When the Inside Gets Skinny First

Filed Under Dealing with Obstacles, Slow Starts & Relapses | 36 Comments

First of all, I weigh the exact same weight that I did one year ago. There, I said it. Does this mean I am a failure at weight lose? Well, if you measure weight lose by inches, pounds and clothing sizes; then, yes, I am a failure at losing weight. However, if you measure weight lose by the infrequency of how I binge, how more self-accepting I am of myself and my body image than I was a year ago and how I want to eat more healthy than I want to eat “trash”; then, I would say that I have lost “something”. It might not be actual physical poundage but I have lost a lot of the obstacles that landed me where I was morbidly obese, miserable with myself and acting against my own best interest.

What then did I lose this past year?  I lost a lot of my former character defects: pleasing others, perfectionism, rationalizing, minimizing, categorizing, cowardice and, sometimes, denial (on a good day). Although it seemed to me that I was either treading water or spinning my wheels throughout most of this year I also began to notice some significant changes in “me” and some of that change came by surprise.  I think this quote says where I ended up:

“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou ‘canst not then be false to any man.” —William Shakespeare.

Today, I have the courage to say to you, dear readers, that Plan A did not go like I had thought it would. When I began this journal regarding my weight lose, I honestly thought that I would check in once a week (probably) and “report” how much weight I had lost, whether I passed on that piece of chocolate cake or ate it in secret, how many miles I walked or ran and the poundage of what I was lifting on any given day. Well, as a person who “used to” suffer from OCD, that is how I thought it would be as well. I am great at keeping records of what I ate, how many minutes I exercised and whether or not I was following along a predictable line but as I really got into this; it took on a life of its own. It began to “own” me and not the other way around. Oh, did I also say that I am a recovering “control freak” too?

What I learned in this past year is that my body is boss. It knows what is best for itself and it will “take over” even the most persistent attempts that I have in making it do “what I want it to do”.  For example, during the summer of 2011, I decided (in a burst of extreme effort) that I was going to tackle my weight lose through extraordinary expenditure of energy via Power walking on my motorized treadmill followed by Power lifting of my free weights as well as hundreds of body sculpting exercises.  Not only did I push beyond pain, I embraced it. I said, “Bring it on!” and I did. How dumb! How stupid can a college-educated person be? As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”. I was chasing down pain medicine with bags of frozen peas afterwards. Within four months, I had re-injured an old groin injury (say, I said “old”, as in I didn’t learn the first time) and for almost two weeks, I couldn’t even put any weight on my left leg.  I hobbled around but I then decided that I wouldn’t let that stop me; I would do a “work around”, so I proceeded to figure out a way to continue to brutalize my body while nursing this re-inflamed older injury. Then, my “bossy” body told me in no uncertain terms: “Kill it kid. Time Out!”

So, I turned my attention to “helping others”. I had also been a part of a “buddy challenge” in an online diet group.  Once that challenge had run its course, I decided to grab the reins and lead a new one on my own. I soon discovered that I was in my “element”. I just plain loved it. It was a blank slate so I got creative. I made up some really fun ways of moving your body that everyone (including some grand kids that joined for the fun of it) found quirky but effective.  Some ideas came to me while I was actually doing something else: like folding clean laundry and getting tired of doing that, I began tossing rolled up socks into a laundry basket. Soon, the basket got farther and farther away and so I had to sharpen my aim. Then, I timed myself. How many rolled up sock pairs could I toss in the laundry basket in 5 minutes?  Silly but effective in breaking a sweat. It also took some weight off of my leg that was “mending”. For a person who had recently lost his leg to diabetes it also gave him some much needed movement in his upper body.

Then, the buzz saw hit a knot in the wood! Group dynamics. There are two kinds of fat people: people pleasers and “heel diggers”. The former will say “Yes” to anything and everything, irregardless of whether they can, will or want to. The later will say “No” to anything and everything for the same reasons. When they butt heads, watch out! The first group minimize what it will take to do something. The second group will catastrophes what it will take to do something and, therefore, elect to not do it.  In the long and distant past, I was a mediator. It kicked in almost immediately until I realized that, just like myself, these were learned behaviors for these people and until they either realized this about themselves and then were willing to step even one foot away from this center of comfort they had created, they were going to be this way. That was then that I had to release my desire to control and my need for everything to turn out in a neat perfectionist planned way. Some “excess weight” just got lost at that junction.

After the first of the New Year in 2012, I decided that I wanted to start my own sub-group based on some of the things that I had learned about myself and my relationship with food. My adult daughter thought the title was magnanimous but I settled on “The Way”. What I wanted to share with others was the same objective that I had when I began this diet blog two years ago: I wanted to find “the way” to a “normal” relationship with food. In words that I have often said: I want to make peace with food. Much to my surprise, the response was overwhelming. Within a week’s time, I had over forty people who had signed up for my group. I was ready to begin.

Within the first two weeks, I had to settle a “she said, she said” online fight; remind someone that taking another person’s work is not nice, it amounts to “stealing” and if she didn’t rescind I would take action (which I did); and proceed to “fall in love” with some of the brightest, clever, endearing “angels” I have ever had the pleasure to meet on the internet. They taught me so much about how the human spirit can soar like an eagle and plop like a big turd while at the same time embracing a new way of life that was both wonderful and frightening as well. I love giving so I rewarded their efforts with “prizes’ for the most weight lost, the most amount of miles walked and for having the most team spirit.  I also learned about how some people will never seem to give themselves a break and how they can’t accept good things from anyone no matter how much they earned it. I learned that I had to quit being so hard on myself and love myself right there and then because  if I don’t love and accept myself, how can I expect anyone else to? I left some excess weight at that door as well.

I had to drop my perfectionism when I had to tell my dearly loved group that I would have to “step down” in mid-summer (and mid-challenge) because i was broke from all the giving and I was not following my own “rules”. It was one of the hardest things of recent that I had to do but I knew it was the right thing to do for me and “them”. I had full confidence that if they looked at themselves in the mirror honestly, they would realize they “knew the way” to permanent weight lose as much as I was beginning to.

What I later admitted to both my husband, P., and a friend, was that while trying to save others, I had nearly lost myself. It took a lot of courage for me to stand my ground (one emailed me and pleaded with me to return as their group leader, which I graciously declined) and for me to look at what had happened to me in the meantime. What started out as a sincere and genuine desire to lead others to permanent weight lose and a more sane relationship with food ended up with me “losing myself”.

Besides being financially broke(r)[ not a word but even more broke than I had been when I started], I was also trying to keep things together with my food plan by eating foods that I would never consider in the past two years: separated chicken parts ( say what?), HFCS (the empty food filler from Hell) and counting ketchup as a vegetable (echoes of Reagan’s school admonition). I had slid in my standards. Why?  I had stopped remembering the cardinal rule” “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.” I was gasping for air but there was no one to see it, feel it or respond to it. I also had to stop looking for someone else to rescue me. The cavalry was not coming that day nor would it ever.

Although it has often been said that “no man is an island”, when it comes to losing weight or making any other kind of life changes, sometimes, believe it or not, it is best to go it alone. I would never have traded anything for the experiences that I have had in the groups that I have been a part of. I have laughed, cried, loved and cherished all of those people but I made their happiness more important than my own. Did I say I also needed to learn balance in my life? Yup!

So, now that I had that year of being detoured, I am back on finding my own way. Once again, the insides are a whole lot skinnier today than they were a year ago. Now, I just have to get the outside to match the inside.

…to be continued.

Giving Thanks for Having Choices We Can Make

Filed Under Keeping It Real, Non-Food Rewards, Slow Starts & Relapses | 3 Comments

It is just days before one of the most identifiable eating holidays of the year: Thanksgiving.  For those of us who can “afford” buying the turkey and the “trimmings”, this is a day we all look forward to “pigging out”. For those of who are both in need of losing weight but are still “attached” to eating all of the delicious dishes that accompany such an extravaganza; it is a day fraught with anxiety and elation, even a combination of both, as we make our way through the buffet line.

A few years ago when I decided that “now” was the time that I make some serious changes in my dietary habits, I decided, along with many other weight lose friends, that I would “re-do” the traditional turkey meal. It also coincided with my adult child visiting me who has been a vegetarian for half of her life. In the past, as she was making the transition from being a carnivore to a herbivore, when she did the “rounds” of visiting her relatives and extended family (her father and I are divorced), she would tell me that she would end up eating buttered buns and mashed potatoes. I used to feel that was so “sad” since I was thoroughly enjoying my second or even third helping of turkey soaked in gravy along with green bean casserole, jellied cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes and, of course, the piece de resistance: pumpkin pie with a huge dollop of Cool Whip.

Since those days, my beliefs on what constitutes a Thanksgiving meal has shifted. One reason was the fact that I had discovered that my excess weight was causing me some serious health problems. I had a new perspective to consider: is eating all of this excess really worth the impact it has on my health? The obvious answer is “No” but the question also asks of me, what about my emotional and even spiritual health? How is this largess impacting those two parts of my being?

Okay, I realize that is getting “heavy handed” over “one meal a year” but for anyone who is truly struggling with their relationship with food, that one meal of the year is just the tip of the iceberg. We all know it isn’t just one meal because it bleeds over into several days that follow. Black Friday brings us front row center to all of the food court “temptations” at our local Mall. Then, there are the “leftovers”. If you drive by McDonald’s on Black Friday and the weekend after Thanksgiving, you will see their drive through busier than a “one arm paper hanger” . There is something about having eaten turkey for a couple of days that makes you want to have a Quarter Pounder with cheese. There just is!

Suddenly, what starts out as one meal ends up being several wrong turns down dead end streets. Even more importantly, it puts all of the emphasis in the wrong place. Thanksgiving need not stop at extra food and extra calories. It has the potential to be so much more….if we allow it to be. Today, I make choices that celebrate both my good fortune in being able to purchase food to share at my family table but also that I can choose to make that meal more representative of the other meals that I have throughout the year and not just “that one day”. In fact, in spite of this being a quintessential American holiday tradition, a “day of thanksgiving” can be universal, if we only allow it to be.  It is also about being thankful for having choices we can make.

This year Thanksgiving follows on the heels of a national election here in the U.S. For most of us,  we feel pretty much the same way we feel after a Thanksgiving meal: uncomfortably replete and just wanting to find the nearest place where we can “veg out” and put the experience behind us.  However, I am reminded that, although there are obvious flaws in the way our system works, we do have the freedom to elect who governs us.  My husband and I had many lengthy discussions about this freedom that we have. It will have been 40 years since the first time that I was able to exercise my right to vote. I will admit that, in the past, I “had made up my mind” long before the two individuals were squaring off at their first public debate.

This year was different. This year I decided that my vote would speak for more than myself: I wanted the person to sit in that office who would best represent and do the most for the greatest number of people. My individual vote no longer represented “what was best for me” but what was “best for the rest of us”. Now, I have mentioned in my past entries that I am one of the 42 million Americans who does not have health insurance. I would benefit from having health insurance but, unfortunately, as I have told my friends, “I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid (usually people who subside on government programs), I am too young to qualify for Medicare (usually for our senior citizens 66 and older) and I am not disabled enough to qualify for Supplemental Insurance through Social Security.” However, I did not want to make my vote be “a one issue” vote either. It took a lot of thought, prayer and deliberation for me to make my decision but, ultimately, I knew that the person I choose to best represent the American people(s) was the person I wanted to “stand behind”. Although it was a tough decision, I am thankful that I also exercised the freedom of choice to make that decision.

So, what does this have to do with making choices regarding food and eating? Actually, a lot more than I realized at the time. I have come to realize over the past couple years as I change regarding my relationship with food, that everything in my life is a matter of “exercising my personal choice”. Rather than bemoan the fact that I may have to choose to not eat that extra piece of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving or, if I do, know full well what that will mean to my blood glucose, I can celebrate and give thanks for having the freedom to make that choice. I can choose to make choices that support renewed health and well being, including mental and spiritual well being.

I am slowly learning that my weight lose journey is not “all about me” but it does clearly impact everyone that I come in contact. If you recall your American History, the first Thanksgiving was made possible because the Native Americans shared their maize crop among other food staples with the starving new settlers who has just survived one of the worst “first new years” of their existence. Unfortunately, it was a lesson of brotherhood got lost over time but it is never too late while we are giving thanks for the abundance of choices we all can make on this day as well as the other 364 days of the year that we also extend our hand to someone who could and may benefit from the choices we make today.

After all, we do have a choice.

New Diet Book Coming Down the Pike

Filed Under 100+ lbs To Lose, Dealing with Obstacles | Leave a Comment

After I emailed you about this book last night, I went on Amazon.com to see how much a gently used book would cost since, as I said, all of the copies were currently checked out, and my wait time was more than 3 weeks. One thing that I would strongly stress, so you can get a better idea of whether the book or item is worth purchasing is to check out and read some of the customer reviews on any given item. The reviewers are people like ourselves who buy an item for usually a specific need so their perspective is from an average person’s point of view. I have had a long history purchasing from Amazon.com and I review everything that I have ever purchased from them so I wanted you to know you can pretty much believe what these people are saying.

Having clarified that, I read about a half dozen reviews on this book you asked me about. According to the reviews that I read, the biggest complaint that they had about the book was that the author was pushing his own brand of supplements besides the food plan and that the cost was several hundred dollars per month. Other than that, it does sound like it is similar to many of the other whole food food plans that are “out there”. The other criticism the reviewers had was that the author spent nearly 2/3rds of the book talking about how lower income people are prone to diabetes because they can’t afford healthy food. So, what else is new, right?

Here are my thoughts after having read the reviews. The main one being is that it is also rather insulting for the doctor/author to talk about how lower income people can’t afford to eat healthier foods and yet somehow he must expect his readers to be able to afford $500+ a month on vitamin supplements. Once again, it sounds like another wealthy person out of touch with real people’s lives; which one man who was 73 years old wrote a really good review to that affect. This older man was still working and he simply stated that he neither had the resources to make some of the “gourmet recipes” or the time since he was still working past retirement age. In my opinion, anyone who is working full time at that age is doing so not because he wants to but because he has to. However, I am still going to wait for it from the public library unless it gets to be longer than two months and then I might buy a used copy after the New Year’s.

D., I have over 1 dozen diet books sitting on my shelves which I have decided to donate to the public library. Obviously, it is not that we who wish to lose weight and reclaim good health don’t know enough; it is simply that we haven’t learned to effectively put it into practice. I know why I don’t. I am really enthused the first couple of weeks while I am losing weight. Then, once the weight lose starts to taper off or I get tempted to eat something not on my food plan, I slip. Sometimes, the slip is short-lived and I can get right back on my food plan. Other times, I seem to wander off simply because I lose my focus or I forget the initial reason why I wanted or needed to lose weight in the first place.

Everyone “out there” can agree that eating healthier does cost more and according to what I have recently read, it is going to cost even more in 2013. P. and I have already noticed the prices already going up on many of our food items we routinely get. P. and I have been trimming our monthly budget for the past four-six years. We both said that we were going to split where we purchase favorite food items between stores if the price is cheaper somewhere else. It will mean some extra planning and another shopping trip but that is what we will do. I don’t use coupons simply because most of them ask you to buy in volume and with just the two of us, it really wouldn’t pay; in our opinion. I also don’t shop those “big box” warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club for the same reason. We tried those ten years ago and just simply found that it was more wasteful for just “us two”.

I am sure that this debate about how to balance our food budget along with the cost of other things we routinely spend money on will continue. However, I have said this before and I still believe it: you either spend the money at the grocery store or you spend it at the doctor’s office. We are lower income although I am not feeding underage children. However, if I were they would be eating how we eat. My Mom used to say, if you don’t like what I fixed, then “go hungry”. I will say that I didn’t like some foods when I was growing up. I did try some things that I didn’t like and some things I slipped to our family dog under the table. However, I wasn’t fat. In fact, I was thin. I didn’t see the doctor very often growing up except for routine shots, etc. I wasn’t a sickly kid. My parents had one main income for a long time so I know it was a struggle to “provide for us” but we were healthy.

Now, forty plus years later, both my younger sister and I have “lifestyle” health issues: she is a heavy smoker, has high blood pressure and she has elevated blood sugar. She routinely eats lunches from fast foods and convenience stores. She takes a blood pressure medication that she (and I both) knows she wouldn’t have to if she would quit eating such salty foods. She has diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. She misses a lot of work for this last two digestive conditions. She has been told they are “diet-based” conditions that can be remedied by changing what she eats. Now, at age 56, she is obese, which she wasn’t always.

As for me, I have morbidly obese for 29 years.I was able to lower my higher blood pressure by monitoring the amount of sodium that I ate and only having caffeinated beverages “half of the time”. Losing weight has been the more difficult thing for me to do. I “dieted” myself all the way up to 301.8 lbs. eight years ago. I was already experiencing congestive heart disease. I could feel the fluid in my chest and the difficulty breathing I had as a result every time the humidity rose.  Losing 40 + lbs helped but after repeated injuries I simply lost my motivation and my ability to physically move. I have managed to maintain that initial weight lose, which I am really grateful for that, because I am not so sure that my body could tolerate that extra weight if I were to regain it. In fact, I know that it probably couldn’t.

Again, the old adage of “You are what you eat” applies to most of the lifestyle diseases/conditions that most of us struggle with. I asked my sister if she ever considered packing a lunch rather than grabbing a greasy slice of pizza and a cup of coffee at a convenience store. She didn’t answer me. Maybe, she has never considered doing so. I know, from my own personal experience, that we can lose weight and reclaim our health if we are willing to change our personal habits. I used to think that it took big sweeping changes but the more I do this the more I realize that even making some simple changes can really make a difference. So, now I am doing that: making smaller changes.

P. has recently lost 22 lbs in the past year. He has never dieted before in his life. In fact, he is not a person who actively pursues anything related to fitness or health but he just didn’t like how he looked or felt a couple of years ago. I asked him what he felt attributed to this recent weight lose. He said that he has become more aware of “portion control”. He allows himself one day a week (Sunday) to have his favorite Kit Kat bars. He still doesn’t exercise much because he is in the car all the time driving and he just says he is too tired at night but he says that he wants to lose 20 lbs more. I told him that I was very proud of him and that I was also going to try and put into practice what he has been doing. I said, “You did this right under my nose, without me even realizing it or making a big fuss about it.” I think he is on to something.

Once again, I have made it my promise (and I break these all the time with myself) that I will be a “normal weight” for my 60th birthday which is 35 weeks away. In order to do that I need to lose 100 lbs or 2.78 lbs per week. If I succeed, it will be the first time since I was 27 years old that I saw that weight. In fact, I have the Levis jeans from back then when I did weigh that. If I make that goal next summer, I hope that I will be able to get into those same jeans and wear them on my birthday.

The only thing that is stopping me from realizing that personal goal is the choices that I make each and every day. As I have said, I am always open to trying anything new but if I have learned anything through these past years: each of us has to figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. Now, that is “continuing education” that I have a feeling never ends.

” to be continued….”