I’ve observed that a typical pattern for weight loss goes something like this:
Lose weight for the first six months (more in the earlier months and slower as loser nears the 6 month mark)
Progress stops around six months (may lose and gain but weight never gets any lower)
Some or all weight is regained by one year out from start.
Although it’s a typical pattern, it doesn’t have to be every “loser’s” pattern. Here is how one loser checked herself before she wrecked herself. I’ll call her “Betsy” to protect her identity.
Betsy wanted to lose 80 pounds. Her goal was realistic.
She wasn’t going for supermodel thin. She just wanted to lose enough weight to be comfortable. She had trouble going up and down stairs and she had pain in her hip and knees. Bending over tying her shoes wasn’t easy.
Motivated by the large amount of weight she wanted to lose and the dreams of how much better she’d feel when she weighed less, she began a weight loss plan. She decided to go low-carb because she thought she ate too many carbs, because she thought it was simple, and she heard that a high-protein diet would keep her from feeling hungry.
She ate mostly fruit, vegetables, chicken and fish. She avoided bread, cereals, pasta, pizza and rice. She also stopped eating chips, cookies, crackers, cake and candy even though she never ate a lot of those foods she did enjoy them on occasion. Once she started her diet, they became completely forbidden.
Her first three weeks of her diet were exciting. Six pounds off the first week, four more pounds gone the second week and three more the third week. Betsy didn’t know that most of the weight she lost in those glorious first three weeks was just water weight.
She didn’t know that cutting back on carbs caused her body to burn the glycogen stored in her muscles and liver for energy. She didn’t know that burning glycogen released water and that more of the pounds she lost were water weight, not body fat.
Soon her weight loss settled into a predictable pattern of an average of two pounds a week. It wasn’t as wonderful as the bigger losses she had when she started, but still acceptable. She missed bread, pasta, and especially pizza but she was determined to stick to her diet.
In six months she lost about 50 pounds!
She was more than halfway to her goal. People were noticing the transformation. She was getting lots of compliments and even a few of those insidious, “don’t get carried away and lose too much!” warnings. She was zipping up and down the stairs and could spend hours on her feet without so much as a twinge of knee or hip pain.
She was enjoying the changes that came with losing weight and she was missing her carbs. She often felt tired, headachy, dizzy and irritable. Although her knees and hips didn’t hurt when she was active, sometimes she felt a profound feeling of fatigue. Another chronic problem since going on her low carb diet was constipation.
There was a subtle change. Betsy didn’t notice that her diet now was more uncomfortable than her weight. She experienced an attitude plateau.
- “I can have some pasta. A little bit won’t hurt.”
- The little bit did hurt. Betsy never learned moderation and after a long period of abstinence she found it even more difficult to stick to a reasonable portion.
- She had more and more, “won’t hurt” episodes until they did hurt.
Betsy lost 8 pounds between her sixth and ninth month on her diet. The problem was in that same period she gained 12. She weight four more pounds after nine months on her diet, than she did when she reached her six month marker.
She realized low carb wasn’t for her. She needed more of those healthy carbs. She realized she also needed to add some “treat carbs” in the form of cookies, candy, crackers, and cake. She didn’t need a lot of the treats, but a small treat every day or so did wonders for her disposition.
Betsy got back on track, discovered that 75 pounds was the right amount of weight to lose and maintain. Every now and then she needs to check herself to maintain her goal. It’s never going to be autopilot and that’s okay!