Achieving a healthy weight takes more than the initial weight loss: Keeping it off for good presents an even greater challenge. Often, successful losers find all or most of the weight creeping back on, making the entire process frustrating.
Most notably, participants on the reality show “The Biggest Loser” made the news when many reported they’d gained back most or all of the weight they’d lost on the show. Research revealed participant’s metabolisms dropped after they lost the weight, explaining at least in part why they regained. “Their basal metabolism dropped by 500 calories a day even after they gained back the weight,” says Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD, author of Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free (Hay House).
Our bodies fight us all the way, including our own hormones, says Thompson. “Hormones after weight loss that govern satiety such as ghrelin (which tell your brain when you’re full) and digestive hormones and gut hormones change to abnormal levels,” she notes. “So you end up eating your way back up the scale.” In the case of the show, Thompson notes “The Biggest Loser” also had people eating super-small quantities and exercising for many hours a day, an unhealthy approach to start. Other weight loss programs are based on sugary drinks, she notes. “People don’t do it right. They keep eating sugar and [in another program] use their points to eat sugary foods.”
|Cleansing to Jump-Start Weight Loss|
Cleansing, through special diets and other healthful practices, has been practiced for centuries to boost overall well-being. Now researchers are beginning to understand how detoxification can make losing weight that much easier.
All toxins are broken down by the liver, the body’s main chemical processing plant. Trouble comes when more toxins show up than the liver can comfortably handle. After storing all it can in its own cells, the liver then starts stowing toxins in fat cells. Metabolism slows as a result, making weight loss difficult.
Fiber is an effective cleansing agent. There are two types: Soluble fiber absorbs toxins in the intestines while insoluble fiber provides bulk and curbs appetite. Then, as fiber helps sweep toxins away, beneficial intestinal microbes called probiotics can crowd out harmful germs and help the body digest and assimilate food.
Cleansing supplements supply fiber and probiotics in convenient, pre-measured amounts for specific time periods, such
as two weeks. High-quality cleansers use organic fiber taken from sources such as powdered prunes and flaxseed along with probiotics and polysaccharides, a special form of fiber that feeds the probiotic organisms.
Some also include organic herbs known for their detoxifying properties, such as dandelion, milk thistle and red clover.
The key to maintaining weight loss lies in eating in such a way during the weight loss phase that you’re developing eating habits that become automatic, Thompson adds. “You have a short window of time to create new habits of 30 to 90 days. After that, the part of the brain that governs willpower depletes us.” You need to create habits that become the part of your brain that’s triggered by another everyday event such as brushing your teeth.
“Although there exists a physiological drive to regain weight after you lose it, it’s not insurmountable,” says Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP, Diplomate American Board of Internal Medicine, American Board of Obesity Society and a physician nutrition specialist in Beverly Hills.
The National Weight Control Registry tracked and studied 10,000 people who lost a considerable amount of weight (30 to 300 pounds) and successfully kept it off, says Youdim.
According to the study, those who kept weight off did the following:
78% eat breakfast daily: Although eating breakfast every day was associated with weight loss in this study, this has been disputed, says Youdim. “But,” she adds, “often when you skip meals you’re more likely to overcompensate for it later in the day. You want to eat a high-
protein breakfast that curbs your appetite.”
75% weigh themselves at least once a week: When you weigh yourself regularly you’re able to see small changes in weight, says Youdim. “I don’t recommend daily weighing, however, because of changes in sodium and other issues that can cause fluctuations. Some people become frustrated and throw in the towel.” Weekly or even monthly works best for most people.
90% exercise, on average, about one hour per day: “Regular exercise is not a huge determinant for weight loss,” says Youdim, “but it’s important for weight maintenance. Exercise helps preserve lean body mass, which ultimately affects metabolism,” meaning that muscle burns more calories at rest than fat.
In addition, those who consumed protein bars or shakes were also successful at either losing weight or keeping it off. “These have become synonymous with juicing or smoothies,” says Youdim. “But when prepared by juice bars that add chia seeds, peanut butter and other additions they can easily become too high calorie.” Behavioral modification, such as tracking food by journaling, is also shown to increase long-term weight loss success.
“You must be willing to do whatever it takes,” says Thompson. “Motivation ebbs and flows. You must not ever make exceptions for food (such as eating to excess because it’s a holiday or the weekend) and stick to your plan.”
Here are four people who have lost significant amounts of weight—and kept it off for at least two years.
David Garcia, 37,
Losing weight and gaining it back time after time made David Garcia feel he was destined to be overweight his whole life.
At his heaviest, Garcia clocked in at 402 pounds. “I tried various ways to lose weight and had some success, but it always came back,” he says.
That changed when Garcia had an opportunity to meet fitness guru Richard Simmons through Garcia’s work behind the scenes of a talk show. “Through Richard’s guidance, journaling my food and being held accountable to a world-famous fitness icon, it finally worked for me,” Garcia says.
After over a year of exercising and getting control of his food intake, Garcia lost 160 pounds. He’s kept it off for six years. “I was terrified of regaining the weight and even had recurring nightmares where I’d wake up and all the weight would be back,” he says. “I knew it would be a lifelong endeavor and most terribly daunting. I also knew if I became complacent the weight was going to come back.”
Watching the needle on the scale go down is strong motivation while you’re in the process of losing weight. The problem begins when you no longer have that once you reach your goal weight. “You need to embrace the idea that maintenance is a win,” Garcia adds. “Ultimately, I’m working just as hard to keep off the weight as it took to lose it.” Garcia also credits his weight loss maintenance to his passion for stair climbing. He competes nationally in stair-climbing races, including skyscraper challenges that raise money for various charities and causes.
Cori Magnotta, 33,
At over six feet tall, Cori Magnotta never considered herself “the skinny type.” But when the stay-at-home mom ballooned up to 265 pounds after her son was born, she realized it was time to do something about her weight: “I had postpartum depression and was really unmotivated.”
Finding a workout that would produce results and still be fun enough for Magnotta to stick with it was no small task. Finally, she came across “hula hooping” during a Google search. Eight months of regular hula hooping later, she had lost 75 pounds and has kept it off for two years.
Now a hooping instructor, Magnotta still hula hoops for 30 minutes a day in between caring for her two children. “When I’m not teaching a class, I’ll do it between commercials while watching TV,” she says. And although her weight fluctuates between five and ten pounds, she stays motivated by knowing people look up to her for inspiration. “You can’t hula hoop and not smile,” she adds.
Dale Rule, 44,
Like Garcia, Dale Rule battled obesity for most of his life. “I was over 300 pounds for 10 years with a high of 363 pounds in December of 2009 at age 37,” he recalls. When a coworker snapped a photograph of him, Rule realized just how much weight he had gained. “I looked at it and said to my wife, ‘Man, I am huge!’”
When his doctor refused to perform gastric bypass, saying he was “too healthy,” Rule
knew that it was up to him. He took up walking: His first time out it took 41 minutes to walk a mile.“I thought I was going to die,” Rule says. But he was determined.
The next day he walked the same path and then did the same routine at night. Rule also started journaling his food intake.
The combination of walking and journaling paid off; in 12 months Rule lost 140 pounds. He says, “I’ve walked ever since and have kept off the weight for the last five years.” Today Rule walks a minimum of three miles each day, but more often five and sometimes up to 15 miles. He says, “The hardest part is getting up early.”
Teri Moore, 63,
Mission Viejo, California
Teri Moore, a healthcare director, reached for food to find emotional comfort after suffering several personal losses. Gradually she packed on a total of 40 pounds before realizing it was time to take control. Even before then, Moore knew her eating habits needed improvement. “I grew up with a horrible diet,” she says, referring to breakfasts of pastries and sweets.
Her weight yo-yoed through various attempts to shed pounds but Moore finally found a balance that enabled her to lose 60 pounds for good through going to the gym and cutting back on portions and calories. She’s kept off 40 pounds for the last 10 years and the last 20 pounds for the past year and a half. “I’m losing inches but it’s different now and my goals have more to do with health and flexibility,” Moore says. “I’m not watching the scale. I’m no longer in a rush. It’s a different focus but I’m still losing. I still have 15 pounds I want to lose.”
Moore strives to stay away from sugar, eats mostly chicken and turkey for dinner and eats small meals of between 200 and 300 calories each. Trail mix, apples and an occasional
low-fat pudding keep her sweet tooth at bay. In addition, she works out with weights and does cardio four to five days a week, including intervals.