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On weight maintenance

A reader recently emailed me, saying:

Would love to know how you keep so nice and trim!   Maybe you would post a few tips from that department!

Zoe and FG

I get this kind of question regularly from readers, but weight maintenance is a topic I’ve felt a little uncomfortable writing about for several reasons.

First, a person’s weight isn’t super crazy important, unless it’s a situation in which their health is being affected.

Secondly, there’s an awfully broad range of body sizes that can be perfectly healthy.   My frame happens to be on the small side of things, but there are plenty of other body frames/types that are healthy.

Thirdly, there are a lot of complicating factors when it comes to weight, and I’m not anywhere near qualified to address things like emotional eating*.

*When I am super stressed out, I totally lose my appetite. And going without food isn’t a lot healthier than eating your feelings.

Fourthly, I think people’s size is at least partially biological/genetic, which means even if you eat exactly like I eat, you might end up lighter or heavier than me.

prepped produce

All that said, I’m not super interested in thinking too hard about exact weights, but I am interested in being healthy and energetic and fit.

My philosophy is that if I 1) eat mostly good food, 2) follow my body’s hunger cues, and 3) stay active, then I will end up at the weight I’m supposed to be, and I’ll be pretty healthy.

Specific diet plans and rules don’t work well for me (I’m a moderator!), so this flexible philosophy fits me pretty well.

1. Eat (mostly) Good Food

The “mostly” is in there because I don’t like restrictions, and the ability to eat treat foods here and there keeps me sane. 😉

What does good food look like for me?

I try to minimize sugar.  

I do put sugar into my daily tea, and I don’t stress about the bit of sugar in my almond butter or in my 80% dark chocolate.

whistling tea kettle

But I don’t generally drink juice/soda/iced tea (water all the way!), I don’t eat sugary cereals, I don’t eat sugary processed snacks, and so on.

And if I eat dessert, I try not to go overboard with it.   10 cookies don’t ultimately make me feel good!

I don’t minimize fat, per se.

I try to avoid junky fats, but I happily eat avocados, full-fat yogurt, butter, whole eggs, nuts, dark chocolate, and such.

Aldi avocado

These foods help keep me full, which means that even though they do have a fair amount of calories, they help me eat less overall.

I try to eat lots of nutritious foods.

Rather than thinking about avoiding bad foods, I think about what I could eat that gives me lots of positive nutrition.

That’s what motivates me to choose smoothies, eggs, raw fruits and veggies, nuts, and yogurt over junk food.   It’s less about avoiding empty calories and more about actively choosing nutritious calories.

(That feels a lot less like rules and more like choices.   Are you seeing a theme here?? Ha.)

I try to mostly eat homemade foods.

This saves money, certainly, but by sticking to homemade food, I automatically end up consuming less junk.   Manufacturers almost always put more preservatives, coloring, salt, and sugar into their food than I do when I cook at home.

2. Follow hunger cues

When it comes to how much I eat, I try to pay attention to how hungry I am. I don’t want to starve myself or in be hungry on a regular basis, so if I’m hungry, I eat.

And by the same token, if I’m not very hungry, then I don’t feel like it’s necessary to eat, even if it’s mealtime.

grape beet smoothie

For example, some mornings, I’m starving and I’ll drink a big smoothie and also have a banana with peanut butter, or an egg, or a sausage. But some mornings, a smoothie holds me over just fine until lunchtime.

3. Stay Active

While I’m not one to spend hours doing formal exercise, I’m a moderately active person.

Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping,home maintenance, and laundry-doing keep me pretty active, and I don’t have a lot of sedentary hobbies (Except blogging! Blogging is rather sedentary. 😉 )

Plus, I have a martial arts class, I try to do the 7-minute workout several times a week, and I go on walks and bike rides with Mr. FG at least once a week.


It would be awesome to spend more time to spend exercising, but for now, this level of activity is what I can fit in.


So, there you have it.   I know it’s nothing earth-shaking, but it’s what works for me.



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Wednesday 28th of September 2016

It's true that we don't know everyone's story. My heart is sad after reading some of these comments (don't drink soda or you'll end up fat like your mom? My granddaughter already gets sideways looks even though she eats healthier and is more active than most kids her age?). People can be so judgmental and so cruel to people they do not know.

I'm naturally thin and take after my dad who's been rail-thin his whole life. It get's so frustrating trying to defend why I try to eat healthy and why I exercise. People automatically jump in with "oh, you are so skinny-you can eat whatever you want." Because heart attacks and tooth decay can't possibly happen to a skinny person.... or "I'm sure you're in much better shape than you think you are." Right. That's why I can't play a game of volleyball without being winded and exhausted. Or jog a half-mile without stopping. Or do even a single pushup. In comparison to the experiences of others though, those comments are minor...I should probably just let them roll off my back.


Tuesday 27th of September 2016

I've been skinny all my life and they said because genes play an important role, but having a healthy habits and active lifestyles are the key to maintain it.


Tuesday 27th of September 2016

Love it!

Sounds like you basically practice intuitive eating and staying active.

I don't fall into any typical body size/shape categories, and it took me years after I had kids to really become comfortable in my skin again.

I love to bike, and do 50-100 miles/week, with most of that coming from one big ride (40+ miles) on Sunday mornings with a cycling club. I also swim and run a bit, aiming for 1-2 sprint triathlons and 1-2 5k races per year, as having goals like that helps me on days I'd rather binge watch Doctor Who.

I enjoy cooking, so we eat almost everything from scratch, and I have genetically high cholesterol, so our diet is high in soluble fiber and low in animal-source saturated fats.

And at the end of the day, I'm 5'9" and 235lb. My lean body mass is 150lb, so even if I managed to drop some body fat, at a healthy body fat percentage, I'll never be under 200lb.

I like to eat good food, but I don't like to feel like crap, so my food decisions are not just what sounds good, but also how will I feel later after eating that.

My body works, I can keep up with the A pace group in my bike club for one extra hill every week, I'm decently flexible, and can still pick up both of my kids (8 and 5, the older one is over 60lb and both are tall for their ages) and get down on the floor to play with them, so I'm happy.


Tuesday 27th of September 2016

So great to hear from you!

It sounds like you are doing a great job of taking care of your body without obsessing or focusing too much on reaching a particular appearance goal. So healthy.


Tuesday 27th of September 2016

Thank you for your kind way of approaching this topic, a sensitive one for those of us who really struggle with weight. I think it is akin to alcoholism in the sense that some of us have to fight the urge every single day not to overeat, eat the wrong thing, feel discouraged when we see that others can eat so much more and not gain weight, feel shame at our supposed lack of will power and know that others are judging us harshly---sometimes out loud. At my heaviest, I was in a grocery store in the soda aisle with my kid and a guy came up and said to her, "Be careful. Drink sodas and you will end up as fat as your mother." I wanted to die on the spot.


Tuesday 27th of September 2016

Oh my goodness...what a terrible thing for someone to say. I'm sorry.

Some people say such rude things to people who don't fit the "average" size. I just don't get why people think it's ok to comment on someone else's body size or shape, especially to their face! My family has gotten a lot of grief from people about being skinny, and I know people who are heavier experience the same and worse.


Tuesday 27th of September 2016

Let's face it, you are just a naturally disciplined person which most of us aren't. I am on the frugal realm, but not so much where food is concerned. When there are children about, they usually take care of any excess food, but later on when there are just 2 or 1 ppeople, then it's harder to leave the extras alone.

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