Weight maintenance is hard, rewarding & totally doable!
If…and when…you’re in your equation…
Do NOT be discouraged in weight loss by The Biggest Loser Study
On Monday, the New York Times published an article on the science of fat titled: After the Biggest Loser, Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight.”
Google search #biggestloser and you can read a lot of hullabaloo over the study with everyone from past The Biggest Loser contestants to so called weight-loss experts weighing in. I was hesitant to comment because, well, I’m no expert. But, I am living with the joys and struggles of weight maintenance. For me, it’s real life. And in two weeks, I will be celebrating my 4-year anniversary of keeping off 200 pounds. ( I know, cool, right?!)
Since the obesity research was published in the NYT, I’ve had no less than 10 people send me the article and ask me to comment on how I am able to keep the weight off. Others have messaged privately and asked what I thought of the study.
For those who haven’t read it yet, the research showed a significant slowing of the metabolism for The Biggest Loser contestants that has persisted for years, causing their resting rate metabolism to plummet so they burn far fewer calories when their bodies are at rest as compared to someone their size who did not have dramatic weight loss. It’s more nuanced than that and you can read the full article here.
The questions I was asked: What do you think? Are you experiencing the same thing?
Well, here’s the shortest answer I can give today that might be helpful. I plan to blog more about the subject of the ups and downs of weight maintenance and my personal experience in a couple of weeks when I celebrate my 4-year anniversary of keeping the weight off and living a new Lori-in-the-equation life.
Yes, I’ve lost and kept 200 lbs off for four years! No, it has not been easy. But it is totally doable and way more than worth it! Like everything in life worth achieving, it takes constant focus and work. I’m okay with that.
In response to the specific Biggest Loser Study, my answer is this: Not all people, diets and weight-loss journeys are the same. While I lost 211 lbs. and went from 63% body fat to 14.5% (I now live around 18%), I did not do so on the same program as the Biggest Loser contestants. They lost their weight, for the most part, in a super condensed timeframe by dramatically cutting calories and consistently exercising 6+ hours per day. My experience and opinion is that HOW you lose the weight really matters to what happens to your metabolism after. But again, I am not an expert. I speak from life experience.
In total, I lost about 55% of my body weight and 11 pant sizes in 18 months; and 80%+ body fat — the measure I am proudest of. I worked with a fantastic nutritional coach, Leif Anderson from Duluth, MN, and personal trainer Sandra Swami from Shoreview, MN. First off, with Leif’s help, I got educated and learned to count macro-nutrients (proteins, carbs and healthy fats) rather than adopt a simple “calories in and out” model.
This plan was aimed at burning stored fat and building muscle, working to keep the metabolism stoked throughout the process. It was NOT about the speed at which I lost the weight, but rather consistent fat loss while building muscle. Often with aggressive weight loss a person loses fat and muscle. We made sure this was not the case with me and that’s why I trusted the experts. I believe my body fat percentage at my goal weight four years ago and still today proves it worked.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the process of weight loss and weight maintenance. For me, the goal is living a healthy, Lori-in-the-equation lifestyle — for the rest of my life:
- Pay attention to how much, what and when you eat. Effective weight loss and weight management is really NOT as simple as calories in and out — contrary to what you may read. That’s too simplistic for our complicated and individual metabolisms. I learned to pay attention to not only HOW MUCH I eat (calories), but more importantly, WHAT I eat and WHEN. To lose the weight and maintain today, I eat consistently every 2.5 to 3 hours. I try to eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day, but my morning meals are quite hearty! I thrive on lots of lean protein, fibrous carbs (veggies), very few starchy carbs, and plenty of healthy fats. In weight loss, we incorporated a weekly cheat meal to help reset the metabolism and cycle the diet. This helped psychologically as well — after all, I was on a diet for 18 months! Finally, after I reached my goal weight in May 2012, I noticed a sugar addiction that I am not sure was there before so I’ve eliminated processed sugar from my diet — as best I can.
- My body responds differently than your body. I had to pay attention to my body (shocker) and get to know my metabolism and how it responds to certain foods and exercise regimens. My metabolism works differently than your metabolism and, if you educate yourself just a little and then pay attention, over time you can learn what works best for your body. I disputed this at first, but four years into weight maintenance I think I get it! And it’s pretty cool.
- In addition to what you eat, how you move matters. To burn stored fat and build muscle you have to keep the metabolism stoked and working. I sometimes did way less cardio than you would imagine and more strength training. Again, this is how I live TODAY to maintain my weight — I incorporate both strength training and natural movement cardio — walking and hiking — because I love it and that means it’s good for mind, body and spirit. And I believe this keeps my metabolism working for me because I am building and strengthening muscle. By the way, this serves you in life as you age, too.
- The emotional part of the journey is AS — OR MORE — important than the physical part. Let me repeat that because I don’t think you believe me. If you don’t deal with the emotional or mental part of the journey, you will likely fail at both losing the weight and keeping it off. That’s what kept me in the diet and fail mode, for most of my adult life. So believe me, I am living testament.
- This time around, I worked with a counselor and my mentor, O’Neal Hampton from Season 9 The Biggest Loser, as well a supportive group of friends and family who encouraged and cheered me. I worked hard at changing my thinking and my story, learning about how my internal worthiness struggle was almost guaranteed self sabotage and how to counter it. I learned to “restart” when I fell off the program and how to talk myself through it positively vs. beating myself up and presuming failure. This is something YOU can do and it changes everything. EVERYTHING!
- This bucket of addressing the “inside” as well as the “outside” physical aspects of weight loss is how I gave myself the gift of a WHOLE life, not just a busy one. The greatest gift! It’s how I went from “I can’t” to “YES…I CAN!.” And it’s how I went from victim mentality to a resilient, fit, happy and healthy girl living from the center of her equation. I absolutely focused as much or more on the emotional and psychological side of the journey as the physical side. This cannot be minimized and it DOES make all of the difference. It’s why I’ve now become a personal transformation coach and motivational speaker. And why I continue to pay it forward and always will.
- This is about life. Your life. Applying healthy eating and healthy living principles to your lifestyle and to long-term weight maintenance is key. Short-term fixes and fast-acting starvation diets don’t work, and indeed it seems they can damage the metabolism and make it harder to maintain significant weight loss. In doing a little research, I learned that 85-95% of dieters regain their lost weight — like the Biggest Loser study illustrates. For me, the secret is focusing on the WHOLE package. And defining what a WHOLE life means to me. That’s what being in the equation of your own life means to me. It’s about so much more than just the weight loss. It’s about life!
That said, it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you it is easy, well, I would question them.
Back to The Biggest Loser
There’s been much criticism of the show and the contestants. I don’t get that. It is reality TV, right? To me, the show has always been hugely inspirational — and I’ve been watching since season one. Of course, I have my favorites in O’Neal and SunShine Hampton of Season 9 for obvious reasons!
If you look closely at the New York Times article and the online commentary from past contestants, most of them in the study and those interviewed after have NOT played “victim” or felt sorry for themselves when learning the results. Rather, most seemed to take it in stride as new information that confirms their post-show reality. For some, it seemed to help them to know it is not an issue of effort, willpower or failure.
I’ve always looked beyond the extreme diet portion of the reality TV show and looked to the people aspect. The Biggest Loser highlights the depths of real people in a real weight and life struggle, desperate for change. Many are on a path to an early death — like I was. When I watch the show, I see real human struggle and triumph. I see the emotional and very personal journey — the ups and downs of something that is extremely difficult. I see real people fighting for their lives with determination, courage, strength and stamina to learn what indeed they are really made of and taking responsibility for changing their lives. So, when I watch The Biggest Loser and when I had the opportunity to share my at-home transformation story on the Season 16 Live Finale last year, I find strong, inspiring and authentic people –like my mentor O’Neal Hampton — fighting for their lives. And I always will!
To me, that alone provides inspiration and hope. And it helps educate much of America about the real struggles and challenges of obesity.
Don’t let this be a reason or an excuse
It would be a shame for this study to discourage overweight people who have lost hope for themselves from taking a leap to change their lives because they read how difficult weight maintenance is after weight loss. First off, this is NOT true or typical for everyone — this is one study of an extreme method of weight loss. And secondly, there are many of us who are succeeding at weight maintenance! Look to us.
I hope that I can stand as a beacon of hope and inspiration to people that this is doable –
you can do this!
My plan was to post more about my personal transformation journey of weight maintenance and living in my equation in a couple of weeks as I joyously celebrate 4 years living as a healthy, fit, active, happy and in-my-equation girl!
Let me know what you think.
Read more of my story, path to transformation here:
- In the Equation! How I transformed my body & re-ignited my life
- What it means to put yourself in the equation & why it’s so important
- -211 lbs + Love = A WHOLE Life
- How I lost 200+ lbs & re-ignited my life. The answer might be what you THINK
- Finding & celebrating my strong
- I lived! I did it all. Celebrating a WHOLE life!
- Before & After in Video and Photos
- Sharing my at-home transformation story on NBC’s The Biggest Loser
Some resources that have helped me learn about metabolism and weight maintenance: