My name is Sandy Daigler and I’m a radical weight maintainer. What do I mean by that? I mean that I’ve lost 100 pounds and kept it off for four years. The National Weight Control Registry defines weight maintenance success as losing at least thirty pounds and keeping it off for at least a year, so I guess I qualify! According to the research, less than 3% of people who lose a large amount of weight are able to do what I’ve done – if you’re wondering why this percentage is so tiny, let me say that my experiences in the last four years make me wonder how anyone, including me, is able to do this at all.
It’s a commonly held belief that long-term weight loss is nearly impossible and the statistics seem to support that idea. We’ve all heard how our biology and psychology conspire to keep us heavy. I can say from personal experience that the body and mind can be formidable foes when it comes to weight, but there’s an even more difficult terrain that I’ve had to travel, namely the social culture of food. In our social and cultural life, food is love, food is ritual, food is how we show we belong. Because we’ve grown up with it and because it’s ubiquitous, we can’t always see our food culture. It’s not something to be observed and analyzed; it’s just the way it is. And, in the United States at least, food culture seems to have little relation to health.
Unless you make a conscious effort to connect food with well-being, it’s easy to fall prey to the cultural narrative. In that story, a cheeseburger with fries is a good lunch. A hot fudge sundae is your reward for a trying day.“Normal” eating means consuming extremely large quantities of bread, pasta and potatoes; vegetables and fruits are mostly missing in action. If you have the strength to reject that story, to eat in a different way that makes you feel good and keeps your weight in a healthy range, you will be labeled as odd, difficult, perhaps a little crazy even. If anyone has ever sighed loudly and said to you, “Oh come on, one little cookie won’t hurt,” you know what I’m talking about.
Those of us who have lost large amounts of weight have no choice but to buck the cultural tide if we want to maintain our weight loss. It can be discouraging and disheartening, but maintaining a large weight loss is not impossible – it’s only hard. In my observation, it’s made unnecessarily harder by the culture that surrounds food, which is especially ironic when you consider the daily drumbeat about “the obesity epidemic.” In this blog, I hope to illuminate and dissect our collective attitudes about food, with the hope that someone out there will read this and realize that health is a real possibility after all.
Because, contrary to popular belief, one little cookie can make all the difference.