Keeping the Weight off

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • Where I live in Vermont, the land wants to be forest.


    Many generations ago, men toiled for years to cut down the trees and transform the land into pastures and gardens. Today, we can keep it that way, but it requires constant work. If you neglect your pastures, they quickly grow up with goldenrod, and then brush, and then trees and dense forest again. There’s a lot of this happening now, because the income from farming is so low.


    To keep the land open, we have to pasture animals or mow the fields as well as mowing the lawns. Both are a lot of work.


    When you have type 2 diabetes, your body usually wants to be fat.

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    No one has figured out yet why some bodies want to be fat and other bodies want to be thin, but it’s a fact. True, if you put a bunch of people on a starvation diet, they’ll all lose some weight, but at different rates. If you force feed the same bunch of people, they’ll all gain weight, again at different rates.


    But in the real world, we don’t get fed meals with carefully controlled calorie and nutrient levels. Many factors affect what and how much we eat, including hunger, food availability, habit, visual cues, social cues, portion sizes, and many more.


    Losing weight isn’t easy, but many people find it easier than keeping the weight off once it’s been lost. Like managing the pastures in Vermont, managing your weight when your body wants to be fat is a constant job. When you have diabetes, and you’re trying your best to manage that as well, sometimes managing your weight seems as impossible as mowing a big lawn after a couple of weeks of rain.


    But we can’t give up, because managing our diet is an important part of managing our diabetes.


    What works for me is a low-carb diet, which I’ve been following for almost 15 years. At first, I craved all the carby foods I couldn’t have, like bread, potatoes, and noodles. But I no longer do. I remember the constant hunger I had when I was on an American Diabetes Association low-fat, high-carb diet, constantly glancing at my watch to see if it was time for the next meal. When I ate, I didn’t feel satisfied.


    Now I eat until I’m not hungry, and although I’m not losing any more weight, I’m not gaining any either. And the loss of potatoes and bread is compensated for by being able to eat real cheese and full-fat kefir I make myself.


    It’s not fair, I think, when I see how much other people can eat without gaining weight. But then, life isn’t fair. We have to accept that the battle for a healthy weight, like the battle for healthy pastures in Vermont, is never going to go away.


    But with vigilance, we can win the battle.


    Driving down a country road and seeing cows peacefully grazing on a hillside with the sun setting behind them, I think it’s worth all that work to produce such a view. Surfing the Internet and seeing a photo of a formerly fat diabetic person now thin and enjoying outdoor recreation, I think it’s worth all that work for such a result as well.


    Of course, it’s easy to say we should be vigilant and keep the weight off. But how can we turn theory into practice?


    David Mendosa finds that what works for him is weighing himself every morning and taking corrective action right away if he finds that his weight has increased. It’s a lot easier to lose one pound than 50.


    But weight can fluctuate a bit from day to day just from things like food and fluid intake. For example, the drugs Avandia and Actos can cause fluid retention. When I was in a research study of Avandia, I gained 6 pounds. When the study was over and I stopped taking the drug, I lost the 6 pounds with no effort. I’ve also weighed myself before and after using the toilet in the morning and found a change of several pounds.

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    Fasting can cause water loss as your body breaks down glycogen in the liver to burn for energy in the absence of other food. Glycogen is stored with water, and its breakdown releases the water, which is then excreted. The rapid weight loss that usually occurs when you first start a diet, especially a low-carb diet, is also caused by water loss for the same reason. With less food coming in from your meals, the body uses the glycogen in your liver before it starts burning your fat.


    So in some cases, small changes in weight don’t mean increased fat. But they could. David’s method should work if you’re really dedicated to maintaining your weight loss. You could also weigh yourself weekly and set a weight-gain limit, with no excuses. If you surpassed that limit, you’d take immediate corrective action. If you wait until you’ve regained 50 pounds, it’s going to take months to get it off again, and you’re likely to get so discouraged that you’ll just give up.


    So if you’ve regained 7 pounds and you really want to eat something you know you shouldn’t, just remember the months and months of dieting it took you to take off significant weight before. Better to make a small sacrifice now than a monthslong sacrifice in the future.


    Some people say that those who exercise regularly are most apt to keep the weight off. I wonder if the cause and effect aren’t reversed. Those who keep the weight off are more apt to exercise. When you weigh less, exercise is more enjoyable, so you’re more apt to do it.


    David is an excellent example of that. Since he’s lost so much weight, he’s able to hike and enjoy the mountains and birds he loves so much. He knows that if he regained the weight he couldn’t hike a lot. A big motivator!


    It’s not easy having a body that wants to be fat. It’s a constant struggle, like my struggle with fast-growing vegetation on my land. But if I waited until my pastures grew up to trees, the work to remove them would be immense. So too, if I waited until I’d regained 30 pounds, the work to remove them would be just as immense.


    I think the first step to keeping the weight off is to accept the fact that we’re always going to struggle with our weight. No matter how much weight we lose, we’ll never be like the skinny people who can scarf down huge quantities of chocolate doughnuts and never gain an ounce.


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    So we must be vigilant, and take action when that action is still relatively easy to do.

Published On: August 30, 2012