It’s been over a year since my first post sharing my experience of losing over 140 lbs and 40% of my body weight in 18 months, so Crew Dog and I felt it was time for an update.
In the middle of my weight loss, I remember calling my family excited to share how much weight I had lost that week, only to get the response, “Let’s see if you keep it off.” Ouch! But I’ve been on many “diets” over the years and seen moderate success, only to have something happen, and the weight would come right back on plus more!
So what’s the tale of the scale? Last Summer, I reached a low of 217 lbs. This week I was on the scale… 217 lbs! Easy peasy, right?! Wrong!
While it generally takes 3-6 weeks to establish new habits, our bodies have what’s known as a set point for body chemistry. This set point is how our body regulates our body composition and prompts us for what we need. When your weight and body composition remains at one place for an extended period of time, your set point resets. You don’t have to think about what to eat, or how much, and your weight holds steady. When your water and energy levels are low after exercise, your body sends signals that you are thirsty and need to drink fluids and your energy reserves are depleted so you get cravings for foods to quickly restore the set point.
After losing significant amounts of weight, studies have shown it can take upwards of a year for the set point to change. This means a year after losing the weight, we need to stay focused until the new lifestyle becomes the norm.
So what happened to me over the past year? I reached the low point of 217 lbs just before leaving for our Summer vacation in 2016. While I continued to follow the principles in general, I allowed myself to enjoy myself on holiday and was pleasantly surprised when I returned home that I only gained a few lbs (224 lbs). Unfortunately, my more relaxed Summer vacation approach continued after vacation, and I had trouble getting back to the eating habits I was practicing before, but I only gained a few more lbs (230 lbs).
Then my wife and I went to Italy to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and the relaxed habits continued and strengthened in la dolce vita, but I only gained a few lbs (235 lbs). Now we are into Autumn, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. By January 3rd, I was up to 245 lbs! (Although I might have intentionally skipped weighing myself a few days in there.)
Physically I was noticing the difference too, as my energy level was dropping and the sleep apnea was starting to come back. I had stopped using a CPAP to sleep as I no longer needed it, but as my weight approached 250 lbs, I could feel the tightness in my throat and more difficulty breathing at night.
Enough is enough! My body was trying to return to the original set point, and I had gotten out of the good habits which helped me lose weight the first time. I knew what worked and just needed to apply it again.
I re-started, but changing my habits was more challenging than expected. It was still too easy to add an extra serving on the plate or a late night treat while watching television.
I had also gotten so used to taking long walks that if I didn’t have time for a long walk, I wouldn’t go; so instead of walking 5-6 times a week, I was only walking once or twice. When I started in 2015, I’d go even if only for 30-45 minutes. After my annual physical, my doctor reminded me it’s more important to get out for short intervals on a regular basis than a long walk occasionally.
Back to basics for me!
I started doing again what I did in the beginning: focusing on my diet, getting regular exercise, and setting weekly goals. I’ve now got myself back into the good habits, and the weight is coming off regularly en route to my goal of my old military weight of 210 lbs.
While I plan to enjoy the holidays and parties and will accept the occasional blip on the scale as a result, what I don’t want to see happen is the gradual increase week upon week. “Only a few lbs,” is no longer acceptable! I want to reach my goal and keep it there, and eventually be able to do so without really thinking about it.
I will keep you posted!
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Good luck!
Follow up note – Since drafting this article in October, I have continued to lose weight and have since reached my goal of 210 lbs, reaching my military weight from 1994! Now I’m into my weight maintenance mode, as I don’t intend to let it drift again like I did last year.
Crew Dog: Thanks, Dave, for reminding us that a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment, and the path has ups and downs.
Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!