Weighty Matters

Just another WordPress.com site

Speaking of Mindfulness

A local newspaper article included the suggestion to check out a Ted Talk by Jordan Brewer. I went to http://www.ted.com and found the talk, which focuses on using mindfulness to break bad habits like overeating, smoking, even texting while driving.

Here’s what the description on the site says:

Can we break bad habits by being more curious about them? Psychiatrist Judson Brewer studies the relationship between mindfulness and addiction — from smoking to overeating to all those other things we do even though we know they’re bad for us. Learn more about the mechanism of habit development and discover a simple but profound tactic that might help you beat your next urge to smoke, snack or check a text while driving.

Among other things, Dr. Brewer is Director of Research of the Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.

If you want to watch the talk, here’s the link: https://www.ted.com/talks/judson_brewer_a_simple_way_to_break_a_bad_habit



Leave a comment »

Out of Town / Out of Routine

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sticking to a more strict food plan from Sunday through Friday and then giving myself permission to have a special treat on Saturday. It’s been working for me. The weight loss isn’t in big chunks but it’s been steady. By the time of my knee replacement surgery in mid-March, I’m confident that I will have lost 20 pounds since I saw the doctor last December.  I’d hoped to lose more but when all is said and done, I am grateful to have lost at all.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for a business trip and will be away from home for more than a week. (Tacking on a weekend of fun with friends.)  Being away from home and living at a hotel means that I will not be able to prepare my meals the way that I’m used to, the way that’s been working for me. I’m a little apprehensive. Okay, I’m a lot apprehensive.

Traditionally, when I go to these things, I tend to carb overload because that’s what’s usually the  most available food in the mornings with the bagel/pastry/fruit arrays that are normally provided as part of the meetings.  It’s just so easy because those foods are just there! Even if the platters do include yogurt, it’s usually the low fat stuff that has more sugar and carbs.

I also get a little anxious because the meals are on the meeting’s time schedule, not on mine. That messes with my head.  Then, on top of everything else, I tend to over-caffeinate too.

Add to all this is the fact that I will not have my rowing and Tai Chi classes for exercise, or my fitness DVDs.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing my past behavior at this meeting. I want to do things differently this time. I’m so afraid that I will eat inappropriately to my needs and goals and end up gaining back some of the weight that I’ve worked so hard to lose. So, analyzing the past means that I can strategize how to succeed this time out.

I’ve planned some things that will help. I’m taking a shaker cup and some individual protein powder packets so I can shake up a protein drink in the morning before I go downstairs to the meeting. The protein will definitely be a better choice for me than white flour products and sugar.

I’ve also packed some cheese wedges that don’t need to be refrigerated and some jerky sticks. Again – good protein choices that are easy and to take to the meeting with me and consume when I need to.

For the caffeine kick, I know perfectly well that I don’t need four cups of black tea. I do, however, need to keep up with my water intake. So, I will commit to no more than two cups of black tea in the morning and then make sure to sip, sip, sip my water throughout the day. Not hard to do when there will be pitchers and glasses on the tables.

For lunches and dinners, I am reinforcing a positive mindset that I can make healthy choices from whatever is on the menu. Protein and produce are the key things on which I want to focus. I’m sure I can find some at the other meals.

As far as exercise, the hotel has a fitness center. My boss is in training for a bridge run in April. In addition to going to rowing classes, she also runs a few times a week. Neither one of us wants to take a week off from our exercise routines, so we’re packing some workout clothes and planning to get up early enough to hit that fitness center at least a couple of times while we’re there.

So… I’ve pre-planned and packed what I could so that I’ll have food available. I’m working on my mindset. In the end, that’s really the key to whether I do great with my food plan this week or crash, burn and compulsively consume unnecessary, unwanted calories and carbs.  I will do my best to be mindful and thoughtful whenever I am around food. Staying conscious and “in the moment” are vitally important.

Maybe instead of worrying that I’ll be “out of my routine”, I should just start cultivating the idea that I’ve developed a new routine for whenever I am out of town.

Leave a comment »

Cheat Day?

Last week, I did six days in a row of a more restricted food plan. Not only did I not have any white flour products, white potato, rice, pasta or anything with refined sugar, I also cut out milk, yogurt, beans, legumes, nuts, fruit and a number of vegetables.

I still ate delicious food and did not feel in the least like I was starving. It’s just a good solid high protein/low carb plan that boosts my metabolism and weight loss.

I planned for six days and that’s what I adhered to. Yesterday, I knew I had two social functions. I didn’t want to go wildly off plan, but I wanted to have a little more flexibility. The plan was to take yesterday and today off from the restricted plan and then get back to it tomorrow through Friday.

I was pretty proud of how I handled the day yesterday and the functions I attended. I did have a small piece of brownie at lunch and a chocolate chip cookie at night but I had also worked out and made very good food choices for all the other meals. I felt like I was still in a balanced plan for a “cheat day”.

Today started off with an hour bike ride followed by a good protein-specific breakfast. I was on plan for the day. I did my supermarket shopping for things that would fit my restricted food plan this week and I even prepared for a business trip that’s coming up. I got some cheese product that doesn’t need refrigeration and some jerky sticks that I can take with me as 911 foods.

Tonight’s dinner was from my Plated.com subscription. Barbeque turkey meatloaf with roasted broccoli and mashed sweet potato. I made adjustments in the recipe such as using less of the barbeque sauce because I  know it had sugar or molasses in it. The mashed potato recipe called for adding maple syrup. I like sweet potatoes without lots of stuff added so I opted to bake mine instead and then only ate half of it. (I treated Natty to the other half.)

But here’s my beef with myself. I am wondering if there will ever come a time when mentally it will be okay with me to eat certain things and not feel like I’m cheating.

There really isn’t anything wrong with having half of a sweet potato, for crying out loud. To be 100% honest, there isn’t anything wrong with occasionally having sweets like a small piece of brownie and a cookie. It isn’t like I gobbled down an entire pan or binged on a bag. (In the interest of full disclosure, in my old out-of-control binge days, I would eat an entire bag of cookies or two in a single evening.)

So, despite the fact that I ate perfectly acceptable quantities of food with a good balance of protein and produce; even though I ate sweets in small portion; I feel like I failed.

Sweet Lord I am hard on myself. At least I recognize it. The issue for me tonight is getting the scold out of my head. I keep thinking that I failed and that tomorrow morning on the scale I will have gained back the pounds that I lost last week.

I try to tell myself that this is the weird FEAR acronym of False Evidence Appearing Real.  I want to believe that I did not trash a week of effort with one mild “cheat day”. Then I start thinking that as a WLS patient with an eating disorder, maybe I’m in denial or fooling myself to think that a cheat day is very okay.

Right now, I don’t have any good answers, only diseased thoughts. To deal with them, I’ve closed the kitchen for the rest of the days which means nothing more to eat. I have my meals for tomorrow planned and the foods I need for a snack and lunch at work are ready to be packed.

I’m leaving my weighing options open. I may elect to not weigh myself tomorrow morning but to wait for Tuesday morning, which is the regular weekly weigh-in day for my group. Perhaps by having a solid day tomorrow I can resolve some of the negative thoughts and worries that I’m experiencing tonight. We shall see! I’m hopeful.



I’m really enjoying the support of this online group I joined of all weight loss surgery folks. With a weekly weigh-in that we report and post about, it helps me with my accountability. Trust me, it wasn’t easy for me to be willing to step on the scale, take a picture of my weight and post it to the group. Then, I saw so many other women doing it – some who weigh more and some who weigh less – and decided to stop resisting the idea.

It is easier to do this when I’ve lost weight from the week before. That’s happened every week but one, but I was still honest on the week that I’d put back a couple of pounds.

There are different tools to be used and also mindsets to be cultivated. I’m re-learning things about my stomach and my eating that I’d been introduced to after my surgery and for the first year or so.  After that, I sort of unlearned them so it’s good to reconnect.

One of the main lessons is that I physically do not need as much food as my head wants, or that it tries to make me believe that I do. When I eat mindfully, really paying attention to the quantity on my plate and, most importantly, my hunger and satiety levels, I eat less.

Here was a big lesson that I’m still working on so that I’m more consistent. The group coaches advise that we always remind ourselves that we are Weight Loss Surgery people. That sounds obvious but I realize after a lot of reflection and consideration that I wasn’t keeping it front of mind. It’s like I was pretending that I could eat like a regular person just in restricted quantities.

Well, I can but I can’t. Maybe what I should say is that I can sometimes but those sometimes need to really be only some of the time – not all of the time. Tagging onto the WLS reminder is the need for me to always remember that I have the eating disorder of compulsive eating/binge eating.

For ease of typing, I’m just going to combine the letters and identify myself as WLSBED. So what have I relearned in the last month, or at least stopped denying about food? The big things are that I cannot eat what I call “junk” carbs every day or even every other day. Bread, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cakes, white potatoes, white rice, regular pasta – These all need to be exceptions. If I eat them with any regularity, I might as well just pick up globs of fat and slap them on my butt. I am a WLSBED – These carbs are not food plan friendly and will lead to weight gain.

It’s a given that refined sugar products – candies, ice cream, those cookies and cakes again, you don’t need a full list – definitely need to the rarest of rare indulgence.  I can get away with a very small amount of good dark chocolate that has a lower sugar content, but definitely not even that morning, noon and night.

One of the hardest things for me to accept was that I had to really cut back on my fruit intake. I love fruit. It just doesn’t seem fair, but it’s something that I’ve come to accept as a WLSBED. Honestly, prior to joining this group, I was eating fruit three times a day on most days – in my morning smoothie, my afternoon apple snack, and then often another piece as a late night snack. I don’t know where my common sense went but I finally get that I was just sucking in a whole lot more sugar than my body could handle if I wanted to maintain or lose weight.

There are lots of other food-related things that I’m either learning or breaking out of my denial about.  There are still other things that I knew and accepted that I’m positively reinforcing myself for doing which helps to make them stick. For example, I always look for the sugars in other products and try to cut them down or cut them out.

In case you haven’t realized it just by reading this post, one other thing that I’ve re-learned is that being successful in this endeavor, meeting my goals and challenges, daily living as a WLSBED is a LOT of work.  Thinking ahead, planning and preparing my daily foods takes thought and time. It all calls for effort and willingness. The willingness I have in abundance. So the days that I’m exhausted, I reach down for the spirit to keep going.

Today I’m grateful for all that I’m learning and re-learning. They are helping me make progress to where I want to be.

Leave a comment »

Connecting with Hunger

I wish I had a signalling device in my head that would indicate when I am truly, physically hungry and when I just think that I am.  Honestly, hunger is my go-to reaction for a lot of situations, all connected to various emotions. As a compulsive overeater, I can eat my emotions a lot, which then causes more emotions – mostly negative – and that just snowballs into more eating.

So, it’s really important for me to be sure that I eat when I’m hungry and not when I’m experiencing an emotion that is triggering my brain to want to eat. In program we talk a lot about HALTS, an acronym for Hungry, Angry or Anxious, Lonely, Tired or Thirsty, Stressed.  I sometimes think of the L standing for lackadaisical because it’s the closest word to Bored that I can come up with and fit in the acronym.

HALTS is a helpful tool. When I think I’m hungry, before I eat I ask myself – am I physically hungry, or am I angry, lonely, tired or stressed instead?  This simple act, when I employ it, does a good job of connecting me with true hunger and helps me safeguard against eating something  compulsively. I can then reroute my behavior to a healthier choice.

Take this afternoon, for example. At 4:30, I was tasked with an urgent project at work. As I walked to my office to get started, I passed a friend as she unwrapped a tasty piece of chocolate from the office stash. Immediately, I thought I was hungry and absolutely needed a piece of candy, too. I stopped and ran through the HALTS checklist. I knew as soon as I got past the H that I wasn’t really hungry yet. I was stressed. With that confirmed in my head, I walked into my office, drank some water, and dug down into the project.

Like any exercise or technique, I get better at HALTS when I practice. These days, I practice a lot because I know that it works and will help me work on my goals.  Eating when I’m truly hungry and not compulsively grabbing for unplanned foods keeps m healthy and on the path for recovery.



Leave a comment »

Determination Over Resistance

One thing that I’ve been working on for the last few months is what my daily food plan should look like. It is difficult to decide how many calories are too many or how many grams of protein and carbs I should aim for every day. Different people in the group that I’ve joined have different nutritional goals. I’m just trying to figure out what is right for me, what will help me achieve my goals.

I’m taking in all of the information. I know mathematically that I need to use 3600 calories more than I take in in order to lose a pound. However, there are so many other factors including my age, body chemistry, frame, genetics, metabolism, overall physical condition, and so on.

It took a while for me to accept this, but I realize that in order to lose weight, I can shoot for about 1000 calories of food a day but I also need to focus on what combinations of food make up those calories. One of the things I heard in this group is to focus on protein and produce. Basically, as much as I have resisted the idea in the past, in order to lose weight I really have to cut out most wheat flour products most of the time, other “white” carbs like white potatoes, white rice and pasta, and pretty much all refined sugar stuff.

Okay, that last category should be a no-brainer. Cookies, cake, breakfast pastries, donuts – well, they do not a successful weight reduction plan make.

What I’ve also learned is that even so called “healthier” carbs brought to my diet from beans and legumes and some produce, as well as sugar in fruit, need to be ingested in small amounts or only occasionally.

Fruit might be produce but I won’t be successful eating it three times a day.

Overall, I’m shooting for 900-1000 calories a day with 80-100g of quality protein, 50-75g of healthy carbs, 80 plus ounces of water.

For the most part, I’m making the adjustments to hit these goals more easily than I expected. My determination is at this time much stronger than my resistance. I so badly want to get 60 pounds off and would like to get as many of them gone before my knee surgery. I’m even more strongly motivated now than I was. I guess for a long time I was sort of passive and just going along eating what I wanted instead of keeping my focus.

It’s still a struggle. Constant vigilance is still necessary to battle the ever present eating disorder. I’m not perfect but I’m much better than before. I have faith that I’m going to be able to sustain the effort and be successful.

Leave a comment »

Five Year Surgiversary

Today, January 25th, is the fifth anniversary of my weight loss surgery. It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by!

Because the last six months in particular have been mostly a discouraging struggle with some regain of weight, I’m probably not feeling quite as overjoyed as I could be. I’m sort of bummed that I’m sitting 60 pounds from goal weight and that I still haven’t hit that magic number after five years.

Then I stop, give myself a mental shake and remind myself just how far I’ve come.

I’ve lost 136 pounds from my top weight and, even with the regain I experienced I’m maintaining a weight loss equal to the total body weight of many of my friends and family members. (Okay, I have a LOT of friends and family who weigh even less than 136 pounds.)

Before my surgery, I had Type II diabetes and was on a prescription to lower my blood sugar. I was on a beta blocker and a second medication for high blood pressure, plus yet another prescription for high cholesterol.  Now, I’m not on any of those meds and not dealing with those conditions.

At age 59, even carrying too much excess poundage, I am much more physically fit than ever in my life. If I was this fit when I was an active kid, I sure don’t remember. It’s common for me to do a 45 minute intense rowing workout with my heart at 90% plus maximum rate and stick with it, mixed in with strength-building exercises and other “fun” stuff. (Today we held wall sits for 90 seconds. Ever do a wall sit. Oh, go try it, just for fun. Put your feet shoulder width apart about a foot or so from a wall, back against the wall and go into the sitting position with your thighs parallel to the floor. See how long you can hold that position before your legs start to burn.  Really, we’ll wait. 🙂  )

Okay, I’m just kidding, unless you want to give your upper legs a quick workout. I just described it because I’m proud of the fact that I can do that and other exercises.  Like planks and sit ups and a number of other things that I couldn’t do before. I still ride my bike outside too, which I wouldn’t have attempted before the surgery.

In the last five years, because of the weight loss and better fitness, I’ve experienced some wonderful adventures during great vacations. The summer before my surgery when I went to Alaska, I could barely walk a couple of blocks before I would feel my heart pound and gasp for air.  Plus, my entire body hurt.

In the last five years, I’ve been to Hawaii twice where I’ve snorkeled, done snuba, hiked down, across and out of a crater and other cool sites.  I’ve even ziplined.

I’ve gone on a couple of cruises which gave me the opportunity to take long kayak trips, more snorkeling, help race in a sailboat, do hour long line dance lessons and other fun things.

Last August, I spent 10 days in Brazil on a rustic river boat exploring the Amazon. Each day we stepped from the boat into large canoes and then sometimes climbed out of them up river banks. On one memorable day we jumped off them into an enchanted lake and I then had the upper body strength to boost myself up out of the water and back into the canoe.

Before my arthritic knee started to get worse, I even participated in some 5K walks.

By losing so much weight, I’ve enjoyed a countless variety of NSVs – non-scale victories.  Just being able to walk without gasping is a joy. So is fitting comfortably in an airplane seat – even the middle seat – and also being able to buckle the seat belt. Speaking of fitting in seats, one of my closest friends and I spent two days at Universal Studios two years ago. I’d avoided theme parks and rides since 1998 because I just knew I’d be humiliated when I couldn’t close the safety bar. At Universal, we rode all but one of the rides and I never had an issue. I was elated!

Even at home, my life is so much fuller and more able. From Tai Chi to Zumba classes, to the simple activity of functioning better on any given day, I can do so much more – and so much more comfortably.

Emotionally, the last five years have been happier, more joyful, and less dragged down by the constant impact of being a Super Obese person.  Do I still have challenges connected with the never-cured disease of an eating disorder? Yes, and sometimes I can get down. I’m only human and that’s nothing unusual.  Nobody is happy-happy-joy-joy 24/7/365. But there again, things are so much better and healthier. My spirit is lighter.

So, five years out from surgery, life is very grand indeed. I have more adventures I want to take, among them other things like Brazil that I would never have attempted at 386 pounds. I am geared up to get back on the losing track so that I can finally lose the remaining weight and get to goal.

I am so, so happy that I finally had the surgery five years ago. Doing so restored my health and has helped me reclaim my life. Happy Surgiversary to me!



Hunger & Satiety

In the early days post-wls, it was easier to tune into hunger and satiety. My stomach had recently been cut to a third of its size, there were foods I couldn’t tolerate and the area that produced the hunger hormone had been removed. I was rarely hungry to start with and didn’t want much to eat or drink.

Gradually, that changed. My stomach sleeve is still restricted but it has stretched a bit, I’m sure. As I got further away from the surgery and recovery period, I would have done myself a great service if I’d really tuned into my hunger and satiety levels. Instead, I often still just ate until I was a few bites past comfortable.

I’m really working hard on developing my mindfulness around my eating. I did work last fall on exchanging a habit for a new one. Eating mindlessly, particularly while watching television or working on my computer was the habit that I wanted to let go of while I cultivated more awareness at the time of eating.

After the surgery and full liquids period when I started to eat solid food, it was suggested that I eat six times a day – three meals and three smaller snacks – so I could get in the proper amount of protein and other nutrients. I kept up that pattern out of habit. I believe now that I trained my body to eat by the clock instead of really noticing and eating according to true hunger cues.

So, I’m trying to retrain myself. I still pack the snacks to have during the day, but if I’m not truly hungry at 10 a.m., which was my regular mid-morning snack time, then I don’t eat. I wait until I’m actually hungry – but not starving – at lunch time and eat that meal. Same thing in the afternoon. I check in with myself to see if I really want food at 3 p.m. Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. Keeping up with my daily water intake often helps. Dehydration can masquerade as hunger.

At my actual meals, I prepare and serve myself appropriate portions, still focusing on protein and produce. However, I pay attention instead of letting myself be distracted by external things. I’ve noticed that there have been meals when I was satisfied and comfortably full before everything on my plate was consumed. I could just wait a few minutes and eat some more, but instead I’m trying to stop, pick up my plate and put the remaining food away instead of eating it.

Understanding my own hunger and satiety keeps me on track, that’s for sure!


Feeling Good, if Lazy

I’ve treated myself to an easy, lazy, Sunday. It’s not that I’m sacked out on the couch doing nothing, but I didn’t pack a 100 things into the day either. I slept until 8 a.m. and then spent a leisurely morning with breakfast, the newspaper, and some morning news shows. I’ve been fascinated about coverage of the various Women’s Marches across the country and around the world.

I helped my elderly neighbor with a problem on her cell phone and then invested time in taking care of myself and my recovery. This means that I really thought about the week ahead and my food needs so that I could think about meals and make that important shopping list. These steps are critical to me maintaining a successful effort and sustaining abstinence from compulsive eating and counter-productive food choices.  I also realize that following this process alleviates stress. When I make the plans ahead of time, I then don’t spend a lot of additional time thinking about food, wondering what to eat and when and fussing about the choices. I definitely notice a difference in my attitude and emotions. I’m much more relaxed.

I got everything I needed from the supermarket. With that chore out the way, I did some Tai Chi, and am now sort of chilling before doing another chore or two. I’m soon going to start a bathroom remodeling project, so it would be good to start storing some extra towels and things to clear out the room that’s going to be torn apart. Eventually I’ll also do laundry.

There’s a lot of benefit to a day that isn’t overscheduled. There’s time to get things done and time to relax too. We all need that some days. I hope you’re having one too.


Leave a comment »

Marching, Activism, and Feeling the Burn

My day started with Tai Chi class. When we did a full set at the end of class, I felt so balanced and stable, even when balancing on my right knee. Over the last two years, that knee’s condition has worsened. It isn’t as strong and it is less stable, which really contributes to my decision to get it replaced in March. I can’t wait to get it done, complete my rehabilitation and move forward with greater strength and a lot less pain.

After class, I went to Key West with a couple of co-workers/friends to join the Woman’s March. Yes, even here in the laid back Florida Keys, we wanted to rally and have our voices heard.  I’m not going to get all political; that’s not the purpose of the blog. Plus, frankly, I’m tired of talking about it, or hearing about it, all of the time.

All I will say was that the rally was peaceful and uplifting. It was a true boost to the spirit. We walked up Duval Street, pretty  much Key West’s best known street, from on end to the other, carrying signs, waving at people, and occasionally chanting positive messages. There’s been an overload of negativity lately, so being part of this experience was simply an amazing antidote.

I was a little young to be truly active in the peace and anti-war rallies of the 60s. I remember marching and shouting against the Vietnam War in some little protest once in our home area but it was seriously a small affair.  Another time, when my friends and I were around 11 or 12 we picketed City Hall over a proposed ordinance to stop letting dogs go on the beach in the off season. We walked around with signs and dogs, including a small one in a wagon filled with sand.  My family’s dogs were at my grandparents, so I actually borrowed my next-door-neighbors’ dog. I’m not sure if we actually influenced the city government to not pass that ordinance, but I’m sure we entertained the City employees and the local police with our earnestness and signs. Someone called and told my parents. (We had not pre-informed our folks of our intentions.) Dad could barely keep a straight face when he asked me about it that night. Great memory!

I can tell you that civil marches and activism were easier on my body back then. Duval Street is about a mile and a quarter in length, plus we logged additional distance going from a parking lot to the starting point, then stood for an hour before the march began. Duval Street isn’t that wide and there were a lot of participants so we filled the street. (Hoping to get a credible estimate of the number of marchers. Edited to add: Event organizers say we were 3200 strong. That’s a big number for a relatively small town!) The pace was leisurely, but Woman’s Stroll just doesn’t have the same impact as March. Still, it’s a good indication of how bad my knee has gotten that the pace and distance really affected me. By the time we finished, I was feeling the burn as my knee throbbed and felt swollen. I was more than happy when my friends suggested we catch a cab back to the car rather than log another mile on our feet.

We went out for an early dinner after the event and then came home. As soon as I entered the house, I apologized to Nat because there was no way I was taking him out for a walk. He was happy to go out in the yard as long as I served him his dinner right after. After mixing up his bowl, I quickly swallowed two OTC pain relievers , grabbed an ice pack and sat on the couch with my leg elevated. It feels much better than it did a few hours ago, and the residual throbbing will pass.

After so many years of sedentary life pre-weight loss surgery, and then the last five years of becoming more fit and enjoying so many physical activities, I don’t like these reminders that I am hampered in any way. I think the thought of my knee getting worse and worse – to the point where I’d have to start giving up more activities, is what really pushed me over the edge to making the surgery decision. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I start to think, “No, I can’t do that.” Now and forever when something comes up that I want to participate in, I always want my answer to be, “Yes I can!”


Leave a comment »