Every May and November I try to write about the long-term maintenance of the significant weight loss I achieved in 2008.
(Care about numbers? I am 4'11" tall. From lifelong obesity, having had an all-time nonpregnant high of 160 lbs, I went in 6 months from 148 lbs to 108 lbs. After my subsequent pregnancy, I ended up at 113 and felt better there then I had at 108, so stayed. Since then I have had an additional pregnancy.)
Longtime readers will remember that while that was going on, I blogged about almost nothing else, to the point that, for example, wildly popular paleo websites linked to me and called me a "weight loss blogger." I probably overdid it, but I can't be too sorry because the hyper-focus probably helped.
May is disappearing fast, so here I am with my update.
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My youngest is now nearly seventeen months old, still happily breastfeeding, and generally keeping us on our toes. I am feeling really good overall. I haven't run a 5K in a while, and have been swimming more often than running, mostly because swimming feels better and is easier to convince myself to do; but I am getting to the gym at a fairly reliable pace of twice per week.
However: I am really, really frustrated by the non-budging of my postpartum bathroom scale.
Is it just the difference of being four years older in this last pregnancy than I was in the pregnancy before that? Or is it from being four years farther removed from the felt experience of constant, successful self-denial in my 2008 weight loss, so that I forgot how to work hard? Or is it from having 25% more children vying for my limited attention than the last time around? Whatever: After my last pregnancy, the weight came off with very little effort, and fairly quickly. This time -- it appears to be happening, but verrrrrrrry sloooooowly.
Seventeen months postpartum, I am still 7-10 pounds above my prepregnancy weight, which (on my 4'11" frame) means I am still one full clothing size larger, which means that I have a bunch of clothes that I would really like to wear that I can't. The conflict: I am still, unnecessarily it would seem, living in the yoga pants that I bought at the beginning of pregnancy to bridge the gap until maternity clothes. Should I accept life in my current size, buy more clothes that fit me, and get rid of the ones that don't? Or should I keep on working at it, in the hope that little by little, enough flesh will slip away to allow me to wear my "real clothes" again?
I don't look bad. I don't feel bad. But I don't want to buy a whole new wardrobe either. It feels like giving up.
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One factor is certainly attention. The self-denial that I have found necessary to drop pounds -- mostly, from sticking to small portions -- is not difficult to endure; I am quite used to it by now. But the body has tricks to play. As odd as it may sound, I seem simply to forget my intentions, forget to account for food I have already eaten, forget that I meant not to snack or to have seconds, forget to arrange plates full of vegetables and to limit rice and tortillas and bread. To combat this, I should make a meal plan for each day, but it is hard to find the time; family life is so distracting right now. The only time I have ever had rapid success is when I prioritized eating self-control over all other family priorities, and I am unwilling to do that now.
The best I've been able to do at this attention level, it seems, is to work on it when I remember, and hope that my efforts pay off over time.
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I am trying a new experiment on myself right now, though, to shake things up a bit: what is called Intermittent Fasting, of the "14/10" variety. That is, I'm spending at least 14 hours of every day (including my sleeping hours, of course) not eating at all.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is popular in a few circles right now -- paleo and bodybuilding, for instance. I guess the idea is that dividing your day into a (longer) period of fasting and a (shorter) period of eating is somehow better for your blood sugar, even if you eat the same stuff in your eating window as you would have if you had spread it out over the whole day. As a practical matter, it presents a clear-cut rule that should reduce one's exposure to snacking opportunities, simply because there is a biggish block of the day where you have pre-decided that you won't eat. Besides the daily block of fasting that I am trying out, another flavor of IF is to periodically, perhaps twice a week, go 24 hours without eating (generally skipping dinner-lunch-breakfast so that every calendar day does have some food), and a third is to follow a more-frequent modified fast (very-low-calorie days intermixed with high-calorie days).
I started by attempting 16-hour fasts, but very quickly switched to 14-hour ones -- which some say is more appropriate for women, anyway. A typical fasting period would begin sometime after dinner -- so, perhaps I would have my last bite around 8:30 p.m. -- and last until a late breakfast, around 10:30. But sometimes, because I chose to have a snack around 10 p.m., I would not eat until lunchtime.
As a lifelong believer in light but early breakfasts, I expected to have trouble getting used to the long delay before the break-fast. Indeed, I find I am pretty hungry when that first mealtime rolls around. But it isn't as bad as I feared. I typically drink coffee all morning anyway, and that hasn't changed, so my routine isn't all that different. It is the kind of thing that would happen to me sometimes when, interrupted by children or intent on the preparation for the day, I would forget to eat until later. That never caused me any great distress, other than a little light-headedness, and I find that doing it on purpose is no worse and often easier because of having planned for it.
I find that each day naturally seems to fall into one of two patterns, depending on whether I can set my own meal schedule or whether I am around other people who are eating normally.
If I set my own schedule, I eat a late breakfast at, say, 10:30 a.m.; a somewhat late lunch at about 2 p.m.; and dinner at the normal time or a bit later. Because the meals are closer together, it is not terribly hard to keep to a fairly light lunch and dinner (though I am still getting used to not inhaling a huge breakfast after the long fast).
If I am around other people, it works better to break the fast with a small snack as soon as the 14 hours are up. Then it's a normal lunch and a normal dinner at the normal times.
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Trying this out was a bit of a philosophical departure for me. Most of the time I try to focus on dietary disciplines that seem as if I'd like to adopt them as lifelong, or at least long-term, habits. And before I tried this, I definitely thought it would be something for the short-term. I just like breakfast too much to take it seriously! I justified the uncharacteristic "crash diet" approach by thinking that I just needed to shake things up for a few weeks, maybe break through the plateau that's dogging me.
But now that I have tried it for several weeks, I find it ... appealing, actually. I think I will keep going for a while and see what happens if I tweak it a bit here and there.
Some reasons why I like it:
- Bright-line clarity. I don't risk overthinking it. It is very simple: Notice what time I last eat before going to bed, and don't eat again for 14 hours.
- No food restrictions. Except, of course, that it's easier to fast if you've eaten something that is not empty junk.
- Flexibility: On average, of course, the eating window is 10 hours long. But in any given day, I can go ahead and have more food later into the evening; the tradeoff is a later breakfast. (How bad can it be? I doubt I will ever eat past 11 p.m., so the worst it can be is 1.) Sometimes that seems like a good tradeoff and sometimes it doesn't. I get to decide. Similarly, I get to decide when to have meals during the day. If for some reason I want to have an early breakfast -- say 8 a.m. -- all I have to do is stop eating at 6 p.m. after an early dinner the night before.
- Less time to wait between daytime meals. This means -- I hope -- that I could be satisfied with a smaller portion size. When I decide to try that.
- I am practicing a useful skill. Fasting for 14 hours is occasionally necessary. I am slowly learning that it will not kill me or make me crazy or unbearably irritable, but that I can do it without difficulty if I plan well (and carry that fast-breaking snack if I have to leave the house in the morning).
I think I will keep this up for six weeks or so, and then maybe -- if I can sustain the effort required to pay attention -- start watching the total calorie count as well. I am not ready to give up on those non-yoga pants yet.