Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weight Loss Champions

Lately I have gotten a lot of positive comments about my willpower. I certainly think that is a big reason why I have been able to succeed as I have been, and why I have been able to change my life around from what it was (eating whatever I wanted in huge portions), to watching what I eat and making healthy choices. Recently I found an article on Spark People (great site if you need resources and a way to look at your daily food intake and exercise It kind of outlines I think a lot of what this journey has been so far for me. This article describes me very well I think and also outlines an interesting distinction between those who can maintain their weight loss, and those that do not.

Weight-Loss Champions:

The secret to losing and keeping off unwanted weight is as much a psychological challenge as a physical one.

By: Carlin Flora

Practically anyone can lose weight. But those who keep it off are a rare species. Theirs is not an entirely mysterious phenomenon—they stay slim by maintaining the behaviors that got them there. They eat healthier foods, decrease portion sizes and exercise. But how, exactly, do they keep it up? The answer suggests a psychological overhaul as much as a physical one.

Diane Berry, a nurse practitioner and postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Nursing, conducted in-depth interviews with true weight-loss champions: 18 women who had lost at least 15 pounds and up to 144 pounds, and all had kept it off for an average of seven years. "Eighty-five to ninety percent of people regain any weight they've lost within 3-5 years," Berry says, "so these were the real outliers." Except for one, the women were involved in either a Weight Watchers or TOPS program.

Common patterns jumped out from the women's success stories. Each tale began with a fragile character: Before losing weight, she was self-conscious, vulnerable and unaware of events that contributed to the weight gain.

She crossed over into another pattern when she recognized her problem—often after receiving a nasty comment or having to buy a dress in the next larger size—and decided to change. And once she pledged to tackle her weight, her mood shifted. She suddenly had more energy, a fresh outlook.

In the next pattern, the women actively engaged in behavior changes. And in the throes of the final phases, they incorporated these new behaviors until they became second nature. They leaned on a support system (most often family members or fellow weight-loss program participants) to reinforce their behavioral changes, and they consistently monitored themselves, by stepping on a scale at least once a week, for example.

They at last dispensed with popular notions of a quick fix. "The women recognized that this is something they will have to work at for the rest of their lives," Berry says. One 82-year-old woman who lost over a hundred pounds when she was in her 60s told Berry: "I'm like an alcoholic. I am addicted to food. I wake up every morning and have to be mindful of what I eat everyday."

Most telling was that the women did not flow automatically from one stage to the next. Each one slipped backwards at one time or another, caught her footing and then hoisted herself back up. These women had not only altered their appearance and improved their health—they became different people. They experienced increased confidence and self-esteem and, finally, felt a sense of control over their lives.

Some reported they were more comfortable speaking out and being heard. Others were no longer emotionally responsive to others in a self-deprecating way. Many felt happier than they had been in years.

Berry also interviewed two women who were not able to keep off weight they lost, for comparison's sake. "They were aware of portion control and the importance of exercise but couldn't sustain the changes," she reports. "I truly believe their life was in crisis. Everybody lives with a certain amount of crisis. But they didn't have support or validation, or ability to work with other women. And neither woman monitored herself regularly." Which came first for the successful dieters—the weight loss or the sense of efficacy and worth? "Self esteem comes with pulling the whole package together, when everything starts clicking. They're comfortable with food, and the initial weight loss makes them feel better physically. It's a reinforcing cycle," Berry says.

But she tells her patients that this is a complicated process, where people make a lot of mistakes. "Nothing is black and white. It's a gray level—it's muddling through."


Hanlie said...

That is an excellent article and I believe every word. This is about more than food. And we learn with every step.

Thanks for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Great post and article. So very true. There's a reason we call it a lifestyle change. It's literally a change of life, in many more aspects than just food.

Lidian said...

What a great article. That is so right, a lot of it is just being mindful every day. I need t remind myself that I have to be more careful about what I eat than others around me, I just have to if I want to not gain the weight back.

40 by 40 said...

Well..good for you for being so strong and motivated. You will keep it off. I think I need to really work on this area..doesn't come so easy to me...not just in life.Keep it up! It's inspiring!

Scale Junkie said...

Excellent article and comments Heather. I really have embraced this as a lifestyle change. I know there is no going back to the way things used to be, honestly I have no desire to. I know that I'm always going to have to be mindful of what I eat and finally after all of these years I've accepted it.

Maddds said...

That article just reaffirsm that I am doing this forever, as I have said, there is no end date this is my life from now on, I have accepted that and can live with it, besides I have had more than my fair share of junk food to last any one life time, I just chose to eat it all in the first 40 years of my life, instead of spreading it out!! Thanks for posting that, very informative!!


Janet said...

Great article! Thanks for sharing!

Twix said...

Very good article! Thanks for posting it! It speaks volumes of truth. Granted I would like to drop this weight like yesterday, I can't. Because this is not a race or a game, it's life. How blessed we are to have, LIFE! :D

Miss Patti said...

that is so awesome that you are in a smaller size pants. I love when that happens.

Trisaratops said...

I was just writing about this. I am impressed with myself for making behaviors that I can sustain. That was wonderful to read! Even more proof that we can succeed.