Another approach to losing weight

Today’s New York Times opinion piece by two nutrition researchers brings me back to a topic that was part of my last post – losing weight. It reviews a long-standing debate about what kind of calories are best to keep us from gaining and help us lose body fat. It has me thinking about altering my approach somewhat.

As I wrote last week, my solution a few years ago was to combine determination and discipline – my determination to shed pounds and the discipline to count calories – to reach my goal. Happily I can tell you that I am among the one-in-six people who have lost more than 10% of their body weight and kept it off for more than a year. However, my weight has been creeping up over the last year.

The reason for my recent weight gain was apparent to me when it started to happen. As many people do, I have competing health needs, and avoiding osteoporosis became a focus after I stopped taking hormones and Fosamax at the same time. My bone density dropped enough to raise alarm, and my physician referred me to a rheumatologist to investigate and figure out how to deal with the problem. The new doctor gave me several simultaneous strategies, including eating two helpings of yogurt a day to boost my calcium intake.

There was no way I could keep within my calorie “limit” and eat that much yogurt, even the no-fat low-calorie kind. Besides, this period coincided with Robert’s participation in a clinical trial for a melanoma vaccine, and I could not keep that much determination or discipline attached to my weight. Consequently, I’ve gained back about eight pounds. I’m still more than 10% below where I started, but I’m not happy with the trend.

A few weeks ago I decided to start tracking calories again. A follow-up visit to the rheumatologist helped bump my daily yogurt habit down a portion, though I’m being attentive to how much calcium I take in – still trying to avoid hunched shoulders and broken bones. I’m happiest eating a healthy diet anyway, but the downside of that is that it doesn’t leave me many high-calorie targets to remove from my diet. I’ve struggled with keeping my calories below the “limit,” particularly since the limit goes down every year as my metabolism continues to slow. I’m still working out three or four times a week (good, hard, high-impact exercise), but I’m eating more because that adds calories to my limit.

The New York Times article gives me a new approach to think about. It reviews the old debate – should you eat a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet? It explains the mechanisms by which our bodies use and store calories. And, it is steering me back to something I read a few years ago, when I first started my disciplined, determined drive to get thinner.

“With reduced consumption of refined grains, concentrated sugar and potato products and a few other sensible lifestyle choices, our internal body weight control system should be able to do the rest,” the authors wrote. For me this means:

  • cutting out sweets (those with refined sugars and/or high-fructose corn syrup), which won’t help me much because I tend not to eat cookies and cakes anyway;
  • no white bread or low-fiber pastas, easier because I’m already pushing toward whole-wheat products and pastas in which at least 10% of the carbs are fiber;
  • making fried foods a luxury reserved for times when nothing else palatable is available, more difficult for me because I’m not the one who chooses how our food is prepared (and I refuse to ask Robert not to make fried okra anymore); and
  • no chips, the killer of this list.

So, I’m back to the two Ds – I am determined to follow this regimen as closely as I can, and I hope I’ll have the discipline to stick to it. If it works, perhaps I’ll write about it again here in a few months. If you don’t hear from me on the subject again and you want to know if I’ve continued to gain weight, feel free to ask in the fall. If I don’t reply in one way or another, you can assume that I’m off looking for a different answer.