Sarah Quina leads the small group discussion and introduces herself.
“I was an overweight child and was 240 pounds by high school. My parents were both heavy. As a kid, I ate chop suey and I remember the grease on the food. I loved pastries, 2-3 peanut butter bars plus coffee cake.
I lost 40 pounds but then gained it back and then some. In college at CU, where everyone takes care of themselves, I weighed 220 pounds. By of fall of 1999, I was 345 pounds.
My AHA! moment was going to a PCP when I couldn’t feel my fingertips. The PCP was really kind about it, but I knew what I had to do. I lost 100 pounds. I started counting calories: 1350 calories with moderate exercise – walking a lot – nothing strenuous.
I ate the same thing everyday: bagels near the office. I hit a plateau and gave up at 240 pounds. I thought that was my happy weight, it was set point. I believe this, but that the set point is changeable. The body needs to rest. Plateaus are inevitable, but I learned from it. For the first time, the scale didn’t go up or down and it was amazing.
In 2007, I lost 85 pounds. I watched my grandma die of diabetes, my uncle die of pancreatic cancer, a car accident, and a miscarriage. I had PCOS, asthma, thyroid issues. If the weight doesn’t come back now, it won’t now.
I still have all those problems. PCOS is manageable now. I have one terribly scared ovary. I take medication for thyroid. I still have asthma.
There were no bells and whistles because there was no specific plan. There was no goal weight. I have put my body against all that and it was time to rest again.
People bounce when you get to your goal weight. At that point, metabolically, there’s no glucose in your liver, no water weight. You’re pretty efficient. You put on a couple of pounds right away. 3 pounds at this weight makes a difference in how I feel.
It took being skinny to make me feel fat. That’s when maintenance gets hard.
How do people arrive at that number? Weight Watchers? People say I want to get to this weight, but they don’t realize that you have to get under that to get to that.
I wanted to be 150 and I saw it for a moment. I had a baby in 2010. I was 145 pounds after the birth. I’m 160 pounds now. I couldn’t stay happy. Food is everywhere, omnipresent, ubiquitous.
You’ve gone through all these crazy emotions: people applaud you. I am glad I didn’t lose my weight in the time of social media. It would be hard because there’s so much pressure. People want to see you succeed and people are invested.
You take the focus away from maintenance to losing weight. Life continues to happen. When the food is gone, we go to different avenues to cope.”
SQ: “What is maintenance? That person is a maintainer? Why?”
Participant A: “Staying within a certain range. I go by how my clothes feel. I don’t go by a concrete number.”
SQ: “The studies say 95% of people will gain the weight back. We don’t know about them because they go on with living their life. Most of these studies only go out a year. There’s no sort of long term. First 2-3 years out is very hard. You’ve put your body through hell and your body says, Hey I need to gain back that weight. My tissues have the memory of that weight.
Your brain is sending your body chemicals that says you need to eat. Your body is saying I want the cookie. The mental exhaustion from making that conscious choice. I had to let go of food. The only thing was time. There is no substitute for time. If you keep going, over time, it becomes part of your life.”
How many times do you get confronted by a situation that gets in the way of maintenance? Flexibility is where you need to be to make those choices long term. People lose weight in a very rigid way. When you get to maintenance, there’s no book for that.
Do what you can when you can. If you fail at breakfast, get back on it at lunch. If you fail at lunch, get back on it at dinner. Change how you think about food, but it’s really hard to do. Same with your body. What happens when you get to the end?”
SQ: “How much weight have you lost?”
Participant B: “100 pounds”
Participant C: “60 pounds, but I did it in an unhealthy way. I was obsessed about getting to 130s. It was not practical. I went down to 141 pounds. I worked out 4 hours per day and put weight on. I would go in my basement for 2 hours to exercise.
I look at pictures from then and look at that skinny, unhappy girl. That girl would freak out if I went to a restaurant and there’s no plain salad. Now, I eat burgers and fries.”
Participant D: “25 pounds for 4-5 months now. Hit goal and bounced up 5 pounds.”
Participant E: “70, I wanted to be 130. I worked out 6 hours per day. I went down to 111 pounds and then I gained weight for no reason – okay, because of my metabolism. At one point, I went up to 150 pounds.”
Participant F: “172 pounds, but 20 pounds back on. I work for Weight Watchers and they want you to be your range. I hate the BMI. 150 was my pretty number.”
SQ: “When I was pregnant, I was within my BMI and my doctor told me to gain 20 pounds.
External pressures. I can’t imagine everything that’s been put on you.”
Participant F: “I do everything I have to do and I lose a few pounds and I’m not happy.”
SQ: “When you take the time, you give yourself the tools to keep it off. There’s no substitute for time.”
Participant F: “I try to tell myself. I maintained 100 pounds weight loss. I maintained 150 for 3 years.”
Participant G: “With Weight Watchers, I lost 73 pounds three times and it all came back twice. I gained 73 pounds with each of my kids. I go by my waist size and it’s about a 10 pound range. I never got hung up on a number myself. I didn’t have a poor body image even though I was really big. I see a lot of people struggle with it.
Who here has been overweight as a child?”
All participants raise hands.
“Never having been thin before and my identity as a thin person. It was a cold day in New York and watch people through the store windows – that woman has the same Eileen Fischer coat and hers barely closes and mine is loose.
SQ: “Anyone else have that I don’t recognize my moment? I’ve seen myself in oven door.”
Participant H: “I’ve lost 150 pounds in 5 years.”
SQ: Do you feel like you’ve turned a corner?
Participant H: “I was down 175 and bounced back. I stay in a 5-10 pound range. I set goals for myself but a lot of my weight loss was surprising for me. I didn’t tell a soul because I didn’t think I could do it. I started losing weight and I was losing 40-50 and I was still reluctant to tell people. I got out of the car 95 pounds later and my parents didn’t know. I got to the point where I lost 100. I think I can get down to 220 and I was 250-260.
I still don’t think I’m maintaining. I think I’m on a 4 year plateau and working through. I use a chart and I’m still working on that 220 goal. Maintaining is a fun icing.”
Participant G: “Don’t think of it as a plateau, think of it as maintenance.”
Participant H: “When I lost 100, I started blogging about it. I was fortunate to get television exposure. It was then that it dawned on me that there is no after. There is no done. I talked to people in my weight loss circles in LA and people say there’s 30 pounds and then I’m done. That helped me blur the lines between loss and maintenance. That doesn’t make it easy.”
SQ: “Maintenance is losing those few pounds over and over again.”
Participant H: “When I gain the 10 pounds back, it’s part of the cycle. I have the nightmare of gaining 100 pounds back. I didn’t have the clothes or won’t leave the house.
I fear that the 5 pounds could be the 150.”
SQ (about Participant A): “There is no way you could’ve eaten the calories to gain 9 pounds. There’s a reason.
We are not defined by the number, by the scale. There are other reasons we gain the pounds. It’s different when I’m more active, in the middle of the month, when I drink.”
Participant A: “My happy number was 137 pounds to get the charm for Weight Watchers. I have a 100 pounds loss for 3 years. I few years ago, Sarah sent me a tweet You’re already there and I was 15 pounds heavier. I thought I’m going to gain all my weight back Last year, I was 20 pounds up.”
SQ: “Have faith in yourself that you’ll come back down.”
Participant B: “I was 246 pounds. In 4 years, I lost 104 pounds to get 142. I freaked out over 3 pounds in 2 weeks. My happy weight is 145-150.”
SQ: “Does anyone have a good job maintaining this week moment?”
Participant C: “When I was growing up, I begged my mom to stay home when we had to run the mile. I’m the last person. I hike 14-ers now, I’m a fitness instructor.
And also, I want to say something about the scale. I use a quantum scale to see how much I gain or lose. I’ve lost 20 pounds since January.”
SQ: “For people who lose a lot of weight, they don’t make clothes for people who were formerly fat. I did have some plastic surgery so I wouldn’t have to think about that. The hardest part is living in the new body. If you’re clothes don’t fit well, there’s nothing else that makes you feel like a sausage.”
Participant F: “I just got rid of the clothes that don’t make me feel good. When I lost weight, I got rid of the bigger sizes so why keep the small clothes.”
SQ: “The shopping is hard. Take a look in the mirror. I don’t think the brain can process the body. The brain is used to you being the weight you were. The more you can show your mind that this is different, the more it will accept it. If you hide it baggy clothes, your brain won’t see it.”
Participant G: “I weigh everyday but it’s just data. It doesn’t ruin my day if it’s up. Don’t have a goal that’s tied to a number. Don’t have that pretty number in your head or a pant size. It should be a feeling – give it a soundtrack or an outfit.
If your purpose if 50 pounds, how do you keep pursuing that purpose? To gain that 50 pounds to have something to lose.”
SQ: “Everyone in this room is in tune with their body. I didn’t exercise much when I lost weight, but when I had my daughter, I realized I had to exercise and there’s an hour.
People around you think it’s done and over. You have to do that with people around you. This is where the hard work starts to happen. It takes time and conscious choice and forgiveness. You can only work towards the next step in your life.”
SQ: “People think you can do anything. You lost all that weight, what else can you do?”
Participant G: “You can do anything but you can do everything.”
Participant A: “You can just be.”
SQ: “More comfortable, more energetic, more yourself without all that around you. It does get better. It’s not what you want to hear. You have to let go of the person you were.”
Participant H: “I don’t have those muscle memories anymore.”
Participant A: “Part of me will always be that person but not physically anymore.”
SQ: “I don’t have to remind me of the person I used to be.”
Participant H: “I look at the old pictures and it’s hard to look at because I was unhappy. You forget the good things that were happening.”
SQ: “You need to focus on who you are now. You need to change the thought process from the ‘fat person who lost a lot of weight’ to who you are now.”
Participant F: “Jillian Michaels gave me great advice, That person took the courage. You don’t have to flaunt it around. Don’t hate that person.”
SQ: It’s not the end of the world when you put on a little bit of weight.
Participant A: “It’s not the end. It’s not where you’ll end up being forever.”
SQ: “There’s a lot of pats on back when you lose weight. The motivation needs to come from within. Talk about it more. There aren’t a lot of maintenance communities.
I feel survivor guilt. I made it through and haven’t put weight back on. I see other people struggle. I remember a comment on my Just because you can do it, not everyone can.
Everyone has their own motivation. I wish I could give everyone what I learned. I think it’s important to give it a voice, to say what was hard for me this week.
Let go of trying to lose the last 10 pounds. When you get to that place of peace with food, your weight will come off. When you don’t have the bloat, it can just be.”