Monday, November 9, 2015

Five Years of Weight Loss: What's Worked, and What Hasn't

Well, this is the perfect day to write on this topic, because since my last post I have gained eleven pounds. (Wow, it's depressing to write those words!) Actually, 11.3 pounds, if we want to be specific. That drops my cumulative weight loss to 103.8 pounds since January 1, 2010. Sigh.

Part of me really wants to beat myself up over my dietary slack-off, but self-abuse is a waste of time. So let's just jump into the topic at hand, starting with:

What Hasn't Worked (For Me)

1. Weight Watchers. Okay, this may seem like a controversial way to start off this list, but it helps to make the following point: these are things I tried that didn't work for me. They may work for someone else. Weight Watchers is a great program which emphasizes conscious eating and a well-rounded diet. I know a lot of people who have had success with it. But for some reason, I found the point system didn't really fit into my life. Maybe I'm just too lazy for it. I tried it for several months, didn't see a difference in my weight, so decided to move on to something else. And that something else was:

2. Going vegan. About two years ago I tried to go vegan. I'd always been philosophically on board with veganism, especially considering the use of antibiotics and steroids in our feed animals. So, in 2013 I took the plunge: I didn't eat any animal products for about six weeks. At first it was great: I lost a few pounds, and felt really good. But again, laziness took over: I stopped being creative with my cooking, started eating a lot of carbohydrates (it probably goes without saying, but pasta is vegan, and so are french fries). As a result, I was constantly tired, and started gaining weight again. I still feel like veganism is a viable dietary lifestyle for me, but the next time I make the transition, I'll have a better plan.

3. Not paying attention.  This seems obvious, to the point where it shouldn't even make the list. But lack of attention is most definitely at the bottom of my recent weight gain. I stopped keeping track of what I was eating, stopped walking every day. Part of this was due to the fact that I'd hurt my back, and wasn't as able to move as freely (or at all), which also inhibited my ability to cook for myself. More convenience foods, fewer salads, less exercise… obviously it added up.

4. Smoking. I only include this because I think it's one of the silliest things I ever did to try to lose weight: a little over two decades ago I attempted to take up smoking. (Hey! Stop throwing things at me! I said it was silly!). Needless to say, this brilliant plan failed to work, and I tossed the cigarettes before finishing my second pack.

What Has Worked (For Me)

1. WeightNot. I heard about this program on a podcast. Ordinarily I don't take podcasts too seriously, but WeightNot had a lot of qualities that appealed to me: it was all natural (no drugs, just vitamins and herbal supplements), weight loss happened quickly (half a pound to a pound a day) and there was some variety to what I would be eating (although portions were quite small).  So at the end of 2011, I tried the 60-day program. I lost about 60 pounds, and kept off 45. It was difficult, but very worth it. I tried to do another 60-day cycle in 2012, but for some reason the program didn't run as smoothly the second time around. However, I am extremely happy that I did that first round, and anyone who has a lot of weight to lose would do well to check out this program and see if it might work for them.

2. Salad, salad and more salad. Again, this seems so self-evident it's almost silly to mention it. But salad has saved me, especially over the last year.  Eating two salads a day has been one of the best things I've ever done for myself. And no matter what else I eat (within reason, of course!), as long as  have those two salads, I know I'm doing something good for myself.

3. Counting calories. I started counting calories on Thanksgiving Day in 2014, and in that time (even with the recent weight gain) I've lost 34 pounds. This past year has been the longest period of continuous weight loss in my life. Calculating how many calories to eat is a relatively simple process (here's a great online calculator), and I always try to eat the maximum number of calories that I'm allowed. My current range of calories is 1700 to 1900, so I try to eat 1900. This makes for slightly slower weight loss, but reduces my chances of feeling deprived. For me, this has been my most successful action for losing weight.

4. Not thinking too far ahead.  I used to plan out my weight loss ("I'll lose X amount by Christmas, and XX amount by my birthday.") And although the daydreaming can be fun, when you have a large amount of weight to lose it can also be quite daunting. Even if I could lose 50 pounds a year, it would still take me twenty-one months to reach my maximum healthy weight of 173. And although I'd rather reach that goal in 21 months than not reach it at all, that's still almost two years away, which feels like a mighty long time.

So, I've learned not to think too far ahead. Instead, I just think about losing the next pound or so. When I was at 255 pounds, I concentrated only on getting to 254, and I savored every tenth of a pound that I lost. Because every 1/10 of a pound is progress; and in only 880 tenths of a pound, I will finally, for the first time in my life, be a healthy weight.


The activities which have worked for me may not be the activities which work for other people (and same goes with the "haven't workeds").   But everyone has the ability to become healthier, whether that means losing weight, or just treating the body with a little more care and thoughtfulness. So, now that I'm looking at re-losing that eleven pounds (and 77 more), I would love to know: in the journey to become healther, what has (or hasn't) worked for you?


  1. All great points, and i have gone through ALL of those, except for vegan. I've even gone through NOT eating (and gained back every pound). It comes down to basics: eat less, eat better, exercise regularly. It just seems that everyone needs to figure this out for themselves (it took me 20 years). But it is a journey, and your best point is to not make the date goals I think. Just keep on keeping on! Great work!

    1. Yes, you have such a good point: we all need to figure out what works each of us. Good for you for figuring it out, yourself, 20 years or not! That's awesome!

      Thank you so much for your support and kind words. They mean a lot! :-)

  2. I've lost some weight this fall. I ascribe it to two reasons: FitBit and Netflix.

    I've become obsessed with getting a certain number of steps in each day (the equivalent of 5 miles) and with the ongoing soap opera of the Winchester brothers in Supernatural.

    The hook is, I can watch a couple of episodes, provided I pace/walk while the Emo Boys are taking names and killing demons. While I walk, two things happen...I burn more calories than if I were just sitting on the couch. And (more importantly), I don't snack on crap.

    Cutting out the mindless eating and walking with a feeling of purpose behind my activity (must get to 5 miles) have been boons this fall. Boons I hope to continue into the winter.

    I like your attitude, Misha, and try to share it. Slow and steady. Try this for a while, try that for a while. Tweak as needed. Eye steady on the prize, which isn't a number so much as a way of being and behaving in the world that is healthy and sustainable. More power to you!!

    1. Oooh, I want to get a FitBit! I'm so glad you mentioned that. Five miles is awesome (and what better motivation than watching the Winchesters, lol)! I definitely need to add more exercise to my daily regimen.

      Thank you so much for your comment and sharing what's been working for you. Way to go on your progress! You've totally inspired me to get moving. f

  3. Misha, a great recounting of this particular adventure in your marvelous life! My eating has gone wonky while on this Lyme regimen, which ends this coming Friday! Finally! I have already gone back to more mindful eating, even when I'm eating less than wholly healthfully!
    Your continuing transparency gives us all permission to be real too! Much love!!!

    1. Ugh, I can't imagine what it's been like for you, dealing with that regimen. Yay for it coming to an end, finally, and yay for you for making it through!! :-)

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the words "mindful eating." Mindfully eating a few potato chips is one thing; chowing down on a whole bag is another (not that I've ever done that, lol!). ;-)

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words! Much love to you too!! :-*

  4. Awesome post, Misha! Thanks for sharing your successes (and failures) with us. This journey is so very individual, and you are right ... what works for one might not work for another, so self-awareness is half the battle. As always, best of luck on your continuing journey. ;0)

    1. Thanks so much, Mackenzie! It was helpful for me, personally, to look back and see what has/hasn't, been successful. Thanks for your ongoing support! It means a lot! :-)

  5. Misha - Another great post! First, I'm incredibly impressed that not only have you worked so hard on testing various methods (with great success) but you can REMEMBER all of that detail. This is a practical accounting of what you've been through.

    Salads have always worked for me as well. They make me feel really healthy and are filling. You have done an awesome job. Don't be too hard on yourself - you've had a lot of stress lately.

  6. Thanks Lisa! I remembered the highlights well enough; I'm sure there were dozens of other things I've tried in between that have just slipped my mind. :-)

    Yes, salads are the best! It's funny how easy it is to forget that, lol.

    Thanks very much for your kind words and your support. I really appreciate it!! :-)