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Does becoming overweight set up permanent weight problems for life?

(138 Posts)
Mudmagnetoftheworld Thu 05-Oct-17 13:32:48

Do people who’ve managed to lose a decent amount of weight, say more than a couple of stone, ever manage to maintain a healthy weight effortlessly?

Is it just a matter of changing lifestyle and attitudes to eating and exercise? Or once you’ve been overweight do you always struggle to keep it off?

After being skinny all through my childhood, teens 20’s & 30’s, I’m now pushing 50 and managed to get myself 2-3 stone overweight!

Is that it for me now? If I manage to lose it, do I need to accept I’ll have to exist on hardy any food?

OliviaD68 Thu 05-Oct-17 20:19:07

Do people who’ve managed to lose a decent amount of weight, say more than a couple of stone, ever manage to maintain a healthy weight effortlessly?


Is it just a matter of changing lifestyle and attitudes to eating and exercise? Yes. Knowing what to eat and why. And combining with fasting periods once you're well on your way. Worked for me and many others.

Or once you’ve been overweight do you always struggle to keep it off? Nope. It's because it's a lifestyle decision.

After being skinny all through my childhood, teens 20’s & 30’s, I’m now pushing 50 and managed to get myself 2-3 stone overweight! Not unusual. Happens a lot. Look around you.

Is that it for me now? Not at all. But it does require you know what you're doing and then organise your life around it. I found it also helped to understand the biology to cement my commitment. If I manage to lose it, do I need to accept I’ll have to exist on hardy any food? Not at all. Don't believe the calorie in and out rubbish. You can eat well, never be hungry and lose tons of weight.

OliviaD68 Thu 05-Oct-17 20:19:56

@BIWI can you pls share your experience ...?

Mudmagnetoftheworld Thu 05-Oct-17 21:19:31

Thank you Olivia.
Have you been in this position yourself?

I suppose I’m looking at friends who are still very slim and seem to eat more than me with similar activity levels.
I’ve always eaten well, fresh ingredients, cooked from scratch etc and I’m fairly active, without being ‘sporty’ which I’ve never been, even when younger.

I’m losing the weight very slowly! 1 stone down, 1 to go to get to healthy BMI, then ideally I’d like to lose another, but not sure I’ll manage that.
I weigh myself every day to keep tabs.

Nearly everyone I know who’s lost weight has yo yo’d.

OliviaD68 Thu 05-Oct-17 21:24:28

Yes. Gained weight - fat - while exercising more. Made no sense. Until it did.

Now I’m sub 20% body fat and easily keeping it off. Full of energy.

Wasn’t without trials and tribulations.

The difference: I made a fuel choice. I chose fat over glucose and then aligned everything to achieve that.

OliviaD68 Thu 05-Oct-17 21:26:10

Don’t compare yourself to your friends. Everyone reacts slightly differently to food. And you don’t really know what they eat.

OliviaD68 Thu 05-Oct-17 21:38:18

You sound frustrated and helpless.


There are fairly simple ways to achieve your objectives.

xqwertyx Thu 05-Oct-17 22:19:09

Just pulling my chair up....

HorridHoris Fri 06-Oct-17 10:56:31

Hello it’s op again, just name changed...

I really want to do this properly and permanently.
I’ve had joint problems and was a sugar addict, now kicked that.
I found the key to kicking sugar was to also drop the refined carbs as they’re basically the same thing.
I’m using MFP and have to keep my calories around 1000 a day to lose very slowly.
Although I’m not young (47) I’m not yet menopausal so want to get the weight under control before I am and it gets even harder!

HorridHoris Fri 06-Oct-17 10:58:17

Olivia, when you say you had trials and tribulations, what were they?

You sound like you’ve really got on top of things, well done.

OliviaD68 Fri 06-Oct-17 11:26:37


The hardest part was figuring out what I wanted to achieve. What I call objectives and constraints.

I settled on sub 20% body fat as my objective from 35%. But I didn’t want to be hungry. I want no loss in muscle mass. I didn’t want massive calorie restriction. I wanted a reduction in inflammation in my joints. And I wanted it to be healthy. And weight loss to be progressive.

From there I did a ton of research. A ton. And I settled on a method that best suited objectives and constraints. The name of it is irrelevant- these diets are all brands at the end of the day. One tends to get emotional about brands. Frankly I don’t care.

The trials and tribulations relate to body adaptations needed to achieve the objective under constraints. No diet is perfect. Each has its issues. It’s about knowing what they are and how to overcome.

In my case I chose a food combination which was not suited for my sports which are highly anaerobic. So I’ve adapted the approach to suit me. And it’s working well.

This is what I mean by no nutritional plan is perfect. You probably will have to make whatever you choose work for you.

But first decide on an objective and constraints you want to live with.

PS 1000 cal per day sounds brutal. Are you hungry?

OliviaD68 Fri 06-Oct-17 11:29:46

One more thing under trials and tribulations. Getting organised to do what you need to do should be factored in. A lifestyle change doesn’t happen without planning.

Lovlies Fri 06-Oct-17 12:49:50

Your friends have most likely yo-yo dieted their whole adult life. Generally diets themselves are the cause of yo yo dieting. Diets can cause disordered eating and in the end you feel the only way to lose weight is to go on yet another diet. Diets are ways of restricting food intake be it weight watchers, slimming world, low carb, fasting etc through external methods rather than listening to your own hunger signals. As we approach menopause there can be a tendency to gain weight but that may be because of a more sedentary lifestyle or it can be that our bodies don't need as much fuel as we get older. Whilst going through the menopause itself your fluctuating hormones can make you feel hungrier and therefore eat more (in some women). Rather like permanent PMT. I have a long history of disordered eating and only finally managed to sort it out by stopping dieting in all its forms. I did much research into mindful eating and listening to my body and not punishing myself. Result is that I'm happier around all food and no longer see it or my body as the enemy. Have lost body fat too. Diets don't work , if they did people wouldn't yo yo or need to go in them more than once. Being very strict with food and removing food groups can also cause bingeing .

LaContessaDiPlump Fri 06-Oct-17 12:55:31

There is apparently evidence to show that we struggle to keep weight off once we've been really overweight, as your body needs less fuel to pack the weight on after that (i.e. a person who has always been 8 stone can eat 1500 cal and not gain, but a person who went up to 16 stone and then back to 8 stone can only eat 1200 cal without gaining). This is based on a book I read called The Secret Life of Fat - fascinating read. So it's not quite as easy as some might make out. Manageable, but not always easy.

Nancy91 Fri 06-Oct-17 15:27:07

I've lost loads but I don't find it difficult to keep off because I don't restrict what I eat, I just eat less of it so I never feel like I'm missing out.

You can definitely lose weight at any stage of life, just eat fewer calories.

HorridHoris Sat 07-Oct-17 09:10:50

Interesting to read the different viewpoints and experiences.

The friends I was referring to I’ve known a long time, we were away together on a hiking holiday for a week. So all active together during the day and eating together.
They’re happily tucking into toast for breakfast, crisps and chocolate at lunchtime with sandwiches, meat and two veg type meals for dinner with bread and potatoes. Biscuits with tea etc.
They’re looking at me like I’m mad when I have ff yogurt for breakfast, skip the crisps, cake and biscuits and hardly have any carbs with evening meals. Yet I’m the chubby one!

@OliviaD68 You asked if I’m hungry on 1000 cals. I’d say I don’t wake up hungry and generally either skip breakfast or eat it as brunch.
But I get a mid afternoon slump in energy when I have to fight the urge to snack or get grouchy before dinner. But I genuinely only seem to maintain if I eat more.
I walk a lot and usually do between 15,000 and 20,000 steps a day, so not sedentary.

I know what I want to achieve and that’s well within normal bmi and/or well within normal body fat. I want my energy, strength and fitness back and control my joint inflammation. But most of all I want it to be permanent!

OliviaD68 Sat 07-Oct-17 09:53:19


Impressive. It sounds like you have some good metabolic flexibility by which I mean an ability to switch from burning fat and glucose (the body's only 2 fuels, fat being harder to access) - this is not easy to achieve. I'm there - I think - but it took 6 months.

If you did not have that flexibility I am hypothesising you would not be able to skip breakfast - you'd be starving. As such, you are probably burning fat in the morning when you are still in a fasted state. Note the hesitancy: you can't know this unless you test fasting blood ketone levels but I think this isn't necessary - people go OTT on this kind of stuff.

But the walks mean you are in a much greater calorie deficit than the 1k calorie cap would suggest.

It also appears as though you are doing intermittent fasting which has great health benefits while you are in a fasted state (ignoring the fat burning it promotes). Is this by design or by default? Growth Hormone and testosterone production both increase significantly during fasting. HGH is what allows youngsters to grow and regenerate cells - some in the US pay over $1000 a month for injections. Testosterone is needed by women - memory is sketchy here - to keep estrogen in check.

Save for your calorie deficit (we may be able to address if you want), very well done overall - you sound motivated and disciplined.

We might be able to reduce inflammation and aches and pains too, believe it or not - cortisol hormone possibly (let's hypothesise) at play. We won't know if it works until we try.

I have a theory on what may be happening with the mid afternoon / grumpiness hunger but need to ask a few things.

1) Describe your meals - what you eat and when you eat. Typically.

2) You said no snacking? pls confirm.

3) Exercise: only walks, right? No yoga, weights, HIIT, running, biking?

4) Height and weight?

5) BMI is not an infallible measure of being overweight - it's v rough, though does work 'on average'. You mention body fat which is much better. Any idea what it is, say if you eyeballed photos? And where you want to get to? This will best help establishing how 'extreme' you may need to go in changing your lifestyle to achieve your objective. So leaner means more rigour and less lean means more flexibility in what and when you eat.

HorridHoris Sat 07-Oct-17 16:07:28

Thank you for the trouble you’re taking Olivia. What you’re saying sounds really interesting.
I’m out now with family stuff, but will reply properly tomorrow morning.
Thanks again...

OliviaD68 Sat 07-Oct-17 17:43:55



Let's work on crafting something that works for your objectives today - no need to go crazy / extreme if you are not in a hurry or don't want to get too lean. But if you wanted to there's nothing to stop you (or anyone) getting to 15% body fat - very low for a woman - purely on adapting your diet. Just decide what you want (15, 20, 25%?) and let's align the food to make it happen - hopefully without hunger and while reducing inflammation too. Energy should return - we'll need to be careful about minerals and vitamins here. Hopefully be able to add some calories back as well.

Strength and fitness which you mentioned ... need to introduce some exercise. It's another very important part of the health equation. Don't neglect this part at 50; look up sarcopenia (Wikipedia: Sarcopenia. There are some tricks you can apply - leveraging the intermittent fasting you already do - to maximise exercise effectiveness: ie not work too hard and get fast results in terms of muscle building / tone. For later if you want - nutrition plan first.

Two more questions:

1a) Include what you drink throughout the day, approximately. Don't need to include water (but drinking a lot of water is no bad thing).

6) General timeframe? In a hurry? Relaxed about timing?

Lovlies Sat 07-Oct-17 20:37:27

Sounds like your friends eat what they want when they are truly hungry for it and stop when they have had enough. If you can tune into your own hunger signals and listen to them you usually start to eat less. Also eating what you are hungry for not what you think you should eat because it's allowed in a diet. If you can eat low carb for life and never have a binge which then leads into a downward spiral, then brilliant. But that's what happens with diets and restricting food types in lots of people. There comes a moment when they feel hungry for something not on the diet or for high carb (cakes etc) and have some which leads to more because they have been deprived for so long and then weight goes on very quick.

howrudeforme Sat 07-Oct-17 20:47:48

Watching this - always slim until last 6 years and weight piled on and still piling. 50 next year.

Cook from scratch mainly still but excercise less in last 10 years. Biggest issue is horrendous digestion (huge bloated stomach) and getting worse.

Watching this thread with interest.

HorridHoris Sun 08-Oct-17 09:47:32

@OliviaD68 to answer your questions....

I’ve been trying to eat an anti inflammatory diet, so cut down sugar refined carbs, include more good fats, olive oil, black pepper turmeric etc
I either skip breakfast or eat as brunch. It could include,
Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon or
ff yogurt with either fresh berries or pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries or
Boiled eggs on rocket leaf salad with olive oil.
Or eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes.
If out walking I might take breakfast with me to eat on a pit stop, so boiled eggs, cheesey oatcakes and an apple.

Lunch if not eaten early as brunch will often be one of the above

Dinner has to be adapted from the family meal and we eat late (after 7pm) as DH gets home late and we eat together. So if a meat a 2 veg meal I’d have small amount of potato and larger veg portion etc
Meals vary but all cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients and could include..
Goats cheese salad
Chickpea salad with oily fish
Sausage and bean casserole
Chicken casserole
On a weekend we may have homemade pizza, I’ll make a thin base and eat some, then eat the topping off the rest and leave the base.

SNACKS- I try and resist and drink water instead but if I really need something it could be a handful of nuts, slices of cheese, an apple, maybe some ff yogurt if really hungry. This would always be late afternoon energy crash time around 4-5ish

EXERCISE- Mainly walking. Daily dog walking of up to 4/5miles.
Hill walking with poles, anything from 7-12 miles using Fitbit to try and keep a good pace.
Don’t often go biking, but no reason why I couldn’t.
Small amount of daily yoga with help of physio as I had a total hip replacement several years ago at age 43 (arthritis due to hip displacia) and this has affected my gait, also due to the other hip being dodgy too, but it’s working well and I’m seeing great improvement.
It was this that held me back getting my fitness back to what it was pre op.
No running, don’t think it’s a good idea when overweight with dodgy joints.

I’m 5ft 9 and 13st 5lb (down from 14st 6)
So BMI 27.6
I’d like to be under 12st, normal bmi or ideally 11st in the middle of normal.
BODY FAT... hard to tell using the photos, I’m a pear shape small size 16/large 14.
Using an online calculator and taking measurements I’m coming out as
Would ideally like to aim for 20%, but within healthy is my first aim.
Tea with milk and water.
2 large mugs of tea in the morning and often throughout the day..
water if I’m out hillwalking (I sweat a lot)
I try and aim for at least 3pts of water during the day, but don’t always manage it. Need to try harder!
A few glasses of wine or gins weekends only.

I’d say the sooner the better, if I’m seeing progress I’ll stay motivated.

OliviaD68 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:16:07


This is great information.

Easy part first: let's not worry about the exercise part yet. You're doing plenty. Sure we can all always improve but it's not the most important part - nutrition is. But the information you provided is v helpful for context and suitability.

20% body fat is lean, so you reduce your degrees of freedom. And being less patient also. So these two constraints align. But you must be comfortable with these and they will dictate what you can and can't do.

Also good news is reduction of inflammation should be possible: the reduction of your degrees of freedom in terms of what you can eat helps, believe it or not.

20% is doable for anyone. I was at 35% and got to about 17 / 18% now. And I do love my brownies. But thankfully I can easily resist them now and have maintained weight easily.

I'd like to start with a bit of context if that's OK, mainly so you can see what options you have vs trade-offs. We can then work through which food combination options suit you best. This might take some time over the next few days but best to get right.

OliviaD68 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:39:47


The way I look at eating / nutrition plans / diets / lifestyle is through the lens of the body's only two fuels: fats and glucose (basically sugar). The body has no other options for fuel so this makes things easier to deal with.

All of the scientific research you get on the subject of weight loss / diets / whatever also divides test groups in this way, so I think this (possibly) simplistic view is not too far off.

So whatever lifestyle you choose really boils down to where you lie on the spectrum of glucose vs fat as an energy choice combination, with the extremes of the spectrum being: low carb high fat (LCHF) and high carb low fat (HCLF). We all lie somewhere along this spectrum.

These so-called "diets" we tend to get emotional about are really only 'brands' (Slimming World, Atkins, SlimFast, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Ketogenic, Blood Type, etc.) that put us somewhere along this spectrum as far as the body is concerned. From my vantage point, these brands are really unhelpful - they create noise about the choices we have in addition to trade-offs. They don't really teach us anything about choices. Nothing is nirvana: choices for something mean you also choose against something else.

Simplistically, where you lie on this spectrum will drive chemical reactions in your body which views food as information. Food is information for body.

The problem being solved is: how do I process this stuff entering my body? Answer: figure out what the 'stuff' is and signal - through hormone production - what the various organs are supposed to do break the 'stuff' down to derive energy and nutrients.

That 'stuff' we call food is a combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates (nutrients too, but not for energy).

With me so far? I won't go too deep - promise - but just enough so you understand the physiological consequences of the choices you make and how these choices can affect achieving goals.

OliviaD68 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:59:37

By the way, I've estimated you need to lose 30 lbs to get sub 20% body fat assuming you lose no muscle mass and it's all fat (which is doable). So this is a bit more than you estimated but not a whole lot and definitely achievable.

1 to 2 lbs per week so it can take four to five months, possibly less if we leverage your intermittent fasting - be over before you know it.

Let me know if you're ok with previous message and we can continue.

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