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Hmm, perhaps my comment on the previous entry should have been here.

"'I like to eat -- so I exercise a lot.' That's me in a nutshell. I love to eat: I'm a sensualist, and food is one of the great sensual pleasures life has to offer."

That's me in a nutshell as well (I am often puzzled that many people who are so non-Puritan about sex are so Puritan about food). And for me, it's a big key to weight maintenance - to keeping it off. I admit, when I lose weight, the adjustments that I make to my food aren't permanent...because they're primarily about calorie level rather than content (because I start out with a pretty balanced diet - this is a "works for me, not for everybody" thing). When I stop the weight loss plan, my caloric intake goes up. And so I exercise, a lot, to keep the weight off.

I like exercising - I'm from a family of athletes. I like eating, and have a bigger appetite than most women. I exercise more, and it allows me to eat in a way that makes me happier. Win-win!

To avoid going overboard with the eating, I do a budgeting sort of thing - a day of really heavy eating gets followed by a day of light eating.


This year I've regained 15 pounds I thought I'd lost for good. Last week, I started over, tracking everything in and getting back to ceili and starting exercises in downtime. Wheedling exercise into downtime seems to be key for me. While reading this blog, I was lifting handweights at my desk. I don't have to give up time and go-to-the-gym if I use the time I'm already wasting. Similarly, I make a deal with myself to only watch tv if I'm on the eliptical trainer at home. An hour of tv (in 42 minutes with Tivo!) and 40 minutes of exercise and I feel accomplished rather than just lazy. I love food too much, so I have to exercise a lot, just like you said.


What makes weight loss hardest for me is my hypoglycemia. I get mean and stupid when my blood sugar drops which is far too often (I did find these ExtendBars which actually seem to work, especially overnight.) So lots of small meals for me.
When I dropped 30 pounds in 3 months in prep to joining the USAF (which didn't quite work out), I ate one serving spoon of whatever my mother made for the meal, but only one. I drank ridiculous amounts of A&W diet cream soda to control my sweet tooth and I walked *everywhere*, not as conveniet as it might have been living in the country where coal trucks had right of way no matter what.
The weight did come back and now I'm trying again. Now quite bit older, I ache every flippin' time I walk, lift weights (I agree with Greta, love that), etc. But I still keep at it.


Thank you for these posts. I have been feeling very downhearted by my own struggles and to see someone talking sense about it is not only refreshing but inspiring.

I like how you have approached this intelligently. I was on a major weight loss program and it drove me up a wall when every one of their pamphlets or newsletter talked to women like idiots who have never heard of nutrition in their lives.

I've since dropped that program which didn't do much for me and I'm going to try my own thing using Livestrong's calorie and food tracking system. However, I may also just think of that Astroglide diet you mentioned and have no interest in food. I can't think of many things that taste worse than that lubricant *gag*.


I've lost quite a bit of weight before and eventually gained much of it back (but not all--so that's a positive). What I learned from the first time I lost a lot of weight is that before I started losing it, I was eating until gorged all the time. Every meal. I couldn't believe it. I lost all that weight almost ten years ago, and I am proud to say I have not once since then ever gorged myself, even when I was gaining back weight.

I gained the weight back because I stopped counting calories, stopped exercising regularly, and gave into my obsession with particular foods, such as ice cream.

I do pretty much everything you describe. That's what worked for me before, so I know it'll work again. The only thing is that this time I need to maintain. I feel confident that I can.

I use Lose It, too, and I fucking love it.


Just wanted to echo a thanks for these posts. They are a nice mix of a practical way to improve health and an analysis of fat as a feminist issue.


Of course, I do all of this and maintain a steady weight of about 300 pounds (I also had thyroid cancer and have ongoing thyroid issues which is probably interfering with weight loss). For me, this ordering is to do with not binge-eating rather than weight loss, and works fine (though obviously someone with a different kind of eating disorder could find this idea extremely inappopriate and triggering). All of this is perfectly good advice for living, not necessarily for weight loss.

John B Hodges

This note is to tell you about an approach I am using, which may (or may not) interest you. Very different from the approach you wrote about.

It is based on two books.
EAT, DRINK, AND BE HEALTHY by Walter C. Willett, M.D., The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating
THE CHEATER'S DIET by Paul Rivas, M.D., Lose Weight By Taking Weekends Off

Willett is an academic researcher, dean of the dept. of nutrition at the Harvard Medical School. Rivas is in clinical practice, helping obese people lose weight.

Many diets work, for a few months and for taking off 20 lbs, but then they fail, people go off the diet and gain the weight back, usually gain a bit more. Diets fail for two reasons. First, diets are boring, and people get tired of them, can't face staying on them forever. Second, fat is your body's defense against the risk of starvation. If you eat a low-calorie diet for months, your body says "Gee, times are lean, there doesn't seem to be much food out there. I'd better adjust the thermostat, hang onto the fat I have and add more every chance I get." So when dieting, after a few months people hit a plateau, and even if they are very strict, they just cant...lose...another...POUND! And if they cheat even once, one three-ounce donut, BANG, they gain three ounces. SO, Rivas has found a trick that has worked for his patients. They follow a diet strictly during the week, but for 1&1/2 days each week, from 9AM Saturday to 9PM Sunday, they are allowed to eat whatever they want, (within reason, i.e. don't binge.) Not merely allowed but encouraged to eat extra food and high-calorie food; for those who count calories, an extra 1500 calories for the weekend. This does two things: it relieves the boredom- you don't have to keep to your diet FOREVER, you just have to keep to it until Saturday. And it keeps your body guessing about how much food is out there. "Gee, pie a'la mode! Times aren't as lean as I had feared. I guess I don't have to adjust the thermostat just yet."
Using this approach, you will lose weight more slowly than you would on stricter diets, but it is hoped (Rivas has had experience with 15000 patients) that you won't get bored and won't hit a plateau.

So, what does "Following a diet strictly during the week" mean? I take that from Willett. He bases his views on huge, long-term studies, tracking large populations over decades. Summary of EAT, DRINK, AND BE HEALTHY: see the websites
My own quick summary:
- some kind of exercise daily
- Foods you can eat in unlimited quantities: Raw leafy greens, vegetables (fresh or frozen), fresh fruit, beans and legumes (peas, lentils). (I personally also add, unlimited diet sodas and unlimited diet Lipton tea.)
- Foods you can eat in limited and measured quantities: Whole grain foods (whole-grain breads, brown rice, whole-grain cereals, etc) 1 cup per day. Liquid vegetable oils, 1 or 2 tablespoons per day. Lean poultry, fish, eggs, 1 or 2 servings per day. Nuts and seeds, max 1 handful per day. Lowfat dairy, 1 or 2 servings per day. Wine, one glass per day.
- Foods you should eat sparingly and occasionally: starches and sugars (white rice, white bread, potatoes, pasta, sweets. Squashes and pumpkins are starchier than other vegetables. Bananas are both sweeter and starchier than most other fruit, be sparing with them also.) Red meat, solid fats (animal fats, butter, veg oils that have been hydrogenated to make them stiffer, coconut oil).

Note that it's a very EASY diet. I don't have to count calories, keep a journal, confess before a crowd. I don't have to sweat, never have to be hungry, don't have to swear off chocolate or other "comfort foods". During the week, there's a great variety of foods and dishes that are fair game; weekends I can eat whatever.

My own personal experience with this approach doesn't mean much yet, I haven't been on it long enough. I've been doing this for 14 weeks and I've lost 10 lbs. But, hey, that's fast enough, if I can stay on it more or less permanently, in a year or so I'll be lean.


I'm happy that you are happy about your weight loss; and I'm also happy that you say what you've done because it looks like sensible and good advice that may well work for a lot of people, but I'm alsoalso happy that you say it doesn't work for everyone.

I've tried these things, and I know where they go - where they go is exhaustion and insomnia.

Most recently I bought a WiiFit (because I thought it might be fun, and it is) I lost a small amount of weight (4-5lbs) in a reasonable time (4-5 weeks) by increasing my working-out slightly without changing my eating. I wasn't perpetually hungry at all (but I screwed up my hungry-ness with disordered eating as a teen anyway) but I just got more and more tired and less and less able to get enough sleep. Just like last time I tried to loose weight. I can't work through that like I could work through hunger pains, or the ache of "yes, you did some exercise yesterday", I just turn into a zombie.

Some days I hate being me, but most days I figure that I'm stuck with me and I'll just have to live with never being 120lbs (supposedly my "ideal" weight).

Greta Christina

John B Hodges: I tried something very much like that. I wasn't counting calories or keeping track of my food: I was just trying to eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and less rich, calorie-dense food.

It didn't work for me at all. I mean, it worked in the sense of improving my health somewhat -- but it didn't work to help me lose weight. My instincts and guesses about what's "enough" fruits and vegetables and whole grains and so on and what's "too much" rich food are just not functional. I can't guesstimate. I have to measure and count.

But if this works for you, that's excellent. And I do agree that standard "diets" aren't sustainable in the long run because, among things, they're boring. (Even the fruit, bourbon, and Astroglide diet would get tedious after a while...) A variety of foods, with occasional treats, has definitely been key to making this work so far.


naath, with you mentioning "exhaustion and insomnia." I hope you might try those bars I mentioned. I had what you had plus constant nightmares when I could sleep. They did help me a lot and they offer a trial run of them (, not affiliated but happy)

Nurse Ingrid

Wow. I'm really baffled by the folks who are reporting that increasing their exercise led to "exhaustion and insomnia." That goes against everything we know about the physiology of exercise. All I can say is that maybe this is happening at first, because your body isn't used to that level of activity, but I would expect that with time you would see improved sleep and energy level as your body adjusted to your new routine.

Also, perhaps looking at what time of day you exercise would make a difference. And, of course, making sure that you're not trying to increase your exercise too much right away, or cutting your food intake too low. Good luck!

Chronos Tachyon

For what it's worth, I'd recommend weighing daily but keeping a moving average. Don't pay any attention to the daily numbers, and watch the moving average instead.

The Wikipedia page on "Moving average" has some math-y bits on the different kinds of moving average that are out there, but an easy one is the exponential moving average. To keep one of those up to day, you simply take [0.90 times yesterday's moving average] and add it to [0.10 times today's weight]. "Exponential" makes it sound complicated, but it's really grade-school math.

It turns out that, if you use those multipliers (0.90 and 0.10), then data from today is roughly twice as important as data from one week ago. This means the average is always fairly up-to-date, mostly based on the last few days, but today's data can't move the average very much by itself. Only a real, sustained trend over multiple days (in either direction) can budge the average. That lets you ignore the stress over daily ups-and-downs, and concentrate on the actual trends.


I'm in line with Greta Christina on this one. I'm a little less conscientious about the exercise due to rotating 14 hour shifts - I don't get formal exercise on those days, but I do get it in on the other 3 or 4 days as a 40-60 minute cardiovascular session. I walk the dog daily, 20-30 min. I have outside chores, seasonally - on the other hand, I've learned that rural life that is not 100% rural = more butt-sitting sometimes. I don't consciously balance macro-nutrients, but I seem to end up with a consistent 35%+ from protein. I also do not eat an especially low-fat diet, it seems, at least not in the colder months - but I live in a very, very cold climate (it is -5 degrees F right now), and that may make a difference. Lots of whole grains, as my recipes all use them - and as, when calorie intake goes down, so does... output... and I rapidly learned that I needed anything I could get to reduce constipation, even when active.

But the food tracking, and the regular weighing - these are -crucial.- I use daily weighing. Because weight does fluctuate so very much, weekly weight can be somewhat demoralizing on the 'off' days.
I'd add "LOTS of water" as an key element. Not for any "flush out the toxin" bs reason - the word "toxin" being one that is, of course, somewhat suspect - but because 1) I feel better and 2) as it turns out, there's some interesting literature on increased water consumption and weight loss (see PMID 19661958 and related articles.)

And every couple of months... I give myself a week off from that 1.5# per week intended energy deficit. Planned starvation is hard on the body. So I have an energy-neutral week, maybe gain a pound, run around a lot - and then back we go, and it seems to jump start everything.
Thus far, 90ish# in 18 months. On a 62" frame, it adds up.

My job involves a fair amount of health education. People ask me how I lost the weight. I'm not preachy (or whatever the atheist equivalent is), and I certainly don't bring it up. When I describe it, they say they can't do that. OK. What would you like to do instead?
I spend a lot of time on motivational interviewing.
As it turns out, many patients can do some part of this for a week, and then they come back and we talk about what worked and we look at it and build on it.
People are very resistant to the food diary in particular. "Oh, no, I can't do that." We talk about resistance and we get into the "being caught being bad" beliefs and the moral beliefs about good/bad food/body.
I think that if we don't start there, we may not get further.
Online food diaries kick ass, because they can be deleted, I point out. Also because patient does not have to look at the whole week. (I use the DailyPlate one too.)
Most people will do a 24h recall with me in the office, will agree to try it for a week and then we could go over it later in office.
The phone trackers help tremendously.

I also recommend the Judith Beck books - even if they have the word Diet in the titles - as they help people address distorted thoughts about food and eating. Extra helpful with the good/bad and "I have to" and deprivation thoughts, I think - also helpful if there's some emotional eating in there. As there is for, like, all of us, I think. OK, at least me. :)

I've tried the strategy of eat ad lib healthy stuff, and it's definitely better, but not sufficient. I have an energy seeking brain, apparently. I will, by gum, survive any famines that arise.

newbie atheist

Congratulations on your success.

The 1 to 2 pounds a week thing is because 1 pound is ~4000 calories. If you think about weekly calorie consumption, to permanently and consistently delete more than 4-8000 calories from your baseline week is nearly impossible.

I participate in the National Weight Loss Registry since I lost >30 pounds a few years ago. The facts that come out of such a huge database would, indeed, seem to trump all the weight loss anecdotes out there.


"And every couple of months... I give myself a week off from that 1.5# per week intended energy deficit. Planned starvation is hard on the body. So I have an energy-neutral week, maybe gain a pound, run around a lot - and then back we go, and it seems to jump start everything."

Yep‚ it does. Body builders call it zig-zag.
I got here because of the Pollan reference. His "real food" mantra resonated to DH and I, so we ditched all the "low-fat" engineered "food" and notice that we didn't only lose weight but we felt satisfied eating less food. I don't know if we predisposed ourselves to believing that; but whenever we have eat-outs we do get hungrier faster and eat way more food than when we cook our meals.
BTW, most FA leaders despise Pollan because he's an "elitist, white male that dislikes freedom"...or something along those lines.


Following Greta's advice I have lost 23 pounds since January, so, yeah, this works pretty well.

Interestingly, though, it has not been as hard for me as what Greta describes; well, there was no crying on my part, although there was a lot of longing for just another byte.


I've lost 105 pounds, and next month will be the 3rd anniversary of reaching my goal. My processes are pretty much like yours, only I came to exercise a lot later than you--I really didn't want to do it. Now, it's part of my routine, like brushing my teeth and flossing. But maintaining is doable, and I'm living proof. Hang in there. It sounds like you made a good start.


GREAT post!

It's true that different things work for different people. I don't think I could have even started with a goal like 'lose 20 pounds'. My goal was 'lose at least 30 kg' right from the start, and if I wouldn't have thought that was possible, I wouldn't have felt motivated to even try. What, diet and still be fat? No way!

I've lost almost 35 kg with Alternate Day Calorie Restriction. My way of 'breaking things up into chunks' was just working on the calorie restriction in the beginning. All I did was make sure I didn't eat too much on the 'down days'. Only later did I start to pay more attention to eating healthier food, and only recently, now I have been at my goal weight for a few months, have I started adding exercise (lifting weights and walking up the stairs to the office (19 floors), in addition to bicycling to work which I've always done).

What I learned from regaining all the weight I'd lost before, was that I must be very very careful not to be a perfectionist. Back then, I restricted my calories every day (instead of every other day like now), and I kept a food journal religiously. If I'd just kept track of the calories (I used Fitday), that would probably have been fine. But I started to track all the nutrients, and entering all the trace elements of every food I ate even once, and that just took too much time to keep up indefinitely.

Same thing with weight lifting. I had a nice book with simple exercises, and I followed that, and it worked. But then, I started to read other books, and using different weights for different bodyparts (the first book just had you use the same weights for every exercise), and keeping a journal with the amount of weight I was lifting, and the number of reps, etc.

Truly they say in my country that 'the better is the enemy of the good'.


As you lose weight, you need to reduce your calorie budget. It takes fewer calories to maintain a lower body weight than it does to maintain a higher one. When I started, my daily calorie budget was about 1,850; it's now just under 1,700.

Are you losing muscle? Using something like the Cunningham equation (, losing body fat doesn't affect your resting metabolic rate; only the difference in non-fat body mass does. So, for instance, if you're gaining muscle (possible, given that you're lifting weights), you'd need to eat more to maintain the new muscle mass. Tracking body composition isn't as easy or obvious as tracking weight (measuring your body fat percentage takes a tape measure and about five minutes), but it maps much better to health and fitness than BMI does.

The method is clearly working for you, so the difference is probably minimal. For me, at least, finding out that I should be eating around 3400 calories a day to maintain my weight was a bit of an eye-opener. (I am not a small man, but still...)

James Sweet

Well, with all the positive feedback, I hate to be a negative nancy, but damn, that all sounds really hard and unpleasant. I hate to admit it, but I found this post discouraging. heh, sorry...

Luckily I've been losing some weight recently just as a factor of being really damn busy, which means both a) more physical activity, and b) less time for recreational eating. I think also having an infant son is helping, because in addition to also making me more physical active, I tend to share my portions with him.

I'm really, really really hoping I can parlay that into long-term lifestyle changes. I don't see a lot of hope otherwise, because I know myself well enough at this point to know that the odds of me successfully keeping a food diary for more than two weeks or so, for example, are essentially zero. I mean, I can't even manage to keep those kinds of disciplined records about things I am passionate about, e.g. I have tried and failed multiple times to start a wine diary.

Greta Christina

James: It is hard. I won't deny that. And it is definitely harder for some people than it is for others, due to life differences and just differences in temperament.

What I will say is this:

1) It's hard -- but it's not as hard as I would have thought. And it's gotten easier with time. Keeping the food diary in particular is something I never would have thought I could sustain... but it's now become second nature. (Having the iPhone app helps tremendously, I will say. If you don't have an iPhone and are motivated to try this, they do sell dedicated electronic calorie counting gizmos.)

2) You have to answer the question for yourself of whether the benefits outweigh the costs. And I mean that entirely sincerely. I'm not an evangelist for weight loss for everyone. For me, the benefits have been enormous, and have far outweighed what a pain in the butt it sometimes is. But that equation isn't the same for everyone. You have to decide for yourself what you want more.

Account Deleted

Thank you. I need to lose about 100-150 pounds for health reasons and not only do I feel overwhelmed by the amount, I've had those "am I still a feminist if I try to lose weight" moments too. Thank you for your honesty and clarity.


Oh my God, this series is brilliant. I love your intelligent, thoughtful, feminist approach to this stuff. Thankyou so much for taking the time to share what you've learned here - please oh please make this a book someday - a feminist guide to dieting. Seriously, this is the first time I've ever read about a diet and felt comfortable - the language, the empowered, self aware attitude. This is really good stuff.


I want to thank you. I found your blog about five days ago, and read all of your posts about weight loss. I've tried to lose weight in the past, which didn't stick but did teach me the facts about weight loss. For the last couple of years I have become very fat-positive and comfortable with myself, but recently have decided I need to lose weight, for more energy and more condidence. Stumbling on your blog came at the perfect time: I'm on break from school, and a family member gave me his old iPod touch. I've been using LoseIt as you suggest and it's surprisingly fun and empowering being aware of my food and exercise! Many of your tips and suggestions in the comments have given me new ways of thinking, and I feel like I can do this. Thank you!

Wow, I come here looking for atheism and I get encouraged to try to lose weight again (it helps that this past weekend I was playing with my parents' Wii and it told me how much I weigh and I was 25lb over the weight I'd maintained from the end of high school until more recently. (Not that the previously maintained weight was a good one, I have been obese for much of my life, but 25lb more was a shock.)

So, thank you for sharing this, I'll possibly be trying it again (it is similar to something I've done in the past, just didn't stick with it)!


Have only just read the three parts of your weight losing in April 2011. Just to thanks for your very wise and gentle words--openhearted, I'd say, acknowledging the difficulties, the psychological and political and personal and social implications of weight loss particularly for women. Thanks, Greta.


Account Deleted

This this this. A thousand times this!

Exactly what I've been doing to lose weight (and a few things I should probably start doing)! I'm so glad to hear that these methods really do work, and that I'm doing something right. I'm a food sensualist as well, and once I stopped thinking of my favorite foods as "taboo" and more as "luxuries", it's been so much easier to manage my intake.

I've lost about thirty pounds in 6 months. I didn't even notice it at first. I wasn't weighing myself every day, and I wasn't even intentionally "dieting" at first. I was just writing down the stuff I ate and walking more, trying to make the daily, hilly trek to work a little less miserable for my fat self. Then I bought a scale and the LoseIt app for my iPod touch (which is the best app ever), and I am slimmer and healthier than I've been since high school. Still about 10-15 lbs shy of my ultimate goal, and I'm currently on maintenance mode because I'm recovering from a serious illness, but I intend to get back into the calorie budgeting more vigorously within the next few months.

This article is a real eye-opener. I can certainly vouch for the effectiveness of these methods. Changing your whole perspective and habits is hard, but it's possible, and it's really the only sustainable way to lose the weight and keep it off. There is no quick fix. It takes diligence and hard work, but by golly, it is WORTH IT in the end!

This whole post just spoke to me on such a warm, friendly level. You really nailed it, lady! I'll be sure to check out the rest of this blog. <3

Mark Wisniewski

Well, this is thread necromancy to a certain extent. I just want to mention that I've lost 55 lbs using a diet I found online, that is quite similar. It's called The Hacker's Diet, because the guy who came up with it is one of the founders of AutoDesk:

I'm mentioning it because it's free, and has free online tools, and one of those tools is a daily weight log that calculates your weight using a weighted moving average. It lets you focus on the general trends, instead of obsessing over random fluctuations in your day-to-day weight.

I think this log gave me a massive psychological advantage when it came to dieting, so that's why I'm mentioning it here.

Truth about African mango

I started getting concerned remarks about how I shouldn't get *too* thin. I still get those last anytime I happen to mention I'm on a diet.


Awesome content,i am impressed from this post .

Big Bear

Atheism is that still exist i tought this is a 21ct century

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