Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Against All Odds

Yesterday afternoon I was reading the newspaper and found this article on diets failing in the long run (this is the same AP article but on Yahoo, which Lori referred to on her blog today).

There's nothing in this article that was news to me. Diets are hard to stick to; they can be boring and depriving and it's hard to break old habits. The odds are that most people will quit and regain the weight they lost, if not more. According to this article, "between one-third and two-thirds gained back the weight they lost. A small number were able to successfully maintain their weight loss."

Right now I'm part of the odds-breakers, that small number who has been able to maintain the majority of my weight loss. (For example, I've regained 4 pounds, but held up against a 120-pound loss, it's minimal.)

I say right now because I know this is a tenuous condition; I have no delusions that at any time I could (and can) lose my focus and fall into the pit of overeating. I know that in order to maintain this loss, I am going to have to be vigilant the rest of my life.

This article could really be discouraging for some people who are just starting out trying to lose weight. I know if I was 338 today and reading this article, I'd say, "Oh, forget it. I'll never beat those odds. Why bother?"

However, the one good thing about the article comes at the very end:
"Dr. Samuel Klein, an obesity expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said a diet's success shouldn't just be measured in pounds. If a person becomes healthier even if the weight loss is temporary, that should be deemed a success. 'There might be benefits in losing weight for a period of time even if you regain it than not having lost the weight at all,' Klein said. "

This made me think more about what I've been pondering lately; if my goal to reach 199 or 180 is an arbitrary thing and I should focus more on being healthy: eating nutritionally-dense foods in sensible portions and keeping up regular exercise.

In a way this article takes me off the hook, so to speak. It's telling me that it isn't realistic to think I'll ever be thin, so just try to be healthy. But do I really want permission to quit trying? It's like the parent telling their child, "Why set yourself up for disappointment? There's no way you're going to [insert goal/dream here], so why not aim a little lower?"

My daughter wants to join a competitive gymnastics team. If I told her the odds where she won't win first prize and would probably fail miserably, how would she feel? Not good, I don't think. I doubt she'd even want to join the team any more. Don't most parents try to encourage their children, tell them that if they do their very best, even if they don't win first prize, their effort and hard work will pay off later in life?

I may never be thin and have a BMI of 23, but I have dropped my BMI by 20 points. I've improved my health and fitness and have learned so much about nutrition, exercise and coping skills to deal with stress, anger and sadness. If I had read this article in 2004, would I have bothered to make the efforts I have and gained the accomplishments I've collected? I'm thinking maybe not.

This morning I walked 5k (3.2 miles), drank my green tea, took my flax seed oil gel cap and multivitamin and ate my whole grain waffles with strawberries. This afternoon I'll eat my salad, do my Pilates and clean my house. I don't know if these things will get me to Onederful Land, but I'm going to keep doing it anyway. What do I have to lose? That's the big question...


Beula said...

Great minds...seem to swim upstream at the same times. I also am not giving up. Has been a near thing for months. Seeing my fat as stored energy has energized me. I am cleaning out the kitchen for abstinent eating. Amazing how non-abstinent stuff creeps in while you are not watching. Like mice. I am currently setting out traps for peanut butter and bags of almonds and walnuts.

Hang in there. Healthy eating is always better.

Lori said...

I'm trying to be good tonight; I have to admit that I finished up the chicken salad when I got home tonight so it meant less points for dinner.

You should remind yourself of the 120 pounds gone. It's nothing to sneeze at and I know you and I are both the kind of people who say, "oh well, no big deal, besides I had to lose that weight." This all may be true but you still did it and it's not easy to do and maintain.

When you read odds like that study, you do feel a bit defeatist but the one good thing about all of Us is that every once in a while, we become cockeyed optimists and try to do this. It may take two or three attempts to be successful in losing some weight and keeping it off. I'm willing to bet if there was a study which showed success as meaning losing SOME weight and keeping it off, the odds would be better than 1/3. Don't you?

Mike Torchia said...
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