Super Slimmers: Did They Keep the Weight Off? #diet #healthylifestyle

Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

Last week, Channel 4 in the UK put out a documentary about Super Slimmers – people who had lost huge amounts of weight.  All had achieved recognition of one kind or another for their dramatic weight-loss; there was a US winner of ‘The Biggest Loser’, a Slimming World ‘Woman of the Year’, a Rosemary Conley ‘Slimmer of the Year’, a Lighter Life ‘Wall of Fame’ loser and a couple of others.

The question in the programme title was always rhetorical – you knew that, didn’t you? Because, like 95% of dieters, all but one of these poor ‘losers’ had put masses of weight back on again.

My heart sank for the men and women whose undeniable dieting efforts had come unstuck.  I felt their pain, because I’ve been there too. In 2002 I dieted with WeightWatchers. I lost 50 pounds. Then I put it all back on again – and more – in the two years that followed. And that wasn’t the first time that had happened. So I know what it’s like to lose the plot, to see a pound, and another, and another pile back on, until you stop weighing yourself because you don’t want to face what you know is happening. I know what it’s like to swell up through the dress sizes, feeling utterly bewildered by the speed at which the weight is stacking up, when you’ve hardly changed your eating habits, and only slipped every now and again… or so you tell yourself.

Getting to Goal

I can’t claim to understand the personal journeys these regained Super Slimmers have been on, but it seemed to me that in being awarded recognition for their success in reaching some predetermined goal, they were considered to have reached an end point. Perversely, the recognition and reward they received reinforced the perception that their weight-loss journey had now reached a conclusion – in effect, a point where old/bad habits could be allowed back in again. Why? Because the job of dieting was done. And because don’t we all secretly want to consume really unhealthy stuff that clogs up our digestive system and dulls our mind, all the time? Hmmm.

Responsible diet programmes usually promote some kind of maintenance plan for once goal is reached, and that’s what is supposed to help dieters keep the weight off. But the very fact that 95% of dieters regain lost weight is testimony to the inadequacy of the diet-and-maintenance approach. I speak from personal experience here and I can tell you, the difference between eating for weight-loss and eating for maintenance is infinitesimally small – much smaller than you think.  Much.  Most people (myself included) assume all sorts of tempting foods they had foresworn for the duration of their diet, can be welcomed back for first occasional but then, inevitably, regular consumption.  Not so, friends. SO not so.

As many of you will know, my weight-loss – 70 pounds to date – was until recently frustratingly plateaued for several weeks. But in a weird way, I’ve been quite happy about this.  That’s because, beyond see-sawing within a three pound threshold, I didn’t put any weight back on.  I continued weighing myself every day (and, now I know it works for me, I always will) and eating for my new healthy lifestyle, with all habits established over the last few months still in place. I feel as confident as I can be that these habits are my lifetime habits, not something to cast aside in a fit of self-destructive pique when I’ve a bad day or feel weak-willed. They are, perhaps surprisingly, not habits which demand vast reserves of willpower from me any more (though they did at first), just a generally positive attitude (which I can summon up most of the time) and a constant refocusing on how much healthier, happier and more energetic I’m feeling overall, than I was two years ago.

To lose weight is one thing; but to keep it off, one needs to have changed the habits of a lifetime – food habits, exercise habits, stress habits, sleep habits, social habits.  Yes, all of them. To keep the weight off, those changes have to be permanent, not temporary. They have to be about not simply squashing your overwhelming desire for a biscuit with your cuppa, but altering altogether how you think about food and exercise – and yourself. They have to be about changing mindset, so you find yourself wanting to go out for a walk, not forcing yourself to do it. They have to be about loving how the changes are making you feel, so much that you never, ever want to go back to your old ways. They’re not about resisting temptation, they’re about never feeling tempted. When this is how you feel, the chance of you keeping the weight off significantly increases.

Change is for Life

Of the six Super Slimmers, which one had successfully kept the weight off? What do you know, it was the only one who hadn’t actually been on a diet.  Daniel Wheeler, the very picture of male physical health and fitness, today makes his living helping others achieve their weight loss and fitness goals by… yes, you knew it was coming… changing lifestyle and adopting healthier habits, not for a few extreme dieting months, but for LIFE.

There were some other points touched on in the programme too, to which I want to turn in future weeks… the drastic nature of powdered meal replacement programmes, the role of exercise, and overcoming the challenge of a slower resting metabolism (something called persistent metabolic adaptation). But the concept of being on a diet versus developing a healthier lifestyle for life was top of my list, as it’s very dear to my heart.

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Author: Jools

Abundant, Bold, Confident, Determined, Empathetic, Forthright, Grumpy, Healthier, Individual, Just me, Kind, Loving, Mellifluous, Natural, Optimistic, imPatient, Quirky, Real-world, Single-minded, unTreatable, Unwound, Verbal, Wilful, eXtraordinary, Young and old, Zero-tolerance.

29 thoughts on “Super Slimmers: Did They Keep the Weight Off? #diet #healthylifestyle”

  1. I watched that programme too and it was fascinating! You’ve done a monumentally amazing thing with your weight loss, but you’re right, it’s a change of lifestyle, not a quick fix… As always, congrats on your success!

  2. Hi Jools your willpower astounds me, well done 70 lb’s I didn’t watch but totally agree, for you never to be on another diet you need to say “I am striving for the healthiest me” put thing into place that reinforce what your doing and you are already succeeding. I plateaued then last week seen a climb, now I need to find a different way to have a treat? Yes Christmas, New year and Valentines… pancake day next, all became excuses to ‘treat’. Well onwards and upwards, but will I ever learn? Answers on a post card.

    1. Once you start thinking in terms of ‘treats’ there’s no end to the opportunities to ‘treat yourself’! And soon every day is a treat day. I’ll let you into a secret though… when you let-go the sugar, no more sweet-stuff – ever – there’s no such thing as a treat any more and you have to find other ways to treat yourself. Like a massage, an afternoon off, a walk in the park, flowers and so on. Trouble is, were co conditioned to sweet-stuff being a treat that we never think beyond it!

  3. I saw the programme too, and agree with your comments thst you have to be in the right mindset to lose weight. I’m an all or nothing person, once I decide something, I’ll carry it through. I’ve been doing the five two diet for the past five weeks and already lost sixteen pounds. And I weigh myself every day. I’ve dieted before, a few years ago, and lost over three stone, put it back on, lost two stone, put it back on. I need to change my lifestyle, and not call it a diet. Who needs cheese and chocolate, anyway! Oh, that’ll be me……..

    1. I have toyed with 5:2 but I find myself thinking about food all day long, just because I can’t have it! When I know I can, I can go hours and hours without eating, never a thought. This is where mindset is so important. Thanks for joining the conversation, GeorgieMoon, and good luck with your new approach. I weigh myself every day too – works for me!

      1. Thanks for nice comments, I think everyone has to find what works best for them. I could never do something like Slimming World, I’d hate the thought if meeting up with fat people and talking about diet food all evening….

        1. In the end it’s all about what works for you – and we’re all different. I lost weight with WeightWatchers but then put it all on again. This time I got some help from a health/vitality coach to get me started – and that was all about mindset and making lasting habit changes.

  4. I didn’t see it but it makes so much sense, the adoption of a healthy lifestyle for the long term. And as for you, Jools, I am so delighted for you. I may have mentioned I’ve lost a fair chunk of fat and in no small part it is reading your journey that helps make it make sense. You and Ritu and Judy and me will have to compare notes at the Bash in the summer. Have you thought about hosting guest posts about those who’ve achieved weight loss? I’m pretty sure they’d be game and I’d be happy to join in.

    1. Wow… knowing that what I’ve been writing about has had a positive impact for you just made my day. 😊 I’m definitely looking forward to the note-comparing. And hosting posts from weight-loss achievers is a superb idea too. How would you like to kick it all off? I’d absolutely love to host a Geoffle weight-loss post on my blog.

  5. I could empathise so much with the folks of that program. Having tried and lost over a stone with Weight Watchers twice and then regained the weight. I then thought I had found the answer having lost over 5 stone with Slimming World over a duration of a year this seemed to work for me. However, then getting told by a doctor that the rapid weight loss (over 2 pounds per week) may have caused gallstones (not recommended) I now find myself looking at new lifestyle options to try to achieve a long term and sustainable healthy weight. I am currently looking at the Trim Down Club online option, but I know that I should be able to motivate myself, but I do struggle to find away to feel in full control of my weight without some form of external support. Julie, this makes your achievements all the more impressive – you are indeed an online health and lifestyle coach.

    1. Brian, I have definitely had help! When I began, I had 8 sessions with a health/vitality coach who helped me establish lasting habit change. That I know has been critical to my journey. Once you are on the way down, as it were, the best motivation comes from how much better you feel – and from the support and encouragement of friends (and the wonderful blogging community). As for that ‘online health and lifestyle coach’ comment… you just got me thinking… … .. .. . .

  6. I’m sure you’ve already read my thoughts on this programme – but I’m definitely glad I watched it -because even though I haven’t got to where I need to be yet I think it’s important to start thinking ahead of time about what my mindset will be when I arrive.

    I’m trying hard to re-write the ‘treat myself’ mentality of yesterday and have instead been focusing on a quote from Trainspotting 2 when Renton is talking to Spud about the fact that 20 years on one is still taking heroin and the other is not.

    I’m paraphrasing – but the thrust of is that ‘We’ll always have addiction – it’s just who we are. It’s choosing what to be addicted to that makes the difference.’

    At the moment that addiction for me is feeling good after exercise, reaping the benefits that friendship brings when we see more of eachother or do activities together or just seeing a nice view.

    Going for a walk with someone has become my treat – not alcohol or food.

    Long live the new normal!

    1. I have indeed read your post on the programme. It makes hard watching unless you know that the changes you’re making are ‘for life’ – and I certainly see that about you, particularly in regard to your impressive exercise routine and love of walking. And that Trainspotting 2 quote is particularly relevant here. Getting to grips with the ‘treat yourself’ mentality is key to success – and moving that idea of ‘treat’ away from being about food. Part of it is tapping into those positive feelings around other things, like treating yourself to a walk, a day with friends, flowers, time to read a magazine, getting a massage… doesn’t matter what.

      Long live the new normal indeed!

    1. So far so good, but nobody’s perfect. When I wobble, I turn to something I read long ago for resolve. The ‘Just for today’ card is from Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s all about taking lifetime changes, one day at a time. It may be that the steps are different, but the ‘just for today’ attitude can be very helpful.

  7. I watched this too! It’s interesting to hear your thoughts. Very similar to mine.

    They had a challenge, but the motivation was extrinsic and outside of themselves. The benefits were the recognition from the media and congratulations from their peers. Once they reached the goal, this will have started to wain, and their motivation inevitably dropped.

    The key is having intrinsic motivation, looking to yourself for the reasons why, and knowing you are the only one you need to impress when you reach the goal. That’s what helped me in my weight loss!

    I hope this makes sense I seem to have gone off on a tangent haha! Love your blog by the way, I’m following 😉

    1. Hi Jennifer. Yes, this makes perfect sense to me. I understand why weight-loss clubs publicise their ‘Big Losers’ but I think it must make it all the harder to focus on those intrinsic motivations, beyond the ‘celebrity’ thing, and beyond the kudos of ‘getting to goal’. Thanks so much for joining the conversation and I’m delighted you’re enjoying my blog. I hope we hear from you again!

  8. I never got chance to catch up on the programme thanks for the info, I’m a up and down dieter it’s so interesting to understand that there are so many triggers that make us make choices, here’s to healthy very tasty food and reeducation! Well done 😊

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed my posr. The more we understand our triggers, the more able we become, to overcome them. Thanks for joining the conversation on mg blog. 😊

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