Weighty Matters

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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.

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Not Eating Over Emotions

Pyxi, one of my precious dogs, is sick.  We battled a nasty bladder infection for several weeks that involved e-coli and required strong antibiotics.  In the course of the infection and the treatment, her kidneys suffered damage.  I noticed her not eating as much – maybe half her daily amount, if that – and she was losing weight.  She had less energy and enthusiasm about taking walks.  Although she’d always take a treat and was excited to see me and cuddle, overall I knew that she was off.  When we went for the followup appointment to verify that the infection was gone, the vet ordered a full blood panel, did another thorough physical exam, rechecked the digital x-rays, etc.  The blood test showed elevated numbers in key things that indicated the kidney damage.  Her kidneys were functioning at about 60%.  The vet prescribed a low protein diet which we followed scrupulously.  She responded by eating more and showing a definite preference for cooked brown rice, pasta, and cooked chicken breast.

I was positive she was getting better so when we checked her weight and blood levels again and found out that her numbers were worse, it really hit me hard.  Overall she continued to eat better and seemed more bright-eyed and energetic, but those damned blood numbers.   The vet put her on a capsule to bind ammonia which reduces the work the kidneys have to do.  I’m monitoring her to see if she gets more lethargic or starts to get sick to her stomach more often or, in general, shows signs of her conditioning rapidly worsening.

I am a wreck.  There is a whole smorgasbord of emotions going on inside me right now. I’m scared, sad, upset, stressed, worried.   Her kidneys might not regain full function, but if that’s the case there are things we can do to sustain her and allow her to continue with a good quality of life.  The most terrifying scenario is if her health continues to worsen.  The mere thought of her declining into full renal failure is more than I can stand to think about right now.

It is difficult for me to focus, but I have to in order to function, so I’m doing it.  When my mind wanders, the emotions well up again and I cry.   I don’t like crying.  I particularly don’t want to do it at home in front of Pyxi.  Our dogs are so keyed into us.  If she senses my upset, she’ll get upset.  She needs my positive energy.

So here comes the dilemma for someone who has an eating disorder for whom emotional eating has always been a coping mechanism.  Not a particularly effective coping mechanism, but it was the one that I had at my disposal.  Stuffing down the emotions with food seemed to enable me to deal.  (Even though that’s not really dealing, I know.)

How do I not eat over my emotions?  It is imperative that I not seek refuge in food and use bingeing of calories or carbs to take the edge off of my upset.

Here’s what I’ve done so far today.  I talked about the situation in my regular acupuncture appointment so that the practitioner could help with my stress channels.  I’m being very careful to continue to write down my food plan and commit to my abstinence from compulsive eating.  If it isn’t on the plan, it doesn’t go into my mouth.  Stress can create stomach acid and for me and many other bariatric patients, stomach acid can sometimes feel like hunger.  For me, keeping hydrated helps.  Maybe flushing water through my stomach not only creates a feeling of fullness but dilutes the ability of stomach acid to form.  I don’t know, but it works, so I’m sticking to it.

Mentally and emotionally, I’m doing my best to rehearse a positive attitude and outlook.  I’m embracing hope that she will improve in the next two weeks or, if not improve, at least hold steady.  She’s a spirited little girl and together with her vet we will fight to help her get well.

Me eating over the emotions is not going to help the situation.  It will only make me feel worse.  The temporary distraction or mock-relief I get from eating crap or eating too much is not a positive action.

Taking good care of myself in this crisis ultimately helps me take better care of Pyxi.