September 11, 2023

A Lesson In Weight Maintenance

If you've been following my blog for several years, then you know how much my weight goes up and down. I'm not proud of that, but I am grateful that I have kept the majority of the weight off for most of those years. When you look at this graph of my weight, you can see just how much it's fluctuated.

This starts on August 19, 2009, when I began the 125-pound weight loss journey

For each of those dips in the graph, where my weight gets into the goal range, here is a corresponding photo:

December 2010 - December 2011 - December 2012

(Apparently December is a good "goal weight" month for me, haha)

November 2015 - November 2017 - September 2022

And finally... this is my most recent weigh-in photo:

For anyone that has lost a large amount of weight and maintained it, I am in awe of you! Losing the weight was hard, but I had an end goal--I wanted to reach my goal weight. It wasn't until after I reached my goal that I learned just how challenging maintenance is.

I knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to make changes that I wasn't willing to live with forever--and that certainly helped me. I didn't do anything crazy to lose the weight, so keeping it off was more do-able than it would have been otherwise. But I still struggled with it so badly.

Over the years, I stopped having a real "goal weight" and I now have more of a "happy weight"--or a maintenance range. I'd like to stick around 130 pounds; that is where I feel my best. But I'll be happy if I can keep it between 125-135 to allow for *normal* fluctuations.

In the last few weeks, I've started to think more and more about something I've discovered is going to be crucial to maintaining my weight loss. Of all the times I've entered maintenance mode, I never really figured out how to maintain my weight without constantly being careful about what and how much I ate. I hated thinking about it all the time. It was stressful!

I haven't counted calories in a year and a half, and it's so hard to imagine going back to it; with any luck, I won't have to. Still, I think it was necessary at first because it really helped me to get used to smaller portions. I also used the food tracker to see what kind of nutrition I was getting, and to try to increase my fiber.

This new discovery was entirely subconscious; I didn't even really realize I was doing it. I'll try and explain it the best I can...

Ever since becoming vegan, my reasons for food choices (both what I eat and the portion sizes) have changed. (This isn't necessarily due to being vegan, but that's what triggered it.) In the past, I struggled with willpower, motivation, and determination to lose the weight. I relied heavily on willpower to make healthier choices, and I managed to do it long enough to lose 125 pounds. However, I didn't learn how to continue those choices without willpower. You can only white-knuckle something for so long.

When I became vegan, I wanted to make sure I was getting the best nutrition I could. A diet without meat, dairy, or eggs was entirely foreign to me, so it was a little scary. I'd read a lot about "gut health" and I focused on eating more fiber for that reason--not for weight loss or to feel full sooner, or anything like that. I just wanted to be healthy.

Most foods that have a lot of fiber (not fiber that has been added artificially to food, but naturally-occurring fiber) pack a lot of nutrition as well. I chose foods that I enjoyed that just so happened to have a lot of fiber.

I tried to cut out a lot of foods that offered little fiber, but not enough to deprive myself of things that I enjoyed--like dessert. With my blog title being "Runs for Cookies", it's clear that I love dessert. While I was losing weight in the past, I ate some sort of dessert/sweets just about every single day. I counted the calories for it and I still lost weight. Weight loss was my main goal, and it worked! I was able to eat my dessert and reach my goal weight.

I was still binge eating once in a while, almost always on sweets, when I lost the willpower to stick with a small portion. And I couldn't IMAGINE my life without sweets in it! Why give up sweets when I could eat them AND lose weight?

Sometime over the last year or so, I started seeing it differently. Yes, I can still eat sweets and lose weight. However, when I started eating a much healthier diet, I discovered that certain foods trigger me to eat larger portions or to crave sweets in a horrible way.

I cannot even describe what a sugar craving feels like to me. It's torture! Before I lost the weight back in 2009-2010, I remember eating corn syrup straight out of the bottle one time because we didn't have anything sweet in the house. (How gross is that?!) That's just how bad my cravings got.

When I started losing weight, I felt like it was easiest and made the most sense to eat what I was craving. Crave ice cream - eat ice cream - craving satisfied. I had cravings every single day, but I made sure to save calories in order to satisfy that craving. And like I said, I was able to lose weight that way.

Since I started eating a lot healthier (which I attribute to both a vegan and high-fiber diet), I discovered another way to curb my cravings. To get rid of them altogether! I don't know how or why it happened, but I was without anything sweet in the house for several days. There must have been some reason I couldn't go to the store; I don't remember. But the point is, I went four days without sweets.

After four days, I realized my cravings had gone away. Still, I tried to convince myself I was craving something sweet because I was so used to it; but when I tried to think about what sounded good to me, I couldn't think of anything! At that moment, I figured I might as well ride it out--if I was able to say no, then I wanted to say no as long as I could (knowing that dessert has pretty much no nutritional value whatsoever). 

I continued going dessert-free, waiting for my cravings to come back. They never did!

I have no pictures to really fit in with this post, so here is one of me with Brussels sprouts. That seems to fit in.

Then, when Jerry and I went out to dinner at a vegan restaurant last fall, someone bought us dessert. I would have felt bad saying no, and I knew that having half of a cookie wasn't going to hurt my weight loss at all.

After I ate the cookie, it was like someone had flipped a switch in my brain. I couldn't stop thinking about more and more dessert. My cravings were super intense. Logically, I knew if I could go a few days without sweets, the cravings would subside; but holy hell, it was miserable. It took a while before I was able to go several days without dessert again, and when I did, I realized my sugar cravings were gone.

There were a few more times where I did the same thing. Ate dessert even though I didn't *really* crave it, and then that triggered cravings all over again. In July sometime, I finally made the decision to not eat sweets if I was able to say no. It's so much easier to forgo dessert altogether than it is to have it once in a while. (FOR ME--obviously, everybody is different, so this may not be the case for others.)

I remember specifically in July when I made a vegan chocolate cake for Noah's birthday (it is seriously the best chocolate cake EVER--vegan or not). When I made the cake in July, I didn't have that intense feeling of wanting to have a piece. I didn't even lick the spoon or swipe a bit of frosting.

My dad recently made a rhubarb pie and asked to bake it at my house (my parents' oven stopped working when the power went back on a few weeks ago after the storm). I *love* rhubarb, and he told me to take some; I knew if I did, though, I wouldn't be able to stop craving more.

And for once in my life, it wasn't because I didn't want the extra calories; it was because I knew it would make me have horrible cravings for days afterward. Eating the dessert wasn't worth it to me because I hate obsessing over food. Again, it was easier not to have any at all than it was to have even a tiny piece.

That was a big moment for me--it was when I realized that I was maturing in this whole weight loss/healthy eating journey I've been on for the majority of my life. When the sugar is out of my system, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to forgo dessert at all. I'm making that choice to avoid feeling so uncomfortable in my own mind, obsessing over more sugar. Even if it had/has no effect on my weight, I would still make the same choice just so that I would not have the cravings.

I made a big mistake on Saturday when we went to Eastern Market. One of the vendors sells the most amazing caramel corn, which happens to be vegan. She handed me a sample and before I could even think about it, I ate three kernels of popcorn. It was such a minute amount of sugar that I didn't think much of it. But I became obsessed with that popcorn--Jerry had bought a bag of it, and all day Saturday and Sunday, I could think of practically nothing else. The kids finished it on Sunday night, but my cravings didn't stop; I started thinking about other sweets.

Knowing how it affects me, I just need to ride it out for another day or two and then the cravings will subside. But it has been a very tough few days!

I think that learning these things about my mind/body is going to be crucial to maintaining my weight. I am so tired of the big ups and downs. I mentioned this before, but I think that finding a WHY that doesn't have anything to do with weight loss is the only way I'm going to be able to maintain my weight.

When I look at the big changes I've made over the last few years, there is one common denominator in how I've managed to stick with them--and it has nothing to do with willpower.

1) I stopped drinking because it had become a problem for me and I just felt crappy in general--both mentally and physically--from drinking. I have no desire to go back to drinking; I do think about it once in a while, but my reasons for not drinking far outweigh the short-lived "fun" of drinking.

2) I started eating more fiber to have a healthy digestive system. I also wanted to lower my cholesterol and I knew that a high-fiber diet had the potential to do that.

3) I became vegan for ethical reasons--nothing to do with weight loss--so eating a vegan diet is super easy for me. I don't have any cravings for the non-vegan food I used to eat.

4) And now, learning what I have about how sugar affects my mind and body, I'm able to say no to sweets. Again, not for weight loss reasons; I just don't want to obsess over food.

None of those reasons are because of wanting to lose weight.

Hopefully, all of this makes sense! It seems like it should have been obvious all along, but it's been very eye-opening to see the pieces fall into place (quitting drinking, eating more fiber, becoming vegan, and now learning how sugar affects me). If found a WHY that doesn't include weight loss.

And, ironically, perhaps this is the key to weight maintenance. I guess we'll see! ;)


  1. Gosh, I just love your blog. I've been a lurker for years and I'm so impressed by your journey and maturity. Thank you for sharing your insights with us, you've given me food for thought.

  2. This so much made me think of a couple of YouTubers I watch. Healthy Emmie talks about when you focus on health, weight loss is the bi-product. Chef AJ talks about "if it is in your house, it is in your mouth" and about food addiction. Thank you for your contribution and sharing your knowledge!

  3. Katie you know I have been around for years, reading your blog and I am also so curious about how to lose and maintain and how diets actually work, because I can't find anything that works for me. I have one question for you? Do you eat fruit? I wonder if eating fruit keeps you satisfied but doesn't make you crave sugary desserts? I can't remember if I've read very much on how you view fruits in your diet when you are keeping your weight in the range where you want it to be. Is there a difference in cravings if you eat fruit, as opposed to sugary desserts that have no health benefit?

    1. Hi there! And thank you for reading all this time <3 I *do* eat a lot of fruit--I love it! I think you're right about it being satisfying and not triggering a sweet craving. I've definitely noticed that eating fruit doesn't trigger cravings. One of my favorite snacks is actually prunes (sounds weird, I know). They're really sweet but they don't cause me to crave sugar like I would if I had the same amount of sugar coming from dessert.

  4. Great post! I need to give this some thought. I struggle with food cravings like you are talking about. When I try to explain it to my husband, he doesn't understand it. Maybe I need to take your approach and get sugar out of my life to get some better control. Thanks for sharing, as always.


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