This may be one of the more difficult posts for me to write but again I am going to stand steadfast in being as honest as I can be because I wanted to chronicle every bit of my weight lose journey and not just the highlights (or, as in this case, the low lights) of what I did (or didn’t do) to arrive at my end goal.
I have made a committment to one of the support groups that I am a “member” of to report weekly weight lose (or gain), measure myself once a month and, also, to report my monthly weight on the first of the month. I am glad that I began doing this but, quite frankly, I was also hoping that it would be one big swoosh down the scale like a giant water slide into a huge pool waiting below. Not exactly! At least, not this past month.
I ran into some “problems” almost from the beginning of this past month. It doesn’t really matter what those “problems” were except to say that it also identified to me quite loud and clearly that I do react to unusually higher levels of stress by (eventually) “abandoning” all of my food and activity plans. There; I said it! For the past two years my husband and I have lived with the uncertainty of what our next weekly income will be. Since we have learned to live frugally, when we were doing better off we did save up what we could. This came in handy when we had some unexpected car expenses last year. However, we also have lived by the credo that when we have extra money we also like to be charitable and help others out. Would I give my last nickel to someone in greater need? Well, I would definitely “halfsie” it with him or her. We also enjoy eating out. One of the few “pastimes” that I can enjoy since I have become less active due to my arthritis worsening and I not having health insurance to have it taken care of “properly”. Food is and has been a release for me for quite some time. I have not made any bones about that. I won’t deny that I consider it one of the best “pleasures” in life. Again, I realize that I sometimes walk a fine line between enjoyment and abandonment in regards to food. I would like to believe I am more of a gourmand and less of a glutton but again that too can become blurred in some instances. So, jack up the stress in my already “stressed out” life and unfortunately it doesn’t feel so good to eat a small lettuce salad vs a sumptious steak with the trimmings. Where does this put my progress in losing weight? At best, on hold. [PS--even at some point food even becomes less pleasurable]
Add to that the fact that after a valiant attempt at becoming more physically active in spite of my joints unable to bear up under the (again) “added stress” and I am not only eating more calories than I need to be to effectively lose weight but I am also not burning up any of those additional calories besides. I decided to (temporarily I hope) cease walking on the treadmill in spite of the promising progress I had been making and rethink the options that I have available to me. And lastly; I got the flu. For about five days I was truly under the weather. The timing sucked! Sleeping all day had now created an “additional” issue; I couldn’t sleep at night or, at least, not until 5-7 am! Excessive worry and anxiety had wrought me “powerless” and I knew it. Not only was I feeling like I becoming less effective in my ability to handle my “problems”; I was.
By the end of the third week this past month I called a “time out”. A “time out” from logging my food eaten daily, walking on the treadmill, counting my glasses of pure H2O, doing my strength exercises, and daily posting on my support groups, here and elsewhere. I was wound tighter than a Swiss movement on a pocket watch. It took nearly five of the seven days I was allowing for this “time out” for me to “chill”. I started to relax, little by little. Yes, I realize that for all purposes this past month was an almost complete “wash” in terms of much progress I made regarding my weight lose, improving my activity and moving that much closer to my end goal.
So, this begs the question “What happens when it (meaning losing weight) doesn’t happen to you?” For starters; it means you don’t quit! I do not plan on quitting now or any time soon. I’m not a loser, or I’m not right now, but I am also not a quitter! What I do hope to take away from this past month is some insights in what I can do to handle the next “rough patch” when it comes along, if I can/could do anything different. One thing that I have learned is that life is going to throw you some curve balls. Sometimes, we are ready. Sometimes, we aren’t. Sometimes, it wouldn’t matter either way because even the best laid plans don’t go “as planned”. It is a set back but it is not the end of the game. I still have a few innings left in me.
So, in the interest of my detached approach to weight lose, what can I say I did well this past month? I kept my sanity (barely but I did) and my sense of humor. This past week, I insisted on only watching movies or programs that were light-hearted or downright hilarious. Laughter is still one of the best medicines around! You can’t “o.d.” on that! Laugh and the whole world laughs with you….it has been said. I laughed both alone and together with my honey. Life may not be a “dress rehearsal” but it also isn’t a “funeral” either. Without sounding corny, “This too shall pass”. Thank God and Amen to that!
Also, I actually surprised myself and developed a genuine likeness (and thirst) for the “real thing”: beautiful, clear and purified water. Who knew? Bootcamp Betty was right. I was skeptical at first but I really do prefer it over other beverages of “choice”. Besides, listening to some of her muses on what is “the way to go”, I also sat at the feet of some other veteran dieters on this and other websites. I listened. I asked questions when I wanted and needed clarification. I took notes. I don’t have all the answers!
This blog is about my journey to finding out what will release all of this extra weight and then maintain that weight lose. One 12 Step saying resonates with me here at this time: “Take what you need and leave the rest“. Please do! Write your own story. That is what I am doing here. What I am doing “right” (for me) is that I am reviewing what worked for me in the past and how I could apply or even modify if needed to my present circumstances. Drinking copious amounts of purified water is a new addition to my arsenal.
I returned to logging my food each day because I like to see in black and white exactly what passed my lips on the way down to my fleshy middle. Nothing like seeing 20 mini chocolate candy bars to know why you didn’t lose anything that day. Self-knowledge is the cornerstone of my movement down that scale. I do not believe there is any such thing as “good or bad foods”. Just good or bad food “choices”. Taking ownership of what I put in my mouth is the beginning of making food choices that will support my weight lose not sabotage it. However, one caveat: taking ownership without judgment. I don’t want to be or make myself into a whipping boy on this point. I simply want to get to know what the connection and relationship is that I have with all foods. The more I am willing to detach myself from the behavior the more I am willing to decide freely whether I want to continue to make that same choice. I can’t freely choose if I am condemning myself for both wanting (maybe even needing) a particular food at a particular time. A case in point; recently I have discovered when I eat lots of really dark chocolate (60% or better of cacao) the more calm and relaxed I am. You can bet that is something that I plan on having in my cupboards from now on. It can be a “planned” counterattack to feeling blue and anxious.
As for activity: two months ago I purchased a pedometer. It enlightened me regarding just how little movement it takes for the “steps” to add up. If I can total over 4000 “steps” and I essentially am dependent on walking with a cane, how much more could you do with the full use of your lower extremities? Although I would really like to get on that treadmill or go for a walk outdoors (now that it is spring), my weight-bearing joints will not allow me to do so without a backlash of residual pain. I was told that I needed joint replacement surgery nearly 8 years ago. I do not want to push myself to the point of serious injury. Common sense will have to reign. Instead, I am looking into alternatives until I can get the surgery that I need. Granted, I am accustomed to getting “in shape” by throwing myself into some form of sustained aerobic exercise for 45-60 minutes at a time. I have been chomping at the bit for some time to do that exactly since that worked in the past for me. However, I am going to have to restrain myself and find other means. Right now, I am exploring yoga, pilates, seated aerobics (yes, it does exist!) and, when I can afford it, water aerobics. There is more than one way “to skin a cat”. Again, don’t give up! Do what works for you and don’t stop seeking that out until you have found what works for you.
So, in conclusion, what happens when it (losing weight) doesn’t happen for you? Step back and try to do some evaluation of what preceded this pass. Attempt to discover what worked for you and also what didn’t work, then reframe your “plan” and reset it for the next month. I love the first day of each month because to me it means a blank page and an opportunity to start all over again. You have as many chances as you can take. Just take them.
I see a reoccurant theme in the support groups that I am a part of: dealing with stress, food and social eatings we have limited control over. I used to avoid social eatings a few years ago because I felt so much stress from “the unknown”. Now, that I look back and think of the extent that I went to avoid dealing with the “should I or shouldn’t I” of buffet tables only to end up overeating at home because I also felt left out and alone in making that decision: I think to myself—what was I thinking was going to come as a result of that “plan of action”? For me, it was increased social anxiety (after all I wasn’t honing my skills due to lack of practice) and yet another reason for stress-induced overeating.
Then, there was the next stage of evolution in my attempt to eat “normally” at social events. A few years ago I went to a Christmas party where there was several hundred people present. It was loud with the live music playing, the buffet tables were amazingly well-presented with an equally amazing array of foods from cold shrimp cocktail to every kind of cake and pastry under the sun. I decided to take a risk and accept the invitation, feeling very brave about that decision alone. I also decide that I am going to “practice”eating a little of everything and call it quits. That particular evening I was so tense about the “whole choice thing” and trying to figure out the calories in each little food item as I was standing over it in the buffet line that I really wasn’t very hungry. I mean, who would be? So, I underate. However, when I got home and I went “whew, TG that’s over!” I relaxed and, guess what, my natural appetite returns. I realize that “gosh, I guess I really am hungry”. So, I ended up making a sandwich or something because I had undereaten. Sometimes, more often than not, the sandwich turns into a bag of microwave popcorn followed by a bowl of cereal followed by…you get the picture. How did this all end up turning into a binge. I had a plan. I followed it. Where and how did it end up being a “failed” plan? While I am eating the third or fourth helping of whatever, I also muse back on the evening and I remember seeing a very wisp of a young woman who picked at her entree until she returns to her place with 5 different pieces of cakes and pastries. Not smidgens. Regular sized pieces. So, what is wrong with this picture? I never forgot that “picture” in my mind. Skinny chick sitting on her fiance’s lap snarfing down huge amounts of gooey desserts, licking her fingers and then when she catches my eye, she gives me a sheepish smile. How virtuous can I feel at that point with my two sugar cookies on my dessert plate? Or, the fact that I went home and ate 1000 calories on food that I half-enjoyed while thinking about “gee, if only..” I had eaten what I really wanted to eat while I was at the party.
Fast forward to a few weekends ago. Another party. Some of the same people as the first couple of parties. I know what kind of food is going to be there. I am poised and ready to conquer. Still, I am not entirely satisfied with how I dealt with this recent social event. As many of you know the “experts” tell someone who either has food issues or wishes to show some level of control over social eating is to first have a plan. So, I had my plan. I decided I was going to focus more on the people, the music and the overall ambience of the “party”. I met some friends, met some new acquaintances and began conversing. Party is starting out promising. The music and the live entertainment is engaging. I have a regular, not lite, beer. I am feeling warm and rosy inside and out. Next, there are some appetizers by strolling waiters. I was actually enjoying them and limiting myself to a few since I could tell they were highly salted. Then, suddenly, like a mass exodus everyone is in the buffet line. Oy! What’s a fat person to do? Although I was still feeling “in control” of myself (I could have walked a straight line), I was distinctly feeling hungry too.
To digress for a moment, I have been working really hard for some time on the “fat head” that I have developed along with my fat body. What’s a “fat head”? The mindset of a fat person. The behaviors that fat people develop along with the jiggly thighs and roll (or two) around the middle. That night, my “game plan” was to treat this just like any other “normal” person would treat this kind of situation. The problem with this kind of thinking is that not every person treats these situations the same or even the same each time confronted by this. The young woman that I mentioned above for example. That might be the only time she ever ate with such abandonment. She could be bulimic. She could have starved herself all day so she could have those “goodies”. She could have gone home and ran 10 miles to work out the calories. OR; she could have just had one of those kind of days where it looked good, it tasted good and she “allowed” herself the unadulterated pleasure of enjoying them.
Well, I wanted to do what she did. Sometimes, I do —in private, when I am alone or sometimes, if I really feel brave, when I am with my husband but rarely do I enjoy my food when I eat out. The only time that I do is when I am eating what “others” would consider healthy or “normal” sized portions. Boy, I can ravage a chef salad but I delicately pick at a piece of cheesecake. I will honestly say that I really don’t enjoy eating out as much as I like to eat out. Does that make sense? I just wish every restaurant that I like would deliver so that I could tear into the food with abandonment like I wish I could in public. I can’t. At least, not yet. In spite of my pre-planned strategy to do so including this particular evening.
Back to this recent party I attended. I also got in the buffet line along with everyone else. Where I could serve myself, one table wasn’t “manned”, I got the servings that I desired. Unfortunately, it was the plates, dinnerware and napkins table. Where the food was being served, the waiters served each of us “government regulated serving sizes”. You know, 1/2 cup of starch, 1 medium size roll, etc. Someone had educated these waiters prior to serving. All I could think of was ” quit being so stingy and fork it over!” Again, I had undereaten and I really was hungry. I had the alloted calories saved up so “dish it up”.
The food actually tasted good (done to my liking) but since it did taste so good I wanted more! My white plate underneath was visible between the food items. I had undereaten earlier in the day so I could eat with enjoyment instead of anxiety. However, it didn’t quite pan out that way. You know what stopped me? I told my DH later that had I gone back for seconds I would have felt that “people” would think, “Oh, yeah, we know why she has a weight issue” but when I watched thin, “normal-size” people snarf down huge portions with abandonment I thought who would really think that and if others do, how much do I care enough about what they think to prevent me from otherwise enjoying a well-prepared meal? A friend next to me returned for seconds and she did give me a guilty look but as she said, “It just tastes so good!” The thing is I didn’t go back for seconds. I wanted to. I could have fit the calories into my food plan that day. I felt that I had “earned” the right to do so but I didn’t. I stopped and I suffered silently.
All of this “food policing” is a direct result of what I perceive that you “normal” eaters think of me and “my kind”. It’s both self-discrimination and incrimination. Frankly, I am ashamed of my weight. I didn’t grow up expecting dessert at the end of every meal. I didn’t have ready access to a lot of food like I do today. I wish I could write out my life story on a card and hand it to people immediately so they would know that what they see today is not who I always was. God, I just want to be accepted and understood like every other person on this planet. The problem is that being fat and overweight is just not something we embrace as “acceptable”. After all, you can do something about it, right? We are told this over and over again. So, what’s wrong with you? So, don’t expect any sympathy from those of us who know how to control what we put in our mouths. Now, I understand why some overweight people become closet eaters and why we are also people-pleasers. I am and have been both. Add to the fact that now I also have a “fat head” that has it all figured out. Or so I think.
So, in conclusion, this is also something that I will be struggling with as I lose all of this extra weight: losing the “fat head”. This young woman I mentioned earlier was just enjoying one of life’s pleasures: really good tasting food. She doesn’t have a “fat head”. She might get a pimple out of the meal (that’s a myth, you know but we’d like to believe she got something out of it, right?) but I am sure that tomorrow she may undereat and just shrug it off, not even seeing the connection. Instead, if it were me, and it has been, I would be wailing to one of my fat friends about how unfair life is and why can’t I have my cake and eat it too?
Does all of this sound conflicted? If it does, that’s because it is. According to the “rules”, I will have to control and “police” my desire for pleasurable experiences when it comes to eating food so that, and ironically, supposedly when I am thin I now have the freedom, or at least the perceived “blessing”, to indulge because I may or may not have earned the right to do so. I didn’t make the “rules” but I know that if I want to be “accepted” I will have to follow them to one degree or another.
Side note: Back during the Civil War (recall “Gone With The Wind”), women of “delicacy” (read: refinement) would lightly snack before a ball so the courters would think these women could control this “base desire”: to eat with enjoyment (read: abandonment). After all, who would want a young miss for a Mrs. if she ate like a lumberjack. I mean, it would be embarassing for one thing and a real fiscal concern on another. The young courter might be thinking, “I don’t know if I can make enough grits to fill this belle up!”.
Historically, we have run hot and cold about body size. Right now, thin in still in. It shows self-control. It shows “success” in controling our basic desires. It shows collar bones and hollows above our hips. I am beginning to think that we admire people who are thin because we know just how difficult it is to exhibit that self-control day in and day out. I am sure that you may not believe that young thin woman ate what she ate that night but the truth is a lot stranger sometimes than the fiction we believe…about ourselves, about what a “normal” eater is and what a “fat head” thinks of all of this. Something tells me there is a Matrix out there when it comes to what we think “normal eaters” are and those of us who want so badly to be “one”. I’ll let you when I am there. It might surprise us all. I hope so. I still want to have seconds.
Here is the poem “Patient Trust” I came upon Wednesday. It sums up everything for me at this time in my life:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—-
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give God the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ
For me, I can apply these words to my weight lose journey as well as other “things” in my life right now.
So, my first diet was simply avoiding eating. I would typically not eat until dinner. I was so tired from lack of nutrients during the day that after my evening meal with my family I would go upstairs to my room to do my nightly homework and end up falling asleep out of fatigue. It helped me lose a few pounds but it was even more disastrous for the outcome of my grades. I managed to do this on and off throughout high school although once I began going to weekend dances with both girlfriends and boyfriends weight maintenance was not an issue. It took me decades later to make the connection with movement and weight maintenance. How ignorant I/we were back then!
Fast forward to my first and only pregnancy. I was twenty-two at the time, recently married and I had access to an abundance of food and a desire to learn to cook for the first time in my life. I went from 119 lbs (5′7″) to 198 lbs the day my child was born. This was shocking to everyone and I was numb! I had never weighed this much in my entire life. About three months after my child’s birth, I decided I needed to do something about my weight; something that I had never had to deal with to this extent before. At the time, one of the popular diets was the “Scarsdale” diet. It was developed by a physician in Scarsdale, NY for, I am assuming, suburban moms who needed and wanted to regain their lost figures. It was a bestseller, as most of these diets are, initially. It promised losing 14 lbs in 2 weeks, which has since become the “mantra” of any “diet of the day”.
Well, it did that by, of course, restricting one food group, which I don’t remember which one. The main premise of all of these diets is that by restricting one food group you will eat less and, of course, lose weight. No one tells you that any kind of calorie restriction on any diet; whether it is low carb, low protein, etc. you will lose water weight primarily because most diets are low sodium to begin with. If the “authors” would only say up front that reducing the sodium in your diet will have you lose 8-12 lbs quickly they would save us a lot of trouble of running around getting all of these specific food items (some of which have natural diuretic properties) when all we would have needed to do was “hide” the salt shaker!
Again, as my child aged (and I as well), I became more active. I began putting my infant in a stroller and walking to a nearby park. I took a part time job. I enrolled as a student. Within nine months I went from a very pregnant expectant mother with swollen ankles to a very busy, and slimming down, mom who was juggling her time between parenting, classes and a part time job. Guess what? I also didn’t have to make all those luscious made-from-scratch chocolate frosted chocolate cakes I was making when I was pregnant. Instead, I was grabbing a bite here and there at the food court in the Mall I was working in, having a salad at the school cafeteria and besides all this I had to take two physical education classes as part of a college degree I was working towards. The weight came off almost effortlessly. By the time my child turned one years old, I weighed 124 lbs and I was wearing a size 6. Unfortunately, this was not to last. I had averaged 135-140 lbs throughtout high school and I now believe that was my “natural” weight for my medium build and height. So, the artificially low 124 lbs became more difficult to maintain than I had expected. I was completely unprepared for actual weight management. In fact, you might even say that the weight lose was a fluke and I got “lucky”. I certainly wasn’t aware of how to maintain any weight on my own.
However, a new “element” in maintaining my weight lose became apparent. I was very unhappily married. For the first time in memory, I began to overeat to “sooth” my feelings. I can’t say I recall the exact moment or even food item. It just became a new habit that I had developed. Frustrated by my inability to maintain my weight lose, I overate. Now, that is not what most people would do, at least, not initially but that was what I did, mostly because I didn’t know why my body was behaving in the way that it was. I had never really had a weight “problem” but I obviously did now and I didn’t know what to do about it. To further exasperate the situation my also unhappily married spouse told me that he didn’t find me attractive. At the time he said this to me I was 160 lbs. It’s the high end of “normal” weight for me! However, in his defense, if that is possible to defend, he was accustomed to me being in the 120s so I probably did look fat to him.
Within a few years, we were separated and then divorced. I was now a single mom with a kindergardener. Feeling rejected by my former spouse and out on the “dating scene” again, I willingly returned to another relationship quickly. While a full time student by now, I met and fell in love with another student, my soon to be second husband. I will admit that I was unprepared for the added stresses of a new marriage. I had not learned to be truly independent or assertive of my needs. I felt guilt about my failure as a wife and failure to be the “thin” person I had been. Now, I had a new kind of eating to contend with; “guilt” eating. I think this is the worst kind because you feel others are already judging you on what you eat or don’t eat, how you look or don’t look and you internalize it all….the whole d**n mess! I had a new determination: to prove to myself and to others that I could “succeed” both in marriage and at weight lose.
This began the period that I would like to call the “beginning of the end”. I spent a lot of money back in “those days” on diet programs; you know, the kind where you go to an office suite in a high rise building where everyone talks in a hush that is both stern and aseptic. It makes you feel like you are in a doctor’s office although I am sure most of these people are primarily very good sales people. I won’t go as far to say that they “took advantage of me”. I was there on my own free will but I was emotionally vulnerable; at least, during those days I was. If you haven’t been to one of these programs this is basically how the “drill” works. They ask you how you heard about them then they begin to tell you about all the success stories while they usher you into a private room to weigh you. Of course, since you are feeling about as low as you can get, you are quietly brushing away some tears and feeling very “ashamed” that you “allowed” yourself to “get this way”. The person on the other side of the desk speaks in such a soothing way you certainly feel they understand “exactly” how you feel. Before you know it, you have your checkbook or credit card out while you signing some papers. A brief recap is spoken before you walk out the door feeling temporarily triumphant that you have “finally” found “The Answer” to your extra weight.
I could share names of these diet programs; you would recognize some and some you probably never heard of. That is not the point. The “concerns” that I have is that many of them are dangerously low calorie food plans which are often “supervised” by a non-medical person. Not to mention, they are really expensive and require the bulk if not the entire cost of the program up front. For someone who is 100 lbs overweight, that is in excess of $1000 for the program not to mention their own line of food products. Well, I barely had the money back then but I did have a second husband who was more than willing to put the money out there for me to join so I did. Again, I had problems asserting myself back then. I “figured” (wrongly) that if someone else was unhappy with my weight then I should be as well.
One food program, which is still actively on the market now, was going through litigation because the quick weight lose that it both promoted and which happened, caused some people to develop gall bladder disease. I was one of them. Within nine months after joining the program,and quitting (although all paid up, of course!) within four months, forty pounds and several thousand dollars lighter; I had my gall bladder out. After another program that was dangerously low in calories and again an initial weight lose of 40 lbs, I developed hypothyroidism (low thyroid output). My symptoms were hair loss everywhere ( I looked like a plucked chicken), sensitivity to cold, halted menstrual cycle, growing facial hair, developing adult acne and depression (gee, no wonder!). Essentially, it triggered early perimenopause. So, not only was I still overweight, and now considered clinically morbidly obese, I was also having “crazy hormones” to deal with. It took me years though to trace back my hormonal problems and I now truly believe it was because of how these diets impacted my body. Even though I began replacement thyroid and hormonal therapy, my metabolism nor my reproductive systems never returned to “normal” until decades later. Unfortunately, my “window” to have more biological children closed. I was starting true menopause by the time my endocrine system became “normal”. I think it was a high price to pay for something that not only didn’t work but also created additional health problems for me to contend with.
First of all, I want to make it very clear that I don’t have the answers to how you can lose weight. Secondly, I also am only an “expert” with one person: ME! Finally, I am writing this as much for me as I am for anyone who wishes to read this. As I said in the beginning this is my personal journey from being morbidly obese to a normal BMI (Body Mass Index–one marker of optimal health) of 22%. The charts have that as 140 lbs. for a person of my height and build. For me that will mean an eventual weight lose of over 160 lbs or half of my weight. I have been 140 lbs and the last time that I was I was 27 years old. Fast forward, thirty years later. I am 57 years old now. Do I think that is a realistic goal for me? I honestly don’t know but since that is considered an ideal BMI for me, that is the end goal I have right now. I may change that down the road but for now that is the “gold standard” I am reaching for.
I could write volumes on what hasn’t worked for me in the past and I might digress at some point and do just that to show why that didn’t work and what I am doing now is. For the time being, suffice to say, this is about the here and now, what is working and even what isn’t because I also have plenty to say about that as well. What I do hope you, the reader, will gain out of my diet blog is to be encouraged to probe deeper into your own tool chest and see what works for you and what doesn’t.
I have sat at the knees of many people on this website and I can tell you firsthand that there is a lot of wisdom here at 3FC so I would strongly encourage you to read what others have done for themselves to bring this sometimes elusive goal of optimal health and wellness through weight management. Having said that, I would like to share what the first six weeks have been for me “this time”.
I belong to several online “diet” support groups both on this site and on others. I am fast seeing what each has to offer me. I really make it a “professional courtesy” to not drag one into the other and not to do any kind of “comparisons” as well. Each has something valuable to give me (and I hope I do so likewise). I belong to one here on 3FC that is using Cognitive Therapy espoused by Dr. Beck (of the Beck Diet Solution). I can tell you that if you are a person who has lost weight, regained it and then are back down the scale again, this might be one tool you get a hold of. This approach helps you develop the skills to maintain a weight lose, among other things.
I really believe that the reason why most people regain the weight they have lost is that they didn’t prepare themselves for life after “The Diet“. This is one reason why unsustainable diets do not work. If you can’t maintain your food plan or lifestyle, then neither are the right ones for you. This is the proverbial fork in the road where a lot of people don’t realize there is a third choice: find a new level that is sustainable. If all that matters to you is fitting in the “Skinny Jeans” and you are willing to eat rabbit food for the remainder of your life, go for it. I am not! I don’t want to judge those people who want that goal but it is also sad when they don’t consider other options as well.
I have listened to some people who are really impressive in their dieting efforts. A few of them are in one of my support groups. One of the leaders has a real “Bootcamp” Mentality. I used to follow that route and sometimes in my “once upon a time” OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) mode I would suddenly throw myself into exercising or stringent dieting only to boomerang shortly thereafter. I just did this two weeks ago. I had been increasing my exercising and I was really feeling “macho” (even though I am of the female persuasion) and, of course, what happened? I got the flu and everything came to an abrupt halt.
Long ago, I remember working out once when I was sick. I went to a health club and thought I could beat those d**n germs to death. I now think about how unhealthy both that behavior and thinking is not to mention the potential of infecting a lot of innocent people who were just there to get their workout in. People, if you never learn anything about life in general: have some common sense. If you start feeling run down, stop and rest, take a nap, hit the snooze alarm, whatever but don’t keep doing what you have been doing that got you in that “space” to begin with.
So, if you are the competitive type (and I still am up to a point) then that approach may actually be exactly what you need. If you like to set goals and compete within a group or like the competition to push yourself further then that might actually work for you. However, my caveat, is to first examine your life. Can your life support this rigorous effort in the long run? Long ago, I used to get up four hours early, bring my gym bag along with me as I transfered several city buses to my fitness center to work out before I went to work in a downtown metropolitan office. I did this faithfully for a long time. It worked for me then. I was newly separated from a horrible marriage, I was in my early 40s and still had the “fire in my belly” approach to almost everything in my life. Well, today I don’t have any of that and if you don’t, then don’t feel like you can never lose weight and feel better. That way is not for everyone. “For every season….” I am in the late fall of my life. I need a kinder and gentler approach.
I have also discovered that moderation is the golden key to everything in life! Losing weight and getting fit is no different. That is one difference that I hope I will develop “this time around”. As I said I was following an 80/20 healthy eating plan. However, I will say that my 20% has been starting to look rather suspiciously like really bad eating, empty calories and a whole lot of additional sodium that I certainly didn’t see sneak up on me. However, my initial premise still stands. I believe that if I am going to not regain this weight, which I have every intention of not doing, then I need to adapt to the world out there, imperfect as it is, and not live in a “diet bubble” here.
So, after having several “a-ha” moments late last night, I went through my food log, did a “comparative analysis” (some pen and paper figuring) and decided that the only foods that were going to remain on my “Favorites” food log (I keep an online food log—there are many sites where you can do this: Livestrong.com; Sparkpeople.com, are two sites that come to mind) and I decided to make an (arbitrary) rule of only listing foods that the sodium per serving was 600 milligrams or less. Now, even that seems high but since I don’t have high blood pressure I can tolerate a little more sodium than some people. Just a few weeks ago, I decided that I was only going to list 1 serving portions since I struggle with that. [I eat like a lumberjack but I am primarily an office "pencil pusher".] I’m still struggling with that at times. I love to eat good food and, at times, a lot of it!
So, I have decided that I am now going to add a second “rule of thumb”: eat foods with less than 600 mg of sodium per suggested serving. Why is this a big deal for me? I love to eat out. My husband does too. I am a good cook too so it’s not that I can’t fix it at home but for me; dining out, trying new and different foods and cuisines besides “new” restaurants is a very pleasurable pastime. Restaurants, some more than others, really spike the food during the cooking process with lots of sodium. Well, I don’t want to stop this enjoyable activity. Again, this gets back to living in the “real world” and enjoying life along the way. So, I did what any nutrition nerd would do. I went online and began researching as many of my favorite restaurants as I could to just see what I could have. I spent hours doing this. That’s the way my mind works. I love working with numbers, figures, etc. And, I was pleasantly surprised at what I “discovered”.
Here are some interesting things that I “found out”. At one of my favorite restaurants, one cup of black-eyed peas (which I just love) is the same amount of calories as this restaurant’s carrot cake (they cut smaller pieces there) but, now get this, the carrot cake has far less sodium! I love both( of course) but I just think that before I was feeling rather virtuous that I was eating the legumes and getting the added fiber but then there is some fiber in the carrot cake (especially if it is made with real carrots, nuts and raisins-all whole foods). Hmm, it does make one pause and re-think what is “diet worthy” foods.
I am not necessarily advocating that everyone eats carrot cake over black-eyed peas. In fact, have both if you have an empty stomach and have enough calories left in your food plan for that day. I am saying though that there is room for carrot cake in my food plan and not to be scared away by it. Knowledge is power. Get to know food, what is in it, and just how “harmful” it may or may not be. I think, there has been a trend (and it is beginning to seem quite disturbing I feel) that if you eat “off plan” meaning “eat white anything, artificial anything, non-organic anything” you are going to shrivel up into a toad and hop away. Okay, this gets back to what I was saying before: get some common sense!
However, to my credit, I am not a good dieter in “that sense”. And, you know what is interesting and which I am now paying more attention to than I did in the past. I am a really good maintainer. I hate to cut down and out anything, especially foods that I love. It is like cutting out sex because you have a bad back. Hey, if bed rest is good for my back, I’ll lay back and you can “do me”. So, I would like to say that there might be a third group out there among the diet world. Those who are starting to integrate maintenance skills as they are going down the scales. I sure hope I am one of them because right now I am thinking that I just might be.
Jennifer Hudson, a phemonemally talented singer and actress, recently lost 80 lbs. I loved what she said, (I will paraphrase here)” After all, who can eat chicken breasts and brown rice forever?” Well, unless you really really love that, I doubt that you can. I know that I can’t and I like both of those…on occasion. So, here I am in the midst of all this information, more diet plans than you can shake at stick at and I am still trying to have my “cake and eat it too”. I am either crazy or I am onto something. Stick with me and we’ll find out.
So, what you won’t find here on my blog is telling you that I am doing anything that can not be sustained once I have lost what will amount to a significant weight lose. I am not the only one who has “seen the light”. I am just so d***n glad that we are all wising up about what it takes to lose weight but also what it takes to keep it off because losing is great but not so great if you can’t sustain that weight lose. In fact, it is tragic. Losing weight takes a lot of perserverance, patience and just plain hard work.
It is not about exercising to the point of falling down, avoiding “white stuff”, drinking water vs drinking diet soda, etc. We all know the “rules” and yet it is so refreshing when someone has the “guts” to admit that it could be something that we often overlook like a good night’s sleep. Can we really do anything worthwhile without a good night’s sleep?
I discovered that losing “just” 25 lbs opened up new possibilities in my life: being able to sleep better since I have HUGE breasts and they were in my face literally. That was the first place that I lost weight—my midriff and bust. I could actually stand longer than 10 minutes which then opened up new possibilities of being able to walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes.
I started drinking water because I wanted to fit in with another diet support group but after I drink 64 oz each day I switch back over to my diet soda. There I said it. I will admit that I do like the water when it is ice cold but it also makes the taste of the diet soda taste even better. LOL I got chewed out by that leader of that group for God forbid drinking diet soda. She sent me an article (how many more studies are these experts going to do?) that really didn’t say diet soda per se was bad for you, only regular soda. Duh! So, now I am closet diet soda drinker. It’s human nature, what we feel is going to be judged we take it underground. Silly, silly, silly!
I say that anyone who can figure out what works for them and then proceed instead of the “pack mentality” that exists even in this “world”, I say BRAVO! I am a lone wolf so what you won’t find here on my blog is do this or do that and you too will “magically” lose all the weight you want. I will however promise to tell you what I am doing along the way that gets “results”, even if they are imperfect by some people’s standards. I will hopefully not “preach” to you because I don’t like it either. I also will document as closely as I can when I make changes or abandon what may have worked at first and may not work later. I am truly a “work in progress”. If you can tolerate the ambiguity in all of this then I welcome your readership.
Again, I want to state my “mission statement”: I want to document and chronicle my weight lose journey so I can have a road map of where I came from, where I went, including the detours, and where I ended up. I will include photos along the way, measurements (for those who like numbers) and what it took for me to lose half of my physical self. As long as I don’t lose more than half my sanity, I’ll do fine. Thanks for checking reader(s). Someday, I may wonder why I invited you all into my private self but for now I am good.
After all, when it is said and done, we won’t applaud the fact that you drank 64 oz of water every day , or whatever else worked for you, during your journey, we will celebrate that you did what we all want to do and will do, once we listen to our own “still voice”, and that is reach a personal goal of health and a new lease on life. That is what it is all about, my friend! Finding our own way, the way that works for us.
Now, where is that calorie counter book of mine…..
I address this issue on a separate post here in my diet blog but this is a recap of what I have found out to be true for me:
I read the actual labels on the actual food that I am eating. Here is the one caveat on that though. For example, I have noticed that although the labels may say that there are 8 servings in the whole package, often more than not, there are only 6(for example). So, what I do is this formula:
Let’s say the frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts are 100 calories each.
The package says there are approximately 8 servings enclosed. If there are only 6 pieces then I multiply 8(what the label says)x100=800 and then divide by 6 (what actually is in the package)=133 calories per piece instead of the 100 calories listed as the calories for each piece. 33 calories may not be a big deal but depending on how many items you eat during the day, it could add up to several hundred extra calories that could make a difference in your weight lose results.
Also, there is the issue of uniformity; as in, it doesn’t always happen. So, if those same 6 pieces of chicken breast are not the same size then you will need to know what 3-4 oz looks like ( the size of a deck of playing cards) and determine just how much you are eating as a serving.
You can even take it further and weigh each piece with a digital scales. They cost around $65-80. I have an older WW balance scales I use but I find it kind of messy and it does involve keeping it clean from added bacteria so I don’t really use it much. I used to work in a deli many years ago and in order to accurately weigh food, you also have to first weigh the paper wrapping or container first (called the tare) and then subtract that from the additional food item so that you get an accurate pricing. I’ve digressed here some but the point that I am making is that unless you understand weights and measurements in at least a basic way, you can easily miscalculate calories.
I also use an online calorie counter and a standard calorie counter book as cross references usually when I am eating something from scratch, a whole food that normally doesn’t come with a nutritional label or when I am eating out. Some restaurants now have nutritional information posted within the restaurant, some even have it on their websites but also some restaurants do not.
When I eat out, I make a mental note of how the food tasted for how it was prepared. For example, if it seems to have an oily texture I automatically add 120 calories(the approximate calories for 1 TB vegetable oil) for the portion that I have eaten. I also take into consideration that the food might have been prepared with MSG and/or added sodium so often I will try to find comparable foods in those above mentioned resources and then add the sodium content as well. Between added oils and sodium, an innocent seemingly healthy meal can be shocking in added calories and sodium, which will definitely impact your next day weigh in, if nothing else.
I do weigh and measure my food that I eat at home. I start out with standard measuring cups and spoons. When I transfer them to a specific glass, dish or bowl then from that point on I use those as my measurement guide. I know that a lot of people use smaller plates but unless the restaurant you are dining at has those you won’t have your visual cues to help you judge how much you are eating so that is the reason why I stick to a standard dinner plate.
Lastly, if I am uncertain about the actual calories I will estimate on the high side. It takes a little practice but it really doesn’t take a lot of time out of my day. I waste time doing a lot of other things that have less impact on my weight lose than this.
Last summer, I began following the Biggest Loser food plan. It was the first time that I also took into account the macronutrients breakdown as well. It was the first time that I ever considered the impact of sodium on my weight lose efforts. What an eye opener that was for me.
By making an added effort to eat a balanced macronutrient food plan; ie, a specific amount of carbs, fats, protein, fiber and sodium each day within my allotted calorie range, I have significantly improved my health while I am losing weight. On previous food plans my hair was thinning for example. Since following this food plan, my hair has gotten thicker. My complexion is clearer.
I want to also add that I have discovered that if I increase my daily fiber intake to 35-45 grams coupled with an increase in plain water consumption and lower sodium intake, I can work through a plateau, budge myself to lose a little more weight each week and in general feel more full on “less food”. Put simply, I feel I have more control over the outcome. The “mystery” (or so it felt to me before) is no longer there for me.I feel that now when I see my weekly results I can follow the thread back to the beginning of the week and see what I did (or didn’t do) to get the results I got. In other words, there is less surprise involved. I pretty much know what the scales are going to say, if I’ve done my homework.
I always hated calorie counting in the past. It is the one thing that makes my food plan seem like a diet because if I weren’t counting calories I essentially eat healthy. Period. 80/20 is the ratio. 80% healthy whole foods/20% pizza, chocolate and Coke. I ain’t complaining.
By counting calories I am assured that I am also training myself to recognize and practice portion control, which is an important tool I will need not only to lose weight but to keep it off. So, I vote “Yes” for calorie counting within the perimeters that I just outlined.