Weighty Matters

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Robbing Myself of Joy

So yesterday I was in a really pissy place with a boatload of discouragement and frustration. Never, ever, underestimate the benefit of asking for help and encouragement. I asked and I received both here and via private email. Thank you, friends. I am, indeed, encouraged by your words and feel supported.

There is still much for me to think about and process as I move forward. Stirring all of your words and stories together, the first thing that I come back to is the realization I’ve had that in focusing so much on what I’ve been unable to accomplish, i.e. getting under 200 pounds and then hitting goal weight, I am diminishing the pleasure and happiness of all that I have already achieved. I’m robbing myself of joy. That, my friends, simply will not do. I’ve lost something like 85% of the weight that I need to lose which, consequently is nearly half of my total body weight. (If I’m doing the math right, which I’m pretty sure I am. Then again, it is math which has never been my strong suit.) However, arithmetic aside, I’ve lost a FREAKING LOT OF WEIGHT. I need to celebrate that every single day. I eat healthier. I have gone from sedentary to active. I don’t suffer with extreme knee pain and overall body aches. I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar any more.

I am healthy and active. My life used to be filled with obesity-induced obstacles. Now those obstacles are gone. This is a time to be happy, energetic, free of excessive worry and food obsession, free-spirited.

It is not a time to be anxious, stressed out, frustrated, discouraged and sad over the last 30 stubborn pounds.

One of my friends pointed out that the worrying and stress induce cortisol production. According to the opening of an article in Psychology Today, The stress hormone, cortisol, is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels: interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease… The list goes on and on.

Screw dat.

Today, I woke up grateful for so many things and all of the positive changes I have experienced. Today I am going to catch myself any time I start to obsess over lack of weight loss again and divert myself with the positive spin. I’m not denying that there is more I want to do, but I need to recapture the happiness of all that I can and all that I am.

Each new day presents the endless opportunity to enjoy my best, most authentic life. That’s the goal. I will continue to follow my healthy eating plan and exercise efforts. The weight will come off when it comes off. In the meantime, I’m taking back my joy.

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Battling Discouragement

Friends, pardon me while I spew. I am as close to complete discouragement as I have been since this entire weight loss journey started, pretty much three years ago. Yes, it’s almost three years since I made the decision to investigate weight loss surgery.

It doesn’t matter what I do, how careful I am to adhere to my food plan, or how much exercise I do, my weight loss is stuck. Mired like my feet are encased in concrete blocks, sucked into a thick, swampy goo. I don’t know what else I can do, or what I can do differently. I. Just. Don’t. Know.

I’m so close, so very close to getting to One-derland. I can see it right there on the horizon. Shiny, sparkly, tantalizing and all I have to do is run to the border and get there. I feel a little like Dorothy, running toward Oz, and then getting knocked out by the poppy fields.

Maybe there is such a thing as a set point and my body decided that 211 is it. Maybe I’m doing something wrong with my food plan and eating but can’t figure it out. My body doesn’t react the way that it used to.

I’m confused, frustrated, annoyed, wistful and so discouraged. I either want to cry or eat, or maybe just say screw it. Stop trying to lose any more and simply work on maintaining the fabulous weight loss I’ve already achieved.

I’m tired of the strict effort. I’m fed up with thinking that if I have a small slice of bread, a spoonful of potato or a quarter cup of rice that I’ll derail my progress. I just want to eat like a “normal” person with a great variety of foods in appropriate portions for my stomach and maintenance.

This totally messes with my head and my emotions. The one thing that I refuse to do is backslide into weight gain. In all that I’m experiencing internally right now, that’s the solid foundation to which I can hold. It’s a positive. Maybe I’m not losing, but at least I’m not gaining.

I can only hope that I’ll feel differently tomorrow. That I’ll wake up with renewed faith that if I continue to do what I’m supposed to do, the weight will again begin to decrease. Right now, I’m a little short on that kind of faith. I am, however, holding on to that maintenance determination. No matter what else happens, that is essential to my health and recovery.

Thanks for listening. Anybody have any suggestions or words of encouragement?

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Food Shame

Sometimes I wonder if there will ever come a time when I will eat certain foods and not feel like I should be hiding their consumption; when I will not feel shame.

My logical brain says that foods eaten in balance are okay. That I do not need to be ashamed if I occasionally eat chocolate cake or M&Ms. Unfortunately, years of sneak eating and secret binges have left their mark on my psyche. Last night I went to the movies. I ordered a small popcorn and a small pack of peanut M&Ms. The popcorn I ate openly. Later, mid-way through the movie, I felt like I had to go into stealth mode, slipping each M&M into my mouth, so that the friend sitting next to me wouldn’t see me eating them.

Okay, so popcorn and M&Ms aren’t a healthy meal, but the quantities were quite small so it’s not like I was ingesting poison or illegal drugs. After the movie, I tried to connect with what I was feeling. I decided that I didn’t feel judged for eating the popcorn but I projected that people would judge me for eating candy.

Why? Because in some part of my brain, I still see myself as a horrifically obese woman whose food and eating habits were always looked at to some extent. Probably I imagined some of the judging and assessing by other people but I have definite evidence and memories of actual judging experiences.

Honestly, if my friend even noticed, I’m sure she didn’t care or think twice about it. Ultimately, I self-shamed.

Yep, I felt like I was doing something wrong. After two and a half years, my relationship with food is still pretty messed up.

I’ve also noticed that when I retreat into the old behavior of sneaking food I eat it faster, savor it less, enjoy it much less and end up eating more of the food item. Clearly this is something that I need to work on. I want to make it okay for me to eat what I choose and honor those choices. If I really really want a few M&Ms, then it needs to be okay — and I need to be able to enjoy them. Sneak eating is another symptom of my disease. Not only isn’t it good for me, it’s totally unnecessary.

Yes, definitely need to work on this food shame.

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No Progress Frustration

It’s Day 6 of my 31 Day Challenge and Day 6 of the healthy cleanse. I have really and honestly been vigorous in following the program. Each day, I’ve drunk (drank?) the cleanse liquid. I’ve had protein shakes for breakfast and lunch. At night I’ve eaten chicken with mixed greens and a veggie. My snacks have been healthy – veggies, fruit, nuts sometimes. I’ve had a couple of small pieces of dark chocolate over the six days.

As suggested to me, I haven’t eaten red meat. The only dairy products were small splashes, and I do mean small, of half and half in my morning tea. I haven’t had any potatoes, rice, bread — not even as much as a single cracker or chip.

You would think with such rigorous adherence to program, I’d have seen some great results. In terms of the scale — I’ve fluctuated up and down in a one-to-two-pound range. Internally, my system remains sluggish. I’m frustrated as hell.

If I didn’t mentally feel so encouraged by my abstinence from compulsive eating, I’d be downright pissed off. Tonight, I’m craving the positive reinforcement of weight loss for my solid effort. Instead, I have to reinforce myself by continuing to focus on the fact that I was in recovery all week and stuck to my plan. In lieu of progress and satisfaction, I need to remind myself that if I keep doing what I’m doing, the weight loss will come. Go on faith, so to speak, while I wait for the results to happen in fact.

I understand that at age 56, my metabolism is slower than it was when I was younger. I also completely get why the weight melted off so rapidly in the first year after my weight loss surgery and then gradually slowed. I just didn’t expect it to slow so much that it feels like the equivalent of rush hour on the busiest highway in America when a traffic accident has closed down two of the four open lanes.

Right now, my mind is the biggest risk. Overcoming the “I was so good this week and nothing. Oh screw it” mentality takes effort. I’m engaged in some mental “white-knuckling”, struggling somewhat to keep my mind and thoughts clean, healthy, and focused on the ultimate goal.

I’ve read up on yo-yo dieting, or more properly called weight cycling. Studies in post-menopausal women have shown that years of yo-yoing don’t mean that you’re doomed. Given the right formula of calories and nutrition, I absolutely will lose weight.

All things considered, while frustration isn’t fun, it beats the emotions I’ll experience if I give into any emotional eating. If I do that, I’ll be angry, disappointed in myself, and sad — all heaped on top of the frustration. Instead, I need to “keep on keeping on”. One of these mornings, I will wake up and see progress.

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Portion Perspective

Pretty much every day, I throw a small apple into my lunch bag to eat as an afternoon snack. Apples are good for me and they’re easy to eat. Not much preparation needed to pick up an apple and bite into it.

Today I was so busy at work that I ended up eating lunch later than usual. I did a protein shake for lunch and the ones I’m drinking now are particularly filling. So, when the afternoon snack time came around, I wasn’t hungry. I skipped and ate again at dinner. I was hungrier a couple of hours after the meal and reached for the apple I hadn’t eaten earlier.

Apple slices with a dollop of natural peanut butter make for a favorite treat. For this, I opted to cut the apple into slices. I put everything on a small plate and brought it to the table. Before I started to eat, I looked at the snack and thought, “Wow. That’s a lot of food.” It puzzled me that an apple that was definitely small when intact and round seemed so much bigger when sliced. I wondered if it was all because I’d put it on a smaller than normal plate — one about the size of a saucer. Maybe a group of slices should look like more than a whole apple with all of its parts united. Anyway, it got me thinking.

It’s hard for me to judge. I have horrible portion perspective. Each day I still work on retraining my eyes and stomach. The portions of food I eat are, by physical limitation and mental choice, far smaller than they used to be. I know this, but it still takes practice to teach myself how much of a serving is enough. Usually, I end up dishing out more than I want, need or can eat. It’s out of habit and I haven’t completely reshaped my eyeballing system of measurement. Yes, yes, I could solve it all if I weighed and measured but I’ve never been one who developed using those tools into a sustainable new habit. I keep trying. I’m just not there yet. I do my best to remain mindful about my eating so that even if I start out with too much, I don’t eat more than I need. I don’t want to cram so much food into my stomach that I’m uncomfortable or feel sick. Most importantly, I want to accustom myself to normalizing smaller portions.

I read a magazine article today with actress Allison Sweeney. She’s the host for Biggest Loser and has battled weight issues in the past. She said something eminently sensible in the article — that she always feeds her kids small portions, knowing that if they are still hungry they will ask for more. I need to be that sensible. Perhaps I should start taking a lot less than I think I need. Really drastically reduce the portion I initially serve myself on my plate.

Then, if eating mindfully, I will be able to feel whether I’ve had too little or had enough to satisfy my needs. Portion perspective is a learn-able skill, isn’t it?

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A Magic Motivational Switch

Over the decades, I frequently wished for a magic switch that I could flip on at will and trigger constant motivation to lose weight, exercise, live a healthier life. Any time I started out great guns on a new diet and did well, I felt like I’d flipped the switch. Unfortunately, it always eventually felt like the switch had gone down into the “Off” position and killed my motivation. I’d give up the positive efforts, regain the weight, etc. etc. etc. Soooo many times of ups and downs, losses and gains. Is it any wonder that my metabolism is probably a bit screwy?

Right now, I feel like my switch is on. It isn’t that these products I’m using for the cleanse and protein shakes have magical ingredients that trigger my success. I know it’s all about my attitude, coupled with my willingness and determination. I’m on Day Four of my 31 Day Challenge and I feel great. Physically I haven’t seen massive internal system changes or results from the cleanse (How’s that for tactful, non-graphic information.) although I’m down a couple of pounds since Sunday. The positive feelings are mental and emotional. I feel strong in my effort. I’m not white-knuckling the recovery which means that each day I’m finding it relatively easy to stay on track with the food plan. I’m not eating compulsively. I’m saying no to carbs like bread, potatoes, chips, and the like. I’m exercising. All of the last few days have transpired exactly as they should. This is how I achieved success for many, many, many months.

I am hopeful that this will continue. Actually, I’m determined to make it so. Thirty-one days of this will result in strong weight loss and great health build. I know this for a fact. The challenge is for me to keep the switch on and not be tempted to flip it off when I hit an emotional challenge. There’s no magic involved. It all comes down to me making the positive choices – every time a choice is presented.

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Day Two of the Challenge – An Amendment

I’ve had a great two days. The supplements I’m taking taste good. I successfully handled the plan during a work day. I always worry about whether I can adapt while I’m at work so when I actually do it, I’m relieved. It helped that I have a little single serving smoothie blender at the office that a friend gave me for my birthday. This makes it easy for me to mix up a protein shake at lunch.

Everyone in my office is supportive of my efforts, so I never feel strange about doing something like breaking out a blender. Oh sure, if it was 5 o’clock and I was blending margaritas nobody would look twice at any office :-), but I know that not all work environments are friendly and supportive. I feel lucky.

I’ve made one adjustment to my challenge. I redid my chart for the donyus. When I shared my original chart, that called for me working up to 200 donyus by Day 31, my instructor didn’t quite ask, “Are you crazy?” but I sensed some concern that I might not have considered this plan as much as I should. After thinking about it some more, and remembered the interesting creaking noises that sometimes come from my right knee, I surmised that super high numbers of donyus might do me more harm than good. So, tonight I scaled down the 31 Days of Donyus plan to one that will work me up to 70 per day. I believe this is doable in a non-harmful way, particularly because around the 45-50 mark, I’ll break the daily goal into two sets – one each in the morning and evening.

Having an overall challenge plan in place helped with my thinking and attitude today. For example, I stopped into another department’s office to check on something for a moment. One co-worker always brings in a small tub of home baked chocolate chip cookies. Seeing that tub on the counter, I could hear the big blue Muppet in my head saying, “Coookieee!” I automatically approached thinking one cookie wouldn’t hurt, but I stopped myself with a mental, “Remember the Challenge”, turned around and left the office. Mary-1 / Chocolate Chip Cookies-0. Booyah!

The dogs and I walked this morning and again this evening. I wasn’t hungry when I got home from the post-work/early-evening dog walk, so I hopped on my bike and did a quick five mile ride.

I know I sound all fired up and confident right now. I need to remember that it’s only been two days. At the same time, it’s good to remember and reinforce myself for two days of adhering to the challenge plan which, in program terms, means two days of abstinence from compulsive eating. Every time that I stay on track brings benefits that are physical, of course, but also mental and emotional. I feel good that I’m taking positive action. Positive action breeds more positive action. I need to string some days and weeks together and keep moving forward.

Over the weekend I was going through some old bags and papers and found a notepad on which I’d scribbled a quote that someone else used in a presentation I attended. I found it at the right time because it is serving as a well-timed, great reminder as I progress through the early days and shore up my foundations. The quote is:

Obstacles are the frightful things that appear when you take your eyes off of the goal – Henry Ford

I know he was most likely talking cars and, definitely, not about diets. Doesn’t matter. I’ll take my inspirational reminders where I find ‘em.

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31 Day Self-Challenge

Today is Day One of a challenge that I’ve designed for myself. I’m tapping into my competitive side to kick start my body and rev up my efforts. I’ve hit a summer lull. I feel sluggish in body and attitude. I’m maintaining but not losing weight and I’m getting a little lazy with my fitness. I talked about avoiding the diet mentality but I also recognize my current need to provide more structure for myself.

Hence, the 31 Day Motivational Challenge. I’m beginning with a 7 Day Cleanse using a product by a company called Arbonne. The nutritionist has checked out all of their products and likes their components. I checked them out too. I also have friends who use them and like them. As long as nobody tries to sign me up to sell them – I have no interest in network sales/multi-level marketing stuff – I’m good. Since I regularly drink protein shakes, I’m always interested in trying new products for taste variety. The ones offered by this company meet my guidelines for calories, carbs, protein, and sugar content. Interesting to me is that they’re vegan and use a pea protein instead of soy or dairy-whey. I made my first one this morning and it was one of the best tasting protein shakes I’ve had – and I’ve tried a lot. The consistency was also more filling than the ones I’ve been using.

For the next 31 days, I’m drinking two protein shakes a day for breakfast and lunch. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks will be either fruit, veggie with a bit of hummus or yogurt dip, or a little yogurt. Dinner will be lean protein, veggies, and the occasional brown rice or sweet potato.

Besides paying attention to fat, protein, carbs and calories, I want to eat as clean and unprocessed as possible.

To keep myself from going completely mental, I’m giving myself permission to have a square of quality dark chocolate when I really feel the need for a chocolate treat.

During these 31 days, I’ll maintain walking, bike riding and Tai Chi. I’m adding a little extra challenge effort from the Tai Chi. One of the foundation exercises is something called a donyu. To most people this looks like a squat, but there are some differences in the form. However, the exercise is similar to squats in that it’s great for leg strength and, I’m pretty sure it helps shape the back end too.

I looked at the popular 30 Day Squat Challenges and modified the numbers a little for the Donyu challenge. I started with 30 donyus today and will be up to 200 by Day 31. No, I will not do 200 at one time. I predict I will break them into four 50-donyu sets.

This morning I weighed myself and made a note of it. I’ve purchased what I need for the next few days and then can replenish mid-week so that I’m using fresh foods.

I’m excited about my challenge. I woke up this morning eager to start. I also took advantage of beautiful weather to take a 12 mile bike ride – before the donyus. I won’t bore you every day with recaps, but will update my progress at least once a week on this blog. Hopefully, I’ll have lots of positive progress to share but, no doubt, will also have some instances of minimal whining if I run into a difficult day.

To help my effort, I’m focusing positive energy and attitude. I need those to build the foundation for any success. To large extent, setting myself on a challenge like this is a mind game, but if it rejuvenates me and helps me reset my goals and efforts, I’ll count it as a good thing.

Stay tuned!

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Want What I Want – Sort Of

One consistent, positive change I’ve made in my life is to prepare and take my food with me to work almost every day. I don’t rely on getting lunch when I’m there because I know that doing so increases the chance that I will eat something with too many fat calories and carbs. I will eat junk or deep fried meals all under the rationale of it being easy available at the food truck.

In the mornings while I drink my breakfast smoothie, I feel a certain amount of satisfaction as I plan, prepare and pack up my two snacks and lunch for the day. It’s like my internal voice proclaims, “Check me out. I’m a healthy woman healthily putting together my healthy foods. I’m all that and a snack bag of celery!”

It’s all well and good except that my taste buds and craving center are often contrary. A couple of days this week, I was all happy happy mixing up a bowl of fat free plain Greek yogurt with a touch of organic honey for sweetness and stirring in a few sliced strawberries for lunch. I knew it would taste delicious for lunch. Then, around 12:05 when I was hungry I was hit with wanting something completely different — like half an order of extra crispy fries or a grilled cheese sandwich. I was totally into the salty-savory-crunchy food. I refrained by perpetuating a little disgust as in calling up that inner voice again but writing the monologue along the lines of, “Knock it off. You have a perfectly tasty, healthy meal all ready and waiting in your lunch bag in the fridge. Just take it out and eat it.” I wasn’t mean to myself or call myself names. I just gave myself a little “what for”, then took out my yogurt and enjoyed it.

I swear sometimes it’s disease thinking trying to undermine or challenge my resolve and recovery. Maybe Hell called and needed more of the road paved and that’s why my good intentions sometimes get thwarted. When these things happen, I’m grateful for the little things that prevent my derailment. Or maybe I derail the derailment which puts me back on track?

Last night I was at my nail tech getting my mani-pedi. In between her shop and my house is a wonderful cupcake bakery. I ate dinner before going to the nail appointment. I had a snack at home all planned for later. However, as she was applying the second coat of polish to my fingernails, I was swamped with desire for a chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with salted chocolate butter cream frosting.

Friends, I’m here to say that the only thing standing between me and complete, unplanned cupcake gorging was the wet polish. I was so close to making a left into that bakery parking lot but I thought about how there was no way I could complete the purchase, get back in the car and make it home to eat that tempting goody without ruining my manicure. The smudges and smears that I knew would happen would have stayed with me — as strong an evidence of my own transgression from my plan as a certain literary character’s scarlet A.

Look, I know that it’s perfectly fine for me to sometimes have a cupcake — just not then in those circumstances when I was almost lured from my path of recovery and pre-planning. I didn’t need the cupcake as much as I mentally wanted it. The trick was to not want to mess up my food plan more than I wanted to consume the dessert.

There’s the crux of the wanting dilemma. I need to put the long term goal first and want that more — much more — than I want the more immediate satisfaction of whatever I’m craving. I need to always remember what I want more so that I don’t listen when my mind tells me that I want what I want in the moment.

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The Relief of Decisions

A month or so ago I talked about making a difficult decision to step away from an organization on whose Board I served. I didn’t fully understand how much stress I put on myself with that involvement until I no longer felt it after I resigned. (The friendship I was worried about has not gone completely south either. I think eventually we’ll be okay.)

About a week ago, I realized that I was in another situation that, while not stressing me out, was making me cranky. I had previously said to a group that I was interested in training as an instructor. Over time, I asked for a better idea of the path and process to achieving that and wasn’t given the information that I’d hoped for. It wasn’t the organization’s way. Then I saw some decisions made that puzzled me and, to be honest, hurt my ego. I thought I could process the emotions and thoughts and bring myself to a place where it didn’t bother me. I thought I could be patient. I was unsuccessful in both areas. With everything combined, it made me, like I said, cranky. I don’t like being cranky in my leisure activities. The emotions leached the enjoyment out of the activity and allowing that to happen just didn’t make sense.

Still, this was also not an easy decision. I am, at heart, a people-pleaser and it’s really difficult for me to make a change that’s better for me if I perceive that I’m going to disappoint someone else – particularly if the someone is a friend. Ultimately, I withdrew myself from consideration. My friend was disappointed but supportive. This was a welcome experience after the previous dust-up in the other situation. Overall, again, having made the decision I then felt relief and a reduction in stress and upset. I was happier and more relaxed in tonight’s class and that reinforced that I’d made the right decision. For me.

I don’t know why it’s so hard sometimes to choose actions and decisions that are right for me. Probably something to do with not wanting to be, or be perceived as, selfish. There’s a line to be determined between acting in a negatively selfish way and doing something that is necessary for my improved wellbeing. In my heart, I believe that I took actions that support my recovery. Regardless of how others may feel, I know I’m relieved and I’m sticking with them.

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