by Gina Paulhus, C.P.T.
Betsy A. has just reached her 5-year anniversary of taking off a whole bunch of weight. It was a little over 5 years ago that I began working with her on strength training, injury rehabilitation and advising her on her cardiovascular exercise. Although most of her weight loss admittedly came from diet changes, Betsy’s commitment to continuing to keep those changes in her life in addition to being very consistent with her exercise routine is what helped keep the weight off.
The feat of keeping weight off is not for the faint-of-heart. In fact, many believe keeping weight off is even harder than losing it in the first place, as evidenced by the number of people who try various and sundry approaches only to find themselves larger than they were when they began it all.
All the more miraculously is that Betsy had a double knee replacement, a broken foot and a shoulder surgery during this 5-year span. She never gained weight or lost much ground with fitness in spite of the surgeries which is totally amazing!"
As Betsy’s trainer, I find her attitude and approach refreshing. She does not take herself too seriously; if she has a day where she didn’t follow her plan she just dusts herself off knowing that she will get back on it tomorrow. Betsy takes accountability for what she does and does not do in her week and reports it to me without pulling any punches. I recently interviewed her, and here is what she had to say.
weight been a life-long struggle for you?”
Yes, I was a chubby kid by the time I was in kindergarten. I have no idea what it's like to be thin.
methods did you use to lose the weight? Did you have help at the beginning from
Exercise certainly helped, especially working with a professional trainer, but my primary method was to change the way I was eating. I don't like formal diet plans, and I was already familiar with proper nutrition, so I just switched to healthier choices and cut back on calories.
has exercise supported your weight loss and weight maintenance?”
I exercise in the morning, which helps put me on track for the rest of the day because I tend to stay aware of my food choices. And the more I exercise, the more I can eat (within reason) without gaining.
did you know when you were ‘done’ losing weight or at least taking a pro-active
approach to losing more?”
My initial goal was to lose 20-25 pounds, but when I reached that point, I still had momentum, so I kept on going and lost more. My longer-term objective was a certain BMI level and that's just about when I ran out of steam and started to maintain rather than lose. Right now I'm only about five pounds heavier than I was at 14, so I can live with that.
"It can be tempting to slip back into old patterns. So if I've had a bad day, I think ahead to what I'll do differently tomorrow, but without guilt—after all, it's only one day, not a habit."
“What has been the best part of losing weight?”
I wanted to improve my overall health and help set the stage to remain physically active as I get older, and I've been able to achieve that. Plus it's a lot more fun now to shop for clothes.
“What would you tell someone who is struggling with weight loss?
Everyone is different, so you have to find a diet and exercise routine that you personally can stick with over the long run. Start with small changes if you need to, and eventually you'll be forming new, hopefully lifelong habits.
“What would you tell someone who lost a good amount of weight but is starting to gain it back?
There's no point in beating yourself up—just start over again and try to nip your weight gain in the bud. I've gained a few pounds back more than once, but I immediately cut my calories for a little while and dropped the weight pretty fast.
“How do you approach holidays/special occasions?”
If I know I'm going to be eating a lot (I still occasionally pig out), I try to reduce my calories somewhat for a day or two beforehand or even afterwards if I think I need to. That way things tend to even out. The other approach, which I'm not always good at, is to prioritize which foods I like best and not eat the rest or else just have really small portions.
“What do you think of when you don’t feel like making a good choice?”
What's helped me is to always have some healthy food on hand so I have convenient options. If I have a craving for something really bad, I'll try to hold off for a couple of weeks. If I still crave it after that, I'll indulge and get it out of my system.
Five good ‘bang for your buck’ foods and snacks.
1. Triscuits—crunchy, salty and surprisingly healthy.
2. Frozen Greek yogurt bars—not as good as ice cream, but pretty good, with protein and not too many calories.
3. Individually wrapped chocolate—easy to eat in smaller increments without too much willpower.
4. Laughing Cow cheese wedges—a spreadable alternative to butter, with way fewer calories and a variety of flavors.
5. Microwaved frozen cherries over plain Greek yogurt—tastes like dessert, except healthy and full of protein.