Yesterday marked the 17 month point since I started a long diet that transitioned into a maintenance program. Those of you who aren't interested, please skip over this - I tend to post something every month or two as part of forcing myself to keep to my goals and be honest to myself.
About six months ago - around Thanksgiving - I finally made it to the range I was aiming for. It was well below my original goal of 175 pounds, but rather was within the range my doctor recommended given my relatively light bone structure. I've managed to keep myself within those boundaries (actually he suggested 155 to 165 - I moved the goal to 150 to 160 to give myself a an added margin. Here are the notes on my technique for losing the weight in the first place.
I've read quite a few papers on the subject of maintenance and agree that it seems to be require a different type of effort and it is generally more difficult than simple weight loss. Most people fail - something that is great for the diet industry as they have a growing supply of customers. It also means a great diversity of diet types are supported as people tend to look for the single silver bullet. All evidence suggests silver bullets don't exist.
I've managed to indirectly measure an effect resting metabolic rate that includes normal non-exercise daily activities. The sobering realization is that it is nearly 200 Calories less than it should be for a "normal" male of my height, weight and activity level (minus exercise). This crude observation squares with numerous research findings - that the body somehow readjusts the effect rate if you have been overweight for an extended period. The magic period to cause this is unknown, but is probably on the order of 6 months to a year. The period to return the body to the level expected in a healthy adult who has never been overweight is poorly known, but appears to be at least 10 years and probably much longer. It may even become more difficult with age. This is really good news for the diet industry as it is even more likely people will fail at keeping any weight they've lost off on the long term. Most people who diet find themselves heavier than when they started the diet by about a year after the diet started.
Very little research has been done on what it takes to do successful weight maintenance - most of the focus has been on the relatively simple part of just losing weight. The studies that have been done indicate those who are successful make a serious effort to stay at their new weight. They monitor their weight on a regular basis - at least weekly - and they closely monitor what they eat. As a group they tend to exercise a lot - curious as exercise by itself does not burn a large amount of Calories for most people with average routines. Successful groups tend to constantly set goals for themselves and almost all report it is something of a struggle and is more difficult than weight loss.
I find a combination of exercise - at least an hour of fast daily walking in all weather and something over an hour of aerobic exercise for about five days a week - critical along with daily journaling of all exercise and easting. I sum my daily results and expect the weekly numbers represent my goal requirements - so I can have days of excess as long as I balance everything at the week level. I have also been replacing my old clothing with pieces that fit giving myself a strong financial incentive for not gaining back the weight. Clothing that fits well also gives a backup warning to weight gain. And finally I'm actively experimenting with tweaks to what and when I eat. Everyone will be very different on this, but I'm finding breakfasts essential as well as getting a lot of protein by noon. It has a major impact on how hungry I get during the evening.
So far it has been successful.
The biggest learning so far is the realization that few adults will see long range success and that perhaps the focus should be on children. There is no reason so many kids should be overweight or obese. Life will be much easier and healthier for kids if they never gain weight in the first place. Proper nutrition and a normal level of exercise - at least the levels that were common prior to 1960 - seem to be a requirement. This sort of prevention isn't rocket science, yet the deck seems stacked against so many kids.