I am the centerpiece of three girls in the family, and while our two brothers are lean and fit, my sisters and I have been up and down on the scale our entire lives. We are the Yo-Yo Sisters! Let me offer up some background. We all grew up on the family dairy farm, where we enjoyed homemade bread, meat and potato dinners, and fabulous desserts. We range in age from 49 to 59. I’m the middle sister. Little sister and I have bounced between extremes, losing and gaining 50 pounds or more several times over the course of our lives. Big sister has managed her weight better, avoiding those extremes, but still struggles with swings in the wrong direction. Maintaining has always been a challenge. Both sisters were kind enough to share their experiences in this post.
Three Sisters, Three Diets
Dieting has been a lifelong activity for the Yo-Yo Sisters. We’ve experimented over time, and what works for one sister doesn’t work for the others. Let’s take a look at big sister, who used a holistic approach called Nutritional Response Testing to determine that she is sensitive to gluten and sugar. I took a slightly different approach, essentially using elimination diets (The Plan, Whole30) to help me identify how specific foods made me feel. While big sister and I have eliminated certain foods, especially sugar, the approach that works for little sister has been textbook basic – eat less and exercise more.
We all know what works, so why do we Yo-Yo between normal, overweight, and obese bodies? Now here’s something we all have in common: STRESS ruins our healthy ambitions! Big sister falters when her schedule gets busy and out of balance and she doesn’t have time to prepare healthy meals. My weight starts to climb when I’m under a great deal of stress from my personal or work life. And I’m an emotional eater – it’s way too easy to stop at the local convenience mart to grab a hot dog and a beer to reward myself after a brutal day at the office. Little sister also turns to food to deal with stress. All three of us have to do better in this department!
The Balancing Act
Because my older sister and I restrict certain food groups, there’s a balancing act that we walk. We don’t want to deprive ourselves of certain foods, like pizza and beer, all of the time forever and ever. But introducing certain foods can spell trouble. Some temptations are just too great! You won’t find ice cream or potato chips in my house – they wouldn’t last the night! And sometimes it’s our way of thinking we have to change. Big sister made a keen observation:
I forget what I did to improve my diet, and start thinking “Oh a little ice cream will be alright” and “I can eat as many of these pretzels as I want because they’re gluten-free.” REALLY? Basically, it’s defective reasoning.
Big sister and I have increasingly focused on the way food makes us FEEL. She feels lousy eating gluten and sugar. I feel rotten eating carbs, dairy, and sugar. So we try to avoid those foods. That’s in contrast to little sister, who manages to lose weight without eliminating entire food groups, though she then has to focus her energy on counting calories.
Getting Back on Track
The Yo-Yo sisters don’t like being overweight. Here’s what we said about the impact of weight on our sense of well-being, health, and happiness:
- I don’t like it when my clothes get tight and uncomfortable. And I have a harder time sleeping at night because my tummy is busy digesting my nighttime snacks.
- I tend to avoid more social gatherings – partly because I don’t want to buy a new “fat” wardrobe. I avoid going to the doctor because I don’t want to step on the scale. The thing is, in my mind I am this really fit active woman, but when I look in the mirror, I see this giant woman with enormous hips staring back. The “fat” me is a total disconnect from the “real” me.
- When I am heavy, I am still happy but realize that I need to lose the weight so it is on my mind. I have so much less energy when I am not eating right and exercising.
So what is it that prompts each of us to return to dieting and make yet ANOTHER effort to lose the weight? Big sister notes that she just didn’t feel her best carrying those extra pounds, suffering from heartburn and experiencing issues with blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The linchpin: a glucose level that indicated she was pre-diabetic. Big sister knew that all of these conditions could be fixed with an improved diet, so that’s what she did. For me, sitting in a cramped airplane seat realizing that I was down to the last inch of the seat belt was the latest wake-up call. I definitely had to make a change! For little sister, she eventually reaches a point when she says, “I look terrible.” Change is hard, but it beats living in a body you don’t like!
The Challenge: From Yo-Yo Dieting to Sustainable Health
On several occasions, my sisters and I have launched our own Biggest Loser competition. We pooled our money to create a “kitty,” that would go to the sister who scored the highest percentage of weight loss. I love competition! But so does little sister, who more often than not took home the prize. While we thrived on competition, that same approach didn’t work for big sister. Now I realize that little sister and I were treating weight loss as a Project. We hit our goal and then we just stopped. Neither of us have done a great job maintaining and we’ve had enormous weight swings. Meanwhile, big sister views dieting as more of a lifestyle choice, and she’s absolutely correct. This time around, I’m focusing on creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I am convinced that we will all reach our goal weight again. I’m positive! But then what?
I’m in a fantastic place. My experiences on The Plan and the impact of a Whole30-based diet on my energy and mood make me feel like I found the “golden ticket.” Ultimately, we will be successful in maintaining a healthy weight. Here are some final thoughts from the Yo-Yo Sisters:
- Stick to the food that makes you feel the best. Don’t bring food into the house that makes you feel bloated, tired, and unhappy, or that you can’t control.
- Stop buying high carb and crunchy snacks! They are habit-forming.
- Eliminate snacking. There’s no need to graze in front of the refrigerator during full moons.
- Replace bad habits with good habits – read a book, learn something new, get a hobby
- Focus on the way you feel in your clothes. Don’t stress over the number on the scale.