Is there hope for weight maintenance?

by MooshiMooshi

The article on the study that followed the contestants from The Biggest Loser was huge last week. Basically, they found that all of the contestants they followed gained the weight back, sometimes more, despite their best efforts. The reason? Their metabolisms were lowered to the point where they couldn’t keep the weight off. And the lowered metabolisms appeared to persist over time.

After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

Some of the followup articles are even more depressing. This article pretty much says that if you want to keep weight off after dieting, you are condemned to a near-anorexic way of life, and that nothing else works

So what hope is there for weight maintenance?

Anecdotal reports by people who have succeeded in keeping weight off tend to have a common theme: constant vigilance, keeping close track of weight, controlling what food is eaten and how much (often by weighing and measuring food), exercising often, putting up with hunger and resisting cravings to the best of their ability….

Short Answers to Hard Questions About Weight Loss

The takeaway for me is “Never get fat in the first place”. Maybe we are just a species evolved to exist at near starvation levels and that eating enough to be comfortable is unhealthy.

Am I being too bleak? Are these articles too bleak? Has anything worked for you?


134 thoughts on “Is there hope for weight maintenance?

  1. They said of Danny: Now burns 800 fewer calories a day than would be expected for a man his size.

    From what I understand, due to the dieting, his resting metabolism is now consuming 800 fewer calories than would be expected. Well, how is that possible? If a human could survive on 800 calories less, what would be the evolutionary benefit of burning 800 calories more for no apparent reason?

    I recall a study where they took some college kids and carefully overfed them. Some gained weight and others just converted the extra calories into heat. Well, what evolutionary value is there in that? It doesn’t make any sense.

  2. PSA to Scarlett’s son and Rio from the other thread: We had a Civic when #2 was a baby and found the best thing was the Combi Coccoro car seat for the baby – #2 outgrew the infant bucket in short order (by weight) and we squeaked him through until about 13 months in the Coccoro in the Civic. (Then we got an SUV – MDX – chosen because it had 3 LATCH connectors in the back and we knew we wanted another kid.)

  3. I have lost 16 of a planned 30 pounds via Weight Watchers. Once I have lost it the rest of it, I think I can eat a little bit more to stay in “maintenance” mode, but it still won’t be very much. I assume I’ll have to eat like that for the rest of my life.

    It would be interesting to compare what I could eat if I had never let those pounds creep on over the years – but I’ll never know! I think Mooshi’s takeaway is the best one – don’t gain the weight in the first place.


    The WaPo had a good rebuttal, with a lot more data – the short answer is that the biggest loser data are outliers, and there is lots of contradictory data. Some show that there is no metabolic penalty – or maybe just 20 cal/day.

    The NYT answer on muscle is annoying and misleading. If adding muscle givens you 24 cals per day of benefit, that may be equal to only two life savers. However, it is also equivalent to 25lbs over a decade, so read the data as you wish. Some experts have really started to attack the fine tuning of calories in and out theory – I will pull a quote if I can find one. Basically, the systems are too complex to think that tiny changes in calories aren’t compensated for by the system; the fact that weight is mostly stable is not because people get their calorie input right within 10 calories a day.

    I also wish more was said about low carb dieting, maintenance. One of the benefits is decreased hunger, which might offset some of the metabolic consequences.

    All in all, I did find the nyt piece sad.

  5. I have mentioned before that I went to a nutrionist in my teens which really helped me. From then on I watch what I eat. No weighing of food or counting of calories but definitely eye balling portion sizes, eating more vegeatables and fish, when eating dessert I eat a small serving after meals, never as a snack. I used to drink sodas now and then but now I avoid them. It is constant vigilance rather than following any particular diet. I would agree that don’t let the pounds creep up on you in the first place. Some kids grow up and out of a heavy phase but in many kids the heaviness remains and is the start of life long weight issues. When we see our pediatrician he makes sure the kids are proportionate for their weight and height. I think much more is being earlier to address obesity.

  6. About 8 or 9 years ago I lost about 60 lbs from about 230 down to 170. I was doing a good job of holding steady until about a year ago and I crept back up to about 190. I’ve actively started trying to lose again and now I’m down to 185.

  7. I always wonder about the not being hungry on low carbs thing. I find I get much hungrier if I am not eating carbs. If I eat a meal of just meat and low carb veg, I usually feel like I am still hungry even when I finish.

    My guess is that in the end, there won’t be any One Way to healthy eating.

  8. I joined my gym almost 4 years ago. I have been very faithful about going, on average 4-5x/week, typically 2 days of weights and 3 days of cardio. I know I am much stronger than I would be otherwise and than I used to be; I also have more exercise stamina. But my weight is only about 10, maybe 12, pounds lower than when I started.

    Which I attribute to the ‘set-point’ idea of my body is used to being this size and it will revert to being this size. Recently I was 10 lbs below where I am today and just can’t stay there.

    No, I am not the most vigilant about healthy eating, but I am better than I used to be. No ice cream at home except once since New Years, and probably <5x out of the house. And I really have not backfilled that with anything.

    So here I am. If I can drop that recently regained 10, I hope to keep at that level for ~6mos before trying to lose more.

  9. We can quibble about the stats, but the fact remains – many studies show that dieting is one of the least effective medical interventions out there. The exact percentages vary by study, but they pretty much all find that the vast majority of dieters will gain the weight back. And increasingly, studies show that exercise doesn’t help either.

    There are studies, though, that find bariatric surgery to be effective.

  10. @Mooshi – what I was told to watch is portion sizes and your total plate, so you could eat a small serving of pasta or rice with meat and veggies but just a big bowl of cheesy pasta would not be good.

  11. The only thing that works for me (and DH) is to eat real food most of the time and stick to more of a paleo diet as much as possible. Most mornings I eat eggs with a green smoothie or plain yogurt with honey, lunch is salad, soup or sushi, light snack and dinner tends to be protein/veggie and some sort of carb (sweet potato, white rice or potatoes). When I was more strict four years ago I was 3 or 4 pounds less than I am now. My mother has dieted forever and I theorize she gains the weight back because her diet is too low in fat.

  12. I have always been skinny, but my weight definitely went up in my 30’s. But now I weigh less than I did even in my 20’s. Oddly, my mother showed the exact same pattern. What happened? In both our cases it was stress and indigestion, plus a few other things. I lost weight in my pregnancies from morning sickness, which I never gained back. And one winter, about 5 or 6 years ago, I was sick, sick, sick all the time. I had stomach virus after stomach virus, and then a horrible respiratory thing that culminated in pneumonia. I lost so much weight I was below guidelines. My doctor was alarmed and made me do several followups and buy a scale. I know he was thinking that something dire was wrong. I gained back a little of the weight, but not all.

    However, I do not recommend stress, indigestion, and pneumonia as good ways to lose weight :-)

  13. MM – when I’ve started low carb diets like the Whole 30, I was hungry at first, but then it evens out after a week or so as your body gets used to it. Then you truly don’t get that hungry.

  14. “. I find I get much hungrier if I am not eating carbs.”

    Same. Sometimes I really, desperately need a small Coke or a candy bar in the afternoon if my lunch was nothing but protein.

    I got DW a SodaStream, and she likes it, but I think the “cola” tastes terrible. I’m not giving up my miniature 90-calorie Coke cans. She said I would like the cream soda one, however, which she had at my parents’. And I’ll still use it for cocktails.

  15. The “low carb thing” works by inducing ketosis, which is where the hunger suppression comes in. Skipping the mashed potatoes for one meal doesn’t put you in ketosis. Most people feel like they are dying of hunger the first few days of a low carb diet, then they find the feeling mostly goes away. There is also evidence that ketosis is less efficient, perhaps giving you the 50 cal per day metabolic advantage that you lose with the weight.

    While low carb eating is not for everyone (including for me on days like today that I want cookie dough for breakfast), I think everyone should put themselves in ketosis (with the approval of their primary care provider, obvs) once – it really does help you understand the relationship your eating cues have to do with carbohydrates and insulin.

  16. I read the article and it depressed me. My weight has bounced around for much of my life. Now that I’m feeling so much better, I’ve been able to focus on weight loss more, and have lost about 20 pounds in the last few months. I can only do it by dramatically cutting both calories and carbs – apple or egg for breakfast, spinach salad with no dressing for lunch, fruit mid-afternoon, and salad with small amount of dressing for dinner. I’m used to it now, but don’t know that it is sustainable for a long time. This article makes it sound like it’s going to have to be more or less permanent. From what I’ve read, weight loss is a most entirely driven by calories rather than exercise so this is where I’m focusing my efforts. The thought that I’ll just put it back on again some day is really depressing.

  17. There seems to be a growing consensus that exercise doesn’t do much for weight loss. Gary Taubes talks about that in his books. I used to watch the Biggest Loser but I eventually simply couldn’t stand it. But there were two seasons where non-exercisers wound up winning the competition. The first woman developed rhabdomyolysis on the first day by participating in one of their horrible “punish-the-fatties” death runs. The second woman got a compression fracture early on and spent the entire season paddling gently around the pool. And they won!

    There are health benefits from exercise but weight-loss doesn’t seem to be one of them.

  18. There seems to be a growing consensus that exercise doesn’t do much for weight loss.

    I was told that exercise was important because it prevented ones metabolism from slowing. But, I guess the data doesn’t bear that out?

  19. I think exercise is very important for being healthy. That may not have much to do with weight loss. But when I look at what happens to people who don’t do some kind of exercise as they get older, I get pretty depressed. I am not talking about marathoning or extreme body building – that kind of exercise may actually be counter productive in the long run – but just basic keeping your body moving exercise.

  20. I meant this to be depressing :-).
    Perhaps one of the most telling quotes is this one “Dr. Lee Kaplan, an obesity researcher at Harvard, says there is no diet or weight-loss regimen that is guaranteed to work but that people can often maintain a loss of 5 percent of their weight, which is enough for health benefits to kick in.”
    I have seen that idea expanded elsewhere. Perhaps we need to redefine dieting sucess. Perhaps if you lost just a little bit, you will be more successful.

  21. I think dieting will work if you have a policy of no SUGAR, baked goods, no cheese and no fried stuff. Yes, to butter and ghee. Also, the aim is to keep moving all day besides daily yoga and cardio alternated with weightlifting.

    Now I just need to take my own advice!

  22. I’m convinced that weight is very genetic, at least in modern America with an abundance of fattening food available. I naturally maintain a bmi of around 21 eating whatever the heck I want. I say this not to brag but to demonstrate that judging people for their weight is often unfair. I’m about to go out for burgers and cheese fries for lunch actually. I eat about as much as my husband who weighs 50+ pounds more, which doesn’t make sense mathematically. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth though, and while I do little in the way of formal workouts I’m a very fidgety person and I pace constantly. I also gained less than 15 pounds when pregnant since I was so sick and lost it very quickly. Now I have to eat like a horse to maintain my weight, presumably because of breastfeeding. I’d like to think I’m lean because I have disciplined habits or something but it’s clearly not the case at all. Meanwhile I have friends who are overweight and eat much less and healthier than I do. My metabolism may change as I get older, but my mom is also naturally lean and she’s only had to work harder to avoid becoming underweight with age.

  23. But when I look at what happens to people who don’t do some kind of exercise as they get older, I get pretty depressed.

    I was thinking about that in when Milo mentioned that you’d be much better off being elderly in the suburbs because then you could drive everywhere. He mentioned all the older folks who can barely make it from the handicapped parking space to the grocery store entrance. I think you may find that their lack of mobility is due to far too little exercise not some innate element of aging.

  24. Years ago I put on weight right after leaving law school and getting my first desk job. I joined WW, lost the weight fairly quickly, and kept it off until children. Then I went up and down for a while between pregnancy and nursing, etc.

    I got way too into the sugary carbs for a while after being laid flat due to a medical issue. I recovered, but I was holding onto 15-20 extra pounds that hadn’t been there before my health problems. After looking at whether or not to re-join WW, try Whole 30, or something else, I read Dr. Hyman’s recent book and The Calorie Myth, and decided to go for something more or less sugar/grain free, and substantially reducing dairy. I’m not strict enough for the ketogenic diets. I can handle low carb just fine, and my energy level these days is great without having that 3 p.m. slump, but the the idea that *tomatoes* can be enough to pull me out of ketosis convinced me that I’m not quite ready to go that far.

    I’ve lost about 10 lbs. in the last 4 months, but more substantially I’ve lost inches, my clothes fit better, and my energy level is great. As an added bonus, changing my diet has cleared up eczema that appeared on my hand after my 3rd kid. My doctor said it might, but I’m not exactly sure why the eczema is disappearing. Unlike when I did WW years ago, I’m never hungry. If I’m hungry, I eat something. It’s been really freeing to not worry about counting calories or fat grams or points or whatever and still see some progress at feeling better. I’m never going to be super-tiny because I’m not built that way, but I can see slow but steady improvements, which is incentive enough.

  25. Rhett – Just about everyone, if they live long enough, gets to the point where their mobility is limited. I agree that regular exercise tends to delay that, and my grandparents, for example, were the regular walking types to stroll several miles a few times a week. But not when you’re coming up on 90 and one of the check valves in your heart is allowing too much backflow with each beat.

  26. “Milo mentioned that you’d be much better off being elderly in the suburbs because then you could drive everywhere.”
    I usually hear the opposite, that the elderly have a much harder time in suburbia because they have to depend on driving. Many elderly people lose the ability to drive safely long before they lose the ability to walk around. I think even more elderly people lose the confidence to drive, especially after dark.

  27. Tulip – your eczema probably disappeared because something in your previous diet was leading to inflammation (either sugar or grains). You see a lot of stories like that after Whole 30/Paleo dieting.

    I think counting calories sounds awful so I think reframing diet as trying to eat as many nutrients as you can and less bad stuff is helpful.

  28. “Many elderly people lose the ability to drive safely long before they lose the ability to walk around.”

    We’ve been over this, but people who have lost the ability to drive are generally not in a position to be walking several blocks to the grocery store a few times a week, in all kinds of weather conditions, and carting groceries home.

  29. Atlanta– I’ve heard that before. I feel like “inflammation” is the catch-all term for everything these days, but not fully understood. I have no doubt that I feel better without the sugar/grains, but I don’t know that we all understand the how behind it all. (Or at least I don’t.)

    I didn’t think exercise was the biggest push for weight loss (something I never understood about the Biggest Loser) but I have always figured that mobility is a use it or lose it sort of thing. I keep active so that I can stay mobile and stay free to do and try new things. Anyone who has ever temporarily lost their mobility (broken bones, etc.) really appreciates getting it back.

  30. I agree that regular exercise tends to delay that

    So, the question would be: Under what regime would one tend to maintain one’s independence the longest? I think the data would show that someone who is walking to the doctor, CVS, grocery store, dinner, coffee, etc. is going to be able to live independently longer than someone who drives everywhere.

  31. If the person who drives everywhere still manages some regular exercise, then the distinction is gone.

  32. If the person who drives everywhere still manages some regular exercise, then the distinction is gone.

    Very true, but that’s not all that common.

  33. I feel like “inflammation” is the catch-all term for everything these days, but not fully understood.

    For realz. It’s beginning to replace “toxins”, which in turn replaced miasma theory. Okay, there were some intermediate woo-woo ideas, but still, “inflammation” is this decade’s “evil spirits”.

  34. Atlanta – I think that about my mom too. My dad is always after her to lose weight, but her idea of “being good” still looks like the 80s low-fat diet.

    I am thinner now than I was in law school/between kid 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 (except when I was crazy in my early 20s), mainly because with my gallbladder issues last fall I *had* to eat low-fat or risk another attack – I lost maybe 5 lbs without trying. I don’t weigh myself or anything, though, because that will trigger me to think about it too much.

  35. “Many elderly people lose the ability to drive safely long before they lose the ability to walk around.”

    This is my step dad, 90. He’s had some mental decline (NOT Alzheimers, just old age) and my sister mentioned to my mom that he should stop driving. Probably right, and I mentioned it to her maybe a year + ago. Per my mom “he only drives once a week, to go have coffee with his (older) brother (it’s about 6 miles each way, and very familiar turf) and I’ve warned him that if you get lost, the keys will get taken away.” Fine, but what if he kills someone/himself on one of these drives because he’s not paying attention???

  36. I think the next big thing is the health of your microbiome. Disrupted gut = inflammation. It’s really interesting.

  37. Rocky– I know you feel me. I decided to try this and eye-rolled the whole time. And when it actually made me feel better, I felt like a jerk for all the times I pooh-poohed the whole idea. And yet every time I hear “inflammation” I think of Dr. Mercola and still eyeroll. Yet I am now that embarrassed special snowflake having my grain-free/sugar-free meal. Karma gets us every time!

    Atlanta– I find what little we know about the microbiome stuff fascinating. Given how science works, I think we’re going to test a whole bunch of wrong hypotheses before we figure any of it out, but it’s really interesting.

  38. I would say as you age it is better to keep moving steadily through the day than doing one hour of workout and sitting around for the rest of the day. If you do both the constant moving and working out then that’s an added bonus. As Rio said being fidgety is a plus.

  39. This article made me depressed for the people I know who have been fighting weight gain most of their lives. One person in particular I know has developed the discipline to strictly manage her diet, but it does seem to take a lot of mental energy. And she’s always trying to lose a few pounds.

    Many people gain weight starting in their teens or younger, when they’re headstrong and stupid about health matters. So the advice not to gain weight in the first place unfortunately doesn’t work for them.

    I started to believe in the set-point idea some years ago when I realized that dieting had little impact on my weight. Fortunately my set-point weight is on the low side, so I consider myself lucky in that regard.

    Another thing I see is that different approaches to weight maintenance work for different people. I hear people all the time advise that you NEED to cut carbs or you NEED to cut fat or you NEED something else. I personally find that moderate amounts of fat and sugar go a long way in making me feel satisfied so I don’t overeat.

  40. I’m counting on driverless cars and Uber or whatever exists in the near future to get me around town when I’m no longer able to drive. If I have trouble walking, I’d rather be in the suburb than in the city. I’ve seen that it’s a much bigger deal to deal with temporary immobility (foot or leg injuries, for example) for people who work in the city than for people who can drive to work.

  41. off topic – would you ever buy a modular home?
    I’ve always ruled them out, but I was looking at a cute one online, didn’t realize it was one until my realtor told me

  42. I’ve been taking acidophilus since high school to deal with digestive issues. If I don’t take it something builds up, made worse by dairy, alcohol (that wasn’t the issue in high school!), and rich foods, and I end up with a few days of feeling like my digestion has stopped followed by barfing up everything down to the bile. I learned to take acidophilus to deal with it from my mother, who’d had similar issues beginning in college when she had many fun conversations with student health services suggesting that the first step in addressing her nausea was a pregnancy test. At some point she’d heard about acidophilus, possibly thanks to the aunt who every year gifted us with a subscription to Prevention Magazine, and found it took care of the problem.

    So, in summary, while microbiome may indeed be the next big fad getting credited with way too much stuff, that doesn’t mean probiotics do nothing for you. And I suspect there is something to all the research about effects on mood, weight, etc., it’s just that we won’t know what’s real and what’s an artifact of some study or other until much later.

  43. winemama – sure, why not? My understanding is that the well-made ones can have better fit and tolerances than site-built houses because the factory construction is more precise.

    Google says that this is a modular home:

  44. I don’t know, maybe part of my “bubble”, when I hear the term I think of a double wide

  45. The link seems to be having an issue so just Google: This Old House Hurricane Sandy.

  46. CofC,

    That looks decent. I just can’t figure out what the deal is with the second floor indent on the side?

  47. “but the the idea that *tomatoes* can be enough to pull me out of ketosis convinced me that I’m not quite ready to go that far. ”

    What if they were dessert tomatoes?

  48. “There seems to be a growing consensus that exercise doesn’t do much for weight loss.”

    Perhaps, but my experience suggests that exercise can facilitate more eating without gaining weight.

    For a while I lived about 15 miles from my office. I learned very quickly that on the days I biked to work, I needed to eat more than usual (e.g., if I had sandwiches for lunch, I needed that third sandwich) or I would bonk on the way home.

    OTOH, that’s just me.

  49. Wine – I was just reading This Old House magazine and they had a whole article on this factory built home in Mass. It looked gorgeous! They bought it from a company in Vermont and were able to tweak the design a bit too.

  50. Whoa this was a timely post. I went from 130 to 110-ish during my illness and treatment, and then stayed there. Appetite was so poor that I had to force myself to eat — I developed a real empathy for anorexia patients during that period. And of course had to get a bunch of new clothes because I was swimming in the old ones. Sometimes size 2 was too big. Then the weight crept back so very slowly that I was convinced I would never get past size 2. I ate a Dove Bar EVERY night, and bought whole milk yogurt (which is not easy to find), and basically ate like a teenage swimmer, and was still below 120 at Christmas. Well, not any more, so I can totally relate to that article. I refuse to change sizes again, so if adding 15 minutes more in the pool isn’t going to help, I will have to cut out the high-fat items that my body thinks it needs and deserves, and eat more strategically drop the weight-gaining habits I developed. But I am not complaining, because being post-chemo and depressed and underweight was NOT fun.
    And I think it was Rhett who mentioned Talenti gelato on TOS — thanks for nothing!! :)

  51. I am fortunate I have never had the problem of trying to keep on weight, DH is still struggling with his thyroid issues, underactive this time and still losing weight, he weighs less than me now, talk about frustrating

  52. nursing moms beware, I gained back a ton of weight when I quit and still struggling

  53. Wine- if all goes well, I hope to spend most of the next decade either pregnant or nursing…I wonder if nausea, pregnancy weight gain, and breastfeeding metabolism tend to be similar or not in different pregnancies. Guess maybe I’ll find out. I’ve heard of a lot of women who gain weight with weaning, but then a lot of others who say they can’t lose weight to save their life while BFing and it falls off as soon as they stop. The human body is variable and weird!

  54. I am glad to read some of these articles, not only because they reflect my personal experience, but because they are trying to find a middle ground between attributing obesity primarily on externals such as agribusiness or bad govt advice or urban food deserts and attributing it all to a lack of personal discipline or ignorance. In fact, these articles are trying very hard not to assess blame at all, but they are also despairing a bit that there is no formula or magic bullet.

    One of the advantages of getting older is that your paycheck or social life does not depend quite so much on conforming to expectations about appearance. So you can focus on physical activity for the enjoyment, the outdoors, general good health. And you really don’t need to eat all that much, so you can spend money on good ingredients for your 1 meal and 2 mini-meal/snacks per day.

  55. I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes last summer. I’m not overweight but diabetes runs in both sides of my family. My doc told me to watch may carbs but was not more specific. I had a telephone conversation a few times with a nurse who’s part of a wellness program through my health insurance company. It was not helpful: no guidance, I had to pull information out of her. I ditched that, stumbled along for a few more months and then joined a pre-diabetes class offered through my town’s health department. I had to track my food intake (calories, fat, carbs, dietary fiber, sugar and protein). I learned how to eat: if I’m eating carbs, I also need to eat some fat and protein to slow the absorption of the carbs. I also had to limit the carbs to 140 grams per day. I really didn’t pay attention to fat. I tried to hit 66 grams of protein (on average) a day. I unexpectedly lost 12 pounds over 5 months without much effort. I’m now at my pre-kid weight and a size 4 in pants. For me, it’s all about the carbs. I love good Italian bread and I still eat it, but I stick to my carb limit. I’ve also cut back on my workouts because I now know they weren’t helping me to control my weight. I still workout, but it’s 3-4 times a week instead of 6 days a week. My A1C is now at the high end of normal and out of the pre-diabetic range. My 2 cents.

  56. I do think ketosis is a good strategy for weight loss (not all people, not all the time). I think it is easier to comply with. I think a South Beach Diet is also reasonable for a lot of people (aka Mediterranean, lower carb). Dieting is a lot like parenting – there are a lot of reasonable solutions, and most people have a few that would work from them. Also, there are a lot of bad solutions (looking at you, Dean Ornish/ultra low fat) that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

    My experience is not that a tomato pulls people out of ketosis – I can eat 40-50g carb per day without affecting it. We were taught in medical school that inpatients need 125ml per hour of a solution containing 50g/liter of sugar to prevent ketosis – works out to 150g per day. 3g of sugar from a medium tomato won’t throw off the whole plan.

    Related – did people see the story that Kind bars were asked to remove the term “healthy” from their labels? Too much fat from the almonds means the FDA says it’s unhelathy. Fat-free chocolate milk is “healthy”, as are Lucky Charms, under this definition. Plain nuts are not, neither is an avocado. Anyway, the kerfuffle is causing the FDA to reevaluate their term.

  57. Rio, part of the variability is that as you noted, you may end up weaning your youngest about a decade after you were pregnant with your oldest, and being a decade older by itself can affect your metabolism.

  58. Rhett, I think those holes in the side of that modular house were places where the family simply decided not to add the additional modules. It kinda looks like bad Lego design.

    On the weight thing, I often wonder about the affect of aging. In my 60s (early, dammit!) I am lighter than I was in law school. I am no longer slim and lanky. I’ve widened and shrunk.

    In my middle age, I was porky to say the least. I started to look like my sisters. I had an almost identical weight loss to DD’s, going from 226 to 170 over the course of several years. Since then about 10-15 lbs have come off. (Junior weighs more to me, and he is quite a bit shorter.)

    What I did was this: As a first step, I tried to eat more healthy– literally the Subway tuna with the salad on top (no, I am not Jarod writing from prison! Stop thinking that RMS) instead of a burger. Then, later, I started eating when I was hungry– not when everybody else in the office went out for lunch. Still later, I started “regarding” my food. That means I stopped eating so fast. As a result I got fuller with less and once I was full, I stopped eating. Just because it was in front of me didn’t mean I ate it. I don’t do deserts, but I do do beer. And smoking may have something to do with it. In mid-life, I quit smoking for 15 years, and I was heaviest then.

    I know I piss people off. If I’m not hungry for breakfast of lunch, I won’t eat it. Sorry if you cooked it for me, but I most likely told you not to, and if you do anyway, I’ll eat a few bites, rave about its culinary excellence and stop eating.

    I’m sure all this is unhealthy for me. Everything I do is. But it seems to work. I do have a lot of energy and I do get exercise. At this stage in my life, I hate living in the burbs because I can’t walk anywhere. Junior doesn’t even understand the concept of walking. If he needs exercise, I drive him someplace (and write a check).

    Anyway, the weight loss was gradual and largely without pain. This is what worked for me.

  59. I really recommend Gary Taubes to people who want to read more about lower carb, higher fat eating. I think he is really one of the big thinkers on this topic.

  60. winemama, doublewide is what I think of too, or what my mother always referred to as a “Jim Walter”

  61. The home country meals always consisted of a small bowl of whole milk unsweetened yogurt. It is a well known ingredient to aid digestion. If you were suffering from stomach virus, fevers or routine illnesses you were fed yogurt and plain steamed rice.
    Also, a balanced meal included a plate with somthing sweet, spicy, sour etc so all the taste buds were satisfied. If you have eaten a Thali at an Indian restaurant that is what I am referring to.
    When I see all the coconut water in the stores, I want to smile because coconut water was go to drink on a hot day. The coconut seller would punch a hole in the coconut, stick a straw in and hand it to you.

  62. My mother has Type II Diabetes, although she controls it with diet so she doesn’t have to do insulin. But her drs. still recommend an ultra low fat diet which just doesn’t make sense. She has a problem with carbs, not fat. So then she does Weight Watchers and loses weight but she always ends up putting it back on because one just can’t eat that way long term. And she uses that horrible chemical fat free butter spray and it all just makes me cringe. She just can’t get out of the 80s idea of nutrition.

    I think pregnancy/nursing weight loss definitely varies with each pregnancy and age. When I was 29 with my first, the weight just melted off doing nothing and eating quite a lot. With the second it was a little harder but then I did paleo for a few months and was super thin and had a ton of energy. Then the third pregnancy happened at 35 and it took me a good nine months to lose that weight, mostly because I just expected it to come off like it did before and it definitely did not.

  63. Louise,

    I love your back in the home country stories. I can only imagine your kids complaining about the heat some sultry summer afternoon and you saying, “Hot? You think this is hot? Back in the old country….” I imagine your maturing into a tiny South Asian Sophia Petrillo.

  64. Over the last 6 years, I have basically been pregnant, nursing or trying to get back to normal in between these things. I am not sure what is the best thing for me in terms of weight loss, but 2 interesting things I have noted:

    1. The weight falls off of me after I have a baby. I drop down below my pre-pregnancy weight super fast (like within 3 weeks), then I slowly gain it back to what I think is my set-point.

    2. My fasting blood sugar is significantly worse if I don’t get a decent amount of sleep. The difference between a healthy fasting blood sugar (in the 80s) v a pre-diabetic one (low 100s). I think I am destined to develop diabetes.

  65. Rio, my experience was that I gained about the same amount of weight with each baby regardless of nausea level, but I was consciously trying to gain weight with the second two because my first was SGA.

    So I am usually about 120, and gained about 50-60 pounds with each of them, lost 20 or so at delivery, and the remaining weight very very slowly while I nursed and exercised and dieted.

    And then I would get pregnant again as soon as I got back to the pre-baby weight.

    I spent close to 8 years either pregnant or nursing, but I did not return to my pre-baby weight for more than a few weeks until about 6 months after I stopped nursing the last one.

    And now the doctors want me to get down to 105-110, so I’m running intervals. It’s making me hungrier, and the weather has not been good enough to keep me well away from the candy cabinet.

    I have always been too much of a wimp to get through the ketosis stage of paleo, but I think I should try it again….

  66. I was 33 when I had my first child – the weight came off easily. I was almost 39 with my second child and it was much harder to lose the weight.

  67. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I’m much more sensitive to sugar than I was in my 20’s. Sugar gives me bit of a rush – and then I really crash in a couple hours. After reading books by Gary Taubes and others, I’ve increased my protein and decreased my carbs. Eggs for breakfast; a salad (with some sort of protein) for lunch; banana for a snack; and then protein and veggies for dinner. It’s helped even out my energy – I’m much less likely to have the afternoon crashes of blood sugar/fatigue.

    My weight is pretty stable. I’d love to weigh 10 pounds less – but I think I am where I am – and at least I haven’t been gaining.

  68. @Rhett – the coconut water from the store tastes awful to me. I used to drink a lot of fresh coconut water it and the boxed water is very far off.

  69. Rio, I’m finding it harder to lose baby weight at 40, almost 41, than when I was 31. I can’t tell how much if it is metabolism and how much is that I’m working and often solo parenting 4 kids so I can’t go for a long walk like I could as the mother of one. I nursed my twins and had trouble losing weight, but I ate a LOT so it was likely a consumption rather than a metabolism issue. My theory is as long as my weight is trending down after pregnancy, how long it takes to return to my pre-pregnancy weight isn’t too important, but I may have to adjust that theory.

    I find that simple carbs are problematic but complex carbs are fine. I’ve been eating a Greek stew (chicken and vegetables, including lots of cauliflower) and curried lentil soup (with carrots and tomatoes) lately. I don’t find lentils to be better or worse than chicken. But I do like to eat a large volume so soups and fruits/veggies work for me. It sounds like you won’t have weight issues based on your genetic heritage. I gorged on strawberries while picking today, but that’s the type of eating that works for me. During blueberry season, I eat a pint/day.

    In addition to the gut bacteria thesis, I think hormones play a role in weight for women. I have a relative of PCOS and my GYN said lots of women with my problem are significantly overweight, and he encouraged me in my battle against the same 5 lb.

  70. I need to clean up my diet. I’d like to snack a little less, eat less junk food, and lose 5 lbs. Our traditional diet is a little carb-heavy, so I need to do some work in replacing carbs with protein. You guys are a good example.

  71. Another diet modification I made was reducing my fruit consumption and eating more raw veggies. I would easily eat 5 servings of fruit a day, and fruit has a lot of sugar. Also, I cut back on salads, primarily because of salad dressings (too much sugar or too many high fat / low protein calories). If I’m going to eat 200 calories, it will not be in the form of salad dressing. MBT, I’ll try eating salads without dressing and see how that goes. Also, I ditched flavored Greek yogurt and replaced it with 2% or full fat plain Greek yogurt that I’ll flavor with a FEW frozen blueberries and almonds.

  72. Houston — I’ve been thinking about trying something the new cupbop place near my work does. Their standard thing is to give you half rice and half chopped romaine in your cup before putting your selected meat or veggie on top. I find I really like that as a lighter alternative to all rice.

  73. Louise – after drinking the water, would people save the coconut and somehow use the flesh for cooking, or just throw it away because they were so plentiful?

    And I, too, enjoy the stories, even though I don’t usually comment on them.

  74. Milo, can’t speak for what they did in Louise’s youth, but in mine we’d split it open after and eat the meat. At the stage where the water is good to drink, the meat is soft and puddingy and you can scoop it out with a spoon. After it matures the meat gets drier. That’s when you would grate it out.

    Also, I agree with Louise that the canned stuff is nothing like fresh coconut water.

  75. Honolulu — I make rice or pasta with pretty much every meal, but my husband will always substitute lettuce for the starch. So, instead of teriyaki chicken with rice, he has teriyaki chicken with lettuce. Rice and beans becomes lettuce and beans. And so on.

    I wish I liked lettuce, but I just don’t. To me, putting my meal over a bed of lettuce would ruin the meal for me. And there is no way I could ever eat a green salad if it did’t have a lot of dressing on it. The rest of the Totebag is putting me to nutritional shame.

  76. “After it matures the meat gets drier. That’s when you would grate it out.”

    For kulolo?

  77. Thanks to everyone for sharing your comments, which have been quite informative for me. My MD tells me I’m borderline prediabetic and need to get my A1C down, and the comments here have given me some things to consider.

    Ginger, my brother suggested to me that in addition to eating other things with carbs to slow the absorption, I should consider the order in which I eat. He suggesting eating veggies first, on the theory that the fiber being in my gut will slow the carb absorption, as well as eating the fat and protein before or with the carbs, not after.

    Atlanta, my experience also suggests that cutting fats doesn’t help lower blood sugar or A1C, but it can help lower LDL. What has helped me the most has been largely cutting out soda and other sweet drinks, which has been tough because I love that stuff and in the past have been able to drink a lot without a corresponding weight gain.

    Kate, I’ve wondered about the effect of sleep, and your experience suggests it might be a problem for me too. Since DS started K, I’ve been chronically sleep-deprived because I need to wake up so early every day to get the family out the door to school on time, but at the same time the amount of stuff I need to get done at home has gone up. Perhaps I should get my blood sugar and A1C measured at the end of summer, since I can wake up a bit later most summer days, especially after summer school is over.

  78. “if all goes well, I hope to spend most of the next decade either pregnant or nursing”

    In that case, the Civic might not be such a good idea. You might want to look at Siennas or Odysseys instead.

    BTW, I suggest you stop at 5 or 6, so your entire family can still fit in a minivan. The minivan still makes sense now, but if you don’t stop at 6, you might need to be looking at Sprinters or Transits several years from now.

  79. “he encouraged me in my battle against the same 5 lb.”

    Perhaps you could battle a different 5 lb against which you have better odds.

  80. “I’m counting on driverless cars and Uber or whatever exists in the near future to get me around town when I’m no longer able to drive.”

    What I’m seeing a lot of around here are battery-powered sit-down scooters with three or four wheels. Something like this:

    or this:

  81. Ginger, if you don’t like the no-dressing salad, you can put the dressing in a small container on the side and just dip the tines of your fork in with each bite. I started with that, and only ended up using a small amount of dressing that way. I got motivated when I started losing and got a little more aggressive to try to speed things up. And the A1c is the same thing that made me kick in.

  82. We have a family in our neighborhood with a blue Sprinter van.

    GFM – as an RV, their fuel efficiency is unbeatable, but I’m sure you’ve heard that already.

  83. Finn – only my fasting blood glucose seems to be affected by sleep/lack thereof. My after meal numbers don’t seem to be. I have a pretty strong family history of type II diabetes even though everyone is thin (which my doctor has said is harder to combat because most people can affect blood sugar through weight loss). Anyway – good luck! You might want to buy a monitor and just check yours sporadically. That is what I do.

  84. Isn’t the theory that you need fat to absorb the nutrients in vegetables? I don’t buy salad dressing, I always make it because they usually put vegetable oil in store bought salad dressings. I think sleep does have a big impact on hormones, blood sugar, etc.

    Finn – I am not that up on cholesterol but I’ve read before that the HDL and LDL #s by themselves aren’t necessarily indicative of a problem, but their ratio to each other matters (and what that ratio is I have no idea!).

  85. Here a popular lunch option is salad bowls. What they have started offering in addition to the standard greens, nuts, fruit etc is grilled protein cooked fresh. So, in earlier years the chicken or meat was cold now it is grilled fresh and so are the shrimp, beef, salmon options. The addition of hot protein really makes people want to eat the bowl. In some bowls instead of greens or brown rice the base is quinoa, so that’s different. I like the Mediterrean bowl with lettuce, tomato, olives, cumcomber, bit of blue cheese and either falafel, chicken, lamb grilled on the top.

  86. While I would never discourage anyone from paying attention and making incremental lifestyle modifications, a blind focus on the “numbers” from one’s yearly lab tests can lead to unnecessary worry and overuse of medication. There is a lot of good scientific data including large population meta studies that show that normal aging leads to gradual increases in blood sugar measures, and in old age higher normal ranges than the ones spit out by the standard programs are appropriate and treatment protocols should reflect that. My personal weight loss of 30 pounds over four years and lifestyle improvement in retirement moved the needle on my BMI, but still not below 30, but my blood pressure, AIC and fasting glucose are now in normal non elderly range and only my cholesterol (family history) requires a minimum dose of weakest statin – and that only as a concession to doc’s advice after a year off meds kicked led to sustained elevated triglycerides/LDL (the ratio was still good, but the raw numbers were getting worrisome). We have a deal that if I lose another 15 pounds we will stop and try again.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that if a totebagger is not a complete slug with respect to food fitness and weight (and I don’t mean bi-coastal slim or bikini body/six pack abs, just age appropriate regular) and you don’t have some significant family disease to guard against, keep an eye on things, but don’t obsess. There is only so much constant vigilance, self discipline and practiced virtue that one life can handle, and there might be some areas other than weight or other body measures that could use a increased share.

  87. If it were up to me, we’d have 4-5 kiddos spaced 2-3 years apart. Due to c section, HG, and another health condition (that will likely lead to trouble getting or staying pregnant in the future) that’s probably ambitious.

  88. RMS – do you think you would be able to sleep? I like the idea, but wonder if I’d be up the whole night worrying…..about sleeping enough!

  89. Ha! Well, you might be right, ssk. I would just do it for a lark, I wouldn’t do it if I had to be bright-eyed at a client meeting or something.

  90. Yes, you would have to have just a carefree attitude – then it would work. It sounds better than dealing with the airport!

  91. Completely OT, but I include the letter below as an update on our DS1, about whom I have shared his self-created problems with college progress. (Edited only to protect identity):

    Hi Mom and Dad,

    I wanted to take some time and send you a note about how I am coping with the emotions of today. While I am immensely proud and happy for my friends to be getting their degrees from [college] today it also finally hit that with a little more dedication and focus I could have been joining them. It has been a tough week for me with everyone’s family coming to celebrate and me being by myself.

    This week has made me thankful for the undying support I have received from the two of you no matter how much I may have done the exact opposite of what you may have wanted for me.

    Today has been an emotional roller coaster for me which is why I chose to write and not to call. I knew that with my lack of execution academically this day would come and it would be tough, but no matter how much notice and preparation I had for today I can’t bottle up the emotions. I cried myself to sleep last night thinking of how I let you down by not giving you a reason to be in [city] this weekend, and for that I am sorry. The hardest part of all of this is seeing everyone with their families sharing such a happy time and for me to have to go it alone. After the ceremony I walked home and had a lot of time to think, here is what I came up with:
    – The 2016 calendar year has been much better than 2015 thus far
    – I am sad to see the last 45 months of being a part of this [college] community come to an end but know better things are ahead.
    – Things in my life are finally starting to break my way due to me finally starting to focus on what is really important
    – Knowing that years from now my friends and I will all look back at these years with great fondness brings a smile to my face

    Today, it really hit home for me that I could have made one more memory with the people I am so close with. I am sorry I did not make that happen for both you and myself.

    Today made me miss home more than most days because of seeing all the families on campus, so I really cannot wait to see you and my brothers again, whenever that may end up being.

    Thanks again for your undying support of whatever I choose to pursue.

    If you need me text or email me, I can’t talk about this subject because I will just end up crying the whole time.

    Love, [Name]

    Fred here again…after all the emotion-letting a year ago, and during the prior two years leading up, when he got booted out of the same college for the second time, things are now on a better path, (he says confidently). I am not yet ready to accept the “last 45 months” are just one of those things, but I am more cognizant of “everyone being different” and “in due time”.

  92. Fred, good for your DS1.

    I had a classmate who didn’t graduate on time because he didn’t complete all the requirements, and if he had written a letter to his parents about it, it would have informed them that the requirement was unfair, his advisor was unfair, the professor was unfair, his roommate was unfair, and his breakfast didn’t agree with him.

    (Actually he borrowed a gown and sat through the graduation ceremony as if he graduated, and told his family his name was accidentally left off the program. But that’s another story….)

  93. Fred, what a beautiful letter. Your wife and you have raised a great kid. I wish him the best as he grows into his adulthood.

  94. Fred, that’s an amazing letter. Good for him to learn these lessons relatively early in life. He can’t change his behavior/focus if he can’t first feel the consequences of it, so this is an important step. I can guarantee you my sibling that flunked out of college freshman year (though that sibling did eventually earn a degree) would never have written such a letter.

  95. Ah, man, Fred. Kids can kill you sometimes. It sounds like he will be just fine.

  96. Fred, I’m all teared up and proud of your son that I don’t actually know. Good luck to him!

    “I’m counting on driverless cars and Uber or whatever exists in the near future to get me around town when I’m no longer able to drive.”

    I always say this too, and I hope I’ll be willing to let it play out if I’m lucky enough to reach old age with my faculties intact. I’ve been amazed at 1)how resistant my mom and her friends are to giving up driving, even when other reasonable options are easily available; 2) how doctors, the retirement facility, and the DMV are no help at all in encouraging people to stop driving (sure, we’ll give you a 10 year license at age 88. No problem! You drove to your appointment? Hmm. I wouldn’t have thought you were still driving. End of discussion)

    I think driving has a meaning way beyond how one gets from one place to the next, and giving up driving often has a meaning that has nothing to do with transportation.

  97. Fred, that letter shows great insight and honesty. I would be so proud to receive something like that from my kid. (I don’t remember what your son’s plans/options are now.)

  98. “I’ve been amazed at 1)how resistant my mom and her friends are to giving up driving, even when other reasonable options are easily available”

    I’m not. For her and her peers, giving up driving largely means giving up their independence. Sure, they could catch cabs, but they might blanch at the cost, even though the total cost of the cabs they catch might be about the same as owning and operating a car (insurance, registration, gas, maintenance, etc.). Uber isn’t really an option for many older folks who can’t or won’t embrace the technology.

    If I ran into that problem, one thing I would consider is getting that person a pre-loaded cab card to encourage use of cabs.

  99. Fred, that’s a wonderful letter. You and your DW sure have raised some fine young men.

  100. CoC –
    Currently he’s working on completing his AA in business online from a CC near us. That should be done in December, “should” being the operative word. He only has 5-6 classes to go and is registered to take 2 in the summer, so piece of cake. Right? He’s also working as a shift supervisor for a national retail chain 30-40 hours/week, and he interviewed Friday for a position, wait for it…as an insurance salesman, which is actually perfect for him since he has no fear of selling, calls, etc. He’s always been good at it for various fundraising thru high school. A first interview only so we’ll see how that goes. He said if he is hired, they want him to keep his current job till he can prepare for, take, and get the results of the licensing exam(s), so no big changes at least for a while, for which they’ll pay him something. He’s going to live in the city where he’s been since starting college…much better job market than here.

  101. Finn, you hit the nail on the head. Maybe we should try to prepaid idea! I like it.

  102. Fred, that is a great letter. My daughter (your son’s age) did not graduate this weekend, due to changes in school, major, working more hours, etc. Seeing my FB feed full of pics of her friends, my relatives’ kids, etc all at graduation did provoke a few pangs in me. But – part of the college journey is growing up, and my daughter has done a great job of that, breaking out of the role of compliant, sweet girl to chase down what she wants. I look at my husband (10 years, with breaks to play hockey), my brother (8 years) and another cousin (10 years), and they have very successful careers and happy lives. The winding path can still lead to a great destination. You’ve clearly raised a son with a strong compass. He’s going to be great.

  103. Fred, I know a couple of insurance salespeople, including ours, who was my classmate from 3rd grade through college.

    What both of them told me is that they needed to work hard when they first started, but once they got clients like me, who keep on renewing policies year after year, they can get into more of a maintenance mode. Ideally, if he can establish a client base before having kids, he’ll have a lot of time and flexibility to be a parent.

  104. I think driving has a meaning way beyond how one gets from one place to the next, and giving up driving often has a meaning that has nothing to do with transportation.

    Oh, yes. Perhaps it’ll be different for the generation growing up less eager to get their licenses, but if getting your license and/or getting your first car signified freedom, how can losing your license and giving up your car signify anything but a loss of freedom and the beginning of the end?

  105. Fred – just recently I learnt that a senior manager of ours was only thirty three. His life thus far has been so far from the Totebag norm. He had a kid at seventeen, but went on to first an AA degree, then college. At work he was tapped for one position after another. Along the way he got his MBA. His kid is now 16. He has a bright future in front of him.
    There are many paths and your DS1 could very well find that sales suits him and that it is a field where lack of a straight academic path is not held against you. It is just innate and you have what it takes or not.

  106. I am sorry I missed the interesting topic Friday.

    We really, really try to avoid added sugar in foods that are not intended to be dessert.

    On salad dressings – I almost always make my own now, due to the sugar in store dressings. This Caesar dressing from Orangette is my family’s favorite. I make a batch on Sunday and we use it all week. My kids will inhale a plate of romaine lettuce if it is dressed with this and then tossed with some parmesan cheese.

    • ½ cup Best Foods / Hellmann’s mayonnaise
    • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 4 to 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets
    • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
    • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • ½ teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
    • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, depending on how you like your seasoning (I do 1/8)

    Combine all ingredients in blender, blend. Keeps about a week in the fridge.Yield: about 3/4 cup dressing.

  107. Fred – That is a very thoughtful letter, in both senses of the word. I can encourage you (but it is a very long view) by reminding you of the current situation of my elder son, whose long journey included some far rougher patches than your son’s life so far.

  108. Thank you all for your comments. Responding to some:
    – it does indeed help to take the long view, which both DW and I now seem to be doing. It’s so very hard to accept that truly there is more than one way to skin a cat especially in the heat of battle. Just because we did undergrad in no more than 4 years each, there is no guarantee any of our kids will really be that way.
    – Our son knows several people, mostly former coaches from his best sport, who are in insurance sales or financial services/brokerage work. All seem to fit the mold Finn describes…build your book of business and the annuity stream from existing clients eventually means little in the way of new sales is needed. Some account maintenance, sure, and also a lot of new business comes from referrals vs “cold calling.”
    – yes, we are thankful and aware that neither the criminal justice system nor the emergency medicine infrastructure have come into play

  109. Fred– reading your last post, I was reminded of my insurance agent back in SV, who had the time to be very active in Scouting.

  110. who had the time to be very active in Scouting.

    If it’s anything like my friend the financial advisor being active in Scouting is a central part of the job.

  111. Finn & Rhett –
    I have noticed that, too, across the years with my kids having many volunteer coaches and have often thought it seems to be a chicken-or-egg thing: Are they involved in the community because they have the time because their book of (annuity) business is so large they really don’t have to work at it anymore -or- are they active in the community so they can get to know people outside of a direct-ask situation and then approach them to potentially gain their business?

  112. I’ve worked in insurance distribution, and it’s mainly as Rhett observed. Community involvement is usually integral to their marketing.

  113. Fred – thank you for sharing your son’s letter – so heartfelt. My brother is another person who fell off the 4 year track. Flunked out of college freshman year; spent about 4 years mostly living with my dad. Finally got a job at UPS at an airport tracking shipments/receivables and realized he didn’t want to spend his life in the sort of jobs you can get without a college degree. Went back to college and earned both his BA and MS in engineering in about 3 years. Is now teaching engineering. He was always super smart – but it took a while for the other necessary skills (emotional/social) to catch up.

  114. Fred: What a wonderful letter. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I wish your DS the best. It sounds like a career in sales would suit him well.

  115. Fred, like others, I’m impressed by your son’s letter. He might consider what type of insurance he’d like. A family member worked in crop insurance and that seemed different (and more interesting to me) from auto/home insurance sales. It probably appeals to me in part because I find weather and farming more interesting than cars and homes.

Comments are closed.