Down the diet trail for 50 years!
The following is the saga of 50 years of dieting. I was born fat (9 lbs but only 19 inches long!). Obesity doesn't RUN in my family... it gallops! And I am genetically challenged since my body temperature is 1.5 degrees below normal which REALLY takes down my metabolism! I suspect I probably sustained damage to the pituitary and/or the hypothalamus gland after my tonsillectomy in the 1950's and old fashioned anesthesia! Because right after my tonsillectomy, I started gaining weight despite being very active (was a tomboy). I went on my first diet when I was 15 years old. After slimming down (never below a size 14 which is now a size 10), my bodyfat level was so low, my periods stopped for a year. By the end of each school year I had re-gained the weight. It went downhill from there. This is blunt, honest and detailed. So get a cup of coffee and relax....
Started in High School. 900 calories a day. Lost down to a somewhat socially acceptable weight but was so hungry, I gained it back and then some. (in the photo to the left, I weighed about 135 lbs, was very sick, constantly and regained fast.)
No one knew anything about anything back then. You dieted, got off the diet and all was OK. NOT. Aerobic exercise? Wasn't even a word back then. Although my walk home from school every day for 3 miles with carrying a violin and books, would have counted. So would have my frequent bicycle rides - taken much to the chagrin of my mother who told me that she didn't want the neighbors seeing her older daughter ride a bicycle because bicycles were for kids and when I said "well they ride them in Europe", my Dad, a lifetime smoker and an occasional exerciser who died of a heart attack at the age of 63, chimed in, "But in Europe they don't have CARS!"
I always loved moving my body, sneaked out to Intramurals (no girls sports back in those days - not that my mother would have allowed me to play anyway) and walked everywhere or took a bicycle. Who needed a car, I thought... But even WITH moving my body on a daily basis in what I now know to be cardio, the minute I stopped eating 900 calories a day, I gained all my weight back.
What I learned: If I starve I can stay at a lower weight but the moment I eat normally, my body re-gains. Weight after regain: 158
One Meal a day 1962 - Senior year in HS. This is what Dr Eades lost her weight on, by the way, something she and her husband later sold in a modified approach (allowed low carb snacks) as "The Carbohydrate Addicts diet". Starved all day, ate moderately at dinner. Still exercising daily just as in my lifestyle, walking etc. Lost down to 138. But still, I gained it all back by summer. Weight after regain: 167
What I learned: Other kids could eat pizza and pop and not gain while my sitting and even WATCHING them consume these goodies could add a pound to my weight! And each time I dieted I lost LESS weight and gained it back sooner. What was up with this? This is NOT what all the books I read, told me!
Milk and exercise diet: In the convent in 1964, it was very hot. Also the food was different so I ate smaller portions but drank gallons of milk and it was whole milk. I also moved a lot more than I did before I entered - walked to school etc. To my surprise I lost 30 lbs without trying. Then I got worried about the calories of drinking all that milk. I cut down on milk and ate more food. Gained back the weight.
What I learned: The claim that milk may have an enzyme to aid with weight loss might be true.
This time I allowed myself 1200 calories a day and when I went on maintenance, I still counted my calories religiously. I was determined to not gain back. I was at 123, a weight I decided I liked. I limited myself to 1200 - 1500 calories a day when I was probably burning over 2000. Then I saw photos and I didn't look very good. Was too slim and out of proportion. I also had no energy and was constantly hungry. This is when I would dream of eating big meals and wake up in a cold sweat worried that the mere dreaming about eating food would cause a weight gain! When I met my husband, he felt I was too slim and took me out to eat. I ate. I immediately felt better. I also gained 20 lbs the first month I knew him. (I call the photo to the left "body by anorexia"! I thought I was fat in that picture!)
What I learned. Counting calories and journalling daily worked to keep off the weight but it was a lot of work and I didn't know why I felt tired all the time. I was also, constantly cold. I got sick a lot. I was very depressed. And I was always ravenously hungry. (Gina Kolata, in RE-THINKING THIN, calls this "PRIMAL HUNGER" the kind you cannot resist - it is suspected to be hormonally caused, turns out).
Smoking 1966-1981 with a break for pregnancy and nursing: Yes, tried that to control weight. Helped a bit but not much. And it made me sick a lot with asthmatic bronchitis and even pneumonia one year. Decided to kick the habit. Being fat was preferable to being ill. With smoking I got down to 148 before pregnancy. Then I wanted to get pregnant so quit smoking. Ate according to FDA charts adding Dairy Queen every night. Delivered an Apgar 10 baby (who now, at 42, and a PhD - in a career job, married to a wonderful lady and they have four incredibly wonderful, talented, beautiful kids and we also have a great granddaughter - I'm not biased or anything... haha). Gained 50 lbs with pregnancy "BAAAALOOONING" up to 198 lbs. Didn't lose any weight when I had the baby. Hospital food was good and I got double portions (nursing, needed food for two, right? NOT) so I left the hospital 5 lbs heavier than before I had my baby! In the years I smoked I maintained a svelte (not) 170 - 203 lbs.
What I learned: Dairy Queen has medicinal value! :) Also breast feeding only burns more calories if you are nursing an 18th month old who eats a lot!
Stillman Cottage cheese diet 1969 I loved Cottage cheese so decided I would do Stillman, once a month to 'crash off' 10 lbs. On this diet you only eat cottage cheese and you can have as much of it as you want. The first couple of months, I maintained for 3 weeks, then the fourth week, went on Stillman as long as I could stand it (about 3 days). Lost 10 lbs each time. By the 3rd month, I went on Stillman but almost collapsed the 4th day. And the 4th month, I couldn't stomach the idea so I ate well instead. Gained the 20 lbs back in a couple of weeks as soon as I returned to normal food.
What I learned: Crash dieting doesn't work on the long term. And it makes you feel crummy. Neil Solomon remarked that crash dieting was like trying to run your car on French perfume. It might run for a while but the perfume would totally gum up the works! (REF: Solomon, Neil: THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT CONTROL) Also, I learned that dieting can blow away your gall bladder. After my stint with Stillman diet, my gall bladder has never worked well since. Fun fun fun. They don't tell you THAT on Discovery Health either.
(Single food diets end up limiting portions so that's why you lose weight. I mean you can only eat so much of cottage cheese!) Also although you lose weight on the scale while fasting, you don't lose a lot of fat - thus tend to NOT lose a lot of inches (lose muscle and bone mass instead)
Exercise 1970 I was pretty much exercising all along as my bicycle was my car but one summer, in addition, I tried swimming daily. It shaped me up but I lost absolutely no weight! Ended up weighing 178-180.
What I learned: Exercise makes you feel great. But for some of us, it doesn't "work" to make us slim.
This was something new - an organized weight loss program with meetings. I had picked up a book by Jean Nidetch and really related. Intrigued I attended meetings and found it very effective. I lost down to 143 lbs, and got close enough to goal to be able to work as a clerk/weigher.. I found the program was satisfying but restrictive. The list of stuff you couldn't have was far longer than what you could have. I set my goal too low and never made lifetime membership. As long as I continued to go to meetings and drank gallons of diet pop with caffeine in it, I kept my weight down but in Jan 1973, I developed an allergy to saccharine, the artificial sweetener in diet pop back then. Got SICK - optic neuritis, conjunctivitis, the whole ten yards. Gave it up and without the caffeine, the fatigue I now know to be a deficiency of Vitamin B12, HIT... hard (was maintaining my weight of 145-150 by eating 1200 calories a day). I remember going to a Weight Watchers meeting and being so tired, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. Being slim had not solved my life problems nor had it made me look like a model. And I started to get sick of feeling fatigued, cold all the time, and being sick constantly with every bug that came along. And of course there was the problem of living in a society which is centered on food, most of which was not allowed on my program. Went off Weight Watchers and gained it all back to 195 or so.
What I learned: If you say a certain food is forbidden, guess what you get wild cravings for? It was after Weight Watchers I learned about "diet related bingeing". Like the time I made a chocolate cake from scratch and it was GOOD and hubby and I sat down and ate the WHOLE thing at one sitting!
I bought Robert Atkins' first book named "Diet Revolution". I was coming off Weight Watchers and this book made a lot of sense and I loved the foods one could indulge in, on this diet, cheese, cream and more... you know all the food forbidden on the old Weight Watchers' program. I went in, totally believing in it. My experience with this program was cut very short! For a day and a half, I enjoyed whipped cream, quiche and steak, eggs etc. Then, I got a gall bladder attack - so much for Atkins.
Since then, Atkins' science has never been proven. Atkins like other limited food diets, tend to limit portions for most people - for those who ate a lot, they can gain weight on it.
What I learned: Sounding good and scientific doesn't MAKE it good and scientific. Also, from what I have heard since, about the kidney and cardiac risks from this diet, I guess I'm lucky I couldn't stay on it.
By this time we'd moved out West. I decided to just exercise. So I rode my bicycle everywhere and swam several laps every day. Got "down" to 178. But lost no more. Felt great though.
What I learned: Exercise feels great but doesn't cause much of a weight loss unless you do it for 3 hours a day.
I stopped weighing myself. Rule #1. If you don't look at the scale, then you are not gaining, right?
Couldn't Exercise - 1977 to 1984: During these years, I had an illness where I lost my mobility to a great extent. For most of this time, I was totally sedentary and could not exercise. So I gained up to 240 or so.
What I learned: If you have the wrong genes, being sedentary is a killer on your weight. Even watching what I ate, I gained a lot!
Rehabbing after my illness, I started walking nightly and pushed the distance up to 1.8 miles every night. So I figured now that I was mobile, I would quickly lose the weight I'd gained during my ill period. WRONG. Lost down to 203 and then, my body stopped losing and started to slowly gain. I blamed myself of course..
Basically, I had found out that diets didn't work. But what DID work? Some people were able to keep reasonably slim. How did they do it? Most of them could not tell me. I interviewed people and read a lot of books over the years looking for "the way". I knew there has to be a way. I just had to find it. Meanwhile I sort of half dieted and stayed "somewhere" in the mid 200's.
As I got older, if I tried to do a 1000 calorie diet, first thing that happened was I got very ill. If I ignored the illness, I got sicker. Less fun than being fat - was really stopped in my tracks, not willing to do anything dangerous or risky, not willing to try another useless diet.
We took square dancing lessons in 1990 - went 3-4 times a week. Also son moved out and I had problems with IBS and lack of appetite and depression. Started losing weight. Lost down to 189, lowest I'd been in years. Unfortunately, DH hurt his foot and that was the end of square dancing but I had seen that A LOT of exercise DID have an affect on weight loss. Gained back to ?. (I didn't stay down at 189 longer than a day or so, unfortunately).
What I learned: having an exercise partner who is a couch potato can be hard on your program! Also bulimia works somewhat. :)
Call me dumb but yes, I was SO SICK of constantly saying "no" and STILL not losing weight but rather gaining. I had a good job where we could afford fast food nightly. I found out that if I ate a certain amount of high fat fast food, my gall bladder would kick in, I would get nauseous and cramps, have the runs and hurl up my dinner. Well, at least I didn't gain any weight from fast food nightly and sorta had fun eating for once in my life, although the hurling and diarrhea were NOT fun. I was exercising, at least biking 3 times a week. Weight around 238.
What I learned: Eating um...indiscriminately is NOT worth it if you have to be bulimic to avoid gaining weight. Also that all bulimics are NOT slim like they are in the movies. And that bulimia is a beotch to get over - trust me in this. Takes YEARS of reprogramming the head. This is REALLY what the "obesity epidemic" hysteria does to us folks of size.... we get desperate and do foolish things in an attempt to fit in and for most of us, even THAT does not work.
From March 1993 on, I had a job where I could not ride my bicycle to work and it was full time so I was tired when I got home. So the small amount of exercise I was doing, went... out the window. By June 1993, I found I felt great except if I walked a block, I felt like I swallowed a can of drano. Also when I walked up the stairs daily (one flight) my secretary kept saying she was afraid she'd have to call an ambulance because I would be so out of breath and coughing etc. In other words, I was fine if I didn't MOVE! :)
Around that time, a friend of mine only a couple of years older who was like me, a parttime exerciser, had a quadruple coronary bypass surgery. This really scared me. I SO did NOT want to go there.
I went to the doctor and had blood pressure of 170/100 and I asked him if exercise would help lower it. "Did your parents have hypertension?" he asked. "Yes, my mother," I replied. "Then, no, nothing will help it - it's hereditary!" he said.
Although I was fat (too fat to exercise everyone said) I figured DAILY cardio would help prevent heart disease anyway - HAD TO. I started walking on my lunch period, 5 days a week and found after DOING it for a couple of months, I felt very well. I also discovered endorphins - Nature's own high. In July 1994, I started doing step aerobics and dance aerobics tapes. I didn't lose a lot of weight but I did lose quite a bit of size going from a size 22 to a size 16/18/20 (isn't today's sizing grand - a surprise in every store!). In August 1994, I decided to make a commitment to exercise every day of my life for the rest of my life. (I have kept that up even to this day, doing at least 40 minutes of cardio 6 days a week) Lost down to 209, then stopped and started to slowly gain back even WITH exercising. Dreams of being slim like all the fitness magazines promised were slowly dashed into pieces... bummer - major bummer. How come all the fitness stars had washboard abs? I later read that most fitness stars have had "tummy tucks" or abdominoplasty!
What I learned: Endorphins are the best high! :) And exercise makes you feel healthy and cuts your heart risks greatly! But the information we are fed about losing weight or the weight "falling off" like TV tells us, is a crock for some of us... maybe for MANY of us. Shoot, even the models are AIRBRUSHED!
In 1995, I discovered Susan Powter! Susan Powter is a vivacious, talkative woman who sported a very short haircut and claimed to have weighed 260 lbs at one time. She is very forthright, a person you just couldn't NOT believe, who offered a plan where a person could eat anything with a fat content of under 20 percent and still lose weight. Susan P had totally gotten out of the diet nightmare, she told us, through a program which was a variation of the Pritikin low fat diet with 40 minutes of cardio daily.
In some ways it was freeing because of no portion control or calorie counting. But in other ways, it was more restrictive than Weight Watchers in the 1970's. So naturally I cheated sometimes. And also things like sugar pop were "legal" - well it's no fat. Over 7 years, I gained slowly to 236 - that's WITH exercising DAILY for at least 60 minutes. It was all muscle, I reasoned.
What I learned: limiting foods to one group is neither healthy nor doable for me, in the long run and it won't necessarily make you lose weight. Also what sounds scientific, may not be (gee, I thought I learned that after the Atkins diet!). In the early 1990's it was thought we could obtain fatty acids from body fat. Wrong. So while on the low fat diet, I had ongoing problems with dry cracking open skin that no lotion would help and my arthritis got worse (cartilage is made of ... fat!).
Vegetarianism Jan - Jan 2001: They say there are no fat vegetarians. Don't you believe it. I was so hungry in eating no meat that I gained more weight. Even exercising 60 minutes or more daily. And all this while restricting food AND exercising. After trying on a pair of pants which had fit me a couple of years ago and now, couldn't even put my legs in them and getting on the scale, the horror hit me. Unlike all the claims, the nightmare of regaining had NOT ended for me.
What I learned: Not everything you hear on the news is the truth. Actually, very LITTLE of what we hear on TV, is accurate. In fact, when it comes to obesity, THEY LIE LIKE A RUG.
A friend told me Weight Watchers had a new program that she was very impressed with.
So in Oct 2002, I went to Weight Watchers, and the first thing I did was counted how many "points" I was having a day - came out to about 65 or 3000 calories a day. So I cut down to something more appropriate for my size and age, about 2000-2200 calories - this was NOT what Weight Watchers suggested. But then I didn't really want a diet. I just wanted a healthy program I could live on and not gain weight. Surprising to me, I lost 32 lbs on this program of about 40-48 points daily! And I was stoked, thinking maybe I would reach goal, 180 lbs (set by the doctor who thought with my muscle mass that would be a good weight for me). However, as usual, my body stopped losing at the weight of 209 and started regaining (same program) after about 18 months.
What I learned: Many foods have a lot more calories than you would think. Journaling food provides a good system of keeping tabs on how much we are eating. There are many programs which provide cognitive therapy tools for dealing with those times when we want to eat for emotional reasons. Some of us have to calorie restrict for life if we don't want to stay very overweight. And Weight Watchers works if you work it right. (which I guess I didn't in 2002.)
In reading various articles on HAES, I felt that my weight would level out, even if at a higher point and I would stop gaining after a while. I planned to jump off the diet bus forever and went through a period of being very against any diet program although kind of I watched what I ate and still made basically healthy food choices, avoiding fast food, junk food, chemicals like nutrasweet etc and still exercised regularly.
Well, it's not a diet - it's a LIFESTYLE! :)
When I hit the weight of 238, I expected to level out and stop gaining because after all, that's where I started right? WRONG! I relaxed my eating a bit but never really got off the low fat food choices and continued to work out daily... and I found out my body just continued to gain weight. In January 2007, I found myself at 267 and began to have some issues with fitting into places, my bicycle pants no longer fit me and my butt didn't fit well even on my wide recumbent bicycle seats. I also had issues of skin eruptions in the fat folds.
Around this time, I heard about Dr Oz ("You on a Diet") program i.e. cut 100-200 calories a day and walk 20 minutes, 4 times a week. I cut to 1800 calories and lost a few lbs down to 261.
I used to love walking years ago (like in the 1970's) and found my walking ability had greatly decreased which upset me a lot, so in July 2007, I started the walking program. OUCH. I hurt constantly -back, knee, hips and it never really went away although I worked hard to walk several times a week. By the end of 2007, I had lost 17 lbs. In Feb 2008, my hubby was ill in the ICU for 13 days. I didn't have much time to eat (nor much appetite) and discovered that on daily mild calorie restriction, I have NO acid reflux (from GERD) And it was such a relief to get rid of the nightly reflux that I decided to stay on that program when hubby came home from the hospital. I actually lost about quite a bit of weight since, bringing my weight loss total to 112 lbs lighter than in Jan 2007 but lost faster than I planned. As of February 2011, I weighed 155 which is a tiny 6 lbs more than I weighed on my wedding day and none of my clothing fit me at all, because I got rid of all my smaller clothing. (My wedding dress fits though) Sadly, my bicycle pants looked baggy until I learned to "roll" them at the waist line to tighten them! :) Those have always been my "go to" pants so was glad to find a way to wear them! Our son and DIL got me a really nice pair of athletic pants which fit me in a size 8. I am down several sizes!
As for Sept 2016, I weigh 159 - I gained a bit in adding a daily banana but find I'm more comfy at that weight than I was at 155. I have added some muscle because I do resistance training a few times a week (healthrider), and daily cardio. The down side is when I fall off my bicycle or something (I got hit by a pick up truck on my bicycle in Aug 2016), I kind of hurt myself more than I did when I had more padding... luckily this time when I got hit, I didn't break anything - just bruised my left leg. I basically take a size 8 or smaller.
I've tried to slow down my work outs although, they all are non impact due to arthritis, and age. That being said, I find myself pushing up to 40 minutes a day. (I'm 72 years old). Walking program is history but I still walk occasionally on my Gazelle Freestyle. For an elderly lady, I'm not in bad shape but I miss being able to work out 2 hours or more, a day without repercussions. It never took weight off me but I enjoy moving my body.
What I learned: I discovered my inability to walk far was arthritis and not lack of fitness - well at least I gave it the good college try. I can walk a block now but I can ride 6 or 7 miles on my recumbent bicycle! :) At weight 159, I must say, I like the ease of moving and my joint pain is almost non existent! (stopping "the walking program" helped there also!) A dear friend of mine got me a pair of size 10 jeans in the GoodWill so I have a pair of jeans again. I also got a pair of size 12 jeans but they are a snug fit (like women wear them today) which isn't my cup of tea after wearing stretchies for so many years. I'm so over stressing about my weight. I spent a lifetime doing that. :) I have the best of all worlds. Counting calories takes minutes a day - I can do it in my iPhone etc, so it's no big deal and I enjoy being this size! :) Like the lady said on the Richard Simmons commercial, "If people could just experience 5 minutes of - this (being slimmer), they would do the program!"
I also learned that taking a lot of vitamin supplements especially the sub lingual B12's may be a really good idea to boost healthy food choices.
No, I didn't "get my life back" with the loss of over 100 lbs nor did I win the lottery and since I'm already married to the most wonderful guy in the world, nothing changed there either. (I did lose a bunch of overweight friends when I lost weight and stayed below goal). But as a lifetime case of GERD, the biggest thrill is not having sick stomachs with everything I eat, and I love being able to sleep lying down! I think there are some health conditions which seem to improve with HEALTHY calorie restriction like GERD, diabetes and so forth. Whatever the case, I think we have a right to be whatever size we want to be whether large or small(er). Size is NOT a looks issue but it can be a health issue. My hubby who never really complied to a diabetic friendly diet and stayed around 40 lbs overweight - eating the typical American diet of fast food etc, ended up having 5 surgeries this year - 3 of them to bypass major arteries which were totally blocked. His first surgery was a quadruple coronary bypass. The fact that he, at least, did minimal cardio most days, saved his life, the doctors tell me. (He hates exercise!) As of this writing, he's been in the hospital, the greater part of 8 months. :( Like me, he's 72 years old. The most important thing for me is health and not size. The lifestyle I am on now, is the healthiest for ME especially since I have to take NO medication for GERD and have normal blood pressure now.
Me in 2016!
Dieting has its own dangers - not well publicized of course, but it may make you unhealthy if not done properly, making healthy food choices and exercising cardio at least 6 days a week.
The following books have up to date information on Obesity
The program I am following is a modification of the WeightWatchers "Momentum" program, a holistic lifestyle encouraging healthy eating, vitamins - supplements, exercise, healthy attitudes toward food, help with emotional eating and healthy calorie restriction to control obesity. I am counting calories now on a nice web based program called "My Fitness Pal". It's really easy to count calories on this program - you can scan foods, repeat meals etc. and they have "apps" for tablets, smart phones et al.
I think everyone has the right to follow the program they feel is healthiest for them regardless of what size they end up at. Anything that emphasizes healthy food choices and exercise is good but for those of us who are metabolically challenged like myself - it's either being very overweight or journaling food. Exercise which I do 6 days a week, never took weight off me but I do it because it's healthy.
I recently discovered my metabolic challenge which dated back to the age of 8- was from pituitary damage after my tonsillectomy - 60 percent of those who had this surgery in 1950's and 1960's, sustained metabolic damage. I make low fat food choices, due to a sluggish gall bladder which I'd rather NOT have surgery for, and also, the fact, that evidence based research (see Dean Ornish, REVERSING HEART DISEASE for example) suggests that making low fat food choices including mostly veggies in the diet, may be the most heart healthy program. I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers - have been significantly below goal for over 6 years and I love my monthly meetings! That being said, the new Weight Watchers "BEYOND THE SCALE" program doesn't work for me because it penalizes you if you eat sweets or for anything with sugar or starch in it. It probably works really well for those wanting to lose weight and also for diabetics, neither of which is true of me. And I know from history, if I give up sweets completely, I get really bad cravings and end up going off program, something I don't want to do because frankly, I love being this size. I have a weight loss blog so you can go there if you want to know the latest! I also made a weight loss video.