An inspirational weight loss success story

sugar bagWhat’s the best diet? That’s the $64,000 question. And there are about 64,000 fad diet books that claim to be the answer.

But it is possible to lose weight and keep it off without fad diets or extreme food restrictions. An acquaintance of mine, Linda Moon (not her real name) did just that over the past few months. How did she do it? She gave up sugar.

I thought Linda’s story could be helpful – even inspirational – to other people, so I asked if she’d be willing to do an interview. We sat down recently to talk about her weight loss journey and the transcript is below. It’s a longer read than the usual blog posts, but I think it’s well worth it for anyone who is struggling with weight.

Radio Nutrition: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your weight history?

Linda: I could probably have been overweight as a child, based on the amount I ate, but I was so active I burned it all off. I rode my bike everywhere, I did gymnastics. I hiked. I was just a hyper little kid. I was always bouncing around.

Radio Nutrition: Was weight something that crept up on you? When did you decide to do something about it?

Linda: Yes it crept up on me. I didn’t start having weight problems until I was in my 20’s, when I went to work and became less active. I was young, so dealing with weight meant skipping some meals, just don’t eat. Very haphazard. I could lose a lot of weight really fast that way.

Radio Nutrition: Did you keep it off?

Linda: For a little while. Then it would come back, only more. Everytime I would lose weight, I might keep it off a year, then it came back more.

Radio Nutrition: When not skipping meals, did you generally eat 3 meals?

Linda: I’d have coffee in the morning, maybe even Coke. Usually go out to lunch, something like pizza or burgers. Dinner was typically more healthy. I was with my husband and we’d eat more sensibly, cook something at home

Radio Nutrition: So it wasn’t like your eating habits involved overindulging in some things. Not desserts?

Linda: No rarely dessert. Sweets would be around at work, and in the afternoon I’d frequently have sweets. I didn’t like them in morning, but in afternoon there was always cookies or something at work.

Radio Nutrition: At some point you decided to latch on to some diet plan?

Linda: Yes. In my 30’s and 40’s I started doing diets. I tried having no fat, when fat was evil. I was probably in my 30’s. It was not very satisfying. Chicken breast, ick!

Radio Nutrition: What are some things you gave up?

Linda: Butter, pizza, cheese, salad dressing.

Radio Nutrition: Did you find you could stick to it?

Linda: No, couldn’t stick to it. And then I did the opposite, low carb. I was so weak I couldn’t even lift my arm. Probably did it a couple of months. I lost weight but I was so weak and famished I couldn’t do it. When I went off low carb it came back pretty fast because I was starved.

Radio Nutrition: Was there anything else that you tried?

Linda: Seems like I tried counting calories, which I hated. I got a book with the food values. I felt like keeping track of it made me more obsessed thinking about food, it made me want to eat more.

Radio Nutrition: So somewhere in your 40’s, sugar became more of a dietary mainstay?

Linda: Yes. ‘Cause sugar was around at work. It kind of became an addiction. At the same time everyday the thought just occurred to me “Sugar!” Candy, pastries, ice cream. Fancy coffee drinks. In the last 10 years I felt like I was eating too much sugar. Sugar bingeing really. Over time it got to be more and more sugar. Not just one serving but a lot.

Radio Nutrition: Had you given up on dieting at the time?

Linda: Yes. Everyday it happened and it was like “Why am I doing this? Why can’t I stop?” I really felt like sugar was a drug.

Radio Nutrition: Over this 10 years, did weight creep on?

Linda: Yes. It kept going up.

Radio Nutrition: What was the tipping point?

Linda: Well, I’ve had issues with my knees and foot. Plus being in dance class in front of the mirror I really didn’t want to look at myself. And then I started getting fearful after menopause. I’m lucky I’m not diabetic, but how long am I going to be lucky.

I decided the day after New Years I was going to quit having sugar. I was looking at everything I was eating and I thought it wasn’t too bad, except for the sugar. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself or go on some stupid diet. Sugar is the problem. Sugar has to go.

Radio Nutrition: You didn’t cut back anywhere else or change your choices?

Linda: I did kind of rearrange. I used to think I had to have lunch at noon and dinner at 6. I used to come home from a lunchtime class and think “Oh it’s too late for lunch so I’ll hold out to dinner.” Well that doesn’t work. Now I just have lunch at 3 o’clock. If I get home at 9 at night, that’s when I have dinner. I eat 3 meals a day. They might be late.

Radio Nutrition: Did the choices at meals change?

Linda: Not really. I was eating pretty healthy food at meals. It was the additional sugar that was the problem. Or if I came home and didn’t have lunch, dinner would be healthy but twice at much.

Radio Nutrition: So now you make this decision Jan 2nd. Cold turkey?

Linda: Yes.

Radio Nutrition: Nothing to fill in?

Linda: No, no artificial sweeteners. Water.  Tons of water.  If I’m dehydrated I want sugar. For about a month I felt tired, headachy, cranky. I kept telling myself this is the withdrawal. I’ll stop feeling this way. It was hard.

Radio Nutrition: I’m trying to get a handle on the calorie deficit. What’s an example of an afternoon sugar snack, say last December.

Linda: By then it was ridiculous. 2 pints of ice cream. A whole pie. Once I started it just took over.

Radio Nutrition: You cut a lot of calories!

Linda: I’ve lost 50-55 lbs since January. I don’t know why I didn’t weigh 500 lbs. It’s a lot of calories but what struck me was it was like a drug.

Radio Nutrition: Did you find you were hungry?

Linda: No, when the sugar got out of my system I stopped being as hungry. I just made sure I would eat breakfast, lunch dinner. I might eat at wacko times, but I decided I had to eat when I needed the energy. I can’t be skipping meals. I increased water.

Radio Nutrition: Do you weigh yourself?

Linda: I weigh myself everyday. I’m still kind of learning what is the right amount to eat, so if I get on the scale and weigh a little more, maybe I need to eat a little less today. Maybe I was less active.

Radio Nutrition: In the meantime, you have not craved sugar?

Linda: Not really. There was one time I thought I wanted sugar. Some things had happened that made me sad. Then I was making this recipe that involves making caramel, and I was stirring the caramel and wanted to just taste it. So I thought about why I wanted to do that, and I understood the reasons, and I didn’t.

Radio Nutrition: Have you arrived at a point where you’ve deconditioned yourself from tastes you used to like?

Linda: I don’t know because I haven’t had anything sweet where I can say “oh that’s too sweet”. At some point I’m going to want to be able to have a dessert. I’d like to be able to do that. And I’m scared. Is that going to start the roller coaster?

Radio Nutrition: Do you have to cut back even further to keep the weight loss going?

Linda: It’s been steady until August. Now I’m kind of level, so to lose more I have to change something. I realize if I don’t get to my goal, that’s fine. I’m proud and I’m inspiring people and if there’s something I can say to share with someone else I’m doing that. It was such a struggle, and I found something that worked.

That was another thing: owning up to it. I was sneaky about all the sugar. But I started telling people “I’m going to quit sugar because I ate a whole pie”. Something about admitting it was freeing. I don’t have to hide. I’m just going to own it. I can’t fix the problem if I don’t admit to it.

Radio Nutrition: Did you feel you weren’t going to make it through that first month?

Linda: No I was really determined. I thought “this will pass, you will feel better.“ I was at a family event in February and I announced “I’m not eating sugar”. It was 7 or 8 weeks by then, and some people said “good for you”, but others said “oh but you have to try these brownies.” There’s certain people right now who say things like “Oh your hip bones are sticking out.” I don’t think they want me to succeed. It’s hard. And there are a few people who don’t eat sugar when they’re having lunch with me, because I’m not.

Radio Nutrition: Is there anything else that might help people?

Linda: I really try to eat nutrient-dense food. I don’t try to cut healthy fat or eat things I don’t like. My goal is to make it pretty, lots of colors. I make a gorgeous salad with pumpkin seeds and hard boiled egg and all kinds of vegetables and avocado. It’s really big and delicious. Or we have a meat and a green vegetable and a sweet potato or some rice.

Radio Nutrition: What is breakfast?

Linda: Typically I eat oatmeal, steel cut oats made in the crock pot, a giant batch that sits in the refrigerator. I do measure this. I scoop out a cup and put apple and cinnamon and flax and a little bit of milk. It gives me energy, and I can go work out really hard. Also I eat nuts most days if I really have to have a snack. I buy unsalted nuts in bulk and measure ¼ cup. Now I notice that nuts are actually sweet.

I don’t have joint pain. I’m sleeping better, my brain is more clear. I’m keeping up with younger people at dance classes. I want to keep it that way. Really it was just figuring out my problem and dealing with that. Any problem, whether it’s eating or anything, we have to stop and take a look and ask “Why.” I like eating. I just have to find things that are really delicious and I really enjoy them, just not have it be sugar

 

That’s Linda’s story of weight loss success. I especially liked three of her observations:

  1. You have to admit to and own the problem. In her case, it was overeating sugar.  As she notes, admitting to the problem was actually freeing.
  2. After giving up sugar, she was not hungrier.
  3. No weird food restrictions. Just nutrient-dense foods, 3 meals/day eaten and a meal schedule that fits your day.

Both Linda and I hope her story of owning the problem, perseverance and ongoing success will inspire others to create their own weight loss success story.

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