End of the Line

- POSTED ON: Aug 18, 2015


At this moment I feel like I’ve arrived at the end of the line. 

As a 5’0” tall, “reduced obese” sedentary 70 year old female, my weight continues to creep upward, no matter what macronutrients I eat or don’t eat; no matter how small I keep my portions; or how hard I work to keep my calories low.

This last calendar year I continued with my best efforts at recording every bite taken in a computer food journal, every single day.  Sometimes I ate large amounts of food, and sometimes I ate tiny amounts of food.  Sometimes I ate a “balanced diet” and sometimes I ate “low-carb; sometimes I ate “high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb”;  sometimes I worked to keep my calories around 1000 calories per day; sometimes I worked to have only two 5-bite meals of whatever.  My computer eating records show that my overall 365 day calorie average was about 780 calories per day.  That number was the total of all my big eating days combined with my small eating days, divided by 365 days. 

At this point in my life, I am elderly, and although I am in excellent health overall, I have developed a problem with my right hip which restricts my activities, and I lack the ability to do physical “exercise” except for brief periods of slow walking.  However, over the past ten years I’ve run many extensive personal experiments on how various exercise affects my own bodyweight, and the results have proven to me that however much or however little I exercise has almost no effect.  Apparently my metabolism adjusts down to keep me from dropping weight during periods when I engage in heavy exercise… however it does NOT adjust up to keep me from gaining weight when my food intake goes up whether with or without exercise.

During most of this past year, I’ve weighed in my mid-130s - which gives me a BMI in the “overweight” range.  During the past 9 years I’ve worked and worked on maintaining my large weight-loss, and tried to drop as low as possible inside the “normal” BMI range.  The middle of a “normal” BMI range is, for me, 115 pounds.  I struggled to drop and stay below that number for the first couple of my maintenance years, without success, then … while continuing consistently with my ongoing struggle at a food intake averaging around 1050 calories daily … my weight began climbing.  Instead of bouncing within a 5 pound range between 110 and 115, it bounced between 115 and 120.   Then despite a few more years of working hard to drop back to those lower numbers, my weight climbed to bounce between 120 and 125; then over more time, while eating even fewer calories, and additional exercise, my weight climbed to bounce between 125 and 130; then between 130 and 135.  This past several months, my weight has been bouncing between 135 and 140. 

There appears to be no end in sight.  This has been happening over a 9 year period. Since my activity cannot go up, and it is unlikely that I can tolerate consistently eating under a daily average of 780 calories,  it looks like an ongoing lifetime struggle will result in - at best - a gain of a few pounds each year for the rest of my life.  The good news is if I live another ten years to age 80, maybe this creeping gain will only bring me another gradual 20 pound gain, bringing me just slightly over my BMI border of obesity, allowing me to retain a total net loss of approximately 110 pounds … which would still be better than the alternatives - which are: Morbid Obesity or Death (whichever first appears).

At this point, I’ve tried just about every type of dieting, way-of-eating, lifestyle, or “non-dieting” including all types of intermittent fasting.  In fact, this past month, I did a couple of weeks of 24 hour alternate day water fasts, one 36 hour water fast, and one 72 hour water fast combined with a High-Fat/Low-Carb/Moderate-Protein eating plan.  Same results as with most extreme plans, about a 7 pound loss initially, with a slow regain back up to baseline.   Discouraging, since I’ve consistently experienced that same result dozens of times while experimenting with many different food plans.

Some food plans actually eliminate my motivation to live.  Long-term water fasting tends to make me feel ill, AND eliminating my food rewards makes me long for death. The one plan I have refused to experiment with at all is a vegan diet.  Frankly, I find my death preferable to eating Vegan, which appears to start by eliminating all animal products, continue on to extremes like minus grains, salt, oil, sugar, and no cooked foods, all interspersed with long and short periods of intermittent total water fasting.

My body is now near the end point of a lifetime of dieting, and I must admit that I’ve lost hope that it will ever normalize to "intuitively" sustain a weight under morbid obesity.

Because of my own experience, and my close observation of the experiences of many others,  I’ve come to believe that the longer a person’s body has spent well over the borderline of obesity, the less ability that body has to ever recover itself back to the natural weight tendencies it may have had at birth.  My own body appears to be an example of this truth.

I don’t think the following article applies to me personally at this stage in my life - where, if unchecked, my body will naturally lead me only back to morbid obesity, but
I believe it contains good advice for young women, or for older women who have recently become overweight or borderline obese.

Be Careful, because
your Mind is Affecting your Health and Metabolism.

         By Caroline Dooner  - Over the Moon Magazine

You actually can’t control your body with external factors like diets. You just can’t.  It backfires. Your body is smarter than you. Which is why dieting, ultimately, after the occasional brief time of “working”, always fails. Your body is wired to slow down when you try to control how you eat. When you restrict – even in the tiniest way- your amazing, smart body freaks the fuck out, and slows down.

Even when we think about restricting and eating less, it slows down our metabolism, keeps the hormone ghrelin high and makes us stay hungry. This is called “mental restriction”. And it is just as bad for us as physical restriction. Physical restriction is actually eating less. Mental restriction is just thinking about eating less.

Mental restriction manifests as guilt, shame, “I shouldn’t eat this”, “I hope I don’t eat this whole thing”, “I’ll let myself eat this, but I really shouldn’t”, “I’m gonna have to make up for this later at the gym”, and on and on. You know the voice. All of those thoughts are so normal in our diet culture. We are taught that thinking that way is responsible. We think, “If I don’t feel shame over food, how will I ever be healthy? How will I ever like my body if I’m not controlling what I put in my body?

So I am here to lovingly tell you that we were taught was wrong. Food shame is not responsible or healthy, and not only does it rob us of joy now, it actually messes with our bodies. My anti-diet journey came about because of a genuine, no-joke epiphany after ten years of obsessive diets and seeing my entire life through the lens of weight.

What I am doing is NUTS.

I had the strongest sense that my body and appetite would normalize if I just freaking ATE. I knew it. And thankfully, I did a good amount of reading then that totally backed up my internal guidance. I adopted what I like to call “the nourishing mentality”. In my mind I had this image of actually repairing and “reviving” my metabolism by eating.

So every time I ate, instead of thinking “Oh man, this is so bad for me. This is going to make me gain weight. Ugh this isn’t quite on my diet”… I thought: “Yessss. Nourishment. This’ll repair everything. This’ll help. This is exactly what I need. My body can handle lots of food, and is happy to have all of this.”

That shift makes a big, big, big difference. And you might think it shouldn’t. But if you read about leptin, ghrelin, and how our bodies actually react differently to eating based on what we THINK about what we are eating, it makes total sense. And what that means is… you can control your metabolism with your mind. But not the old way. Not the punitive, perfectionistic, fear-based control. Not the way that will only let you be happy if you lose weight. No, that way doesn’t work.

Instead, we are supporting our metabolism in the way the celebrates our bodies and trusts them to take the lead on this whole “food thing”. Our bodies actually work better when they are nourished and amply fed. Let’s finally get your mind on the same side as your body.

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Existing Comments:

On Aug 18, 2015 missusriverrat wrote:
I am sorry to hear about how you are feeling that you are "at the end of the line." Wow. I truly hope you can arrive at a sense of peace and joy about your future, no matter what your weight is/becomes. I just want to know that your joyful smile and sense of humor is surviving, even if you do gain some pounds. You are still the same you and life can still offer so many good things for you to enjoy. I appreciate the article you shared. I like that and think there is something to those ideas. Since you are attracted to thoughts like this, maybe there is still some wisdom in them for you. I recently read a book by Michelle Hastie, The Weight Loss Shift, that has some similar thoughts. Michelle also has a website with interesting blogs.

On Aug 18, 2015 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Thanks, missusriverrat. I'm still experiencing a great deal of peace and joy here in my life despite the fact that ... at present ... I feel like my personal diet train has reached the end of the line. Bu this, I mean that it seems like there's currently no more new track ahead for it to run on. I've spent quite a lot of time in my life reading and thinking about self-acceptance and failing, and watching others fail, at maintaining a "reasonable" body size" by using "intuitive eating" techniques. One thing I like about the author of "health-at-every-size" is her realistic admission that allowing one's body to determine one's size can often mean that one might become or stay morbidly obese forever. Despite my many years of Therapy and personal experiences, I'm not willing to accept that body size for myself without an ongoing opposing struggle, and I've written about this issue previously in quite a lot of blogs which are located here in the DietHobby Archives. So ... for me ... the end of the line doesn't mean the end of my food struggle, it simply means that, right now, I don't see any new ground to cover when it comes to trying out new or different ways-of-eating. Regarding the Future. Time Passes. Everyone dies, and very few people are well at the time of their death. I was young, and now I'm old, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to still be comfortable and in good health at my stage of life. While I am very aware that this good health is unlikely to continue indefinitely, it doesn't make me sad. I intend to enjoy my health for now, and I continually work to gain more acceptance for the end of life experiences that inevitably will come.

On Aug 18, 2015 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Also.. missusriverrat..I love new book suggestions, Thanks. I went to Amazon and got it on my Kindle, and will be reading it soon. =)

On Aug 18, 2015 rroush wrote:
Hi there! I've actually been thinking about you a lot lately. Can I still reach you the same way? I'd love to catch up. I've been reading a book by Dr. Hyman called Ultrametabolism. Have you read that one? Or Eat to Live? I have actually been meaning to ask you if you ever tried eating a plant based, "clean eating" diet before and cutting out all sugars and fake sugars as well. The things I have read lately seem to point to sweet tasting foods and drinks as impacting to weight gain because of the release of things in your body (maybe leptin?). Anyway, your blog above answered that question. Sometimes it's not worth it even if it might work if the end result is being miserable anyway. I have really wanted to try being more strict in this way of eating to see what it does for me - not just for my weight but for the health issues I have had lately as well.

On Aug 18, 2015 rroush wrote:
I've steadily changed the way I eat and cut out alcohol but establishing these new habits has been very difficult. I start out well but then deviate because I too have difficulty enjoying not eating meat or sugar or diet coke, etc.

On Aug 19, 2015 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Rebecca, Yes, I'd love to talk with you again. My personal info is all still the same, except that since my husband retired, I don't get up until about 5:30 a.m. most mornings. I'm familiar with Mark Hyman's recommendations and have read a book and articles by him. Not sure its the same one that you're reading now. I have experimented with his type of plan for brief periods .. although I've never been willing to try totally giving up dairy such as plain greek yogurt and tiny amounts of cheese for more than a few days at a time, and all of my experiments with giving up all artificial sweeteners, or diet cokes have shown me that - FOR ME - the "for-sure-cost" FAR outweighs the "maybe" benefit. I still don't take any prescription medicine or supplements except a daily multivitamin, and that seems to be working out well. Food and everything else is made up of various chemicals - even our bodies, and .. at this point I'm thinking that ... really... it's rather arrogant of most diet guru's - including medical doctors - to think they really KNOW very much about that subject. My thoughts are based on my own knowledge however, and I am aware that YOU have a great deal of education in that area and know more facts about Big Pharma that I ever will. I've become convinced that my body responds by lowering "calories-out" every time that I lower "calories-in" ... BUT it does NOT appear raise "calories-out" whenever I raise "calories-in". Apparently, MY body feels that my best chance of survival is to totally fill up my multitude of fat cells, while MY mind thinks it's best to be a "normal" weight. This tends to result in having my mind and my body on opposite sides - thus the ongoing struggle. I see alcohol as empty calories which are basically unsafe, so Congratulations on cutting that out of your food plan. It's been about 29 years since I had an alcoholic beverage, so that's not a personal issue for me. Contact me any time. <3

On Aug 19, 2015 Alma wrote:
At this time of our lives, it is a struggle to stay active enough to lose weight or keep weight off. We're slowing down and having to reset goals. I'm researching and focusing on anti-inflammatory foods due to hip, knee and shoulder joint problems. Allergic reactions prevent me from using many medicines. When I asked for help with skeletal pain for my husband, his doctor said loss of Collagen and synovial fluid causes pain. I found this statement for "Popping/creaking/cracking joints". Stretching, reaching or simply walking can trigger snaps, crackles and pops from a knee, shoulder or from your back. All that noise may sound scary, but it's usually nothing to worry about, says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. In fact, it may simply be gas. Specifically, fluid in your joints (which acts as a lubricant) contains dissolved gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. "Pressure changes within the joint causes these bubbles to burst within the fluid, creating a cracking or popping sound," says Matthews. Tendons shifting out of place as the joint moves and arthritis can also cause a popping sound. See a doctor if pain or swelling accompanies the sounds. I don't know if it really helps but my pain is less since I began using St. Ives Collagen Elastin. I am able to walk for exercise and do work in my yard again. That is my peace and joy so I am hopeful the lotion is a plus for me. In the meantime, no gain is my goal. It it happens, I will start over again. God knows I have lost over 1000 lbs. in my lifetime. You're valuable to all of us who follow you and your words are read over and over. You'll always be respected and loved by us and you definitely will find a new road and way to accomplish your goals. It is possible to reset our goals to accommodate aging problems. I definitely have done this when it comes to weights and it mentally is not setting well with me. For someone who manipulated 550 lbs. with ease for many years, I am upset when I feel pain lifting 20 lbs. My goals in the past were what I needed at the time but I have geared down. You accomplish and you will find your ROAD and accomplish again! Hang in there....we need you, Phyllis!

On Aug 20, 2015 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Alma, Thanks for your kind words and positive input. I'm thinking that the term "aging gracefully" involves the ability to accept the realities of life as they present themselves, and allow one's goals to shift to match those realities. This is what I am working on right now. <3

On Aug 23, 2015 rroush wrote:
Hi Phyllis, Thanks for your reply. I wish I knew the answers. Even though I went to pharmacy school and have been trying to read as much as I can, there is still so much that we don't know. I just am finding it super interesting that more and more people are writing about this way of eating (short version: increasing phytonutrients and decreasing chemicals and processed foods). You introduced me to Gary Taubes, which was the first I had really read of this. And Dr. Hyman references Taubes every now and then. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have ever read and explored all the things that I am reading/exploring so I thank you very much. Hoping one day I'll find an answer to my autoimmune hives issue and a way to get/keep those last 10 pounds off of me. According to Dr. Hyman, the answer to both is the same. We shall see...As you say too, I'm an experiment of one. :-)

On May 03, 2016 oolala53 wrote:
Wow. A lot has been going on for you. I'm glad to hear you feel there are other areas in your life that are rich. I find those other areas MUCH harder to find satisfaction in than in eating. I can control my eating to a much greater extent than I have been able to control finding a loving partner or contentment in my work. If I could do it knowing what I know now, I would trade everything I've accomplished with eating for one of those. It pains me to admit that, as objectively, I know my life is a dream come true for literally billions of people. Yet when I think about having to work as hard at life as i feel I have to, even with my success in eating and weight loss, I sometimes lose my will to live. Oh, this dang mind! Loneliness has dire health effects, too. Simply spending time with others does not solve it. It is an inside job and may be as intractable as weight loss. Lord knows I'm trying. But you can't go to the supermarket and buy good relationships. I'm not blaming anybody. But I feel I"m doing my best. I don't think many vegans are in favor of no grains. Now raw fooders? I've been to those parties, too. Honestly, I've felt as full and logy leaving one of those as almost any party. My spiritual bent has a lot of advocates of vegetarianism, and that tears at me. I love the IDEA of it, but the practice... And the vegetarian Blue Zone culture actually has better outcomes for its members who occasionally include fish, though I guess that means they aren't true vegetarians. Oy vey. So I'm curious. Given the excerpt you included, to you believe that your life would have been better if you had never lost all the weight and you would have been better off "nourished and amply fed"? I hesitate to say much because you know so much but my own recent bits of research on Valter Longo make it seem that a 5-day fast-mimicking diet a few times a year might be a decent balance, at least for longevity's sake, to inevitable weight gain. Could allowing yourself a little more pleasure most of the time and 20 days a year of unpleasantness be a fair trade off? No matter what, YOU are incredible.

On May 04, 2016 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Thank you oolala. I have always placed a high value on your comments and opinions during this past 8 years of our online friendship. I've found Dr. Amy Johnson PhD's writings about Thought via the 3 Principle concept helpful to me in relieving anxiety about the potential circumstances involved in my future - such as future illness, hospitalization, death etc which are a natural and eventual part of old age, and also providing relief to me over past "regrets" etc, things I did or did-not do at earlier times in my life. Essentially, I do seem to see that it's all THOUGHT, and that when I let those those unpleasant Thoughts flow by, rather than inviting them in and treating them as welcomed guests, my feelings of regret or fear or loneliness don't last that long... but tend to visit a bit then move on, to be replaced by Thoughts and Feelings that I find more pleasant. Regarding "What IF" issues, at this point I find those type of Thoughts unproductive in that they just tend to expand the time that I spend thinking about things I find unpleasant. I like the concept that a Memory is just a Thought carried through time, and there is no need to dwell or revisit memories that aren't pleasant. For more along that line, see the BLOG CATEGORIES section "the 3 Principles" which I've found helpful in relieving "cravings" etc. I have several more Blogs in the works involving the connections between overeating and Thought.. along the 3 Principle's line. I like that way of Thinking, but don't elevate it into a category of "religion" or "enlightenment", I just find it to be a helpful concept in general.

On May 04, 2016 oolala53 wrote:
I've been studying with a spiritual teacher and before that a Zen teacher, both of disciplines that actually teach very similar principles. I've spent a hundreds and hundreds of hours in meditation and out of it applying the principles for over ten years with only small progress. I'm tired of the fight. Similar to your attitude about being vegan, if this is how it's going to be, well... But even those thoughts and feelings come and go.

On May 04, 2016 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi oolala, I understand being tired of fighting with food, and tired of fighting with anxiety or memories. Regarding the food, I have to run and run and run so Hard just to achieve my goal of staying in the same place... but regarding all my other goals, including spiritual ones, I've given up trying to get to another more ideal mental place, or make any character progress. I now believe that I'm ALREADY there, no matter what my Thoughts or Feelings, This is It. I am as perfect as I'm going to get. My Thoughts and Feelings just come and go - "good" and "bad", but none of them change me. No more fighting with anything except Food and Weight.... which is a good thing, because Truthfully, just doing that is wearing me out. I'm not in a place where I will give up the battle to stay a normal weight, but ... for this moment in time... it's just about the only fight I'm involved with.

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