I've been involved in a medical research study for 18 months now! All the way back in April of 2009 I started this study, and I can't believe I've come this far. This study is looking into the effects of diet on aging, which is why it is two years long. They have to let you age a little. :)
You also have to, well, diet. You have a certain amount of calories per day to eat, and I try to stick pretty close to that. This leads to some pretty rapid initial weight loss, and then a longer-term trend downward. But then it got harder. About a year in, I realized that my weight had leveled off, and it was really difficult to lose any more weight. The problem was, the study still wanted me to lose five more pounds to be in the target range.
I tried and tried. (And Christmas got in the way there too, which will foil almost any healthy eating plan!) It just got so mentally frustrating to track every calorie, and to always be thinking of the lowest-calorie choice when buying lunch or dinner out. I just wanted to eat without thinking, without scrutinizing, and without feeling guilty if I saw the scale go up.
And of course, being frustrated didn't help, so I finally sort of gave up. And since I was doing all I could to try to lose weight (with the results being to only stay steady), "giving up" meant that pretty quickly I gained weight back. Ack!
So I had to talk to the nutritionists at the study, and explain my frustrations (and my sudden uptick in the weight chart...). They assured me that this study is not supposed to make you develop an eating disorder, and that really what they want is data - not for me to feel angry or irritated with constant mental exhaustion.
And then since the pressure was off, and that mean number on the scale wasn't personal anymore, I felt more comfortable. I went back to doing what I knew - eat fruits and veggies, fiber, cook healthy meals instead of swinging by the fast food place. Understand what is in your food, so you can make healthy choices. If you indulge one day, just be mindful the next day. Consistent behavior is key - restricting your eating then pigging out isn't going to help anyone.
So now I'm back to where I was. I've still lost a total of 20 pounds since I started the study, but I'm no skinnier now than I was last November.
But I'm okay with that. I think maintaining a healthy weight (which I am) is a more important life skill than dieting. When I finish this study six months from now, I want to feel confident that I have eating patterns and a lifestyle that works for me in the long run. And if two years isn't the long run, I don't know what is...