Sunday, March 21, 2010

What do Cortes and Skinny Jeans have to do with each other? Tip: successful maintenance. Vanity Part 2.

Why does maintenance seem hard?  Probably because it is hard.  Keeping motivation going and avoiding the temptation of pulled pork BBQ platters with hush puppies and fries is a long, tough process.  It's hard because it never ends.  In this way, maintenance is very different than the weight loss process.  Theoretically, the weight loss phase has a beginning and end.  Maintenance only has a beginning.

Just as there are tips and tricks to taking the weight off, there are just as many tips and tricks to keeping it off.  Most of them center around the general topic of focus and motivation.  The problem with focus and motivation is that they are qualities that seem to come naturally to people other than me.  I have to consciously find ways to invent games and charades to keep myself motivated to stay on the righteous path of healthy living.

I often hear from countless women who talk effusively about the feeling of being able to shop in the "regular" section of women's clothing stores after losing their weight.  They talk about being able to show off their arms and legs.  They talk about buying pretty clothes, rather than just shoes and handbags.  They talk about the joy of buying a completely new wardrobe and then using it as a way of keeping themselves motivated to not regain their weight.  

So what is the equivalent technique for men?  It's time for me to once again delve into sharing my inner secrets in a way that will probably come back to haunt me in the form of taunts and other forms of verbal lashing.   So here it goes:  

I like to buy clothes that make me look pretty.  I like to buy clothes that make me look thin/fit.

There.  I said it.

First off, it might be helpful to review the fashion (or lack thereof) choices that I used to make when I was heavier.  Primary examples included anything baggy, loose fitting, "relaxed fit", etc.  Staples included roomy khakis with pleats and baggy jeans.  I used to wear pretty big, flowy (is that a word?) suits.  Big, heavy sweaters were staples.  It was kind of the fashion equivalent to standing inside of a refrigerator sized cardboard box.  Just because the box is big, is it necessarily the case that the contents inside are equally big?  Just because my clothes were big and baggy, wasn't there some possibility that something thin was on the inside?  

As I started to lose weight, I had the pleasing experience of having minor wardrobe malfunctions.  I began requiring the installation of more notches on my belt.  My shirts started to feel like tents and sometimes like small parachutes.  I started to squeeze up and fold over more and more of the waist on my pants.  By the time I reached goal weight, I started to look like Tom Hanks in Big when he reverted back to being a little kid stuck in a large suit.  Either that or David Byrne from Stop Making Sense.

On an emotional level, let me just say that this transformation completely rocked the house.  It is hard to express how happy I was when I shrank to a size 34 pant (down from 38, leaning north of that).  It is hard for me to describe how unbelievably awesome it is to have the sales guy at my fav men's fashion emporium start to direct me toward styles more suitable for, as he put it, "trim men".  It was shameless salesmanship on his part, and I completely fell for it.  With a big, fat smile on my face.

I began the process of buying thin guy clothes.  These included flat front pants with a trimmer cut.  I was able to buy a pair of Levi's with a so-called "Matchstick" cut.  Unbelievably, they actually fit without making me look like a 70's Jordache ad gone horribly awry (only Erik Estrada could pull that look off).  I started buying trimmer cut suits and jackets.  I was able to go down a couple of neck sizes, and I asked the store to take in the sides of the shirts for a slimmer fit.  In short, I have now completely replaced my wardrobe, head to toe.  In the process, I have turned into a person whose pulse rises when confronted with nice looking apparel.  I actually like shopping, and I don't need my wife to pick things out for me anymore.  I frankly find it all slightly frightening.

So what does all of this have to do with staying on maintenance?  Answer:  everything!  All of my stuff fits me well now, but a 10 pound weight gain would be disastrous.  10 pounds is all it would take for me to look like a stuffed sausage.  Given that I fancy myself as kind of a dandy these days, Dave in a bratwurst costume is just not an acceptable outcome.

The story goes that Cortes had all of his ships burned so he could then go on to conquer the Aztecs, destroy their culture, and enslave millions.  He burned his ships to prevent his men from falling into mutiny. There is a lesson in this for me (no, not the enslaving part):  one way to prevent healthy habit mutiny is to burn my own ships, in the form of my prior wardrobe.  Or maybe something more productive like giving it to Goodwill.  Which is what I plan to do today.

Moral of the story:  when applied properly, vanity works.




  1. Bravo! I applaud you and your decision to make like Cortes.

    I am also in the process of packing up my "fat" clothes to bring to the homeless shelter. I have made up my mind that there is no going back. I am 6 pounds from my goal, slipped happily into a size 6 pair of pants (I still can't believe it!) and will never wear a 14, 12, 10 or even size 8 ever again!

    Maintenance is looming, menacingly ahead. There is something about the safety of dieting, with its distinct boundaries, that is comfortable. But maintenance... scary stuff, but I will embrace it enthusiastically and, as you say, find those tips and tricks to stay on track.

    I read your words aloud to my boyfriend who has lost about 60 pounds and is also closing in on his goal, and he really identified with what you had to say.

  2. I, too, am packing up my 'Fat' clothes and shipping them off. There simply is nothing appealing about a pair of jeans that can be slipped off one's waist and dropped to the ground -- WITHOUT needing to be unbuttoned or unzipped! So I have given them away, and am now finding I need to shop to buy smaller jeans that will flatter. And not come off until I want them to!

  3. OH MY GOODNESS does this post hit home! I have written before, but I will say it again... I lost 155 pounds on Weight Watchers. I have gone from a size 54 (and heading north) to a size 36 that is usually a bit large in the waist. I too have become a clothes hound. I LOVE wearing nice clothes. I LOVE that I now keep having to buy smaller and smaller sizes. After being a 4X, I never ever thought I would be smaller than an XL, certain as I was that I was too "big boned" for that. Well it turns out it wasn't my bones after all! I am wearing larges and taking them in.

    Here's the real kicker... I look in the mirror and I don't see myself all the time. I see this skinny guy... I see this guy who is now going to a trainer and getting muscles with real definition. New glasses helped because I can say it's the glasses that throw me off. All a good problem, but still one more issue to grapple with on this journey.

    BUT, that new image is inspiring.. to me and to many many people who I come in contact with every day. AND, the clothes are FUN, though my daughter says the skinny jeans are too young for her 50 year old dad. I am a walking ad for Weight Watchers and I love that as well.

    Thanks for a GREAT blog. I check everyday for updates and my pulse races when I see one. You are speaking my language and it's great to hear. We need more men's voices in the Weight Watchers World... for the men AND the women to hear.

  4. I am returning to WW online only and saw your blog for the first time. I can relate to wanting to find nice clothes that fit, and being trim helps tremendously. I am at a heavier point now and am tempted to go buy some baggy pleated khakis but will hold off and work harder at journaling this week. I too want to wear my "thin guy" clothes again without thinking twice.
    My wife found some great cashmere pullover sweaters on sale a few years ago, which I liked but didn't wear at all until I hit the gym (boot camp 3x week), improved my body and used WW to lose to my belly. I started wearing the cashmere sweaters and most women I talk with compliments the sweaters. Some even use the softness of the yarn as an excuse to touch my arms.
    Richard in Evanston IL
    It is great that WW is trying to customize the approach for men online as the meeting I've seen are very female oriented, which is okay but it get old.

  5. David-thanks for your blogging. I enjoy it very much and have introduced to it other guys on the Guys on a Diet message board with on line WW. Great entry today; yes, indeed, "applied properly, vanity works," and oddly enough, sometimes it works even better than medical reasons to lose weight! Go figure!! I've enjoyed discovering new clothes too, and even though my closet had those smaller sizes and I am now back into them, though they fit, they're no longer as stylish as when I bought them. So out with the old and in with the new, especially tighter shirts and sleeker pants. I worked hard to achieve this new body, so there's no reason to keep it to myself! Thanks for the encouragement from your writing. -Ben

  6. I bought a pair of Calvin Klein jeans when I lost 40 lbs and fit into a size 12 off the rack jeans. They were more than I had ever spent on jeans but I grew up with Brooke Shields telling us that "nothing came between her and her Calvins", or something like that. So I HAD to have them! because they FIT!!! Your reference to Estrada and the Jordache ads made me think of it and laugh. I love your blog!

  7. Love reading about a guy talk about his wardrobe and feeling good about maintaining and being able to wear anything in his closet.

    I am one of those women whose main motivator for keeping the weight off/staying at goal is my closet!

  8. I've been on my weight loss journey since June 2009 and have lost nearly 35 pounds. I've still got my "fat" clothes, but haven't touched them since I've lost my weight (frankly, I don't relish the idea of having my pants on the ground at my ankles). I've started to buy smaller clothes for the summer. As the weather warms up, those winter clothes will disappear from my closet never to be seen again!

  9. I am on oxygen therapy and have lost 82 pounds since last April. I feel wonderful. My doctors are very impressed. But my point is that it is kind of hard for me to try on clothes in the store. It is much easier for me to buy and return if they don't fit. I may have to change that procedure however because I keep buying stuff way too big. I just can't see that I am that much smaller I guess.

  10. I just started on weight watchers about 2 weeks ago. Today I put on jeans. I havent put on jeans in ages. I took out some of my skinnier clothes from the garage. I am working super hard to lose 30 pounds or so for my upcoming wedding in October. We are going to the Caribbean, and I dont want to look like a beached whale in a bathing suit. It is super hard. My fiance' and I are both on the diet. He too, needs to lose the 30 pounds, so it is much easier with both of us on the same plan, the same page so to speak. mazel tov to you and your ongoing efforts.

  11. Dave, I always love what you have to say, and I laugh at how you say it. But what's great about this entry is all the guys checking in. We need more men in our meetings, and we need to hear their viewpoints. It's great to see that peeking through here.

  12. Very inspiring! Glad to see that so many people are happier with themselves! WW is awesome. I have been a "Lifer" since I was 14 years old [not always at goal, but back at goal]. Thank you Weight Watchers!!! One of the greatest things is that many/most of the WW food is certified kosher...another big thank you. I am just wondering, with Passover so close and the food choices so difficult...would WW consider preparation of kosher for Passover foods in the future? How fabulous would that be!!! Just a thought. Thanks again for great product and great communication.

  13. Healthy habit mutiny -- you are on to something.

    I have the evidence to support it. The first time I joined WW, I lost 33 pounds. I kept a pair of "fat pants" to show how far I've gone. But, I ended up regaining all the weight and I had to end up wearing the those jeans again!

    Moral of the story: do NOT hang onto anything from the old wardrobe. Pictures, yes, but clothes no. Like you said, to prevent health habit mutiny.

  14. Awesome story! Starting a whole new life, shedding
    off the old, and bringing in the new Good for you!

  15. Hi David

    I just have to say that I really like your blog. Nothing you say is fake, it all comes from the heart and it really helps motivate people.


  16. Hi Dave:

    I am a card carrying WW Lifetime member for a few years now. I have probably never motivated anyone to lose weight. Somehow since I have maintained my weight loss (and size 8 clothes), people think that either it is easy for me, or I have super-human willpower. Neither of these things is true. I have given away all but my size 8 clothes and refuse to "grow" out of them. If I eat what I want, I don't get to wear what I want. But I am tired of not being supported in my maintenance! A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with some old friends who have both lost weight to be size 4. Both said the same thing. They can have a treat meal from time to time (maybe in a couple of weeks), but not all the time. And they have to exercise. So it is not a given for the metabolically challenged like myself. I have thyroid disease and don't use it as an excuse. Thanks for the blog!

    - Maryann

  17. LOL--Dave you are a funny man! And you speak the truth.