Does 'Erratic' Weight Management Negate Previous Triple-Digit Success?
My weight decline: 410 in 2004, 230 in 2005, and 229 in 2007
When you put yourself out there front and center as a pretty major low-carb weight loss success story, the reaction that people give you about your progress is as varied as there are people in the world. Most people applaud your accomplishments and stand in awe of your continued success. Others doubt you can keep the weight off and stay healthy over the long-term.
But sometimes you receive a "different" kind of response. Before I get into what someone had to say about my weight loss progress over the past four years, I received a related e-mail from a reader who is a bit disappointed about her own low-carb journey that is rather illustrative of what can happen on any diet program when you fail to make it a permanent lifestyle change. This will become relevant to the topic of this blog post as you will see in just a moment.
Here's is that e-mail from my concerned reader:
Today I'm writing because I find myself in a situation I'm pretty unhappy about and could use some advice. Quick background: I quit smoking about 10 years ago after losing Mom to cancer. At that time, I weighed about 150-155 (I'm 6 ft tall). Instead, I just let myself eat whatever I wanted, and over the next 5 years or so gained a LOT of weight, ending up over 210 lbs and feeling really crappy about it. About 3 years ago, my sister got tired of my whining and convinced me to try Atkins, and I figured why not. The result was that I lost about 60 lbs and got down to the 150s area, wearing size 12 like I had been 10 years earlier. Woohoo!
Okay, so over the past year, I fell prey somewhat to carb-creep, allowing occasional slices of whole wheat/low-carb bread back into my diet, occasionally even splurging on a local restaurant's breaded/fried mozz stixs. However, when I realized my weight was climbing as a result back in June, I cut back again and upped my exercise. That should have worked.
But it hasn't.
Instead, my belt keeps feeling tighter and tighter every day and I'm just thoroughly miserable. My friend who hung with me through the original weight loss months is one of those lucky ones who can eat an entire pan of sweet rolls with no obvious weight ramifications (I used to be like that in my 20s - not anymore!), so she's sympathetic, but she really doesn't understand how upset I am over a few pounds. Her reply is to just undo my top pants button or go elastic. Don't wanna do that again! Don't wanna be fat again!
So I'm trying to figure out what's going on. Is this just my body's way of saying "Sorry, you're 48 now and the pounds are going to settle around your waist no matter what you eat or how much you exercise?" Or am I eating more carbs than I think I am?
A rundown of recent days meals:
I'm one of those can't-eat-breakfast types. It makes me sick and always has. So I have a cup of coffee with cream first thing, then I take 4 1-oz low-fat mozzarella sticks with me to work, eat 2 at about 9am and 2 more at 10:30am.
Lunch: big "baby lettuces" salad with a can or pouch of drained tuna, a handful of shredded cheddar, 4 grape tomatoes and 3 T ranch dressing (2g carbs per 2T)
Snack: a handful of roasted almonds or 2-3 T of I.M. Healthy soy nut butter (1g carbs per 2T)
Dinner: grilled chicken breast or grilled pork tenderloin or hamburger w/cheese, side of steamed broccoli w/butter or sauteed zucchini or blanched/sauteed rappini (always using olive oil for the sautee). Usually with the cheeseburger, I put it on half a low-carb tortilla (so 2.5 g carbs there) and grill a quarter of a vidallia onion and a few crimini mushrooms to go with plus a few more grape tomatoes.
Sometimes before bed I have 2 squares of ChocoPerfection dark chocolate (more than that makes me positively zeppelin-gaseous from the fiber :) ).
My beverage choices for the day are the cup of coffee with cream, decaf Diet Coke, Lipton's diet White Tea w/Raspberry (0 cal/0 carb), or water. I also always mix 2T of Fibersure into my drink with dinner each night.
I've increased my exercise to walking to and from work every day (4-5 blocks), jumping jacks and other like exercises in the backyard while I toss the Frisbee for my dog every afternoon, crunches and similar exercises in the evening while watching TV, etc. I don't go to a gym so I fit it all in where/when I can, take the stairs at work each day, always park far from a store and walk, etc.
I honestly thought once I lost all that weight a few years ago that if I just continued to never again eat all the things I had stuffed my face with for years -- donuts, Cadbury chocolate bars, sweet rolls, potatoes, pasta, cookies, etc. -- that I'd basically be okay. Now I'm finding that even low carb w/moderate exercise isn't enough to keep the weight at bay, and I'm truly depressed about the whole situation.
Any ideas? I vowed once that I'd never start buying larger sizes of clothes again, but now I'm faced with that scenario as I sit here being almost bisected by the waistband of my size 12 pants :)
It isn't pretty and I'm discouraged (can you tell?). As my husband says almost every day (he's 55), getting old sucks. I do, however, love the side benefits of eating low-carb overall -- the acid reflux is completely gone, my blood work is stellar, etc. I will definitely keep eating this way, I'm just feeling a little let down by it right now, I guess.
Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have!
Pretty grim, huh? And frankly it's not all that uncommon either. Weight loss stalls and even weight gains can happen eventually even when you're doing everything right. After all, weight gain is the latest dieting craze over the past few years! We are all different and have varying levels of tolerance for carbohydrate. It is possible like this reader to allow that extra bread and splurge to make an impact on your weight and it happens to the best of us.
That's why I tell people livin' la vida low-carb is always a work in progress and you never fully arrive. When you think you have, then you are setting yourself up for disaster. People think the fact I have maintained my weight since 2004 means I don't struggle anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. But the difference is I know how to respond when difficulty comes.
I shared with my reader that she might want to try adding more fat to her diet and pay very close attention to the kinds of carbs she is consuming, including that soy nut butter (EWWWW!), as well as any hidden carbs. It could be her carb counts are perfect, but she's not eating enough fat. She wrote me back and said she will begin adding more fat in the form of butter, full-fat cheese, nuts, cream and other sources. Fat is good for you as long as carbohydrates are reduced.
Okay, so what about this guy who was critical of my weight loss progress? This "different" response was actually very well thought out and documented by a reader on Amazon.com who read the thread I started in August 2006 called "What Are Your Criticisms Of The Low-Carb Lifestyle?" You'll recall I've blogged about some rather heated, but always educational posts there a couple of times before here and here.
The Amazon username for the person who questioned me about my weight loss progress is 2bluesky2 and I was quite impressed by the background he did at my blog prior to writing his comments at Amazon. I do believe he was being very sincere in asking these questions in his post and I'm happy to address them today.
Wanna see what he wrote? Here it is:
Jimmy, I want to ask you about your own weight odyssey, which you discuss frequently on your blog. In looking over your blog, I found frequent references you made to your weight. You also frequently say that your goal weight is 199 lbs. Here is a table compiled from your blog showing your weight over several years:
1999. Lost 170 lbs on lowfat diet, regained it in 4-6 months
01-01-2004. 410 lbs. Started Atkins diet
01-01-2005. 230 lbs. Lost 180 lbs in 2004 on Atkins diet.
The table shows your amazing 180 pound weight loss during 2004 for which you can justifiably be proud.
But the table also shows that from November 2005 to August 2006, you gained 15 pounds going from 225 to 240. By November of 2006, you had lost 25 pounds and weighed 215. But by June 2007, you regained 33 pounds and were up to 248. By late July 2007, you had lost another 36 pounds, but since then you regained another 10 pounds or so. I didn't find any listings of your weight after October 9, 2007. On your September 17, 2007 podcast, you mentioned that your weight had topped out at 253, but you didn't' mention whether that occurred in 2006 or 2007.
Achieving major weight loss, as you did in 2004, is a major accomplishment. Thereafter, consistently maintaining weight loss presents different challenges. Your 2004 weight loss is truly remarkable. But your up and down pattern since November of 2005 seems dubious. In the past 2 years you have gained 15 pounds; then lost it and more; then regained 33 pounds; then lost it and more; then regained another 10 pounds or so. Now you are about where you were in November 2005 when you started your up and down pattern. During all of that time, you still never reached your goal weight of 199. As you know, at 6 foot 3 inches your current BMI is in the "overweight" category (and will be until you reach your goal weight of 199). As you have recently pointed out, BMI might not fairly categorize people like yourself who have a significant sagging-skin problem after major weight loss. Still, the 199 target was your own choice, and you haven't achieved it yet.
Your huge weight loss in 2004 was an inspiring accomplishment. But most people are not facing the challenge you were looking at on January 1, 2004. I think most people face the challenge you faced in November of 2005: maintain current weight, but also hopefully lose another 20 or more pounds. Your 4-year record is awesome. But your last 2 years are erratic. Those who have a major weight problem like you had in 2004 should consider doing what you did. It accomplished a lot for you. But should your recent track record inspire those who have a much smaller weight problem? Your program just doesn't seem to be working as well for you as you deal with long-term maintenance and losing those last few pounds.
I am not a health professional or expert, but I think an effective weight management program should do three things for a person in your situation. First, within a reasonable amount of time it must get you out of the obese weight range and within, say, 10% or so of your target weight. Low-carb did that for you. Second, within a reasonable amount of time thereafter, it should get you to your target weight. Ignoring your unwanted volatility, you have been basically stuck at around 220 for the past two years. Maybe you should just redefine your target as 220, maybe not. I don't know. That's for you to decide. But if 199 is a realistic target, then low-carb is not getting you there anymore. Third, once target weight is reached, the program should enable you to maintain a stable weight with low fluctuations of, say, 2% or so over some extended period (ideally: permanently). Even if you redefine your target weight as 220, low-carb has not enabled you to achieve a stable weight over the past 2 years. You fluctuate too much. Your weight increases of 15 pounds in 2006 and 33 pounds in 2007 are alarming. Those recent gains may seem trivial in view of your major weight loss in 2004, but you are in a different league now. You are not a fat guy anymore. Your 2006 and 2007 fluctuations are very inappropriate for your present size and weight.
My quick-view evaluation:
Major weight loss? Yes!
Achieve goal weight? Not really, unless you fudge the goal.
Maintain stable weight? Nope, no way. Needs improvement.
So where does all this discussion lead? Well, you have to decide that. I think that your program needs some tinkering, and maybe some strategic rethinking. If I were to make a single simple suggestion to you it would be this: start posting your actual and goal weight on your website on a regular basis. Your readers and fans will alert you if/when you need a kick in the behind. That may be all the motivation you need to keep "weight creep" from getting out of control again. I think you will agree that your fluctuations over the past 2 years are not in your best interest. They also do not reflect well on your advocacy of a low-carb program for long-term maintenance.
In this forum you have asked for comments on low-carb. I have had my say. You may not like hearing it all, but I think my observations and comments are within the scope of what you asked for. What do you say? I look forward to your always interesting comments!
See, I told you this guy put a LOT of time and thought into that post. And I can appreciate all of the comments that were shared. It's gratifying to know that when you blog there are real people who are watching you to see how you are doing. This Amazon comment is a gentle reminder of that reality and I am grateful for it. Accountability in my weight loss is one of the reasons I started blogging to begin with.
Let me begin my response by saying I do not consider this criticism by 2bluesky2 to be malicious or purposefully negative in any way. He raises questions that I'm sure others have thought about and never vocalized. From the outside looking in, he seems to make some points that ring true. But since he doesn't have the advantage of knowing what I am thinking (and that would be a good thing for him! LOL!), the reality is he doesn't have the full picture in mind.
It is true I have often talked about my weight fluctuations here at my blog and gladly so. I think it is beneficial for people to realize that once you hit your weight loss goal, the journey isn't over. In fact, it really just begins. After losing 180 pounds in 2004 to get down to 230 pounds, my goal in 2005 was DON'T GAIN IT BACK! The longest I had ever kept weight off after losing over 100 pounds was about two months before I started gaining weight. I was bound and determined not to let that happen this time.
Of course, unlike my 170-pound low-fat weight loss experience in 1999 that he mentioned, I was not miserable and tired of my low-carb lifestyle even after eating that way for a full year. Yes, the diet had become so routine to me that I didn't think of ever going off of it again. That's a lesson that will serve anyone well who expects to keep their weight off long-term. And today I'm happily livin' la vida low-carb.
But as you can see from the graphic that was shared about my weight ups and downs over the past three years, the "success" of my efforts seems pretty dismal or "erratic" as he puts it. In fact, he missed the date when I mentioned my high weight of 253 pounds from earlier this year which precipitated me to try that infamous diet plan we all love to hate now that will remain unnamed.
What should be most interesting about those numbers is the fact that when they went up even slightly, I did what I needed to do to bring them back down again. In the past and with many other people who lose weight, when they see the "creep" begin to happen they just throw their hands up in the air and concede defeat. Predictably, all the weight comes pouring back on them and then some.
But that hasn't happened with Jimmy Moore.
And there's a good reason for this. Am I somehow immune to the inevitable weight gain that can overtake even the person with the strongest willpower? Heck no! I'm like most people who have battled obesity their entire lives and deal with the same temptations, frustrations, and aggravations that come with weight control. It ain't easy and anyone who tells you it is can't possibly understand. But I do have a steadfast resolve to make smarter choices now than I ever have before.
That said, let me address the past two years which is the premise of 2bluesky2's comments. When I began this journey at 410 pounds, I never would have thought in a million years that I could get my weight down to 230 and keep it there for the next three years. My track record for weight management in the past was dismal at best, so the hope of keeping weight off didn't look very good.
By the end of 2004, I was at my goal weight at the time of 230 pounds. It felt good being at a "normal" size and I wanted to stay there. Unlike my low-fat weight loss experience, low-carb made me feel good while I enjoyed the way I ate. That was the major switch that made this "diet" work for me this time. So I kept eating this way to maintain. As it stands today in 2007, my weight is STILL maintaining at 229 pounds. Regardless of what it has done over the past few years, I would say that is doing a pretty good job of keeping the weight off, wouldn't you?
Yes, my weight has fluctuated from 215-253, but that is a normal part of maintaining. Granted, you shouldn't have major fluctuations all at one time, but they can add up. Five pounds up, three down, then eight up, two down, then four up, and two down is quickly a 10-pound weight GAIN! This happens when you allow extra carbs in your diet for those who are carbohydrate sensitive like me. Taking your eye off the ball can lead your weight to slowly rise which is why I originally started my "30-In-30" Low-Carb Weight Loss Challenge.
The continued journey to maintain my 180-pound weight loss success from 2004 requires that I stay challenged. It is what drove me to lose the weight in the first place and it is what drives me now. If I have a goal to pursue, regardless of how long it takes me to get there, then I am always in pursuit. But once that is removed, there is little incentive to keep that fire burning within. That's why I have a goal of hitting 199 pounds.
Does that mean I need to hit that goal anytime soon? Heck no! It's a very long-term goal for me that could be met when I finally get that long-awaited tummy tuck surgery done to remove all the excess loose skin in my abdomen which weighs about 15-20 pounds. For me, the low-carb lifestyle is more about eating healthy and getting my overall health under control as much as it is about my weight. When I allow foods into my body that aren't as healthy sometimes, my health and weight can suffer. It's all about finding what my body can tolerate and realizing my limits. That's a learning process you never stop doing.
Yes, I realize at my current weight that I am considered by the body mass index to be obese which I can live with perfectly fine for the rest of my life. I feel GREAT at my current weight and anywhere between 220-230 pounds. When I get below 220, though, my body just doesn't feel right. I've been lightheaded, dizzy and even blacked out when I've forced myself to try to lose weight beyond 220. I don't like that feeling and wouldn't wish it on anyone.
So the pursuit of 199 on paper is more about keeping my weight in check than it is to actually reach that goal as soon as possible. I know I'm eating healthy right now--healthier than I ever thought possible! The Atkins diet was indeed a godsend for me and I'll never regret one moment of my decision to begin eating this way. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am in control of my weight and health. And I am despite my minor ups and downs.
The difference now between my 10-15 pound weight swings and before is I know what I need to do to get my weight managed. Previously, I'd lose 100 pounds, but then gain back 125. I'm not playing that game anymore because there's too much heartache and pain involved. Instead, livin' la vida low-carb helps keep me on the straight and narrow for now and in the future. It's the best thing I have ever done for my health.
Regardless of the concerns by 2bluesky2, I think anyone who reads my blog can be inspired in their own weight loss efforts to begin this lifestyle because the track record speaks for itself--180 pounds lost in one year and maintained for the next three years. I challenge anyone to tell me that accomplishment is unworthy of admiration because I've worked my butt off to make it happen.
Again, I appreciate the conversation starter that 2bluesky2 brought up at Amazon and I welcome your feedback. Do you see anything wrong with how I have managed my weight since losing 180 pounds in 2004? Does "erratic" weight management negate my previous triple-digit success? Tell me what YOU think and be honest about how you feel.
I look forward to reading what you share! :)