Why It’s So Hard To Maintain Your Weight Loss.

I Think I Might Be Happy.

The other day, I casually dropped over breakfast,

“I think… I think I might be happy… or getting close to it… with my size.”

“I mean, what I’m saying,” I continued, “is that I might be ready to transition to maintenance, soon.”

For those who’ve followed along with my BDD and struggle with ED​, you can appreciate how much of an epiphany this was to not just myself, but my husband (who said, “Well that’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard.”). Part of this illumination comes from the fact that I am now 45 years old and even the fucked up part of me that fuels my disorder is willing to admit that I cannot have the body of a 25 year old.

Part of it is also a grudging nod to the 6 marathons I have under my belt–the fact that I can roll out of bed at any moment (when I’m not nursing a sprained ankle) and run 13, 14, and even 15 miles just for the heck of it compels a deep respect and profound gratitude for a body that I’ve determined will never fit into her goal jeans.

Perhaps it’s just that I’ve yet to fall into the trap that ensnares so many–an obsession with anti-aging, looking less than my 45 years, snipping and tucking folds of inelastic skin. But, the truth is, with that inelasticity, I feel a certain welcome loosening, as if I can finally breathe–a little–into the body I have, for better or worse.

The phrase “for my age” has been a license, more than a burden:

“I look pretty good for my age,”

“I feel pretty strong for my age,” and

“I can do quite a lot for my age.”

[Resident Boomers and above, I can literally feel you rolling your eyes at me.]

But of course, this new-found wisdom isn’t entirely well-founded or without complication. To keep things honest, I will confess I have been “dieting” for the past 3.5 months. I started running again earlier this year after sustaining a VERY bad sprain last December, and have been upping my mileage back to 30+ miles a week, in conjunction with the aforementioned “diet.” Why the quotations around the word “diet”? Because I feel like “diet” refers to something temporary, a particular regiment with some end. But remember that one scene in Notting Hill? Where Julia Roberts’ character blurts out:

“I’ve been on a diet everyday since I was 19 years old”?

I feel that line to my very core. In some ways, I’ve been on a diet every day since I was around 9 years old. Maybe not in that I’ve been restricting my food every single day, but in that I’ve been aware of my need to eat less every single day for the past 3 decades.

So, what do I mean when I say that I’ve been “dieting” for the past 3.5 months, since this obviously implies that I was doing something distinct from “dieting” 4 months ago…? I took a “break” from dieting. One that I knew would be temporary. Shortly after the marathon, in November, I injured myself and decided to invest in resting my feet. During that time, I also allowed myself to eat what I wanted whenever I wanted. Between very little exercise and no boundaries on food consumption, I unsurprisingly gained a lot of weight. I knew this would happen. I also knew that at some point, when my ankle was repaired, I would get back on the treadmill and eat less.

A lot less.

Why all this background info?

First, because I don’t want any pats on the back nor applause for “getting back into shape” or “losing the weight” or “looking great.” I don’t deserve it. My mother, who was here just a few days ago, looked at me while I was cooking lunch one day and said, “My goodness. You’ve lost a LOT of weight.” I said nothing in return, because how could I? To accept her praise would be to implicitly endorse the way I did it. On the other hand… if I didn’t endorse it, why would I have done it? Actions speak louder than words: I can call out toxic diet culture until I’m blue in the face, but what does any of it mean (other than blinding hypocrisy) if, at home, I’m counting calories and eating 2 crackers for lunch?

Second, this is the story of my life-an endless seesaw between restriction and bingeing. I restrict because of a deep seeded belief that no one will love me if I am “fat” and that I will inevitably be “fat” if I don’t restrict. And then I binge because, well, I am human and after eating so little for so long, I eventually cave and compensate for the drought.

Against this rather dizzyingly illogical backdrop is the alluring voice of the fat-loss siren known as semaglutide. Do you know what happens when you google “Semaglutide”? I’ll tell you, you get a host of search results that offer to ship some to you via overnight courier. That is how tantalizing this siren’s song has already grown–I can just fill out a couple online questionnaires and have some waiting for me, on my doorstep, in the next couple days.

As ​I’ve discussed before​, I have very mixed feelings about this new wave of diabetes drugs that are now being prescribed, off label for weight loss. I listened to a Rich Roll Podcast episode with Johann Hari​–who injected himself with Ozempic for a year, partly as research for his book, Magic Pill–and was left with more questions than answers. What I did find illuminating, however, was my reaction to some of the feedback I saw beneath Rich’s Instagram posts on this episode:

“This drug is a quick fix…”

“How is it difficult to be healthy and fit?”

“It’s so easy to be healthy…”

“This is a bandaid…”

“How about get some exercise, quit eating shit and too much of it….”

I will note, here, that the RRP community was, for the most part, quite even-handed and compassionate on this topic and Rich, himself, asked all the questions I wanted to ask (which is why he’s so effing good at this). But, I did come across more than a handful of comments like the ones above and, call it my Gen X-ness, they did resonate, a little, with that part of me that values accountability, determination, and overall David “Gogginsness.” I mean…how can you “stay hard” if your muscles are literally atrophying from Ozempic?

Moreover, I do wholeheartedly believe that there are people who–because they have the means to afford it without insurance–are using these drugs as a “get thin quick” solution, with zero intention of developing good habits, an appreciation for sound nutrition, or any effort whatsoever towards understanding their inner demons.

But this very quickly gave way to anger and resentment. Are you telling me there are actually people for whom being “healthy and fit” is EASY? More specifically, I found it unnerving how dismissive people could be about how freaking hard it is to maintain weight loss, once you’ve subjected your body to restrictive eating, particularly more than once.

According to ​one study​, once you’ve gained weight even once, it becomes exponentially harder to maintain a “healthy” weight:

[B]iological mechanisms, including genetic factors, hormonal changes, adaptive thermogenesis, and neural factors, undermine weight loss effects and promote weight regain in individuals attempting even modest weight loss. These mechanisms appear to defend an individual’s highest sustained body weight and point to the crucial importance of obesity prevention efforts for normal-weight and overweight individuals.

In other words, the easiest way to lose weight is never to gain it in the first place. Gee, THANKS. Otherwise, your body will work to “defend” its largest sustained size. It will literally try and hold onto that excess weight.


Well, ​a recent study by Kevin Hall​, a researcher at the National Institute of Health, might shed some light on at least one way your body “betrays” you when attempting to divest the extra pounds. According to Hall’s study, which lasted from 2007 through 2010 and followed 238 individuals, Hall observed that for “every 2.2 pounds of weight participants lost, their appetite responded by asking for 83 more calories a day. The average weight loss reported in the study was 7.5 kilograms, or 16 pounds, which would mean that at their lowest weights, they were feeling the need to eat 622 more calories a day more than before they started losing weight.”

So, for those who have not had to diet and restrict even a moderate amount of calories ever in their lives, it is easy, or at least easier. They can be the exact same size, even larger, and still feel less hungry–significantly less hungry–than those who have dieted. Think about it–compared to someone who has never had to lose some weight, someone who has had to put in “the work” to lose a mere 16 pounds hungers for the equivalent of:

  • 4 more scoops of ice cream
  • 3 more servings of spaghetti
  • 2 more slices of chocolate cake
  • 1 more cheeseburger–with the bun

I imagine this phenomenon is likely exacerbated for those who have engaged in multiple stints of restrictive eating.

Well, that’s just the cost you pay if you gain weight. Even once in your life. Sorry. I don’t make the rules. [This is, sadly, the voice in my head.]

I will not make this week’s missive even longer by discussing all the many ways the odds are stacked against people today when it comes to “obesity prevention.” Suffice it to say, contrary to some people’s belief, it is asinine, ignorant and cruel to conclude that today’s obesity epidemic stems from just laziness and gluttony.

What I will ask you, my friends, is this:

Is it really fair to ask someone to struggle for the rest of their lives because they happened to gain some weight back in college? After having a baby? When they lost their job? When they got a divorce?

Have we decided that it’s ok to lock them in a prison of hunger forever and simply throw away the key?

These are all the things I’ve been wrestling with since that breakfast–the one where I haltingly suggested that maybe, maybe… I can finally confront the next frightening chapter of my journey. I have no idea what this is going to look like, but I’m willing to try, for the first time in my adult life, to take an indefinite hiatus from dieting. I look up at the shadow looming over me and I think back of the thing my therapist repeated all those years ago when I walked into her office for the very first time:

“Loving yourself will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.”

Thoughts on this week’s newsletter?

Around The Horn

In response to last week’s newsletter, P.Diddy, The Bear, & Cold Kimchi Noodles:

Emye says:
May 23, 2024 at 1:25 pm

“I was 21, in uni and thought I met my ‘person’. He said all the right things that won my parents over, but alone he would gaslight me, calling me selfish for choosing studies and career aspirations over spending time with him. The last straw was literal kidnapping (across border, at a time when all you needed was a driver’s licence). The physical violence was always implied as a means of control. I left before it came to that, even amid being called ‘crazy’ for leaving such a ‘wonderful’ man, being blamed for the breakup. I left to save myself, so gladly wear the badge of blame.”

This Week’s Recipe Inspo.

This week’s recipe inspo is my fiber and flavor packed Doenjang Lentil Soup!!

What I’m…

  • Watching. This past week, I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the new movie Sight–a film that chronicles the true-life story of Ming Wang, a Chinese American physician who cures the blind. It is an incredibly heartwarming and uplifting film and I highly recommend you watch this with your family! It’s a total tear jerker but in a good way! Get Tickets –>
  • Excited About. Last week, I had the honor of being on CBS’s The Talk, as part of their #SeeHer feature! I brought my kimchi dumplings, braised tofu, and pecan paht pie and they LOVED them all (but especially the pie lolol)! If you weren’t able to tune in LIVE, you can watch it below! Watch –>
  • Loving. If you guys have been watching my IG Stories then you’ll already know that I’ve taken to sprinkling some roasted seaweed over my avo toast in the morning! In case you were wondering or want to give it a try yourself, this is what I’ve been using for that! My mom put me onto this a few months ago and I’ve been loving it ever since! Shop –>

Food & Stories: Every Tuesday in Your Inbox!

Not subscribed to my newsletter yet? Join below! The free Korean Vegan newsletter features my writing and storytelling, plus new recipes and cooking videos, every Tuesday in your inbox. Enjoy! – Joanne

Parting Thoughts.

A couple days ago, I spent about an hour folding jumbo sized kimchi dumplings I needed to bring with me for my appearance on CBS’s The Talk. They wanted three dishes, particularly ones that had a significant story attached to them. Kimchi dumplings were a natural choice–the recipe is from my grandmother and my mom always told me that grandma made them with tofu instead of meat because they were too poor to eat meat all the time.

Making dumplings always sounds good in theory–you can make them in advance, they’re portable, and they’re always a huge hit. But I always forget just how long it takes to make even a few of them, how messy it inevitably gets no matter how hard you try to keep things tidy, how much your back can start to hurt after bending over your sticky hands for such an extended period of time.

My mind tends to wander a lot when I’m wrapping dumplings, and this time, it kept wanting to go back to the last time I made mandoo, using the exact same dumpling wrappers from the exact same Korean market up in Northridge–how my mother sat across from me at my kitchen table and told me that her mother made it just the same way while her narrow fingers slipped in and out of the pleats she carefully made around the rim of her dumpling.

Only… this was a made up memory, one of those deep fakes that seem so like the real thing, you get momentarily tricked into believing it.

It’s not like my mother hasn’t sat across from me at least 17 times doing exactly what I just described, but it was weird that my mind kept creating this illusion, over and over again, in lock step with the repetitive motion of my fingers as I created my own pleats, pinched each dumpling closed, and set it on a sheet of parchment paper, just like Omma taught me. In actuality, the last time I made these dumplings, I’d made them myself for my birthday dinner. I’d seen Maangchi make kimchi dumplings and they looked so good, I decided to make them myself. But Omma was in Chicago the day I made them for my birthday dinner party, not sitting with me in my kitchen.

It occurred to me, rather suddenly, how I might be visited with these memories, real or imagined, when Omma is gone. When I will no longer be able to hear her say, “This is just like how your grandma made them.”

As I tucked the very last dumpling into a small corner of “free space” on my tray, I pushed down the grapefruit in my throat as I wondered at how lucky I am that Omma shared this recipe with me before that inevitable day.

Wishing you all the best,

Comments & Questions

A Scale and Tape Measure.

May 27, 2024

Join The Discussion

  1. Gwen says:

    I can relate to so much of this. I have always felt like I was overweight. After working with a vegan trainer I was finally starting to get to what I believed was my ideal weight. I developed an eye issue and was told no working out for six weeks. I’ve gained 15 lbs letting myself eat whatever I want and not exercising. It really made me think about why I want to lose weight. I want to be happy with just what my body is capable of doing or how I feel and not just how it looks. Right now I’m dieting because I can’t stop focusing on that number on the scale.

  2. Cheryl says:

    This really resonates with me. I’m 59 and have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I have gained 100 pounds at least 3 times in my life. Each time it has gotten harder to get back to a healthy weight. Also, the first 2 times my skin went back to the way it was before the weight loss. Unfortunately this last time I am left with sagging skin. It’s a constant reminder of what I have done to myself with binge eating. I have been eating a vegan diet for 12 years, but still will binge eat oatmeal instead of sweets. I feel like sugar addiction is a real issue with me. I’m so tired of having this be such a big part of my life. I really appreciate you writing this post.

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