My Weight

My weight used to be my most guarded secret. In general, I am a very open person: I’ll tell anyone anything about me, unless it involves other people. However, there were two exceptions, both of them numbers, interestingly enough: my age and my weight. The closest I came to revealing my weight was with my sister, because we often discuss our similar health issues. Unfortunately, she knows my age, so the only missing number is my weight. I am so tired of my struggle to lose weight, that I’ve stopped caring about keeping the number secret. I am ready to tell it to the whole world.

Let me start from the beginning. I grew up in a country and at a time when men liked plump women. I was never thin, and didn’t have to worry about my weight like my thin girlfriends did. I’ll never forget my high school boyfriend telling me, “Ninety percent of men like fat women, and the other ten percent like very fat women.” When in college I weighed 70 kilograms (154 pounds) and I felt fine. I had my first child when I was 23. I gained 20 kilos while I was breastfeeding, reaching 90 kilos (200 pounds). My husband Andrey kept telling me that he liked Rubenesque women. I wasn’t even slightly concerned about my weight. When we divorced in 1988, I felt that my world was crushed and I didn’t want to go on living. As a result, I lost about 20 pounds.

By 1990 I recovered from my depression, married my next husband, and moved to the US to live with him. The US made me aware of my weight immediately. It didn’t help that Andrey remarried a woman who was the opposite of Rubenesque. From this point on, I wanted to lose weight. After my second child was born, I gained 20 kilograms while breastfeeding, just as I had done with the first child. The result was that I weighed about 220 pounds, much more than I wanted.

I started to look around at what capitalist society had to offer. The pharmacy had many products. I tried Slim Fast, which started to kill my appetite immediately. However, I began to get depressed. The depression felt foreign. As a new mother, I had been very happy before using Slim Fast, and there had been no changes in my life other than consuming Slim Fast. I stopped using it and the depression disappeared. To make sure, I did an experiment. I started using Slim Fast again and the depression reappeared within three days. I stopped it and my depression disappeared. I was so desperate to lose weight that I repeated the experiment. But the result was the same. I stopped using it, and never used any slimming supplement since then. But within that whole process, I lost some weight.

I stayed slightly over 200 pounds for several years. The third time (after the divorce and the Slim Fast) that I lost a lot of weight was when I had my heart broken about 15 years ago. Since then I’ve been slowly gaining weight.

As you can see from my story, I was never able to lose weight when I wanted to. I lost it three times, but I can’t and don’t want to reproduce those circumstances. I actually do not know how to lose weight. For the past ten years I’ve been making changes in my eating habits that I hope, cumulatively, would help me lose weight. I do not buy soda or pizza. I significantly cut my consumption of sweets and starches. I eat more fruits and vegetables. I eat half of what I used to eat in a restaurant. I am still gaining weight.

he only thing I haven’t tried is to be hungry. I am afraid of being hungry. Also I am scared that if I decide on a plan which might result in my being hungry, I will not be able to stick to it. I don’t want to discover that I don’t have enough will power. I am scared to be a failure. I hope that by writing and publishing this I’ll gain the courage to replace my half-measures with a more drastic plan.

Oh! I forgot to tell you: I weigh 245 pounds.

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16 Comments

  1. Fawn Nguyen:

    You rock, Tanya. I read your blog religiously to follow all the great math you share. This post is so dear though. Thank you.

  2. Sue VanHattum:

    First, make sure you’re not hypothyroid. You can eat little and still gain weight if you are. (I was hyperthyroid about 15 years ago, ate constantly and lost weight. Sounds good, and people abuse synthroid for this effect, but it’s bad for your heart, bones, and much more. I went on medication. I might border on hypothyroid now, and I do weigh more than I’d like – close to 190 pounds.)

    If that’s not the problem, you might want to read up on Weston Price, and check out Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. I think eating really healthy is key to having a healthy body.

    Third might be reading some on the politics of weight. Maybe there are some European men who’d like you just the way you are.

    When I decided to do no sugar and very limited starch (rice was the only grain I was eating) for 3 months (to combat candida, not as weight loss), I ate as much fatty food as I wanted, and still lost 20 pounds. But I did gain it back within half a year of ending that diet.

    Good luck.

  3. Anonymous:

    I haven’t noticed any excercises. Have you tried them? I wonder how many people think they can lose weight only dieting.

  4. Sergy:

    Have you considered IF (intermittent fasting)? You can eat whatever you want 8 hours a day and for 16 hours you’re not eating anything. One day per week you not eating anything too.
    Actually, there is a lot of different variants of IF.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_fasting
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5:2_diet

  5. Tanya Khovanova:

    Yes, I do exercise.

  6. Ionica:

    What is your height? Or is that your third secret number?

    If you feel healthy and fit, maybe you should relax about your weight. Being healthy is more important than being thin.

  7. Felipe Pait:

    I just had lunch and WBUR had this interview: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/03/01/mediterranean-diet-bittman

    I know nothing about weight itself, but the only advice about food that in my opinion stands the test of reason and taste is the one given by people like this Mark Bittman or Michael Pollan. Eat when you are hungry – don’t stay hungry, don’t stuff yourself before or after you are hungry. Avoid prepared foods, and eat traditional foods that you enjoy. Don’t pay too much attention to diet or nutrition fads, but avoid concentrated and refined nutrients.

    IMHO, this is the only type of advice that is compatible with feeling good and healthy, and with science and common sense. The rest are fads designed to promote unhealthy products at your expense.

  8. Shabnam:

    The solution is to try to increase lean muscle mass via resistance training. Do weights at the gym or yoga, or some weight-bearing exercise. You will end up stronger and be able to eat more, especially proteins – a win-win situation (more muscle requires more energy consumption just to maintain itself). Denying oneself food only leads to the body thinking it is experiencing starvation and so it lowers its metabolism further to conserve energy – the opposite of what you want. You want a body that wastes a lot of energy – having more muscle helps.

  9. dustin lee:

    This is how my wife and I eat: http://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight

  10. Lina:

    Dear Tanya,
    U menya vsegda bili problemi s vesom, tolko v shkole I bila samaya tonkaya devochka kogda zanimalas gimnastikoi. I nastolko uzhe daleka ot toi tonkosti, chot dazhe udivilas chto moi shkolnie podrugi do sih por eto pomnyut! Mi vstrechalis etim letom, u nas bil 30 let so shkoli, i oni mne vse kak odin golos: Nu Elka, ti u nas bila takaya zamorennaya, sho tebeya vetrom sduvalo.
    A potom v MGU I kak to srazu nachala tolstet, snachala do 62 kg, potom do 68. Moim verhom togda bil ves v 72 kg. I dazhe zamush vishla s takim vesom.
    I ne soglasna chto russkie muzhiki lybyat tolstih. Uzhe v MGU I ponimala, cho kovalerov bilo bi bolshe esli bi vo mne volo kg na 10 menshe. Vse vokrug hudeli i hudeli.
    Nu a razdobrela I kak raz v Amerike. Snashala v 1993 eshe mne nravilos chto I pochti chto tonshe vseh. A potom privikla chto vse ulibayutsya, chto korov hodit mnogo i raspustila sebya.
    I ochen perezhivayu. Seichas vo mne 182LB i gdeto 82 kg, i eto uzhasno. I ne mogu pohudet! Pitalas i rasberry ketones i slim fast.
    Mne vsegda pomogala English diet, no tam dva dnya golodnih a I ih bolshe ne viderzhivayu.
    Ne perezhivai!
    Ti ochen krasivaya !
    Davai budem pitatsya chto to delat vmeste: I stala opyat zanimatsya gymnastics po utram. Eto nado…

    Lina

  11. Hillary:

    Tanya, I also don’t know how to lose weight. But I have tricked myself into exercising 4 times per week and it is related to having others involved (I have a running partner; my gym membership is structured in a way that is very motivating to attend the classes.) I think doing these things is easier with others and with some outside accountability. So my suggestion is something like weight watchers or some custom community-minded scheme of your own invention (you are so good at thinking up unique strategies, like that little dog you take for walks). Everyone I know who has lost weight has told me it is about what and how much you eat – exercise is helpful, but it is less than half the solution.

  12. Count Iblis:

    You are making a big mistake by cutting down on starches. It’s not the calories but the amount of energy your body needs to store in order to generate the energy you require that you should focus on. By make sure you eat plenty of whole grain foods, e.g. whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice etc. you’ll get a lot of the nutrients, such as magnesium:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium_in_biology

    that your body needs to generate the enegy it needs. Without enough magnesium present in your cells, an ATP mlecule will yield less energy, so the body will have to keep larger stores of fat in order to generate the required amount of energy per unit time.

    Also, you need to make sure you are not vitamin D deficient. Recent research:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130317221446.htm

    points to vitamin D being necessary for the muscles to access energy.

    And, of course, exercise is also very important.

    So, stop thinking that you can just eat a little less and exercise a little more. It’s not that simple, because then our ancenstors would never have survived famines and we wouldn’t be here in the first place. Natural selection over hundreds of millions of years has led to a very robust system that is not going to run out of energy and die for trivial reasons. There are all sorts of feedback mechanisms at work that make sure you can function with good energy levels even if you eat a little less. If you approach it from this angle, you’ll see that simply cutting down on calories doesn’t work on the long term.

  13. Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog » Blog Archive » My Yellow Road to Healthy Weight:

    […] of cake looks threatening. The only problem with using their system is that I have no clue how to lose weight. The company doesn’t provide tools to lose weight: it just provides a commitment device. So […]

  14. Andrey Lvovsky:

    Hi Tanya –

    I noticed that you said “I significantly cut my consumption of sweets and starches.” About a year ago my wife had to stop consuming sugar and starch (for medical reasons having nothing to do with losing weight). Like, literally. Totally. No sugar, no cookies, no chocolate, no sweetened yogurts, no fruites (other than apples), no dry fruites, no honey; also, no bread (in any form, including whole grain), no pasta, no potatoes (she ate rice though). Also, no processed food, because it almost always contains sugar. Although it wasn’t her objective, after changing her diet she started slimming down and went from under 200 pounds to 135 pounds. She didn’t excersise, she didn’t go hungry, she ate after 6 pm and whenever she was hungry.

    I was always certain that you can’t lose weight without a lot of excersising and patience, but this last year clearly proved me wrong. It was almost scary to see how quickly she lost weight. I think it was also very important that she cut sugars by 100% because now whenever she allows herself a bit of something the scales show the result immidiately (she eats whole grain pasta and some bread though). Previously, when she just “scaled down” on sweets it didn’t have any effect whatsoever.

    I absolutely understand that what worked for one person might not work for another, but… who knows?

    Best of luck in getting to the weight you want!

    Cheers,
    – Andrey

  15. Petr:

    Hi,
    I just stumbled upon your blog through schneier.com. And just one thing occured to me when reading “there had been no changes in my life other than consuming Slim Fast”. Well, haven’t you been also dieting as well? 😉
    I mean, actively trying to eat less. Because at least in my case, this makes me start feeling depressed pretty fast. Even the very realization that from now on I can’t just eat what I want works quite well alone.

  16. Olga:

    Здравствуйте, Таня! У меня была такая же проблема. В августе я весила 110 кг. Три месяца сидела на порошковой диете Modifast. Похудела на 20 кг. А в ноябре мне сделали операцию по уменьшению желудка. Сейчас уже вешу 75 кг. Вес уходит, хотя очень медленно. Есть могу почти все (кроме сахара), но понемногу. Но мне хватает. Очень сомневалась на счет операции, но в Швеции,где я живу, эти операции довольно распространены, и за последние годы довольно много знакомых сделали такие операции. Так что я рискнула, и не жалею