Thank goodness 2021 has arrived! As we turn the page on a new year, and new decade, it seems appropriate to reflect on our goals for the coming twelve months. One of the most common aspirations in a new year is to lose weight. If you look at the plethora of ads running on tv and online, you will see that the weight loss industry and is alive and well. I have some experience with these companies and will share some insight gained over the years.
One of the most popular plans is built around group meetings, which includes weighing in and a presentation by a leader that covers a specific topic. There are also products for sale, most of which are food . This program offers an eating plan that encourages gradual weight loss and a balanced approach. I found the information valuable at times ( who knew skim milk has added sugar?) but also repetitive. What’s the downside to this plan? Several things come to mind. But first, some tips and tricks to help you succeed.
The first week you weigh in you should wear your heaviest and bulkiest clothing. It can be 95 and humid, but you want to wear a sweater, jeans and winter boots. Keep the boots on. Maybe a hat and mittens too. The amount you weigh is your baseline weight going forward. The number may horrify you, but remember it’s temporary. This method ensures that you will lose your first week because in the second week, and every week thereafter, you will wear your Weigh In Outfit- this will be a camisole, silk shorts, and no shoes. Step on the scale, and voila! You have lost at least 2-3 pounds of clothing. Be sure to keep the Weigh In Outfit handy- because you will use it every week, even when it is 20 below and snowing. Just bring some sweat pants and shirt to put on over the summer duds.
Once you get into a groove going to the meetings, some difficulty can arise. The process is you go at a designated time, are weighed by a staff member, listen to the group leader for 30 minutes, and be on your way. What’s not to love about this fairly streamlined process? Let me count the ways. First, weighing in can be demoralizing. You have to stand in line with your fellow members until a staff person is available, and they vary greatly in terms of attitude and helpfulness. There was one person in particular that I avoided because she was so negative. I came to privately call her the Crabby Weigh In Lady. She had worked there for years, and apparently forgot how hard weight loss can be. If you gained weight, even as little as 1/4 pound, she had a steely gaze of disapproval. If you stayed the same for weeks on end, there was the “Why are you wasting my time?” look. If she had any sense, she would welcome these issues. It keeps the business profitable, because most of the members never lose their required weight, and if they do, they rarely keep it off. Sounds like job security to me!
After the weigh in gauntlet, you take a seat and listen to the group leader. Again, lots of variables in terms of their ability to present the information. The leader that ran all of the meetings that fit into my schedule was less than motivating. She had 30 minutes to instill a message, and usually spent 15 minutes handing out stickers (weird recognition for a group of adults) and another 15 minutes talking about her personal life. If you were lucky, the final 1-2 minutes had some info you could use, i.e. “Don’t eat so much this week!”.
If you go to this program every few years, as I have done, you will begin to notice some patterns. First, the members and staff are almost all women. Most of the members have been there before- we are like repeat offenders in the criminal justice system. All we are missing is the orange jumpsuits. I think of this group as the 400 Pound Club. Not that we have lost that much in one attempt. It means we have lost the same 20 pounds 20 times. The program has added some online features, a smart phone app, and completely online options in recent years. But none of these approaches offer much accountability, so therein lies the challenge. If any male members attend, they usually lose weight quickly and receive rather luke warm applause when the leader gives them their stickers. Think about the weight loss reality shows that used to be on- who usually won them? The male contestants. They were put on very low calorie diets and were required to work out for several hours every day. I read a follow up article about the winners, and very few of them were able to keep the weight off. That lifestyle isn’t sustainable.
Maybe the key to all of this is to follow some basic advice I remember from a comedy show. I can’t recall exactly which show it was, but a person is looking for a way to lose weight. Two people follow them around with cards, and hold them up every so often-one says Eat Less, and the other one says, Move More. When you think about it, that really sums up any approach to weight loss. Since one size doesn’t fit all, I think this sage advice offers you the ability to find out what works for you, and then try it. Get the tempting food out of the house, plan your meals and snacks, and find a way to track your progress. There are plenty of free and not very expensive options that do this, and they usually come with reminders. When I was recently in the hospital, my fitness tracker kept telling me I hadn’t gotten any steps in for several days. Silly app.
It may be more challenging to do this while staying home and avoiding crowds, but it’s possible even in the age of Covid. A few years ago, I had a metabolic test at the gym I belonged to. The results said my base rate, the number of calories I burned just by existing, was 1500 per day. To lose weight I would have to go down to 1200. That’s not much food in my estimation. But more exercise sounds “doable”, and there are Youtube videos and other apps that I plan to try.
After years of thinking about this, my summary is as follows: it’s easy to gain weight, difficult to lose it, and very hard to keep it off. But I always feel better when I Eat Less, and Move More, so those will be goals for me again this year. If you are on the same journey, I wish you the best. Maybe 2021 is our lucky year!