November 1, 2017

Weight Loss Wednesday: How I'm (Finally) Maintaining My Goal Weight

A question I've been getting a lot this year has been what I've been doing to 1) Get back down to my goal weight; and 2) Maintain my goal weight for the last five months.

I've been reluctant to write about this, because you all know my history with weight loss/gain/maintenance. Remember that Oprah show where she walked onto stage pulling a wagon that held the amount of fat she'd lost? She was at her thinnest, and she did a big "reveal" that day at her goal weight. And then she gained it all back in the critical public eye.

It's been seven years since reaching my goal weight, and while I haven't gained back all (or even half) of the weight I lost, I still struggle with large weight fluctuations (nearly 30 pounds). So I guess I've been concerned that as soon as I write about what I've been doing to maintain my goal weight, all will be undone and you'll watch me gain it all back. Let's hope that's not the case!


And I honestly don't have anything magical to share, anyway. Nothing I'm going to write is something you haven't read at least a dozen times somewhere. But it's working for me--at least for now--so I might as well write about it. Maybe something will strike a chord and be helpful to someone else.

For a quick refresher timeline:

I was in my deepest depression in late 2016/early 2017, and my weight showed it--I can't remember exactly what my weight got up to, but I think it was around 160. I had spent nearly 10 months in a very long and dark depressive episode. That episode was the worst I've ever had.

This bird became my buddy at a very crucial time in my depression;
I cannot stress enough how perfect the timing was for that bird to find me!

I was trying different antidepressants while I waited for an appointment with a psychiatrist. Nothing was working. In early April, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and started new medication. It made a world of difference for me. I came out of my depression.

I finally had the courage to be myself. I "came out" to my friends and family about the bipolar disorder, and began making decisions that made ME happy--regardless of what anyone else thought.

It was around March that I realized that I was dreading running, so I went on an indefinite hiatus.

I also lost the urge to binge eat. I had been using food to self-medicate; and with a stable mood, I didn't need to do that anymore. I continued the habits I had used to lose the weight during my previous hypomanic episode, but I stopped counting calories.

So, there is a rough timeline of the events that have had an impact on my weight this year. That said, I'll try to explain exactly what I've been doing and the habits I've developed to reach and maintain my goal weight.

Like I said, I have no idea if this will be a "permanent" loss--we all know I've reached goal before only to gain back 30 pounds, so this may just be another of those episodes. But somehow, I feel like this is different. Just the diagnosis of bipolar disorder has helped me to understand my use of food to change my mood, and I've gotten good at recognizing it (and preventing emotional eating).



1) I eat only foods that I love. I don't follow a specific diet plan, or cut back on particular food groups. I literally eat anything at all that sounds good to me at the moment. I want to enjoy my food, and by enjoying everything I'm eating, I don't feel the need to overeat--I am satisfied with much less food overall.


2) I keep my portions minimal. I never really realized just how little food it takes to satisfy me until I started eating this way. I don't measure out my portions, but I try to imagine the size of my stomach and keep my meals to that size. Typically, I think this translates to about one cup of condensed food (the space the food would take up after eating it).

Much smaller (and cheaper!) frozen yogurt than I ever used to get

When doing Weight Watchers or counting calories, I always wanted to get the "most bang for my buck", so to speak--eating a lot of lower-calorie foods so that I could eat as much as I could while staying within my calorie range. Now, I just focus on the size of my meals and I don't worry about the calories at all. Richer foods make me feel full pretty quickly, and they are much more mentally satisfying.

A small portion of sweet and sour chicken with an egg roll

I have tried this sort of portion control ("intuitive eating") many times in the past, but wasn't successful with it. I never seemed to know when to stop eating. This time around, I have learned little ways to be more successful at it, so I'll try and explain those the best that I can:

I learned (through trial and error) approximately how much food it will take to satisfy me (where I feel just barely full--where I know if I eat more, I'm going to be uncomfortable).

I started by eating the recommended serving size of foods, and then adjusting that over a period of a few weeks, based on whether I was hungry shortly after eating, had enough energy, etc.

Now, I can look at my food and pretty accurately guess how much I will need to eat in order to feel satisfied. Like I wrote above, I learned that it takes approximately one cup of condensed food to make me feel just barely full. This amount obviously will vary greatly from person to person, though.

Yesterday, for example, Noah made hamburgers for dinner. They weren't enormous burgers, but I could tell that by looking at the density and size of the burger, there was no way I was going to need to eat all of it--my guess was about 3/4 of it, maybe a few bites more. I ended up eating about 3/4 of it, stopping when my stomach was feeling just barely full.

I don't have a set of "rules" that specify the amount I'm "allowed" to eat; I just listen to the little voice inside of me that says I've had enough. Usually, I know I've had enough when the food just doesn't "excite" me anymore (when I first start eating a cookie, for example, it's SO amazing--but with each bite, it gets a little less amazing. I don't want to waste the calories or stomach space on something that just doesn't taste as great as it did when I was hungry).

Continuing to eat beyond satisfaction is very uncomfortable for me, and I obviously would like to avoid that feeling. I would rather stop eating a little short of full than to feel bloated and stuffed. So I err on the side of caution.

By serving myself what looks like the correct portion for my stomach, and/or making a mental note about how much I think I'll need to feel satisfied, I don't have to constantly think about my level of fullness. I always hated this about trying to eat intuitively. The books all tell you to keep in check with your stomach and ask yourself with each bite whether you're still hungry. That's too much thinking to enjoy my food! Making a mental note and/or serving the correct portion takes the thinking out of it.

I also know (from trial and error/experience) that rich foods satisfy me more quickly than blander foods, so I need to eat less of them. For example, I make the most amazing fettuccine Alfredo, which is loaded with fat from butter, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. One cup of it does not look like much in a bowl, but usually it only takes about 3/4 of a cup to make me feel comfortably full. Eating more than that feels like it's too rich; and like I said above, eating beyond that point makes the food taste not nearly as good as the first few bites did.

Moving on...

3) I eat only four times per day: breakfast between 6:30 and 8:00 (depending on how my morning goes); lunch between 11:30 and 1:30 (again, depending on my schedule for the day); dinner between 4:00 and 7:00; and a treat/snack between 8:00 and 9:00.

4) People have asked me how I deal with hunger between meals. By eating the correct portion size, I do get hungry before my next meal--but I prefer it that way. My food tastes so much better when I'm hungry! That said, I don't want to be starving an hour after a meal, either. I like to start feeling hungry about an hour before my next meal. I've learned that with the portion sizes I eat, it's pretty much right on target as far as how long I can go before being hungry again.

5) I pretty much stopped drinking alcohol. This was not due to trying to lose weight, but rather due to my bipolar disorder. When reading about bipolar, I recognized some of the symptoms in myself regarding alcohol--when I am hypomanic, I tend to drink more because I typically go out more frequently, socialize more, and use food and alcohol for "fun" reasons (which isn't really a good thing). On the other hand, when I'm in a depressed state, alcohol makes me feel more social, less anxious, and loosened up. It sounds good, but can lead to a big alcohol problem.


Alcohol can trigger hypomania and/or depression, and I certainly don't want that; so, I typically avoid alcohol altogether. The first couple of months were difficult, because I was so used to drinking in social situations. I felt out of place at parties or out with friends, but I got used to it and I don't feel uncomfortable with it anymore. If anything, I miss the idea of having a glass of wine with a girlfriend, or margaritas with Mexican food, or things like that, rather than the actual alcohol itself.

(I'm not sure if giving up drinking has played a role in my weight loss/maintenance directly, but it has certainly helped me to eat less calories. Drinking would loosen me up enough to make me not care so much about eating more snacks, which obviously meant more calories.)

I have had alcohol on a handful of occasions over the last eight months or so, and each time, it has made me feel bloated and uncomfortable. It has also triggered hypomania, which has made me conclude that I would be best just avoiding it altogether. My psychiatrist has said that a little is okay here and there, but that people react differently to it, so I just need to be aware of that. I think avoidance is best for me.

6) I don't force myself to exercise, but I do try to stay active. When I stopped running, I just wanted a break from always "training" for stuff. Exercise had become a chore that I was dreading all the time, so I stopped the formal exercise.

Instead, I look for ways to stay active in everyday life. I do a lot of deep cleaning at home (cleaning and organizing a closet takes a surprising amount of work! And I'm always sore the next day.) I still park as far from the entrance to buildings as possible. I take the stairs, even if it's six flights. I go for walks (easy strolls) with Joey and/or friends. I coach(ed) cross country.

Hiking is one of my favorite things to do when I go to Portland!

Basically, I avoid sitting (other than when I work on my blog or relax with the family in the evenings). This is probably not enough to get in good shape, but it's enough for my mental health right now. I would love to start running again when I'm ready, or find another form of exercise that I really enjoy enough to do regularly.

7) Finally, I have been doing what makes me happy and avoiding things that don't make me happy. By being a happier person in general, I am more satisfied with my food, my body, my weight, and my health. I believe that feeling good mentally plays a big role in my weight--it always has in the past (this could just be due to my bipolar, but Jerry has noticed that when he is happier, the weight comes off more easily as well).

Clearly, I was very excited about this doughnut and cider, haha

So, hopefully this answers the questions I've gotten about how I've lost and maintained my weight this year. Like I said, it's nothing new or mind-blowing; just some common sense and intuition that I never realized I had.

As always, I fully believe that everybody should find habits, food plans, and exercise plans that work for them as individuals; just because something works for me doesn't mean it will work for others. And vice versa. It's taken 35 years for me to learn that my body actually does have intuition when it comes to eating!

I certainly hope that this way of eating will continue to work well for me. I am very happy with my diet (I use the term "diet" to mean "a way of eating"; not "a weight loss plan"). I still don't miss running, although on a few occasions, I have found myself thinking that it might be nice to get back into it and train for a 5K or something. It's very nice not to feel the pressure to do so, however.

In fact, it's been fantastic not to feel pressure about anything right now! I have finally realized and accepted that life is too short to worry about the number on the scale or on the tag of my jeans. If I maintain a reasonable weight, stay moderately active, and enjoy my diet, then I am one happy camper! ;)


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22 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this!

    In reading, it I'm noticing things I can start doing -- I love the whole portion control thing, where you try to eat as much as your stomach would hold.

    I, too, am guilty of "getting the most bang for my buck" thinking -- trying to eat as much as I can for as few calories as possible but it's so not satisfying!

    As I type this, I'm saving half of the leftover meatloaf that was my lunch for later -- as I'm feeling full enough!

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    1. Thinking about the size of my stomach capacity has helped me so much with portion control! Now, I really notice it if I eat even a little more than I am used to--it seems like when my stomach is stretched at all, even the smallest amount, I get uncomfortable. It is much easier to know what "full" feels like since I've gotten used to eating this way!

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  2. This was such a great read! I gave up calorie counting as well and am trying to eat "intuitively" but its a little more difficult than I anticipated. I still feel like I'm overeating but at the same time, I feel really happy in my life. Happier than I have for awhile! So I'll take that as a good sign that I'm headed in the right direction and I'm hoping this extra weight I gained will fall off eventually. But if not, that's ok too! I don't mind the way I look ;)

    Thank you for sharing your insight! Also, side note, have you posted your recipe for fettuccine alfredo yet? I've never made a homemade version but you're making me want to give it a try!

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    1. Eating intuitively is very challenging at first! Especially when you try to follow the "rules" of intuitive eating (basically all the suggestions that IE books suggest). Once I found my own way of doing it, it's become much easier for me. I'm thrilled for you that you're feeling so happy with your life! It's such a great place to be, isn't it?
      I haven't posted the fettuccine recipe yet, but I maybe I will on Tuesday. It's just SO fattening that I never felt comfortable posting it on a "weight loss blog"--but since I'm branching out, I'd love to share it. It's delicious!

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  3. This stuff is gold Katy! You have given me so much to think about and I can already feel the lightbulbs going on in my brain. Thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences. You have helped me improve my life to such a great extent. Thank you so much!

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    1. Thank you so much, AJ! I'm glad to help :)

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  4. I don't know if you have shared or even want to but I was wondering what medication finally "worked" for you. Over the past 8ish years I have tried 2 different kinds (I can't remember the first but the last was Lexapro). Winter sux for me....I want to hibernate. I want to eat. I want to drink. And everyone seems to agree I am very crabby.

    I have always dealt with mood swings but find that they are definitely worse in the winter...its MN after all. I find I am "chill" after a couple of months trying the meds but then the "new effect" if thats what I want to call it ~ wears off?!

    I didn't like the idea of upping the dose/mg and spring was around the corner so I would usually stop taking them and the cycle goes on and on....

    Anyway, I have a doctor appt. Monday morning and was curious if you would share the med that seems to be working for you...

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    1. I'm so sorry, but that's actually one thing that I don't feel comfortable sharing... the reason for that being that everyone is different, and our bodies work in different ways. I think people should discuss the best meds to try with their doctors. What works for me may not work for others (and actually, I've read tons of reviews of my medication online, which are very mixed anyway).

      Another example would be when I wrote about my bipolar diagnosis. I got a flood of email from people who said they thought they may have bipolar, too, based on what I wrote about it. In reality, a lot of the symptoms for bipolar can be symptoms for so many other things as well--and there are MANY things going on in my mind/life/body that I don't share on the blog; so, people are only seeing a small part of what I choose to share about my mental illness, and they think they have it, too. It even makes me a little cautious to talk about my bipolar symptoms at all, because when I do, I get a lot of feedback from people thinking that they have it, too.

      Anyway, the whole point of this(!) is that when I write about something like mental illness or medications or whatever, it has an impact on other people, and I am not comfortable with the responsibility of mentioning brands of medication. Does that make sense?

      (So sorry for the novel of a response! Haha--I just wanted to explain it well.)

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    2. No problem....I totally get it and I know every med is different for everyone....I just do a lot of reading and googling and I always feel its best to be our own advocate most times.

      Thanks for the reply....

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  5. Just want to say, I love your blog! I stopped reading it for a while, but Facebook reminded me about it the other day and now I'm back. I love your "Changing the Habits" download/post about finding changes you can live with rather than going to extremes - so helpful! Why didn't I ever think of it like that? Glad you're feeling comfortable posting what you love these days.

    P.S. I lived north of Detroit (my mom's hometown) until I was about six, and your cider and doughnut pic gave me a sweet jolt of nostalgia!

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    1. Thanks so much, Rebecca! I'm glad you found the habits worksheet helpful. It does seem so simple--I don't know why I hadn't done it before, either!

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  6. I know you guys are on a budget but if you go on groupon you can find fun activities that can be cheap. I just got one for indoor rock climbing. There are also ones for kickboxing, yoga, crossfit, ect....might be a good way to stay active and maybe find a new thing you love. I love kickboxing and would not have tried it without the groupon :)

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    1. I took a kickboxing class in college (for college credit, surprisingly) and I loved it! I was surprised just how much :)

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  7. Okay, so this was kind of an aha! moment for me... -->> "I try to imagine the size of my stomach and keep my meals to that size. Typically, I think this translates to about one cup of condensed food (the space the food would take up after eating it)."

    Thank you.

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  8. The comment from this blog that hit me most was the last statement that you are not feeling pressure about anything right now! What a freeing statement and that is a mental place I'm aiming for!

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    1. I can't even describe how nice it is not to feel the pressure! Nothing has really changed except for my mindset, so the pressure is the same as always--but I don't let it get to me, nor do I even think about it. So it's clear that I was putting the pressure on myself instead of getting it externally. It's very freeing, indeed!

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  9. I just want to say how happy it makes me to read your blogs; your blogs are reading like you are in a good space and that is of the upmost importance in life. Happiness & positivity is a choice, most people can do this on their own, however when there is a chemical imbalance, it makes it nearly impossible and we begin to feel shameful or embarrassed about things well beyond our control and so starts the cycle. I’m just so damn happy for you!!!!

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    1. Your comment just gave me chills--thank you so much! I can't believe the change in my mindset that has happened this year. I feel like a whole new person--in a great way :) I appreciate that you've noticed!

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  10. Easily one of the most helpful blogs I’ve read to date. Like you I have moved away from running as much and have been focusing on activities that are more forgiving on my joints, especially now that I am that much closer to 50. (Say whaaattt?!) I haven’t even unpacked my scale at the new place and it’s been almost 6 months. That said, I’m in a better head space and not so busy thinking about things as they relate to my weight.

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  11. What a great post. Thank you for the practical advice and personal insight. I also hate the evaluation of every bite that comes with intuitive eating. It's worse than counting calories! I like your approach. I am still sticking with points for now but it's great to hear how you're doing!

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  12. Hi Katie. I found your page totally by accident, and I literally can't stop reading. I have huge eating issues (binge eating) and have for years....have gained 25 pounds over the last six months. I feel terrible, both mentally and physically, but reading your posts makes me feel like I'm not alone, and hopefully can overcome this and start treating myself better, especially in terms of how I relate to food. I know I use it to self-medicate, especially when I'm stressed or unhappy....and I hate the guilt and self-hatred that washes over me later. You have made me feel hopeful, and I haven't felt this in a very long time. Thank you.

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)