November 07, 2007

Secret to Keeping Pounds Off Forever!

Image courtesy of Plan59

Since this is Cranky Fitness, what are the chances you're going to be reading some incredible new weight loss method guaranteeing permanent results?

Yep, you guessed it: pretty much zero! However, it's time again for Crabby to climb up on her soap box again and offer...

Advice about Self Improvement that You Already Know.

Today's question: What's the Secret to maintaining weight loss (or any other self-improvement achievement) for the long haul?

The answer: Accountability.

Yawn. There's nothing sexy about Accountability.

Making a commitment to Accountability is sort of like getting married to Mr. Rogers, or Eleanor Roosevelt, or Walter Cronkite. Accountability is not Hot and Hip and Hilarious. You're not going to have the rollicking good times you'd have going out to party with Blissful Ignorance, I'll Start Tomorrow, Hell--Why Not, or "LA-La-La I Can't Hear You."

But you're also not going to wake up in some scuzzy stranger's seedy apartment with your underwear on your head, reeking of White Russians and Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets and hating yourself. Accountability will cut you off and call you a cab before you self-destruct entirely.

Accountability doesn't have to be quite as dull as you think, however. Mr. Rogers (did he have a first name?) and Eleanor and Walter probably had a few tricks up their sensible cardigan sleeves for keeping things interesting, don't you think?

(OK, enough of that analogy, lets scrub those images right out of our heads!)

So here are a few tips on how to make Accountability your life-long partner. (You can still have an occasional sizzling fling with Reckless Irresponsibility too, as long as you don't let it get too serious).

1. Best Basic Accountability Tool: Write Everything Down
Not forever, but when you need to. It works, damn it. Keeping a journal or blog record or spreadsheet or whatever is a huge a pain in the ass--but it's the quickest and most effective way short of solitary confinement or a coma to get back on track when you've strayed.

2. But Accountability Can be Flexible!
Once you've gotten back into mostly reasonable eating and exercise habits, you may be able to ease up on the obsessive record keeping. (Or not!)

Accountability can mean mentally counting calories, weighing weekly, or keeping to a workout schedule--or doing nothing at all but observing that your pants still fit.

The trick to easing up, though, is having some 'trigger' events to let you know it's time to get serious again. When those pants start to get snug, you can't just blame the dryer and go out and buy a bigger pair. Promise yourself you'll drag out the gosh darned food diary again if you can't zip 'em up anymore.

3. Fight Accountability's Natural Enemy--Perfectionism!

There is a whole post on this here but it's impossible to stay accountable if you're afraid to be imperfect. YOU ARE GOING TO SCREW UP. Everyone does. The people who are successful know it, acknowledge it, and stay accountable.

Even the amazing Roni recently lost control over a sleeve of girl scout cookies. Did she pretend it didn't happen? No, she said, whoops! And then she got right back on track. She didn't hide the information from herself--or from her blog audience.

4. Know Your Cycle
Not your menstrual cycle--although that's helpful too, especially if you're big on retaining water. But some people do best with a steady approach and frequent check-ins, while others can tolerate more variance in how much effort they put into healthy eating and exercising. While "yo-yo" dieting is generally a bad idea, many people find that they can get a little sloppy over time, and then they feel a natural desire to self-correct.

Do you have this self-correcting tendency? If you don't, then you have to monitor how things are going with much more rigor, and check in more frequently so as not to let things get out of hand.

But say you're the self-correcting type, and you're going on a two week vacation. Perhaps you go totally bonkers while you're gone, eating all kinds of crazy-ass junk the entire time and having a blast. But then you come back and say: Yeeesh, enough of that, I feel Disgusting! And you go back to healthy eating and exercise with renewed vigor because it just feels right.

Are you this kind of person? Some of us are, some of us aren't. The trick is to figure out what works for you. If you enjoy periodic all-bets-are-off bouts of absolute naughtiness, and can recover from them, don't feel like you have to structure your approach like everyone else's. Staying accountable means staying accountable to your own goals, not someone else's.

5. Have A Three-Way
Or invite even more folks to the party! By inviting friends or blog readers or whatever to watch you and Accountability going at it, you add a level of commitment to the process that can help keep you on track. (But warning: by involving other people, you will also increase the temptation to lie or cheat rather than embarrass yourself in front of them. This is counterproductive! If you find yourself fudging, then stop sharing info. Honesty to yourself is more important than keeping others in the loop).

6. Recognize that "Accountants" are Often Considered Freaks
People who keep food diaries; who refuse a piece of cake at the office party; who order their dressing on the side or track how many miles they ran before work can be regarded as "obsessive" or "fanatical" by others. Even if you work or hang out with people who have totally unhealthy lifestyles, it's tempting to look to others to decide what's "normal." And counting calories or tracking your 10k times? Not "normal."

But face it: in our society, it's "normal" to order and eat a 3,000 calorie meal for lunch at a restaurant; to go from dawn to dusk and back to dawn again having gotten no exercise at all. It's normal to pack on more pounds every year and feel crappier and crappier but do nothing about it except feel miserable.

Be proud of your Freakishness! Go ahead and take Mr. Rogers as your date to the company Christmas party and don't let anyone give you any crap about it. After a few decades, you're going to realize that Mr. Rogers is actually looking pretty hot.

Note: after writing this post, Crabby was cruising around the net, behind on blog visits, and discovered a similar but better post recently written by BunnyGirl! So make sure to read that one too if you haven't already.


  1. What! I am an accountant!! not a freak!! really! *sobs*

  2. Missicat, embrace your inner Freak! It's a Good thing!

    And though I meant "accountants" in a whole different way, I do think a lot of traditional accountants have a great smart/geeky vibe that comes from knowing what they're talking about most of the time.

  3. Crabby! You made missicat cry!! Don't cry, missi - we still love ya!
    Great post, Crabby. When the Bag Lady was actually in control of her life, she kept a weight journal (every day!) and found it helped to be accountable. It was great when the pounds were dropping off like clothes in a hot movie sex scene, but not so great when the scale wasn't moving.
    Now that the Bag Lady is out of control, she has stopped writing anything down (learned her lesson from all those scandals!)
    Perhaps this post will spur the Bag Lady to re-gain some control and start hanging with Mr. Rogers again.

  4. good post crabby - I won't tell my accountant hubby that in some circles, he's a freak though. {gring}

    The points you make are great but... I think that men could probably skip the "know your menstrual cycle" part. They may want to know a female partner's cycle though if she is prone to having lots of high salt/sugar/whatever stuff in the house when she is PMSing.

    I think the big thing is really getting over the perfectionism, as you say. We get in our head that either we're dieting or we're not. What we should be aiming for is a lifestyle change of eating in a more healthy manner. And, that doesn't mean depriving yourself, as long as you can self correct after you've deviated.

    My oldest son works in a coffee shop that makes THE ABSOLUTE BEST DANISHES IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Not only that, but at the end of the day, the employees take home the left overs. I've resisted temptation for the most part, but yesterday - oh boy - four danishes throughout the day. Yup. Blew my weight watchers points right outta da water. Actually, it wasn't so bad, because I still do have some weekly flex points left even after my pork out session yesterday.

    But, today is another day and tomorrow is yet another one. Back on track and I don't feel the slightest bit of regret because, damn, those danishes were GOOD.

  5. I am proud of my freakishness.
    It's not weight with me, but I do have a weakness for junk food and I occasionally eat things to which I am allergic. A little here and there is okay. Mr. Rogers is cool once you get to know him.

  6. Sorry, bag lady, will not mess with the missicat!

    And leah, another proud freak, hooray!

    Marijke--I think your danish thing is such a good example! Because if you weren't tracking things, you probably wouldn't realize you hadn't blown it that badly for the week, and in fact were still on track even though you had one bad day! Someone who wasn't tracking might think: whoops, I blew it, I'm "off the diet" and proceed to self-sabotage. Thanks for the example!

  7. But now I'm thinking... danishes ...mmmm, sounds really good...

    eotua - 'e ought to've made some danishes for the rest of us :(

  8. Great post, Crabby. And yeah, I agree that noting down what I eat and trying to fit exercise in make me look like a freak to the eyes of some people, but meh. I prefer to be that kind of freak, rather than finding myself moaning and wallowing in miserable feelings, then resorting to eating nothing but crappy shakes or whatever fad diet just because "I need to go on a diet".

    I can't say I'm free again from my recent issues with food, but having verged on the border of wanting things to be perfect, it's become even clearer to me that no, we can't be perfect. Accountable? Sure. And as accountable, I will also acknowledge that cheeseburger or that pack of cookies at times. It happens. It's just better when it happens a few times only, and not within the frame of a full-blown binge due to wanting to be too perfect.

  9. OOOH how true about being a freak at work! One guy has literally just stopped asking me to go to the weekly Friday lunch (it's an all-you-can-eat buffet of pirogies, sausage and other starchy/greasy options).

    I get made fun of daily for being the girl who denies free donuts in lieu of yogurt and salad.

    I'm no angel, I eat fatty, high calorie food sometimes too, but generally I plan for it and make sure its WORTH it!

  10. Mary, I'm with you--every time someone posts about a tempting food I'm suddenly craving it--Danishes, free donuts, arrgghhh!

    But Sarah, like you said, you gotta save it for when it's WORTH it! (And I have to learn that just because it's 'free' does not automatically mean it's worth the calories!).

  11. Crabby, this is a great post. And well-timed for me. The freedom to feel like a freak - be it for refusing cake, comparing calories on snacks, eating weird things like cottage cheese and vegetables - is important.

    There's an extra level, though, when you're not keeping-the-weight-off yet, but still losing, or trying to - then, you (I) feel like The Fat Girl On A Diet, which for me is a less comfortable thing than general freak. This weekend I was on a long car ride with some friends, and we stopped at a gas station for snacks. I ended up just buying some hummus to eat with a spoon (freak!), but before that I was looking at various bars. I put one down saying something like, "290 calories for that? Pfft." And the girl I was with, not someone I know well, asked, "Are you on a diet?" Which really threw me, because in my head, I'm not. I'm just eating less to lose weight. (Aside from that, and before this new push to lose weight, I've been working on eating *healthier*, so there's really a push beyond the realm of 'on a diet.') But I said yes, because saying no would be lying. And it felt weird.

  12. A bit off topic... Mr. Rogers. His first name is Fred and sometime last summer, I found out that he really was an extremely cool guy, when I read a wonderful post about him here.

    I was telling my cousin and good friend Marcy about the site as we sat out by her pool enjoying a few drinks. Here's pretty much how the end of that dialogue went:

    Hilary: I'll send you that URL if I think of it. It's really a nice tribute to Mr. Rogers.

    Marcy: OK.. sure.

    Hilary: (trying to conclude that conversation by singing the last 5 words of It's A Wonderful Day in the Neighbourhood.) ... Won't you be my neighbour?

    Marcy: What are you talking about?

    Hilary: Mr. Rogers.. didn't your kids ever watch him?

    Marcy: Yes of course, but I don't remember that.

    Hilary: You don't remember what.. the theme song?

    Marcy: Chippy. I don't ever remember there being a Chippy.

    HIlary: Huh? (thinking back over the full conversation, I'd never said anything about anyone named Chippy)

    Marcy: (very decisive) There was NO Chippy.

    Hilary: (starting to catch on) I (snort) ummm I never said (hahahaha) no, no Chippy (uncontrollable laughter)

    Marcy: What's so funny? There was no Chippy neighbour on Mr. Rogers. Why do you find that so funny?

    Hilary: Oh my! (my sides are hurting and my eyes are tearing) I didn't say...

    Marcy: You did.. just now you.. (suddenly the light goes on)... Oh .. OH! I know what it is now!

    We giggled much of the rest of the afternoon to the tune of..

    "Won't Chippy. Won't Chippy. Won't Chippy my neighbour?"

    Marcy and I are going out for lunch today. I'll practice accountability. :)

  13. *deep breath* OK, I am better. Actually I wear my freakishness like a badge of honor. I do know that keeping track of my grazing does help. Another helpful hint - I change up my workouts so I don't get bored. I move from weight training to running to zumba to boxing...what does that say about me? hmmm....

  14. After I was able to say "no thank you" to the sweetest grandmother a doctor could have, when she looked at me with those begging brown eyes and held out a plate full of cookies, every other situation was no problem!
    Dr. J

  15. Crabby - check out the twins on the bag's blog...

  16. Wow, I'm not normal that was quite a kick in the shins crabby. I mean I thought everyone ran home to put information in their food diary...guess that explains our growing waste lines....haha waistlines, guess that sort of goes hand in chubby hand.

  17. Mr. Rogers was made of pure, concentrated awesome. :D

    I'm not normal either! Hooray! I use PhysicsDiet to track my weight. I log my weight and body fat % every morning and the site generates all kind of cool charts and graphs to show me how I'm doing. And it works off of a running average of your daily weight, so daily fluctuations are meaningless as long as the overall trend is going in the right direction.

    Because, in Soviet Russia, computer is accountable for YOU!

  18. Should I be ashamed that I answered your question about Mr. Rogers first name (with the enthusiasm of a five year old!)while reading your post?

    And I agree that stable IS hot. Damn. I'm going to be single forever.

  19. Great post today Crabby, something I need to do. I guess reading about fitness and other peoples weight loss is not helping me, so I have to start working on it myself. Damned osmosis doesn't work when you want it to.

  20. Glad there are enthusiastic fans of Mr Rogers out there (thanks Soap Box Girl & Hilary--Fred!) as well as other accountability freaks who are willing to brave the strange looks of others to try to stay on track.

    And Jaime, I'd have the same problem answering the 'are you on a diet' question. "Well, no, but I don't just stuff any old crap in my mouth no matter how many calories it has without thinking about it?" Hard to know what to say!

    And Hilary, that Chippy story totally cracked me up--have a great lunch and don't be too accountable on our account!

    And ChickenGirl and Amanda, you sound Freakishly sensible to me, but then I am considered quite a Freak myself.

    Reb, I predict you'll be joining the club as soon as you're ready. (And too bad about that osmosis thing! I keep hoping to become a productive high-earning writer by osmosis but oddly enough it hasn't worked!)

  21. Darn it...I didn't know my conscience writes a blog! Did my friends put you up to this? This is too freaky for words and, just so you know, I'm Miss FreakyFreak (according to the results of a recent personality test I took).
    But that's another story.

    At least now I know why I always hated Accounting in Business School...aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

    Gotta go. The Richard Simmons tape is calling me. I draw the line at the bottle of oil, though.

  22. Ahhh, It really does all boil down to accountability. This has SO been my key in weight loss. So many times I have turned something down or gotten in that last workout because I *really* didn't want to have to come back to blogland ashamed. I have been so surprised at how much support and wisdom is lurking among fellow bloggers.

    Sometimes I take pictures of my food. Other times I start to feel the pressure when my jeans get rather tight. But what really gets me thinking accountability is really honest posts of fellow bloggers. It's inspirational reading when someone totally comes clean or has a victory to share.

    (and hilary, "chippy" is too funny)

  23. Mr. Rogers is fabulous. He was instrumental in preventing Nixon's attempt to cut funding to PBS in half.(The grant was created by Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson).

    His show was unique for its time period as it wasn't cartoons and it was based upon the best practices of early childhood education.

    All of this from a cat who hates children.


    Anyway, accountability sounds good. I'm off to take a nap.

    -- P

  24. This was a great read, plus all of everyone's comments. I read it all whilst stuffing Kettle Chips New York Cheddar Cheese With Herbs chips in my face with total abandon and absolutely no remorse! :D
    That's because I had my neighbor's (not Chippy or Fred) Industrial Strength Spaghetti Sauce and pasta for dinner. I myself cook for an almost completely salt free family, however she uses salt freely. Dinner put a pound of fluid retention on me in a matter of hours! So I figured I might as well enjoy a bit more, as tomorrow and the next day I will be drinking lots of tea and exercising, which helps take it back off.
    Is anyone else here really sensitive to salt? Of course being 50 and wandering through the wasteland of menopause probably makes it much more of a problem for me.
    And yes, I'm like some of you also not so much a calorie counter or food diarist (I did it for years though when trying to track food sensitivities) as I am a healthy eater. I can't often pass up a free donut, but it is not on the daily menu. Veggies, lean protien, and easy on the carbs. Don't believe grains are as healthy as "they" say, either.

  25. Thanks Chattypatra, Penelope, Katieo & TK!

    An accountable bunch if one ever existed. So enjoy or try to enjoy your Richard Simmons, naps, food photography, and kettle chips followed by tea & exercise!

    (And TK--I use that half-potassium salt that tastes a bit like metal but I'm used to it now. Still have to watch the sodium though 'cause it sneaks into into everything!)

  26. As per your advice, my accountable inner-freak has been embraced.

    Whenever anyone makes a lame ass comment about me not eating something (pizza, bread, etc.) I just picture them in a bathing suit and have an internal chuckle at their expense.

  27. Great now even MORE people know about my girl scout cookie obsession! ;~)
    awesome article!

  28. wow great stuff... i'm soooo glad i'm not an accountant :)

    gp in montana

  29. Thanks P.O.M., Roni & GP!

    Hmm, the bathing suit idea seems very clever. (Though with some people, I really DON'T want to go there.

    And Roni, Girl Scout Cookies are Truly Evil and delicious and I think everyone can relate to going out of control over them).

  30. beautiful post. we all definitely need to be reminded that NOPE we are not perfect. it's good to know I'm not alone in my imperfectness!!!

  31. Crabby I found you through Roni's new blog. I've been using for accountability and support since June and lost 45 pounds. It's a wonderful FREE site!


  32. W0W, I have just found this site and it is incredible. I will return every day for the support I need to make it in the world of being accountable to me and no one else since I have only have to answer to myself!

  33. Hey thanks Pattimelt! (Great name, btw).

  34. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am my office freak-no thanks, I don't want a piece of cake/no thanks, I don't want anything from the donut shop/no thanks, I don't drink soda.....and so on!! I keep track of what I eat,and yes I fall off the wagon but keeping a running tally, you know how much play room you have because you didn't eat as much for the previous 3 days or so. I'm oestricized by my family for trying to stay healthy and here I feel loved!!

  35. Thanks for stopping by anon--and yes, here at Cranky Fitness we love "freaks" who try to take care of themselves despite temptation. Welcome!

  36. You write well, and have an awesome sense of humor that is hard to find among fitness lovers!! I absolutely love your advice!! I'm going to try this journal thing and see what happens.

    Thank you for this blog.

    By the way, Mr. Rogers was a pedophile.


  37. Great post!

    I am an accountant, but I am still trying to lose weight. I hope I can stay as vigilant once the weight is off!

  38. Great Post! I am a strong believer in healthy nutrition whenever weight loss is the goal. I think that everything in moderation is the key! By everything I don't necessarily mean fast food, I simply mean all of the necessary food groups, meats, veggies,dairy, occasional snack, etc...

  39. Actually - I think accountability is VERY sexy.... only it's accountability of a slightly different kind than what you're talking about here:

    When we start becoming accountable to remembering that we're Sacred and that our body shape and size can never change this fact, then we start to heal at a level that is so much deeper than just changing our body size. We think when we change our bodies we'll find happiness. The truth is that when we remember our Sacredness we can be happy in whatever body we're in AND THEN THE WEIGHT FALLS OFF ALL BY ITSELF. We've just got it all backwards.


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