Weighty Matters

Just another WordPress.com site

The Non-Diet Mentality

Life is still super stressful.  I’m feeling a little piled-on at the moment, experiencing more than the usual amount of stress both at work and in my personal life.  I’ve been getting headaches over it and on any given night could wake up around 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. and not be able to fall back asleep for a few hours.  It sucks.  Plain and simple.   You know the people and internet memes that tout how it’s up to us to choose our attitude?  Trust me.  I am all about being positive and upbeat.  So, a good attitude would definitely be my choice – if I could find one.  I’m going to keep looking.  Honest.  I can feel the stress affecting me not only emotionally and mentally, but also physically.

So, really, I am doing my best to counteract the negativity.  When my head starts to pound and I can practically feel my blood pressure rising, I focus on deep, calming, breathing.  I take walks and do Tai Chi.  When stress thoughts begin to repeat in my head like hyped-up hamsters on an endless wheel (what I believe psychiatrists refer to as inefficient worrying), and disturb my sleep, I pick up a book to read for a little while rather than toss, turn and keep thinking the thoughts.

I practice being grateful.  I also keep repeating the Serenity Prayer.  I have a full cache of techniques and tools and am doing my best to employ them effectively.  When all else fails, I simply remember that the stress won’t last forever and this is not the worst time of my life – not anywhere close.  In the grand scheme of things, these fall somewhere in the “small stuff” category — or at least the “medium stuff” — and I can handle them.

One of the positives that I acknowledge and celebrate is that I’m not eating over the stress.  Actually, I’m doing far better following the Always Hungry food plan of low refined and white carbs/low sugar but full fat and protein than I ever thought possible.  I don’t have physical cravings and am not dancing on a micro-thin ledge where a slight push could have me jumping into compulsion or binge eating on crap foods.

It really is a sensible, workable food plan in my life.  I never thought I’d say that about a low-carb plan.

I should point out that my weight loss has not been fast, significant nor steady.  When I first started phase one of Always Hungry?, I lost 11 pounds in two weeks.  Then I put on three of the pounds when I went to phase two.  I went back to phase one with occasional whole grains and didn’t lose anything for weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I lost the three pounds I’d regained, then stalled again.  This week I dropped another two.  (At least as of today.)

The lack of consistent weight loss has been frustrating.  I crave instant gratification and rapid loss.  There’s a lesson in this for me and I am cautiously optimistic that I am finally learning to give up the diet mindset and embrace a non-diet mentality.  Doing that was an important part of when I first experienced recovery many, many years ago in OA.  It is important that I remember, and positively reinforce, myself for the daily effort of eating according to my plan; that I find joy in making good, healthy food choices.

Most of the time, I really am jazzed that I seek out fresh, good food instead of chowing down on processed stuff.  I take time to acknowledge when I make good choices.  Earlier today I had a Chamber of Commerce luncheon to go to.  The restaurant featured a salad bar and a series of buffet items.  There were plenty of things I could have loaded on my plate.  Instead I fixed a nice salad with fresh ingredients that weren’t carb or sugar-laden.  I bypassed the rice at the buffet and picked some sauteed vegetables and a little bit of the shredded meat.  The ciabatta rolls looked great but I walked right by them to my table.  Skipped the dessert offering too.  Everything I consumed was right in line with my food plan.  That was the NSV, the non-scale victory.  Even faced with the opportunity of non-plan foods, I chose to eat according to plan.  At no time did I feel deprived or like I was eating diet food.  I wasn’t dieting at lunch, per se.  I was just eating lunch period.

This is the mentality that I will continue to foster.   I know that I’m also on the mark with my portion sizes and striking the balance between healthy carbs, protein and fat.  As long as I continue to follow this approach, eventually I’ll lose more weight.  The journey might be slow, but I can hopefully condition myself to accept that too.

There have been a lot of stories in the news about this study done with contestants from a season of The Biggest Loser.  All or most of them have regained most of the weight that they lost while on that program.  There were also very discouraging claims that our body fights to get back to the number we weighed before we dieted.  Dr. Ludwig, who created the Always Hungry? plan offers hope that it doesn’t have to be that way.  That this plan does indeed help us conquer cravings, retrain our fat cells and lose weight permanently.  For today, I’m taking it on faith that he’s right.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

A Welcome Serenity

I don’t know whether it’s difficult for me to describe what it’s like when my eating disorder is raging out of control, or if it’s just nearly impossible for someone else to understand if they’ve never been in the grips of a compulsion.  When things are bad, my mind is almost always focused on food and eating.  If I’m around food, then all I want to do is eat it.  I may make trip after trip after trip to the kitchen or, if there isn’t enough food in the house, get in the car and drive to hunt down something more to eat.  It’s like I have a beast in my head whose hunger can’t be satisfied.

That could very well be because I’m not usually experiencing actual physical hunger.

So all that emotional and mental trauma goes on and creates a variety of negative, uncomfortable conditions.  When I eat compulsively, I eat too much — to the point of true physical discomfort.  This point is reached one hell of a lot sooner than before I had weight loss surgery.  However, I have reached it when losing the struggle against the compulsion.  I was never bulimic with a cycle of binge eating and then purging.  Soon after the surgery, I learned what it physically felt like.  Even though I wasn’t overeating, while my body readjusted to eating different foods and I began to learn what size portions I could handle, I threw up a lot.  Physically, it is no fun at all.

However, even more than the discomfort, the mental and emotional effects of the eating disorder are devastating.  They’re exhausting and depressing.  They compromise my confidence and distort the way that I feel about myself and my life.

Add all this up and one would naturally wonder why anyone would live like that.  Why would someone willingly continue engaging in the behaviors that create such a painful, upsetting reality?  The short answer is that sometimes we just can’t stop.  The disease is cunning, baffling and powerful.  Sometimes it is stronger than I am.

And sometimes, like right now, I’m stronger.  I get to experience days when I’m not harassed by the disorder, when I live my life without having to constantly beat back the compulsive beast.  When I’m not turning to food for comfort or as a coping mechanism.

Right now, all three aspects of recovery are aligned and working as a team.  The Always Hungry? food plan with its percentages of protein, fat and carbs is delivering its promise of greater satiety and alleviated cravings.  I’m using the tools of my 12 Step program, committing to abstinence, planning and preparing my meals, and everything else.  I’m trying to reduce the focus on weight loss and keep it on working the program to strengthen my foundation and stabilize my recovery.

As a result, I feel so much healthier in my mind, my spirit and my body.  For today, I’m living life in the grace of a welcome serenity.

 

 

Leave a comment »

Never an Expert

I’m not an expert about eating disorders or weight loss surgery, nor do I ever want to portray one on this blog.  One of the things that I always liked about OA is that nobody portrays themselves as experts or gives advice.  (At least, nobody is supposed to.)  We share about our own experiences — good, bad, or down the middle.

I’ve joined a couple of closed groups on Facebook.  One is for Compulsive Overeaters.  It is not an OA group, but many of the regular posters are in program.  The other group is for people who are following the Always Hungry? plan.  Nearly every day, I see people come to the groups who are newcomers and hope to find answers.

I can see myself in those people.  When I first went to OA, even though I was familiar with 12 Step programs through my mom, part of me still held onto the hope that somebody would give me the magic answer that would solve all of my problems; the magic that would “cure” me.

No such magic exists because there is no cure for this eating disorder or any addictive disease.  We’re never recovered.   Instead, we are always seeking to be recovering.  If I answer a question or say anything at all about the struggle and what I do or have done, it’s never with the idea of, “This is how you do it”.  No, it’s definitely, “This is how I do it” or “This is what I’ve done” or “This is what I’ve discovered in myself”.

What happens with me might not happen to the next person.  Definitely, there are commonalities among many people, but we aren’t carbon copies of each other.  How my eating disorder manifests in me could be completely different than the person sitting next to me, so my recovery, what and how I need to do it, will be different.

It’s good for me to remember this as I participate more often in these online groups.  I can see where some people appear to relish a role of more prominence and voice their opinions of what someone else needs to do.  That kind of grates on me, particular when someone is talking to or answering me.

I might be an expert on myself, but never on anyone else.  I want to always respect other people and what they experience and live with.  If something that I share about resonates with somebody else, that’s one thing.  I know that over the years, I have learned a great deal from others who share openly and honestly about themselves.  That’s what works for me and, I hope, what works for others.

Leave a comment »

Avoiding Cheat Guilt

It will come as no surprise to regular or long term blog readers that I have a large and varied supply of different issues about food, eating, dieting, weight loss and having an eating disorder.  I’ve come a long way over the years but that doesn’t mean, for me, that the issues every go away.  I simply learn, or hope to learn, effective coping mechanisms so that the issues don’t screw me up and harpoon my positive effort.

Today what’s coming up for me is combating the feelings that I’m being “bad” on a diet, that I’m cheating, every time I eat some sort of whole fat or otherwise fat food item on this Always Hungry? plan.  Whole milk, whole milk yogurt, full fat cheese, eggs, nuts and nut butters (without added sugar) are absolutely allowed and are an important part of this food plan.  Take this morning, for example.  I prepared the book’s recipe again for non-grain pancakes.  (Did I talk about these last week?  I forget.  Bear with me anyway.)  They are made with garbanza bean flour, whole milk Greek yogurt, whole milk, an egg, and safflower oil.  (If any of you need to avoid gluten and you haven’t tried garbanza bean flour, it’s a revelation.  I want to find other recipes that use it, just because I think it’s tasty.)

These pancakes are delicious just as they are.  However, in lieu of syrup on Phase I, I topped mine with homemade whipped cream and a fruit sauce.  All kinds of awesome yumminess happening on that breakfast plate, my friends.  Great flavor, texture, mouth feel and, after, satiety.

However, even with that positive experience, I could not stop the thoughts that the meal was too decadent, that I was cheating.  I was eating full fat dairy.  My mental process kept trying to tell me this was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I stopped mid-way, put down the fork, and had a talk with myself.  It comes down to being willing to trust this AH plan with its process and the science behind it and be confident that I am not being “bad” or doing damage to myself.  Ultimately, I need to believe that the plan is helping me reach the goals of retraining my fat cells and losing weight.

Clearly the plan is working.  I will confess that I still have difficulty staying away from the scale and am weighing myself almost every day.  However, seeing steady results is at least turning out to be a tool to combat the feelings that I’m screwing up and cheating every time I eat some whole fat food.  (By the way, I’m down 11 pounds today.)

So, how can I stop the negative thoughts and worries from creeping in?  Here’s what I’m going to try.  Remember when I talked about the book’s recommendation that participants designate an amulet to help them refocus on their goals and Big Why?  I use the “Strong is the New Skinny” bracelet my friend gave me.   When I’ve been tempted to eat something not on the plan, it honestly has helped me to look at and tap the bracelet.  I figure if the tool has worked in that way, I could use it for this, too.  My thought is that it will create an atmosphere of even greater mindfulness.  When a negative thought about what I’m eating creeps in, I’m going to tap my bracelet and remind myself that I’m on track with the program and food plan.

 

Leave a comment »

If Only There Was a Switch

My sister-in-law and I were recently chatting on the phone and I shared that I was trying this new to me food plan approach.  We talked about it for a while and I discussed what I like and don’t like about it.  The conversation then moved into exercise.  She was a dedicated spinner for a long time and combined it with a popular commercial food plan.  This resulted in significant weight loss.  More recently, she hasn’t exercised with that intensity for a while and said that she’s regained weight.

There are evenings when she knows she “should” go to the gym, she said, but she doesn’t.  “If only there was a switch that we could turn on and off,” she wished.  I know exactly how she feels.  I’ve had that same wish all of my life.  I’ll go great guns on a new plan or program and then one day it’s like someone flicked the motivation switch to the “Off” position and cut the power.  It’s not so easy to click the switch back on!

That’s why I live in fear of those moments arriving.  Sometimes I know that they’re triggered by a crisis; other times I don’t have a clue.  I think this experience led to me finally understanding that losing weight is not a matter of willpower.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve willed myself to make the good choices and told myself what I wanted to do – at least in my mind – but the juice wasn’t there to motivate me to put the desires into action.

As a result of a lifetime of previous experience, I no longer get cocky about my chances of maintaining a program, a food plan and a weight loss long term.  As determined as I can be in my heart that this time it will be different, an eating disorder is an insidious, controlling, and powerful opponent.

I honestly believe this is why 12 Step Programs advocate one day at a time.  It keeps me present in my efforts today and hopefully leads to me fostering continued self-awareness.  I work to not project into the future about the number of pounds I’ll lose, but focus on my preparations, plan and execution of same just for today.

If the only day that matters is the one that I’m in, then perhaps I no longer need to even think about the motivation switch and what happens if it shuts off.  I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and abstain from compulsive eating for today.  I only need to commit to the planned-for exercise session for today.  Then I need to honor those commitments.  One. Day. At. A. Time.

Speaking of my food plan, I have one more day to go to hit the two week mark.  I’m amazed and thrilled that I’ve abstained from processed grain and refined sugar products each day of the last two weeks.  While I have not been able to cook every recipe and eat the exact meals outlined in the book, I’ve made some of them.  On the meals where I’m not eating one of the book’s recipes, I’m following the proper percentages of protein, full fat, and carbohydrates.  I feel great about my daily efforts and adherence to the plan.  I’ve lost at least nine pounds, which is a happy bonus.

Week Three transitions me to Phase 2 which allows some whole grains and starchy veggies to make small appearances in the plan, along with honey and maple syrup.  It still recommends not eating white potatoes, white rice, or breads and other products made with white or whole wheat flour.  I’m honestly good with this still.  In keeping with what I said earlier in this post, I’m not projecting for how long I’ll be able to keep this up.  I’d like to think the answer is “for as long as I need to”.  Instead, I’m just focused and prepped for tomorrow.  That’s my “switch”.

*******************************

I have to admit that I had a little “wow” moment a couple of days ago.  I received the notification that Dr. Ludwig, the doctor who devised the Always Hungry? plan and wrote the book, left a comment on my March 1st post.  Maybe my blog popped up on his Google Alerts. Anyway, it’s nice that he stopped in and took the time to wish me well.

Leave a comment »

Day 7 – Abstaining

Today is Day 7 of the first week of this plan that I’m following.  I’ve made it so far without any refined sugar (except that little bit in the occasional bite of dark chocolate that the plan allows) and without any processed grains.  Honestly, I’m pretty amazed.  I’ve resisted even the lightest coating of bread crumbs or a single crouton on a Caesar Salad.  I’ve passed up cookies and even chocolate that was less than 70% cacao.  In short, I’ve been abstinent of the substances that I declared I wouldn’t eat.

I’ve keyed in on my satiety, hunger and any cravings.  If I’ve craved something with a truly physical motivation, as opposed to an emotional craving, I’ve chosen to eat something from the plan, as suggested.  Nuts, veggies, hummus, even a small piece of fruit, are all part of the program.  I can eat them, remain abstinent, and also know that they are healthier choices overall.

I’ve been willing to try foods that I don’t normally eat, like tofu which I used in a black bean-tofu hash.  (Recipe in the book.)  It was delicious.  I bought some more tofu to use in other meals.  I’ve finally realized, after many years, that tofu will provide a great extra protein source for me.  This morning for breakfast, I followed the book’s recipe for gluten-free/grain-free pancakes.  They’re made with garbanza bean flour, egg, Greek yogurt, and milk (soy, almond, cow, whichever I want), along with salt, baking soda, vanilla and oil.  The whole garbanza bean flour thing to me initially seemed odd and I admit I was skeptical.

Happy to report that these pancakes were flat out delicious!  Seriously, yummy.  Oh, and I ate them without maple syrup but with peaches and some fresh whipped cream.  I think this week there are recipes that call for more of the flour for thickening a sauce, for example.  It’s a new staple in my pantry, for sure.

Abstinence for me isn’t just refraining from specific food items.  I also need to not go into the behavior of compulsive eating or binging.  That’s where paying attention to why I crave something matters, and then how much I eat if I’m physically hungry.  I’m getting in touch again with my stomach and feelings of fullness.  Learning how much is enough and when another bite or two is going to push me over into belly pressure and uncomfortableness.

The emotional waves have swelled and ebbed.  I’m doing my best to cleanly surf them and not wipe out.  Looking back, having that meltdown Tuesday night was helpful because it led me to identify what I was experiencing.  I had a few other intensely emotional incidences over the week, but knowledge and awareness helped me remember what was going on.  Sometimes I just let myself feel them until they passed; other times I shook myself out of them as appropriate.

The plan recommends reducing regular physical regimens for the first week.  I’m not 100% clear why, but I followed the instruction.  I did both Tai Chi classes but only rowed once.  The book does advocate a few minutes of “joyful movement” morning and night, so I stretch and do some additional Tai Chi at home as usual.  It also suggests short walks after each meal, so Nat and I have been out and about.

That’s the week’s summary.  All in all, it’s important for me to look back and reflect on the program and my commitment to following it.  I’m reviewing the chapters in the book and making my shopping list so that I have the foods in house to prepare.  That’s so key to me being able to succeed – prepping ahead of time for meals.  I also look at the suggested meals and know when I need to substitute something because of my schedule.  For example, on a day that I row, I don’t have time when I get home to make a frittata.  I have to shower, get dressed and get to work on time.  So on those days, I make a power smoothie or yogurt and fruit that I can bring with me and eat at work.  There are a couple of nights when I won’t be home to cook, so I’m substituting in leftovers from a previous meal.

I have another week of Phase One with no grains and no refined sugar.  I’m ready and committed to doing it one day at a time.

Oh, by the way, I jumped on the scale this morning.  (Yes, I almost made it until tomorrow.)  I’ve lost eight pounds.  Even figuring some of that is water weight, it’s the first significant weight loss that I’ve seen in a while.  I am cautiously optimistic that the program and my efforts are achieving what the book said it would… retraining my fat cells to give up the calories instead of hoarding them.  Fingers crossed!

 

5 Comments »

No Grains, No Sugar

I’m on a two week endeavor to abstain from eating processed grain and refined sugar products.  As I shared in my previous post, I’m involved in a plan created by an endocrinologist/weight loss/nutrition researcher named Dr. David Ludwig.  The book is Always Hungry?  I’ve suspected for a long time that my metabolism is screwed up thanks to years of binge eating disorder, yo-yo dieting, my now post-menopausal self, etc.  The first two years after my weight loss surgery, it feels like all I had to do was think about losing weight and the pounds evaporated from my body.  The last two years have been much more of a struggle.

When I struggle, I do so on various levels.  There’s the whole frustration of working really hard to follow my food plan but then not seeing results.  Plus there’s the whole daily struggle that I have simple dealing with an eating disorder.  There is no cure for an eating disorder.  It will always be part of my life.  However, I have a program and tools that help me cope with it.  Sadly, however, when my physical body does not cooperate, it messes with my head a lot and that makes it much more challenging for me to work my tools and stay on track.  Vicious cycle.

Anyway, when I heard about this book and read it, pretty much all of what he said made sense to me about our body chemistry, insulin production, how our fat cells function and react to different types of food and diets, etc.  After a lifetime of trying every possible diet and nutrition plan – including some that, in retrospect, were incredibly unhealthy or just plain whacko, I don’t choose to try something new or unfamiliar without a lot of careful thought.  So, I really considered this plan long and hard before making a commitment.

This might come out sounding stupid, but I’ll share it any way.  One of the selling points for me on this plan was the fact that I can still eat fruit, nuts, beans and legumes.  For me there is a fine line between when a plan is restrictive to the point of impossibility and when it offers me enough variety to maintain my sanity and still enjoy what I’m eating.

A couple of years ago when my post-surgery progress began to slow, I’d go to my monthly doctor’s appointments and talk about what I was doing or trying to do.  The surgeon was very cut and dried.  On one memorable appointment, he said, “Cut your calories by 25%, increase your exercise.  Don’t eat any carbs or fruit.”

That effectively would have meant that I restricted myself to between 600 and 750 calories a day with very little variety in my daily food.  I was pretty freaked out by the suggestion, and when I freak out like that, I tend to want to console and calm myself with a hot fudge sundae.

There are other very low carb/high protein/high fat plans around that also restrict you on starchy vegetables and most fruits.  I’ve never tried one before.  This plan takes a different approach.

For the first two weeks, Phase 1, it asks one to stay away from grains, starchy vegetables, and tropical fruits.  It also restricts refined sugars (even honey or maple syrup, and sweeteners) with the wonderful exception of the small amount of sugar contained in good quality dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao.  Yep, I can eat small amounts of dark chocolate on this plan.  That enough could save my sanity along with still being able to eat berries, apples, peaches and the like.

After the first two weeks, I can add back in some whole grain products and additional vegetables and tropical fruits.  Basically, the doctor recommends keeping away from white flour products (bread, pasta, cookies, etc.), white rice, white potatoes.

The doctor maintains that the full fat foods help balance out the body’s reactions and also lead to increased satiety, reduced cravings, more stable insulin production, etc.

Starting yesterday, I began the program.  So far, so good.  Let me tell you, I savored last night’s dessert of berries and a half ounce of dark chocolate.  I’m trying to be aware of any cravings.  A volunteer delivered pastries to every department this morning.  Every time I walk into the kitchen, I see them.  If I get the urge, I tap my bracelet and remember why I’m making this effort.

The biggest challenge for me so far is that he advocates preparing a lot of different foods and supplies recipes that fit the plan.  Honestly, I don’t have time to cook so many things, or to cook every night after work.  So, I’m learning to adjust and focus on the key elements – making sure I have quality protein at every meal or snack, and that each meal includes fats and carbs.  Those last two areas are unfamiliar but I’m not freaking out over them.  I want to see how and if this approach works.  In order to do that, I need to commit and follow the suggestions.  I’m doing my best.

3 Comments »