It’s about habits, not pounds
today at 11:06 am
Since the coronavirus was keeping me from eating out, a few months ago I decided that this might be a good time to act on a longstanding wish to lose 10 to 15 pounds. I diligently logged calories on fitday.com and shed five pounds pretty quickly — and no more in the last eight weeks. The weight-loss plateau is real.
Except for a couple of times when eating with friends, I’ve kept under 1,700 calories a day, a target Fitday calculated based on the goal of losing 12 pounds in 12 weeks. By the Harvard Medical School’s guideline that one should eat about 13 calories per pound of body weight a day, 1,700 calories is the amount to maintain 130 pounds — which I haven’t seen since my 30s and have no intention of seeing again.
The deadline is 11 days away, and according to Fitday, I would need to drop down to 597 calories a day to lose 7 more pounds by then.
So, I’m not going to meet the goal. Restate that more sympathetically: the goal won’t be met. I really don’t feel blameworthy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the weight-loss plateau happens to every dieter eventually. Metabolism declines with weight loss until you’re burning no more calories than you eat and reach the plateau. At that point, you need to boost your metabolism by exercising more or cutting more calories.
I could do more than a daily half-hour walk. Getting back to 15 minutes of strength work several times a week might help — and I should do it for my bones anyway. I don’t see how to cut more calories without hunger.
But I may need to accept that the scale is stuck. When I think sensibly, I realize that the goal is not pounds but habits. I am learning how to eat mindfully, establishing better habits for the rest of my days. Staying mindful may require continuing to log calories.
The target weight might not have been desirable anyway. There are research findings that senior women are better off being overweight according to the body mass index chart (a subject for another post). I’m healthy; that’s the important thing.
INTERMITTENT FASTING DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
Before logging calories, I tried intermittent fasting. It’s been promoted in recent years not only as a technique for weight loss but also as a healthy practice for people without excess pounds to shed. The most popular pattern is to fast for 16 hours and eat for only 8, having the first meal around the usual lunchtime.
When I heard of eating only from late morning to early evening, my first thought was about what happened to the advice that breakfast is the most important meal.
Not surprisingly, intermittent fasters dispute that. “Now that research on fasting has been conducted, we know breakfast is not required for most of us, and it may even be better to avoid it all together,” physician Tony Hampton said in an Advocate Aurora Health news email. Hampton contends that intermittent fasting promotes mental clarity, weight loss, glucose control, good cholesterol, and cellular repair and reduces hunger and inflammation.
But a healthy breakfast still has advocates. University of Delaware nutritionist Sharon Collison told Time magazine, “People who consume breakfast regularly often have increased physical activity. They have better dietary profiles and lower intake of snacks. Skipping breakfast is associated with increased disease risk — not only obesity but diabetes, heart disease, and just lower dietary quality.” She said that people who say they aren’t hungry when they wake up might be snacking at night. “If you eliminate that snacking and then wake up hungry and eat a good breakfast, your overall dietary pattern is going to be so much better, and your health status is going to be better.”
The debate turned out to be irrelevant for me, since I couldn’t pull off intermittent fasting. I first tried eating between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and didn’t lose a pound, probably because hunger spurred overeating during the allowed window. Then I changed to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and found that schedule lent itself to three meals a day, so I might as well eat breakfast earlier.
In this debate, maybe there is no definitive answer, and what eating pattern works best depends on the person. Consuming the recommended foods is likely what matters.
ANTI-TRUMP COMMENTS: 129TH IN AN ONGOING SERIES
“Apparently Trump’s campaign believes that since there were riots this summer, it’s only fair that the president be allowed to kill some of his supporters by exposing them to superspreader events.”
— Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University and medical analyst for CNN