Half way to my weight goal, I’m getting afraid of reaching it

August 7, 2013 | By | Comments (13)

A funny thing happened when I made it past the halfway mark of my 20-pound weight loss goal: I started to get nervous. Nervous not that I’d plateau and fail to get to 20 (I plateaued once for three weeks and just kept on keeping on), but that, when I reach the goal, I won’t know how to shift gears. This is less about pessimism born of statistics—the vast majority of people who lose weight put it back on—than the math problem of moving to a new equation for “maintenance.”

Right now, the Social Diet group is about as finely tuned to the goal at hand as a barbershop quartet, and that’s probably the only time I will ever mention barbershop quartets in a positive context. We yak a lot, in near-perfect harmony—to the intense irritation of colleagues—about how energizing it is to do what one reader, Ruth Durbin, did: “Solve for X.” Here’s what Ruth wrote me:

“I’m still not sure what got me to Motivation Land. I suspect it was keeping the calorie diary plus weighing myself every day on a DIGITAL scale. It allowed me to see weight loss as an equation—I could solve for X—and not a battle of willpower, which I will always lose.”

Solving for X, that fundamental concept from high school algebra classes I took in the late 19th century, neatly summarizes the satisfaction that comes with adjusting the calorie in/calorie out dials in order to lose weight (that’s all apps, bracelets, and scales do, they help with the numbers in the equation).

sm-grilled-lettuce-instagram

From Instagram: Gone a bit mad for grilled lettuce.

Yes, the real goal is a fundamental, permanent “lifestyle adjustment,” but as I wrote in my first blog, the route to lifestyle adjustment requires a plan, and a plan is, for lack of a better word, a diet. Which is, basically, an equation: Solving for X. Our plan is based on the Cooking Light approach to healthy eating and begins with this fundamental principle: Cut portions, not foods, and eat only the most delicious foods. I can honestly say I’ve been enjoying my food more than ever before: Less really is more. I post shots of some of that food here, by the way.

Marilee Lindemann, a university prof who has thought an awful lot about this whole diet and maintenance issue, has written an interesting, though not exactly anxiety-relieving, blog about maintenance, which she calls “The Virtue Rut.” Here’s a taste:

“Two years after a major weight loss, my weight recently has been trending upward, and I think it’s because I’ve gotten complacent and maybe a little bored with the routine of trying to stay more or less in the same place. This is a familiar story, of course: You lose weight. You’re proud, you’re happy, you know what you need to do to keep it off. Time passes. You skip a workout here, eat or drink too much there, weigh yourself the next morning and discover that you haven’t regained 53 pounds overnight. So you start playing little games, letting old habits (another bite of this, a couple more glasses of that) creep back in, and the next thing you know, you’re up a pound. Or three. Or seven.”

Lindemann called her initial weight loss success “The Virtue Binge,” a phrase that reflected her intensely conflicted excitement about losing weight as the director of an LGBT studies program and a lesbian who believes that modern body-image standards are oppressive and characterized by “fat shaming.”  She explores her conflict here.

And now she’s in a Virtue Rut. That’s what I’m afraid of, as I look ahead: Solving for Y. But of course, first I have to get to goal. For now, it’s all about the X.

How do you maintain after reaching your weight-loss goal? Comment here, email Scott_Mowbray@timeinc.com, and tweet @ScottMowb or @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.

COMMENTS

  1. Marie Curtis

    I agree that to keep weight off it has to be a lifestyle adjustment. Have you ever tried natural herbs to curb appetite and help you lose weight? I was just reading about all of these natural herbs I’ve never heard of before http://wellnesspulse.com and am seriously considering giving a few a try. Do you have any experience with using herbs for weight loss?

    February 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm
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  8. rainybromsdufour

    I have also plateaued 1/2 way through my goal for the last 3 months. (27 lbs toward my goal of 60 lbs) I have just recently refocused my attention to nutrition and exercise routines. As a disabled woman, this is sometimes harder than others. Some of my medication encourages eating when I know I am full and some days I just physically can’t exercise. I only weigh in once a week so I don’t get too obsessed. It is still tough at times though and I am very afraid of what will happen when I reach my goal weight. At the same time, having only 2-3lb fluctuations in my weight and not gaining any over the last 3 months has been encouraging. I hope my next post will show me at a loss… in a good way.

    August 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm
  9. Jeannie Landis

    Hello all. This post ignited some really great thoughts… Nourishment and exercise (two of many ‘tools’ we use to achieve and sustain health I think are too often misused. I too have experienced worry/anxiety after making lifestyle adjustments, seeing results and wondering if they’d last. The only way to continue living the changes that helped me reach my goal were to practice living every moment with intention.

    I wrote a blog post about exercise (http://www.simplyrediscovered.com/the-secret-garden/) but the same holds true for pretty much anything. I like to think of health as a continuum. We’re always moving toward one end or the other depending on our priorities at any given time.

    Thanks for allowing me to be a part of the group I love connecting with you.

    Hug,
    Jeannie

    August 14, 2013 at 6:25 am
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  11. jbcorcor

    I too struggled with the loss of “solving for X” after my big weight loss – so I just ended up bringing it back.

    I still track my food and workouts every day, except now I’m more focused on goals like getting more fiber in my diet, or reducing added sugar.

    I also found I really need to keep coming up with new fitness and exercise goals like trying a half marathon, even though I’m a slow jogger more than runner, or starting to bike to work once a week. It helps keep me engaged and interested, rather than feeling like I’m stuck being a boring, “sensible” eater for the rest of my life.

    Also, continuing to track my food has been really helpful with all these new fitness adventures so that I can see what works best to keep me at a healthy weight but still power me through my activities. It’s a bit tedious, but as you said, it’s so gratifying to Solve for X!

    Thanks for sharing, this blog has been an inspiration for me!

    August 8, 2013 at 10:32 am
  12. Christine Letts

    My husband and I are really enjoying joining this club. The fitness app is the best thing that has happened to help us eat better and less. He has lost 10 lbs and I’ve lost 3. Woo hoo! Thank you! Will join in the maintenance discussion when we get there!

    August 8, 2013 at 7:19 am
  13. Madwoman with a Laptop

    Scott — Thanks so much for the shout-out and the links. I really appreciate your looping me into this very important discussion. I also commend you for being so public and inclusive in your efforts to lose weight. In my business we call that a teachable moment, and it’s one from which the whole Cooking Light community will benefit. On the other hand, I’m sorry to hear that my being public about having fallen into a bit of a diet and fitness rut a couple of years after a major weight loss is discouraging you in the midst of yours. As you note, you and I are in very different places right now, and it’s important for you to stay focused on the X of taking weight off rather than the Y of keeping it off. Since mindfulness was really helpful to me as I was losing weight, my advice is to stay relentlessly focused on the present and not worry at all about what might happen down the road. The present is all that matters and all you can control.

    Also, however, I’m pleased to report that the incredible (for my small, humble blog) responses I’ve gotten to “The Virtue Rut” have done a lot to help snap me out of my funk. Readers had great suggestions for ways to make fitness feel less like work and more like play, and just airing my feelings and concerns helped make me feel better. I feel confident that I will get my weight back into my comfort zone without too much difficulty. See — It’s further proof of the good that can be accomplished through a Social Diet (though I am opposed to the d-word and avoid it as much as possible).

    Cooking Light — or, as I always refer to it on my blog, Food Porn for the Conscientious, has been an indispensable aid to me in my efforts to eat well and healthily over the years. Thanks to you for your excellent stewardship of the magazine and best of luck in your efforts to practice what you and your team so eloquently preach. You can do it — and I’ll be watching and cheering you on as you do!

    Warmly,
    Marilee Lindemann (aka, The Madwoman with a Laptop)

    August 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm

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