Secrets to Lasting Weight Loss

broccolini with garlic and lemon - photo by Med Coolman on flickr

I recently read an article in the New York Times from their health columnist, Jane Brody, who divulged her “secrets to lasting weight loss.” As a young woman, she was forty pounds overweight and tried various diets, only to regain every pound she lost. Eventually she decided to give up dieting, thinking, if she was going to be fat, she might as well be happy. To her surprise, she ended up losing the excess weight when she wasn’t focused on dieting.

Today, Jane has maintained that weight loss for almost 50 years. Her secrets for maintenance are: “I read nutrition labels before I buy anything in a package, I practice portion control, and I exercise and weigh myself every day to stay within a two-pound range appropriate for my height.” She goes on to say how she eats everything in moderation and tries to keep in mind the approximate calorie count for what she’s eating.

We can definitely learn something from her experience. But her conclusions and “secrets” are a bit pat, and probably unhelpful to those of us who struggle with major food issues. The best thing to take from her advice is that ultimately giving up dieting can be the most positive decision, especially for people who struggle with bingeing after periods of self-imposed deprivation. The dieting-bingeing cycle just might be the most common problem for those of us with food issues and the only way out of it is to stop dieting. That can be a frustrating thought when you are unhappy with your weight, but getting out of the vicious cycle of rapidly losing and gaining is better for your physical and emotional well-being. Eventually, you hopefully reach a place where you lose extra weight slowly or at least maintain, but your life isn’t controlled by dieting anymore.

Her other points—about reading labels, monitoring her weight, and being conscious of how much she is eating—are all sound, common sense advice. Still, it sounds a bit like “dieting”, just in a more relaxed way, which is fine for most people with normal to mildly problematic relationships with food. But for people with moderate or major food issues, I wonder if it isn’t just the same as the path we’ve tried to go down so many times before. Weighing ourselves every day and mentally calculating calories would just reinforce our obsession with food and weight. And truthfully, some of us aren’t able to stop at one graham cracker for a dessert like Jane, no matter how sensible that may be. For many of us, the work required to live a healthier life is a lot more difficult than downloading a chart listing the calories of common foods—and that’s ok too.

photo by Med Coolman on flickr



15 thoughts on “Secrets to Lasting Weight Loss

  1. Christi

    I would love to just “quit dieting” and to somehow have that solve my problems. Granted, a lot of my problems involve stress, and some of the stress comes from the dieting…so catch 22. But after three years of counting calories for a week at a time and then breaking down and eating what I want, I’m no better off than where I started. But where would I be if I didn’t even try? It’s complicated and confusing, and I’m exhausted, to be honest.

  2. Pam In MIchign

    Christi, NEVER GIVE UP! I too am always stressed out ( I have a 30-year-old daughter with Rett Syndrome who is totally dependant on me for EVERYTHING and I am single Mom ,I also worked full time) this past May I was turning 60, I realized that I had been overweight for way too long and did not want to live with the excess weight anymore. I did just like she had done and started reading labels, ate way fewer carbs, those to me are the worse thing, ate no sugar or processed food. April 13 to Oct of this past year I lost over 40 lbs! The first 2 weeks were the hardest, after that it was easier as I started feeling way better I had more energy than I had in a long time and I only wish I had done this sooner! DO NOT LET life pass you by, it already goes by in the blink of an eye, heck I cannot believe I will be 61 in May! HANG IN THERE, YOU CAN DO IT!!!!

    1. Christi

      Thank you for the encouragement, Pam! I’ve lost 35 lbs twice before and gained it back, which is why I’m so reluctant to start all over again. At the same time, I lost it both times the healthy (and hard) way…healthy food and exercise. So I know it’s possible. I think I need to work on the emotional connections I have to food so that I have more control long term.

      1. Suzanne Kemper

        Pam, that is very good advice and so encouraging. Christi, I have lost and gained from 20-50 lbs. in each decade of my life since my 20’s (lost with a concentrated effort). I just entered my sixties and hopefully that is no longer my M.O. (I am told it gets more difficult too!). Now, when my emotions try to steer me to eat junky foods in quantity (!), I remind myself that honestly, no amount of cookies or chips or whatever the food is, will fill the void that I have in the moment, so when my emotions steer me in that direction. I try to realize what is happening and re-direct those cravings to other parts of life or just simply let myself be (and get out of the kitchen!). Distracting myself is usually a good idea or having a warm cup of tea or coffee in the moment. It’s soothing. Everyone is different and it is good to find a way that works for you, or use what has worked in the past. I have to be pretty strict and honest with myself. I agree with “Don’t give up!” :) You can do this.

        1. Christi

          Thanks, Suzanne :) I understand what you’re saying, and have recently started having some hot tea when I’m getting the urge to eat when I’m not actually hungry. It’s a long process to work through – emotional eating! But I’m glad you got there, and I’m doing my best to join you.

          Andie’s story and recipes were the inspiration I needed to take the first steps a couple of years ago. It all still applies. I’m getting back to being mindful about my needs, and I appreciate Andie opening herself up to us, and appreciate all those who gather here to support one another!

    2. Judy Saydah

      Hi Pam,
      I never read comments but wanted to reach out to you, I struggle with my weight and am the mother of a 24 year old Rett daughter. It is difficult to place yourself first.
      Thanks for the encouragement. I started for Lent no Pasta or Potatoes and have added rice. Seeing the difference.
      Keep up the good work

  3. Joann Radovich

    In February I started the exact same strategy. Bought a scale and weigh myself each morning. That determines my meal plan for the day and may I add I cook more often then purchasing meals as that too was a change made in February following a healt hy meal plan with many cooked veggies along with less protein. Also began cycling at the park on days with temps above 30. Degrees. As a result I’ve. Lost 8 pounds so far.

  4. Mal

    It’s critical to be aware of calories and nutritional information, but how you use that information is going to be different for everyone. As Andie says, it’s not as simple as knowing this and all of your weight loss dreams will come true. You can know how many calories and how much sugar is in cookies and ice cream and still feel the need to eat them everyday to excess. If I could stop after one cookie or a few spoonfuls of ice cream I wouldn’t have a weight issue. You still need to implement a mental and emotional overhaul regarding food in order to overcome that constant, nagging desire to eat what you know is making you fat. For me, that overhaul does not include weighing myself everyday. That always results in the same negative emotional cycle that lead to failure. There are foods that I know I have to leave behind because of the strong emotional attachment to them and because of that, “everything in moderation” doesn’t work for me. One slice of bread, one cookie, one donut is never, ever enough. Having one is just harder than none. I’ve had to take on a way of eating that doesn’t include them..I don’t call it a diet in the sense of deprivation but more so just to mean my way of eating everyday. I think that when you’re honest about how these foods effect you emotionally and the hold they have over you, it’s easier to fathom your days without them because you realize you’re capable of taking your power back.

  5. Talia

    About 5 years ago I lost 40 lbs counting calories and exercising. It was a lot of work and after 2 years I grew impatient with the slow progress since I had another 40-50 to go. Fast forward a few years and a few failed attempts at getting back on “the wagon.” I found a book by Dr Eric Berg called “The New Body Type Guide” and it changed my outlook on everything. Dr Berg explains that obesity is not a disease but a symptom of other things going wrong in your body and where you store your fat is an indicator of what part of your body (adrenal glands, liver, thyroid or ovaries) needs help. He explains why counting calories is not the answer and why I felt great after 6 weeks of keto but never lost more than the initial water weight. You may not think you can do it but you CAN! You would be amazed what you can do and once you see how good you feel and all of the compliments you get on how much weight you’ve lost, how good your skin looks, how energetic you are, it will motivate you to keep doing it. I was in no way compensated for this post. I have followed Andie for years and also struggled with my weight my whole life. I want everyone I know to read this book and have a life changing experience. I wish you all well. P.S. congrats on the baby Andie!!

  6. Joy

    Listen to Andie and stop the “dieting-bingeing cycle”. Read “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Reschedule. It’s truly life changing! Stop dieting, eat whatever you want, love yourself and lose weight. It sounds crazy because we’ve all been told the wrong things our whole life.

  7. Kathi

    I quit dieting in January and am losing weight. It’ a lot of work to stop that diet mentality. I constantly have to re program my brain after a fun day of indulging, that I won’t be ‘getting back on my diet’ the next day. But, the freedom from the constant self criticism is such a relief! I eat clean. I find that the easiest and healthiest way to keep on this new path. Thanks for your articles Andy, always enjoy them!

  8. Juliet

    I read that article too and I totally agree with you, Andie! It just wasn’t speaking to me as someone who struggles with food on a daily basis. I watched an episode of “Mom” last week that really had an impact on me. A character was struggling with food issues and happened to also be a recovering alcoholic. A life coach was trying to convince her that she could ‘moderate’ everything but it turned out that she really couldn’t and had a relapse. As another character said “We don’t do so well with moderation” – so true with many foods for me!

  9. Jan

    Andie I think you are one of the most sensible, sensitive people I have ever read when it comes to this issue. I think that is because you speak from experience and you seem to have a very intuitive personality. I agree that for so many of us dieting is not about knowing what food choices to make or “moderation” jeez if I could do moderation I wouldn’t have this problem! I have this problem because when my emotions get out of control and I don’t want to feel whatever it is I am feeling I try to shove those feelings down with food and you know what it helps! Only short term and I feel so much worse after. I know Andie knows those feelings, I know many of her readers do too, but it does help take the pain away for awhile. It has nothing to do about food. That’s the problem in a nutshell! It has nothing to do about food!

  10. Marlo Ettien

    Keeping weight off this long is inspiring, particularly those of us, who have belly fat from having children. Certainly, I rather not feel stressed about releasing unwelcome fat from body by counting calories and weighing myself nearly everyday. I have been focusing more on oxygenation through nutrition. Citrus Bergamot, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids have been working wonders for me over the last 4 weeks.


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