How Not to Gain Weight

December 22, 2013 Updated: December 22, 2013

I recently had lunch with two friends and mentioned that I was a “recovering fatty” and justly proud of it. I lost 40 pounds years ago and have kept it off for life. They wanted to know how I did it and suggested I write a column about it.

It’s fairly easy to lose weight but keeping it off is just about impossible. The 40 pounds I lost is just about half my body weight since I fluctuate between about 85 pounds and 88 pounds. Lest you think I have an eating disorder, I am actually very healthy but am very small—5-foot tall and very small-boned.

I first lost weight at the age of 16. In six months I had lost 25 pounds going from 128 pounds to 103 pounds. I had always been chubby but I was getting bigger and bigger until finally, I realized I had to do something.

As my weight diminished, I remember saying to my mother: “I can’t wait until I lose weight so I can go back to eating normally.” My mother replied: “Then why bother losing weight? As soon as you go back to eating ‘normally’ you’ll gain weight again.”

I thought about this and realized that she was right. I realized I had to constantly watch my weight. The price of being thin is the same as the price of democracy—constant vigilance.

After getting down to 103 pounds, I stayed there for a while and then went down to 99 pounds. A couple of years later while on vacation, some friends took photos of me. After seeing the photos, I decided I wanted to be thinner. It took me a few months, but I went down to 92 pounds where I stayed until grief from a death in my family caused me to go down to 82 pounds. I realized 82 pounds was too thin even for me and forced myself to get up to 88 pounds where I’ve pretty much stayed ever since.

How I’ve done it is by watching what I eat. I don’t diet and don’t count calories. But I do know that French fries are very fattening and a baked potato is not. So I eat the baked sweet potato and haven’t had fries in years.

Nothing tastes better than being thin feels. I make smart choices and practice portion control. I also walk everywhere (miles a day) and work out with weights at home a few days a week.

But, and this is a big but, I don’t obsess about my weight. I give myself permission to go off on occasion and eat whatever I want. Since I don’t do it all the time, I know that if I go back to eating normally, there’s no harm done. I even have chocolate cake at times, and recently, I had paté de fois gras—which is very fatty—and enjoyed every morsel.

Every woman wants to lose weight, providing that it can be done by waving a magic wand—that’s not possible, but it is possible to lose weight and keep it off with self-discipline and good eating habits.

Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan. She may be reached at silverbergm@mindspring.com.

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