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posted: 6/9/2010 12:01 AM

Keeping the weight off, three years and counting

Lean and Lovin' It

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Losing weight isn't easy, especially for older folks; keeping weight off's harder still.

Over the years, numerous conversations with readers has brought one thing into clear focus: guys drop pounds easier than gals yet what appears to be equally challenging for both genders is keeping weight off. I know from experience - here's my story.

October 2005 I stepped on a digital scale and discovered my weight had ballooned to 326.7 pounds. My goal weight: 177. With 150 pounds to lose, I almost didn't go forward because if I lost one pound a week, a healthy pace; it would take three years to shed the pounds. Still, I forged on.

October 2006 One year and 80 pounds down. At that point I knew that I'd never keep that weight off unless I raised my activity levels in a healthy and continuing way. I joined a fitness center and hired a personal trainer. That turned out to be a pivotal decision.

June 2007 I reached 177 pounds and threw a "Goal Weight" party for all the folks who'd joined me on my weight loss journey. Guests brought their favorite lower-calorie dishes (and the recipes) for everyone to share. My weight loss took 20 months instead of 36.

June 2010 Today marks the third anniversary for hitting - and maintaining - my goal weight. This third year's also been the most difficult. Here's why.

For a few months after getting to 177, I kept losing weight and bottomed out at 162. What's called "weight creep" has slowly brought me back to 175. Weight creep's a very slow weight gain. How slow? 0.2 to 0.4 pounds per month.

A 0.4 pound per month weight gain translates to an extra 1,400 calories over 30 days - just 47 extra calories a day. Yep, a number that small can make a big difference. I was determined to crush the creep and did so by cutting calories coming from all sugars and highly processed foods and increasing the fresh vegetables and fruit in my food plan.

That strategy led me to this year's golden goody: oven roasting vegetables. Oven-roasted vegetables cook in their own juices and caramelize some; kicking-up flavor notes. Plus, moisture lost in the oven intensifies every flavor. Haven't tried it yet? Do it once and you'll rarely go back to steamed or boiled veggies.

I also eat more vegetables, mostly organically grown, than ever before. Organics just taste better to me and I like knowing the produce is clear of pesticide residue and its endocrine disrupters. Some nutritional authorities believe endocrine disrupters can trigger unintentional weight gain.

I've kept working out three times a week for the past 31/2 years. Notching-up my workouts a little this year helped burn off some of those extra calories, too. Yes there've been days when I didn't want to hit the gym, but knowing how great I feel after a workout is a strong motivator.

While losing weight I rarely dined in a restaurant, since I wanted total control over my food plan. During maintenance, I began infrequently dining in restaurants. The last six months I've done my best to reduce those visits; heading back to my own kitchen. That shift's been both calorie and cost effective.

It's been three years since that first "Goal Weight" party and today I'm sharing the celebration with you.

I created my very low-fat Celebration Black Bottom Cupcakes in the early '90s, the first time I lost more than 100 pounds. Each melt-in-your-mouth cupcake delivers just 126 calories, even though there are pecans and chocolate chips. The hardest thing to do: eat just one.