?
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comments so far on that entry.
Several years ago I realized that being fat wasn't working for me and I didn't want to be fat.
So I lost 82 pounds.
It turned out that I discovered that there were some really solid reasons why I got fat; at some level it really DID work for me. In changing my life I needed to give up those benefits. I felt it was worth it for the trade.
Specifically, I needed to give up eating as a form of entertainment, an activity with an enjoyable mouth-feel. I needed to find another way to entertain myself. Masturbation was suggested by someone and I laughed, but, uh, yeah. Eating candy was pretty much the socially acceptable way to masturbate in public.
I also needed to give up a bunch of my free time. In practice this cost me about an hour a day to exercise. There were a lot of things I could have been doing with that hour - parenting my children, working on my marriage, working on continuing ed... it wasn't a painless choice.
In short, I became even more accepting of people who choose to remain fat. It's not an easy thing to decide to lose weight and renew that decision 7 times a day every day as you decide what NOT to eat and what activity to go do next.
What I lost is tolerance for people who say it cannot be done. It absolutely CAN be done. You eat less, you exercise more, you start acting like thin people act and your body absolutely WILL change its composition. I cured pre-diabetes. I added energy. I added perception of professional competence. Those "before and after" pictures that people think aren't real? I have them. (Don't care to share pictures of me in my underwear on the internet, though.)
That was ten years ago. About four years ago I hit a deer while driving in my car and injured my neck. I wasn't able to run and stopped exercising while I recovered, and then Depression grabbed me and shook me around for a while. When I came out the other side I'd regained 40 pounds of the weight I thought was gone forever - I'd kept it off effortlessly for 6 years already.
But I'm still down 40 pounds from where I was, and know how to do it if I want. If I choose to. If being this fat doesn't work for me anymore.
My life was massively better as a normal weight person, and still much better as an overweight (but not morbidly obese) person. I didn't mind not eating for entertainment, and exercising has many benefits that I enjoyed. I loved having a body that was capable and resilient and strong and healthy, that fit into seats on planes, that could buy clothes at normal stores, that just WORKED. Being overweight was a literal burden that I was really glad to shed.
The only real down side for me is that I love love LOVE bread and that turns out to be a trigger food that brings on binge behavior for me. I really need to limit the amount of food that comes into my path.
I tried getting involved with Eat The Food on Facebook but they are too centered on fighting eating disorders and my situation is more a "know my own quirk" sort of disorder that is managed pretty well by simply not eating bread! I can eat pasta, but mostly don't bother, and can eat root vegetables and rice - it's not that I avoid all carbs. I just make sure that the carbs have a purpose for going in my mouth: they have to have fiber, or phytonutrients or the bang for the calorie buck isn't worth it.
I'm gearing up to drop twenty pounds now. I'm unhappy with my clothing options as a size 18, I need to get back down to a 14. My knees will be happier, I'll look better at work, I'll have more energy, and, yes, my life will be better.
Thanks for your answer. I suspect you're underestimating the amount of variation among people. For example, someone who was fat but who didn't eat for entertainment might well find it much harder to lose weight than you did.
|Date:||November 23rd, 2013 11:52 pm (UTC)|| |
I suspect the problem with the study you're looking for is that it would be so broad: researchers tend to be testing one or a few things at a time. You're looking for a study that compares dozens of things (did people try to lose weight? if so, by what methods? what were the goals?), which would at minimum require a much larger study group, and thus be more expensive.
Looking for meta-analyses at the Cochrane collaboration gets me things like "Long-term non-pharmacological weight loss interventions for adults with prediabetes" (which says that "No data on quality of life or mortality were found") and a separate one on "...for adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus."
It looks like even the meta-analyses are narrower than you're looking for; I looked mostly on the off-chance that something useful had been published since the last time the people you asked had looked into the question.
Thanks for taking a look.
I suspect it would be hard to get a good random sample, but if you're willing to trust self-reporting, just doing interviews (possibly long ones) with people would be enough. A more ambitious version would include checking back with people at five year intervals.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 12:34 am (UTC)|| |
I've dropped about 90 pounds this go round . . . I gained a bunch of weight 20-some years ago when a doc put me on steroids for a condition I didn't actually have.
I have a ways to go to be where I'd like, but I'm happier now that I can climb stairs without getting out of breath, etc. I counted calories, then did nutrisystem (which is about 1200 calories a day for women).
There is something cool when you suddenly realize climbing stairs and running after buses is easier than you remembered.
Rereading your question, you wondered if life was worse trying to lose weight.
I think it is possible it is, in that change is difficult and stressful. It's like asking if life is worse in grad school. Oh yes.
But it is worth it to make these changes. They build upon each other.
The question I was aiming for was what the net effect was, and in your case, it seems to be positive.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 03:27 am (UTC)|| |
I haven't actually made an effort to lose weight as such. However, a few years ago, we shifted to eating lower-glycemic-index foods: sweet potato instead of potato, red rice instead of brown or white, little food containing flour or sugar, and so on. I lost nearly a third of my body weight.
I don't have a strong reaction to the change. I was moderately pleased to weigh less; I worry a bit about the health of my very heavy friends, especially the ones who have been diagnosed as diabetic. But I'm no fan of emotionally pressuring people about weight; it seems to lead all too often to self-destructive drastic diets that will only result in putting even more weight back on.
One of my uncles lost a bunch of weight a few years before I did. I asked him his method, and he condensed it down to one sentence: "if it's white it ain't right."
Another person gave me a really "handy" method for portion control: a fist sized piece of starch, a palm-sized piece of meat, and two fists of vegetables per plate for a dinner plate. (For lunch drop the carb and just have the meat and veggies.)
I love these really simple rules. Cut out sugar and flour, eat fistfuls of vegetables and palm-sized pieces of meat and - bam. You just figured out how to fuel a human body.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)|| |
I've been between 165 and 235 at 5'10" until this last year. the average range was 190-210. Then I decided I wanted to weigh the least possible so I could afford better food for what food I did eat. (since if you weigh less, you need to spend less on food)
I got down to 155 from 200 in about 4 months, half of it in one month when I was on 2000 calories a day and doing 2.5 hours of walking (10 minutes every hour. doing it in little drabs like that seemed to matter, brisk walking) however, after analysis it was clear I had a malabsorption issue (partially leaning on too monotonous a diet that were about 60-75% of my calories in whole gains that weren't soaked extensively in an acidic medium to disable the enzyme blockers in whole grains, partially some probable intestinal damage from a month eating nothing but raw steel cut oats and water.) and I had basically starved myself quickly down.
However, I did find it took a lot of energy to manage my meals because I was trying to spread them out in 4-6 meals a day ("grazing") if I had been employed this would have been SO unfeasible until I was totally familiar with and proficient with all the shortcuts and optimizations possible for all this. Still, while I resented the energy it took in the learning curve, I could tell it would be nice to master.
Then I found out I had been starving myself. There are severe long term health issues with starvation even if you are still a healthy weight overall. So I had to stop undereating and make sure I ate more than enough calories per day, without fail. This saw my weight go back up 30 lbs from 155 over six months. because I was traveling a lot and had no emotional energy to watch my numbers closely. Plus I was trying to feel around for what the numbers should be as my body hopefully recovered, and I started giving it more digestible food.
I feel good to have discovered I could do moderate sustained exercise; I mainly stopped because I couldn't afford enough food to sustain the exercise. But to be fair, all of this was a side project of being obsessed with trying to fix my kidney system damage with Chinese medicine. (which has seen some progress yay, despite derps like starving myself) The key parts were ( a ) finally getting obsessed with the health
( b ) believing I could act on that obsession and things would change
( c ) seeing that despite the emotional issues, if I stuck with it, enough things went right just often enough to vindicate ( b )
How I got to ( a ) is mysterious to me. I have many equally important things in life that were equally grave that I wanted to be obsessed about and I wasn't.
Supporting this effort is the fact because of my health I have no appetite whatsoever. while that makes it harder to find energy to cook and eat, it does mean I have absolutely no problems with overeating. and because I am cutting out all MSG, high salt foods with preservatives or HFCS (and preferably no refined sugar either)...well, that doesn't leave a lot of things to eat.
The trick was to make the perceptual shift from "I want to eat X, but I can't" to "I don't want to eat X, even though I could". Perception is not something that turns on a dime...and I have not been good at manipulating my perceptions the last 3 years.
It was nice to be able to fit into more clothes but the weight loss was mostly a piece of total health reform that is still a work in progress. If I was going for the weight loss just for its own sake I am not sure how this would have gone at all.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 05:15 am (UTC)|| |
I was militant about glycemic index and made sure I ate protein first and then waited 5 minutes to eat the rest of the meal. worst I strayed was a can of real sugar soda or 5 ounces of plain potato or bean chips.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 05:21 am (UTC)|| |
I've never had an ambition to be slender.
I was told I had pre-diabetes and I decided I wanted to stay "pre." I was also told "South Beach, you can laugh, but it works." So I researched South Beach and learned that it was really really simple: it was not even a low carbohydrate diet in its maintenance form, just a low-glyecemic diet. I lost about 40 pounds in a year, and kept it off until the nice fellow died, at which point all I wanted to do was sit and eat caramels (which I don't actually love: they reminded me of Ted's tastes in food, which weren't caramels either, but somehow reminiscent, go figure). I gained back about twenty pounds, of which I've since lost ten again. I vary in how faithful I am to the low-glycemic pattern, but my general carbohydrate consumption is lower than it was and lower in glycemic load in general.
My life was improved by this modest weight loss. I've discovered that I'm much more comfortable in other ways if I'm not eating white food anyway. My digestion is better, I don't cough hardly at all, I move lighter and faster (that is, I can run a bit and I can dance).
Now I have other things going on and it behooves me to be somewhat lighter. So as it happens I'm preparing myself to head into a more disciplined manner of eating and more focused exercise.
So my conclusions are:
-- "success" isn't necessarily measured by how much weight you lose, or even whether you keep it all off
-- favorite foods are changeable, you can develop a taste for things that you didn't formerly notice so much. Witness the caramel thing. But this can work in your favor too. For a while there I really, really wanted to eat pretty much nothing but salads of raw cabbage and whatever other elements. And white food starts tasting like unseasoned cardboard when you've been eating mostly nicely-prepared vegies for a long enough time. Oh, yes, too, even the sweet tooth becomes mitigated. I still had one, even at the height of my disciplined behavior, but it was triggered by much milder sweet things (carrots! beets!) and more to the point, it was satisfiable.
I've never gone all the way back to the unstoppable sweet tooth, except in the worst part of grief.
I never felt the need to give up the pleasure that food brings. I also never felt the need to give up my social life or my family life so that I could do weight-loss activities. But my weight-loss needs were modest.
I also have not lost the perspective that there are other people whose bodies don't work like mine. Some people I know are sure that their bodies work very well on a higher-carbohydrate diet and that what they can't include are high-fat foods like nuts and seeds, which are pretty central to my diet. I don't question them.
I've also experienced a very strict diet and lost my taste for junk food. So when while I eat quite a lot (I'm into weight lifting in a serious way) I still don't eat pizza, junk food, or proccessed food if possible.
The most effective method to just lose weight was when my wife (now ex-wife) emotionally blackmailed me into joining her in a weight lose program. No meat or diary, only fruit on Saturdays, tea, water, and juice on Sundays. She replaced weight lifting with yoga. My weight dropped from 210 pounds to 135 pounds in two years. My bench press dropped from 300 pounds to 135 pounds, too. Then after she left me, I started hanging out with poets and regained it all back, except the bench press.
Another form of weight loss is the "21 day squat challenge," during which I lost four pounds a week eating as much healthy food as I liked. I did not gain it back.
Right now I'm combining power cleans and squats as the core exercises three times a week, and while I'm getting compliments on losing weight I actually gained ten pounds of muscle.
"Another form of weight loss is the "21 day squat challenge," during which I lost four pounds a week eating as much healthy food as I liked. I did not gain it back.
Right now I'm combining power cleans and squats as the core exercises three times a week, and while I'm getting compliments on losing weight I actually gained ten pounds of muscle"
Oh, right on; way to go!
National Weight Control Registry. You can join if you've lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. They don't kick you out if you can't keep it off. But they're collecting data on people who keep weight off. Recently, we completed a survey on sleep. It's a scientific study group for successful weight loss.
I've dieted much of my life, one way or another. I've been "thin" any number of times and it didn't stay off. I finally lost 90 pounds on Weight Watchers over 4 years. But I've found I can't go back to WW to lose it again. Whatever worked then, won't work now.
I've kept some of it off, about 30 pounds. At various times, more like 60 pounds. Right now, my weight is up. Age affects your ability to lose, observed in my family of women. Every decade it's harder. Giving up wheat and sugar can be key to regular weight loss. Foods you could eat younger, you can't eat now. Men lose weight differently than women do. Etc. It's all true in my experience.
What I found, though, is that real weight loss comes from inside you, not from outside. If you don't fix whatever caused you to gain the weight, you'll regain it. That's what happened to me. Nearly a decade later, I've fixed some of it, but not all of it. And I'm older and it's harder to lose the weight.
You have to be willing to focus on yourself and take time for yourself. And if you're running a house or busy at work, that's not always going to be an easy or possible choice.
But I think it's very individual. If you are truly happy with your weight and you're healthy, then be that weight. I can tell I'm not happy with my current weight because my self-image is at least 30 pounds lighter.
One thing I discovered losing 90 pounds is that most people can't grasp what's involved in that. WW was really oriented toward smaller weight loss goals and toward people just starting out. After a while, all the meetings repeat the same messages that no longer have relevance to someone working on a long haul weight loss.
And I've heard from some people that 2-4 hours of activity a day is necessary for them to maintain weight loss. I'm sorry, but I really don't have that much time to devote to activity. It bores me, which is partly why I tended to gain weight over the years. But I have accepted that it's necessary for my health in some amount.
Real point here? You asked about scholarly studies and personal anecdotes. NCWR doesn't look at what worked to drop the weight. They look at how to keep it off. Lots of methods work to drop it. I'm proof of that. The trick is keeping it off, keeping an eye on the long-term goal if it's going to take a long time to lose it. And all of that has to be wrapped up in wanting to lose it, deep down.
It sounds like some of the people in this discussion should sign up for the weight control registry if they haven't already.
However, what I'd like is a survey of the general population so that people who are setting out on weight loss can have some idea of the odds of good and bad outcomes.
I agree with you about bread, that's what I was talking about above. That and sugar. You can't eliminate all sugar from your diet without serious restrictions...and I'm talking all sugars of all kinds...but you can reduce it. And obviously reducing bread has helped you. I find the same. When I can keep a bagel-type food out of my diet, I start to drop weight. I can still eat a moderate amount of wheat. This wasn't true when I was younger, but over 50 it has definitely been true. Cutting wheat and sugar has the most impact without worrying about calories too much.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC)|| |
Lost 75 pounds on a low-carb diet, did great for about 2 years, slowly started gaining weight despite not changing the diet, gained about half of it back. Then I couldn't afford to continue eating well and gained the rest back. It was a Flowers for Algernon kind of disappointment.
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)|| |
At peak I was a little over 200 pounds. I've tried to lose weight twice, both times incidental to other goals.
The first time I was poor and wanted to spend less on food. This brought me down to 150-some pounds eventually. It was kind of an interesting challenge and I enjoyed it in that sense, and wanted to stay in that shape after I had money again. But trying to consciously manage intake when I wasn't strongly motivated didn't work, and I drifted back up to 185ish.
10 or 15 years later I noticed health benefits from flaxseed oil, from following Seth Roberts, and decided to take it Shangri-La diet style, because it would be nice if that worked. But the main reason was the other benefits of omega-3 supplements. This worked for me: I've been at 150-some pounds for the past 3 years or so. It's about as easy as advertised. Life is better, but mainly for the improvement on other health issues, not weight. Lately I've been restricting wheat, milk, and sugar for related health reasons, and for me avoiding sweets is a real quality-of-life reduction -- it took me a long time to commit to it, and I haven't been at it long. That has reduced my waistline a little bit further, but I'd rather have the yummy food.
Edited at 2013-11-24 04:33 pm (UTC)
|Date:||November 24th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)|| |
There's a superficial resemblance at least to the people here who lost significant weight in a comfortable way and have a mostly positive experience and mostly kept it off for a long time -- reducing carbohydrate intake -- but a closer look shows a lot of variation in how they do it and which carbohydrates they're reducing, so I am not sure we have a simple recommendation.
But the thing I'm finding interesting is that there seem to be greart differences in the effects on quality of life.
The thing I'm seeing is people using fairly simple roll-your-own methods-- very few using a commercial product like Weight Watchers or Nutri-Sweet or even working out of a book.
I weigh about 165 now, and I've only got one pair of jeans I can still wear, so some weight-loss is indicated. Ideally I'd like to get below 140; realistically, below 150 would be fine.
I don't fash myself over weight loss. The point isn't to 'lose weight' really; the point is to eat a healthier diet - real food in balanced proportions and reasonable portions - and to get enough exercise to stay flexible, build lean muscle and keep the heart in condition, without over-stressing the joints and ligaments. Of course, fitting in my clothes is also a concern.
Grains put on the fat for me, especially bread, beer, pasta and cereal; cutting them out takes it off. I don't use any oils but raw organic coconut and virgin olive. I use evaporated sugar-cane juice instead of refined sugar, which probably makes little or no difference. I seldom buy pastries or make desserts, but we do like our ice cream around here, and portion control is definitely an Issue for me with that.
I feel better when I'm thinner than this; I've got more energy and stamina; my body works better. I'm one of those 'apple-shaped' women; when I get fat, it all goes to the jelly-roll around the belly, which is very unhealthy. I don't want to be a diabetic - there's the bottom line; a lot of my family are diabetics, and I really don't wish to join them - nor do I wish to have a heart attack or a stroke, like so many friends my own age have already had. So, the jelly-roll must go.
I consider it unhealthy to go hungry. Fasting or excessive restriction is counter-productive, because the metabolism goes into Famine Mode to hang on to every last calorie, then packs on the fat as soon as it gets a chance, against the next famine. Two pounds a week is a good rate of weight loss; more than ten pounds a month is too much, and won't stay off.
I like the 'alteration plan' we were talking about over on my blog earlier. Every other day, it's fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and stir-fry over rice for supper, with nuts, raw veggies and fresh berries for snacks. This is easy to plan and prepare, and one doesn't get sick of it because it's not every damn day.
The point of exercise is not 'burning fat'. The point of exercise is building strength, flexibility, balance, grace, stamina - not for the purpose of looking ripped, but for the purpose of feeling good, enjoying one's body's ability to move. That is where the mind needs to focus, and then the fat will go on its own.
Exercise is not supposed to hurt! If it hurts, stop, U R doin it wrong! Find some belly-dance videos instead, and just fool around with them a couple times a week. Start going to the pool, go walk in the park or the mall; get an exercise ball and bounce on it - it doesn't have to be a big deal; just a gradual, easy increase in one's daily activity-level.
What I think about the whole 'fat acceptance' thing is that it's just as unhealthy, in an equal-but-opposite way, as 'fat rejection'. A body that is getting a properly balanced, varied diet in reasonable portions, and sufficient exercise to maintain good muscle tone, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness, will naturally move toward its own correct natural weight and shape, whatever that may be.
Fat acceptance includes eating and exercising in ways which improve your quality of life-- it's just that losing weight/fat or achieving a particular weight or looking thin are considered to be bad goals.
A fair number of people in fat acceptance also say that being healthy (however defined) isn't a moral obligation. I'm not sure whether you're saying being healthy is a moral obligation, but it's a common enough belief in the culture.
You might be interested in Scott Sonnon's
information about exercise. He's very serious about achieving a high level of athletic ability without injuring yourself-- he's got a congenital connective tissue disorder, so he's got an incentive to be intelligent about exercise.
Losing weight has improved my quality of life. At my heaviest I had to find specialist shops for clothes I could fit into; and I had to pay $$$ for things I did not like. Dropping back into normal supermarket range was a big boost.
I *did* notice things like my knees protesting less and feeling fitter (including a spectacular safe when slipping on stairs - I don't think I could have pulled around my body at its heaviest to land on my feet without a hitch.
Also, I ride, and I worried about being more of a burden on the horses than necesary; at the same time I felt my need to ride (for various reasons) justified riding (while taking precautions not to cause ill health to horses).
I've always been envious of people who could lose weight with diets. I gave up dieting for good when I had stomach flu: four days with no solids and little fluid led to 2kg loss that I gained back once I could keep water down again; ten days with half a slice of toast three times a day led to a loss of... a pound, if I squinted at the scales in the right direction. I was still doing an hour of exercise a day, so... diet obviously wan't going to cut it. (At my heaviest, I was doing at least six, if not eight or ten or fourteen hours of heavy physical work - as in, shifting 6-8 tonnes by hand (!), so exercise-while-eating-sensibly didn't do it, either.
What helped was to give up night work, reduce stress, and work out that my body has trouble metabolising carbs. Cutting carbs *did* lead to considerable weight loss. Then I gave up the low-carb lifestyle after my mother died and I was mired in grief (while carrying _a lot_ of boxes over several months) and put some of it back on.
Now, I'm eating less carb again, and exercising more, and I've slowly dropped back again - 1-2 jeans sizes above my leanest, 3-4 under my largest. I am slimmer than when I was eighteen (and have the belt to prove it); I am also ca 10kg heavier.
More importantly, I am fitter than I've ever been. Not 'more active' - I've always been pretty active, but my breathing is better (despite health problems) and I am stronger (I can actually hold up my own weight for a short period... which is impressive. I try not to do it, but it's still an impressive feat).
And while I'd love to say that I'm happy with bodies at every size, I am happier with *my* body at the size it's right now. I'd love to tone up a bit more and have a silhouette that's more in line with my self-image (I've never really *conformed* to my self-image... which is somewhat weird).
But most importantly, I'm trying to eat healthily and exercise _for health_, not because of weight and body shape, because I can feel the positive effects, and I like them.