Please Stop Whining: Time For Tough Love

I’m going to be really honest here: I have no time for whiners. One of the common situations on My 600 lbs Life is the patient crying over their “helpless” lifestyle or whining about how Dr. Nowzaradan ‘doesn’t understand [my] situation.’ Neither evokes any sympathy from me. It’s not that I’m heartless or that I don’t understand. Having been 438+ lbs with arthritis in both knees, lower back issues and some other health problems, yes, I understand feeling utterly helpless and alone in the face of problems which you created. Having also been told by an arrogant bariatric surgeon that I have plenty of time to exercise, yes, I walked out that b*stard’s office and never returned. I assure you: I know what it feels like to be alone, misunderstood, overwhelmed and helpless.

However, those feelings of helplessness and being utterly alone are the problem; they are not the solution! After I left that jerk of a bariatric surgeon’s office, even though I never went back to see him, that doesn’t mean that I stopped looking for a solution for my obesity.  It just means I found something else! Unfortunately, too many of us hit roadblocks and obstacles that might at first glance seem insurmountable (or even take a few tries to get over them) and we give up instead of trying to get over them or find a way around them.

For me, the idea of exercising at 438+ was just a stupid idea.  For starters, my schedule would have me exercising at 5:00 a.m. or earlier or 8:00 p.m. or later, and at a time in my life when falling asleep on my daily commute was a very real danger, that was an idiotic idea, even without the pain from using a treadmill, which is what I would have tried doing.  “Hmm, let’s take more time away from sleeping and cram in some painful exercise, so I can be in more pain and more exhausted when I get in the car to drive for two hours!” Can we say “not a good idea?” Don’t get me wrong: exercise is a great thing and when you are getting enough sleep and you aren’t hurting yourself, it can really add to your energy level and helps with mental clarity as well.  But the caveats are there: you need to be healthy enough to exercise otherwise you are just adding stress and damage to your body! That’s what the doofus of a bariatric surgeon wasn’t understanding: after meeting with me for fifteen minutes max, he felt he knew me and my lifestyle well enough to pronounce that I had plenty of time to exercise!

I realize that in a lot of ways, I am sounding exactly like Dr. Now’s whiny patients! “He doesn’t understand my situation!” Truthfully, maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but the bottom line is instead of trying to help me find any kind of solution, he made a blanket proclamation and that was the end of it. Dr. Nowzaradan will send a physical therapist or offer some kind of assistance to help his patients move forward. He also does a more comprehensive physical exam than the jerk I saw, who didn’t know that I had arthritis in both knees because I didn’t know I had arthritis in both knees and he didn’t even do an x-ray to find out!

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of being helpless and misunderstood, and then we compound the problem by continuing to justify how helpless we are and how no one understands us. It makes us feel vindicated in someway.  What we don’t realize is that when we do that, we are essentially walling ourselves up in our excuses and reasons why we can’t get over whatever obstacle is in our way.  It reminds me of a scene from an old little-known movie that I loved when I was kid: Support Your Local Sheriff with James Garner, Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern. It was a comedy-western in which James Garner falls into the job of sheriff at a boomtown which is so new that the jail has no bars on the cells.  Bruce Dern, the son of local bully Walter Brennan who runs the town, is arrested and thrown in the barless jail and tricked into staying there until the bars are installed on the walls and windows.  When his dad and brothers try pulling out the bars on the window, Dern tells him that it won’t work- the bars are too well set into the cement, and when they comically fall off their horses, Dern tells them “I told you so!” Brennan snaps that how would a nitwit like him know the bars are set in so good, and Dern smugly tells him “Because I helped put them in!” The joke is that Bruce Dern’s character literally imprisoned himself in that jail, but all he sees is that he was right and his dad was wrong.

We do this when we justify why we can’t exercise or why we can’t lose weight or why no one can help us. When we give up and cry, we are keeping ourselves locked in a jail of our own making. We don’t look for a way out or a way around the obstacle because we are so busy finding reasons why we can’t!  We have tunnel vision so all we see is what is in our way rather than looking for any kind of solution. It’s easy to sit here and spout platitudes like “don’t be part of the problem- be part of the solution!” Seriously, platitudes bug me because we hear them all the time and they’ve become part of the background noise that we filter out.  For instance, the idiot surgeon I met with told me “nothing tastes as good as thin feels!” Yeah, except I don’t know how ‘thin feels’ so that little gem means nothing to me! I can sit here and tell you all to ‘be part of the solution!’ but unless you know how to look for that solution or even what a possible solution might be, I might as well tell you to pick up a few snipes while you’re out looking for that solution!

The point is that when we feel the urge to sit and cry or justify why we can’t do whatever, this is where we need to remind ourselves to change our focus.  Instead of telling people “I’ve got arthritis in both knees, a pin in one, screws in one wrist and bone spurs and degenerative disc disease in my back so I can’t exercise!,” find an exercise or some kind of activity that you can do!  In my case, using a treadmill will only aggravate those problems for me, but using a pool doesn’t, so I use the pool. I’ve got a rotator cuff that bothers me when I do certain exercises in the pool, so I modify those exercises when we do them in class.  I don’t not do them: I find a way around the obstacle!  It takes a little practice to remind yourself to stop the whining and justifications and find the way over or around the problem. Honestly, it’s even okay if you want to have a little tantrum/ pity party for a few moments before you go looking for your solution (I’ve been known to have some real beauts!)  Ultimately, it’s all your own choice: you can find a way out of that jail you made for yourself, or you can help put the bars in!

Planning to Fail: Making It Harder Than It Has to Be

We have all failed at weight loss at least once.  If you’re like me, you’ve been failing at it all your life! For most of us, obviously, this is unplanned but oddly enough, there are some people who plan to fail.

Most of us who go into the weight loss arena seriously want to succeed; we want to be slimmer, more fit, less tired and just generally look and feel better.  We unwittingly sabotage ourselves by creating plans and menus that just make it harder than it needs to be.  If you’re like me, you’re in a hurry to reach your goal weight so everyone, outta my way! It’s in our rush to “do everything! and do it now!” that we pile on too many changes, drastically re-structure our eating plans and overschedule ourselves with exercise.  We’ve made it harder than it needs to be by trying to go from zero to 150 in ten seconds or less!  Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) likens this to pulling onto the freeway, gunning your car’s engine with the parking brake on.  It’s a good analogy: we want to go as fast as we can but with the parking brake on, all we are doing is burning out our engine and increasing our frustration.  We get easily discouraged because “we’re doing everything right and not getting anywhere!” This is where most of us throw up our hands and resign ourselves either to being fat or to finding something else.

The ‘finding something else’ may not be the wrong idea, if the ‘do everything now’ method has been your strategy.  You probably have a good sound plan for weight loss; it’s the execution/ implementation that’s the problem.  We usually plan to give up things like sugar, ’empty carbs’ (chips, potatoes, etc) and we plan to drink more water and do more exercise or activity.  Those are all great plans (especially if you include more sleep and stress management) but trying to do all of them at once? That hotel website commercial pops in my head- the one with the guy trying to put on his belt, drink his coffee, shave and read the paper all at once. No one tries to do all those things at once- duhhhh! We can’t! Our hands are full! But when it comes to weight loss, eating better and making other positive changes, we don’t realize that our metaphorical hands are full…. until we start dropping things! Such as missing our workout class/ appointment, giving in to the break room cookies and ‘forgetting’ our healthy lunch so we end up eating out the rest of the crew- again!  We don’t realize it, but we are making this harder than it needs to be. We just hamstrung ourselves and didn’t even know it.

Using the analogy of the guy trying to do everything at once, the answer is obviously we do things one or two at a time.  Hello! Makes sense, right? Brush your teeth then drink your coffee or vice versa but not at the same time! We reject this idea because it… takes … too… long! We don’t want to wait- really who does? But the fact is that we built our bad habits and our extra pounds over time, usually a lifetime, and those habits and pounds take time to come off.  It’s not like we spent a week eating pasta three times a day and dessert seven days a week and then the following week we woke up with an extra twenty or thirty pounds on our butts and bellies! These habits changed little by little over the years and the extra pounds snuck up on us the same way.  The bad news is that now they’re firmly entrenched into our lifestyle and our butts.  The good news is that we can evict them, but like any eviction, it takes some time.  The first good habit we need to learn is patience. If we are as consistent and steady with our new good habits as we were with our old bad ones, we will be successful at weight loss.

This means doing things one at a time: we make one change, do it consistently and when it becomes a habit (as in we do it without really thinking about it), we make another change.  Here’s an example from last night: for the last two years, I’ve been going to water aerobics classes Mondays and Wednesdays.  The only time I haven’t made it to the classes is when the gym is closed or I work late. The biggest changes for me involved in this were #1) remembering my gym bag; and #2) remembering to go to the gym!  I set reminders on my phone to help with both of these.  The danger for me was that I would find a way to talk myself out of going to class: it’s a hassle; it’s cold; I don’t feel good; blah blah blah.  I made myself go anyway and it got easier after I made friends in the class.  Yesterday on my way to the gym, I was tired; it’d been really stressful at work lately; it was cold and rainy; and I realized I was talking myself out of going to class.  I was making excuses and justifications for not going and why it was okay to skip it. In fact, I had ‘decided’ I wasn’t going to go but because it had become a firmly entrenched habit, I found myself pulling into the gym parking lot.  Even though my ‘higher brain’ was arguing with me, my ‘autopilot brain’ drove to the gym anyway: it’s Wednesday so it’s gym night!  Oh, well! I’m here so I might as well work out!

By taking my time doing the same actions over and over, I made a habit of going to the gym and unless I consciously think about stopping myself, I do it anyway. This is how we learn to take our healthy lunch, not put sugar in our coffee, and go to bed at a reasonable hour.  I seriously set reminders on my phone (Alarmed app by Yoctoville-it’s free at iTunes!) and they helped a lot: reminders for packing the gym bag, going to the gym, making my breakfast and lunch, etc.

As for those of us who seriously plan to fail, there’s an entirely different psychology at work there.  These are the people who deliberately set themselves up for failure so they can say “I tried but I can’t do it!” and that’s their excuse for never trying again.  They ‘try to exercise’ but will try something they are reasonably certain is beyond their capabilities without being too outlandish, such as me at 430 lbs trying to run a 5k- just plain crazy! But if I tried something like doing an hour on the treadmill, that’s not crazy but at the same time, I’m pretty certain I would have been in a fair amount of pain afterwards because the impact on the treadmill aggravated the arthritis in my knees.  After 20 minutes, my knees were killing me.  If I had been setting up an excuse as to why I can’t exercise, this would have been good enough for me.  I’d already lost 40 lbs and should have been able to do this, but it hurts too much to exercise! I tried and I can’t do it! This would have been my opportunity to ‘get out of exercising’ because ‘my body can’t handle it!’ Instead, what I did was go to my doctor and ask her why my knees were hurting, which is how I ended up in the pool.  I went looking for an explanation and an alternative instead of choosing the excuse.  For the people who want permission to fail, looking for answers is kryptonite.  They don’t want help. They don’t want to succeed. They want to fail, either because it makes them more helpless and pitiable so they either get more attention and/ or sympathy or they don’t have any responsibility for anything in their lives. They can be overweight and helpless with impunity: they’ve tried to help themselves and they can’t do it.

Obviously some of us have flirted with the edges of this: I ‘tried’ to open this jar and I can’t: “hon, can you get this for me?” I ‘tried’ to prune the rosebushes and they look awful now: “look what happens when you let me do! I can’t do it as well as you!” This isn’t the same thing as those who are looking for excuses and justifications not to change.  Change is hard and uncomfortable and it’s a lot of work.  Positive changes are worth the effort.  We just need to remind ourselves that we are also worth the effort when our brains think of reasons to fail.








Portion Distortion: The Weight Loss Landmine

We’ve all heard about portion distortion when it comes to weight loss.  We go out to eat and look at the food on our plate and even though we know “this is more than one serving,” we usually don’t know how many servings are really there in front of us.  But it’s not just restaurants that do it to us: almost everything we buy has bigger than normal servings now.

At the risk of sounding like my grandma, when I was a kid, we’d buy frozen bagels at the grocery store (fresh bagels weren’t in stores or even bakeries).  The bagel was about the size of an English muffin, maybe a little thicker. Now, a bagel is literally twice the size of those frozen 1970’s bagels! One half of today’s bagel is the size of one of those frozen Lender’s bagels I got as a kid.  When you read the nutrition label on most of these, one serving is half a bagel!

The problem is that most of us don’t really pay attention to the serving size: one bagel = one serving, right? That makes sense, doesn’t it? It does, but that’s not what we’re getting.  Recently, standing in line at the grocery store, I looked at the wrapper on a King Size Payday bar: 150 calories a serving.  Logically, since it was a King Size bar, I thought there were two servings in this bar, but nope! It’s three!  It’s not 300 calories I was holding in my hand; it was 450!

Most of us really hate having to weigh and measure what we eat.  It’s one of the reasons so many of us give up on weight loss (it’s a major hassle) or we’re frustrated because our diet ‘isn’t working’ (because we aren’t weighing/ measuring). We also get lazy when it comes to reading the labels on packaging (another hassle!)  It’s bad enough to read them for calories or fat/ carb content, but then we buy the small package of cottage cheese and assume it’s one serving because it’s so small! But once we look at the amount per serving and number of servings per package, we realize that we just ate two servings of cottage cheese: really?! a half cup is a single serving?! it’s such a small amount!!

It is small to us now, but that’s part of the Portion Distortion landmine.  We know that what we are getting served either in a package or a restaurant is more than one serving: it’s pretty much common knowledge now.  What most of us don’t realize is how many servings there actually are in that package! (Think back to my Payday bar!) So while we acknowledge we’re walking in a mine field, we don’t know how many landmines are actually surrounding us! We think we know how much is a serving (it’s one cup of yogurt, right?) but our inner food scale has been miscalibrated by years of eating more than one serving at each sitting.  We eat the small container of cottage cheese or the whole bagel (or the whole package of M&Ms) and we think it’s one serving, because that’s what we’ve always eaten.  When we go out to restaurant and order a steak with fries and a salad with the salad dressing already on it, we think “okay, that’s more than a serving of steak and probably the fries too, but the salad is probably okay.” Depending on the size of the steak, it might be three servings (it’s 4 oz for steak) so it’s an 8 oz steak, it’s two, but if it’s a 12 oz steak (it’s a better bargain), that’s three.  As for the fries, it can easily be three servings depending on how generous the restaurant is (or if they have ‘bottomless’ fries!) As for the salad, again the serving size might be okay but what’s on it? Cheese? Croutons? Egg? and a serving of salad dressing is 2 tbs and most restaurants put closer to three or four.  FYI: that little cup of dressing for those of us who order it ‘on the side?’ Four!  The only advantage is that we can choose to use only half of it!

Somehow over the last forty-some years, the packages and portions have slowly increased and most of us have lazily gotten used to eating a whole package or close to it. I noticed it first with potato chips.  The ‘small’ bag kept getting bigger, and either we didn’t notice or we didn’t care.  The size of soft drink cups also increased and we kept right on ordering the ‘small’ even though it went from 8 oz to 12 to 16.  About ten years ago I went to the movies with my sister and a friend and we split an extra large soda between the three of us.  No problem because it was- no kidding- a bucket of soda! As in two quarts!!

Because we’re used to eating an entire package or restaurant ‘serving’ at one time, we are conditioned to think it’s okay.  There’s something a little off about saving half a package for later (it doesn’t stay fresh!) and bringing home leftovers from the restaurant is a hassle (the boxes leak!) and as for splitting a plate with a friend at the restaurant? (Please! That’s being cheap!) So rather than ‘be wasteful’ and leave food on the plate or throw it in the trash, we eat it all and feel stuffed…. until we get used to eating it all and then that oversized portion becomes the ‘normal amount.’  This is how one cup of cottage cheese has become a ‘serving’ and an 8 oz steak has become a ‘serving’ and the bagel the size of our face has become a ‘serving!’ Our bellies, our appetites, and- even worse- our perception have all become as distorted as the portions in front of us.

Going back to eating one normal-sized serving feels like we’re cheating ourselves since that ‘normal’ amount feels more like half of what is normally on our plate. It takes some time to adjust our perceptions, bellies and appetites again, but eventually, we get there.  We also don’t have to go from the 12 oz steak straight to the 4 oz either.  There’s no harm in going from 12 to 8 or 6- since it’s still progress! We also need to get used to the idea of either sharing what we’re eating (as in splitting a plate or a sandwich or wrap) or bringing something home. The same goes for only eating a serving and putting the rest in the fridge or pantry (that’s why they make baggies!) FYI: in a lot of places, the ‘child sized’ portion is still pretty close to normal! After years of ordering the ‘medium’ frozen yogurt (a pint!), the child size (4 oz) seemed paltry… until I was with a friend who ordered the medium and OMG! it’s huge! I’m fairly lucky in that I have pets, and I have no qualms with sharing my food with them, provided it’s safe for them.  I’ve also noticed that my pets have better food sense than I do: they don’t eat when they’re not hungry and one of my dogs will fight me for my salad and leave my frozen yogurt alone!

It’s a lot like getting new glasses: the first few days, it feels you’re walking on the rolling deck of a ship, and then one day, you wake up and it’s all normal again. Once we realize that we’ve been seeing isn’t what we think it is, it’s easier to recognize not only that we’re standing on a portion distortion landmine, but how big a bomb it really is!

Don’t Be Good- Be the Best! Weight Loss & ‘Settling’

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to losing weight and/ or getting fit: we settle for good enough.  As in, “the fried chicken really isn’t on my diet plan, but it’s better than the pasta! Ehh, good enough!”; “I did better today than yesterday!” even though we know that yesterday was ‘full of indulgences’ (code for: freakin’ terrible eating!)  We also do it when we go through the motions working out: “hey, I’m here instead of on the sofa!”  We’ve gotten used to the idea of not being perfect and focusing on progress.  Don’t get me wrong: holding out for perfection instead of progress is the second biggest pitfall in weight loss, but there comes a time when Good really isn’t good enough anymore.

It’s like when you learn any new skillset: we either keep improving or we stagnate.  Can you imagine playing Candy Crush and just staying on level four?  “Ehh, level four is better than three!” Imagine telling all of your fellow Candy Crushers that you’re on level four and that’s good enough for you- they’d look at you like you were nuts!  Isn’t getting better at the game the whole point of playing?

The reason this happens so much with weight loss is that- for a while- we lose weight just being good enough.  Being good enough is usually enough improvement that we drop a few pounds and we feel encouraged to keep ‘being good’ but eventually our body adapts and our weight loss hits a plateau.  Usually by that time, we are getting a little tired of being good. It’s that old vicious cycle again: we’ve stopped losing weight, so we’ve stopped being motivated to continue the healthy changes, and the longer we don’t lose weight, the less motivated we are to be better.  In other words, we’re content to stay on level four in Candy Crush!

When it comes to eating healthier and being more active, it really is improvement vs stagnation. If we don’t keep improving, we will level off and stay there- unless we backslide, which is always a danger!  This is what makes weight loss and being active so difficult for us: we have to keep improving if we want to make progress! And for most of us, even though we think we are improving (we’re sure trying!), we’ll still hit that dreaded plateau! It’s frustrating and it’s a pain in the butt and so we settle for being Good Enough by telling ourselves “at least I’m not eating as bad I used to eat!”

But that’s not the point! The point is being as healthy and as active as you want to be! If you can get there- and stay there- by being Good Enough, then congratulations! For most of us, Good Enough isn’t good enough though, and while we’re thrilled that we lost twenty pounds, those last ten pounds are still stuck on our butt! So, we’ve made progress, but we haven’t reached our goal and we’re frustrated and tired of ‘being good,’ especially since we aren’t making any more progress.  For many of us, the thought of having to do more, or rather give up more, is really adding insult to perceived injury. “I stopped eating cookies and chips, lost 20 lbs and now I have to give up fruit/ bread/ pasta?! Oh, hell no!”

We need to stop thinking in terms of Good Enough, as in just doing enough to make a little progress or stay at ‘level four.’  We need to focus on doing our best every day rather than looking down at the finish line at our goal.  Many times our goal is so far away we are tempted to procrastinate, as in “it’s only January. I don’t need to lose weight until Mary’s wedding in June, so I’ve still got time. I can eat these brownies tonight and worry about my diet tomorrow.” Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) calls this Good-Better-Best Thinking.  When we’re faced with choices, either in food or activity, don’t settle for what’s good: formulate a better choice and your best choice, and if your best choice isn’t an option, then ‘settle’ for the better choice instead of just picking the good one. Example: you’re out with friends and the restaurant where you planned on having lunch is too crowded, so your friends opt for a pizza place instead. You had planned on having something healthy at the other place, and now you’re stuck looking at a menu full of pasta, chicken wings, pizza and giant hoagies. So, what’s a good choice? How about having one slice of pizza or just the toppings? What’s a better choice? Maybe having the unbreaded chicken wings and celery? What’s the best choice? Maybe it’s a salad or maybe it’s skipping lunch? Whatever your options are, when you start thinking in terms of good-better-best, it becomes a habit and even if you do choose to settle for good, you are acknowledging that’s what you’re doing. You don’t always have to choose the best, but by formulating your choices, you are paying attention to your actions. For most of us, when we realize we are choosing ‘good enough’ day after day (especially if you are keeping track), it soon becomes apparent why you aren’t making progress towards your goals.

We don’t always have to be The Best or spiral into depression because we ‘blew the day.’ There’s nothing wrong with aiming for perfection or the best choices all the time, but we need to acknowledge that sometimes Perfect or The Best isn’t an option. It also means we shouldn’t settle for Good Enough every time either.  The point is, if The Best isn’t an option, aim for something in the middle ground. Aim for Better before settling for Good. You’ll not only make progress with your goals, you’ll likely get off level four too!

Naysayers, Beware! Dodging Negativity in Weight Loss

One of my favorite songs is “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, partly because it’s just a fun song, but also because it reminds me and the rest of us that we are the ones who most often get in our own way.  We make plans and resolutions but when it comes time to put our money where our mouth is, we bail.  Seriously, we chicken out- it’s too hard; those cupcakes look so good; I forgot, blah, blah, blah! End result: we’ll do better tomorrow… until it’s tomorrow!! Second verse, same as the first! Eventually, we give up: this is just too hard; I’m destined to be fat; obesity is in my genes; excuse, excuse!

Most of this is negative attitude and it’s compounded by poor planning.  The negative attitude comes from always looking at ‘what’s hard.’  As with all our other good intentions, we trade what we want in the future for what we want now.  As in: losing twenty pounds by summertime vs those red velvet cupcakes at the party.  For most of us, it begins with bargaining (I’ll just have two bites of the cupcake; oops! make that three bites of the cupcake; umm, half??; one cupcake isn’t too bad) and from there, we fall victim to the negativity.  We dump on ourselves for eating a cupcake: We’ve ruined the day! Why do we always give in? Why can’t I be stronger/ stay focused? I’m never going to lose this twenty pounds, so I might as well east all the dang cupcakes I want!

This negative “I can’t do this” attitude is the biggest obstacle for most of us and not only in weight loss.  We’ve heard all the little aphorisms: “get out of your own way”; “be part of the solution, not part of the problem”; “your actions follow your attitude,” etc.  Those are all true but do we know what they mean and how to make them work for us? Not really! The one that really works for me is the problem-solution point of view.  Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) gave a great illustration of that one in a recent podcast: your car is stuck in the snow and no matter how you gun the engine, the wheels just spin and you go nowhere. So your choices are sitting there, focusing on how you’re stuck in the snow, or you can get out of the car and try to do something about it! As an aside, “Kitty litter!” immediately popped into my head. Sprinkling clay kitty litter around your back wheels provides traction in snow and mud situations.  Silly as this sounds (I’ve heard it really works!), this is part of that problem-solution mindset. I automatically thought of how to get out of this situation instead of “dang-it, I’m stuck!”  This is what most of us would do in that situation, but when it comes to other non-stuck in the snow situations, we tend to focus on the problem instead. Our actions really do follow our attitude: we’re so focused on whatever our problem is, we do nothing instead of taking any action at all!

Example: we’re at a working lunch and the office has provided sandwiches, salads and cookies.  All of the salads are either pasta based or potato and all of the sandwiches are on thick rolls and there’s only cookies, although they brought soda, diet soda and water to drink.  There’s really nothing ‘healthy’ or on your diet for you to eat. This is where most of us ‘do what we can,’ pick a sandwich, ignore the salads, choose water or diet soda and well, maybe one cookie, since we’ve already had the sandwich! We are focused on the problem: nothing healthy to eat. One option is to choose a sandwich and eat it (leave the other stuff alone); another option is to take the bread off the sandwich and just eat whatever meat, cheese and veggies are there; and a third option is to skip lunch. If anyone asks, “I’ll get something later/ I’m not hungry.” Recently, my boss chose option 3: he was at a deposition that ran through lunch and nothing they brought in looked good to him, so he stopped afterwards at one of his usual places and brought lunch back to our office. It wasn’t a big deal (he’s definitely not overweight either!) Just because food is provided doesn’t mean you have to eat it!

This also happens a lot in our home life: we get delayed or our schedule gets rearranged courtesy of someone or something else and suddenly we’re running way later than we planned and we’ve got nothing at home for dinner: “Oh well! I guess we’re getting Chinese/ pizza/ burgers!” That’s focusing on the problem, not looking for a better solution.  How long does it take to stop for takeout? About fifteen- twenty minutes? How about stopping at a grocery store instead? In the same time it takes to get a pizza or Chinese, you can stop at grocery store, grab a bag of salad and a rotisserie chicken for dinner. A lot of times when we focus on the problem, we’re really looking for an excuse to give in. We really want Chinese or pizza or fast food, so by focusing on the problem (“I don’t have time to make dinner”) we are giving ourselves permission to eat what we really want (think back to those red velvet cupcakes up above). We are getting in our own way by choosing excuses over our goals, and this is where the poor planning compounds our problems.

I’ll be honest: I hate meal planning and I really hate grocery shopping! Both of those take up a lot of time, making up a list of what I need, driving down to the store, going through the aisles, standing in line, getting everything home and put away. It may be a huge pain in the butt every week, but it’s also a strategy for success.  This is how we get out of our own way! You don’t have to spend your weekend cooking four or five chickens or gallons of soup, stew or chili or anything like that, although a lot of people do. They freeze or store all this food for later in the week or month when they’re running late.  Rather than stop on the way home for take out or whatever else, they pull something out of the freezer.  It’s called “batch cooking,” and it’s always an option if you have the time. There are a lot of people who will choose one or two days a month and make large amounts for just these situations, or to take with them for lunches- whatever they choose! It works for them to have one ‘inconvenient’ day to have convenience most of the time.

Myself, I just do the weekly grocery shopping. My ‘meal planning’ is limited to making my shopping list: I just ask myself what I want to eat this week and what do I need more of for the weekends. I like to make breakfast at home on weekends, so a dozen eggs will last me at least a month.  (They also work for back up dinner if I’m running late or just feeling lazy.) While batch cooking is too much for me, usually if I am grilling ribs in the oven or whatever it is I’m making, I make enough for two or more days, since I’ll probably have the same thing the next day.  I know I’m having it later in the week! That way, all I have to do the next day is warm it up. I do this a lot on work-out days, since I know I’ll be getting home a little later and dinner is in the fridge waiting to be heated up.

Most of what I have for dinner isn’t complicated anyway.  This is how I get out of my way. I really don’t like cooking anything complex so it’s usually salads, veggies I can steam or saute and meats or proteins that I can grill, fry or roast which are easily reheated.  Seriously, this is where most people allow negativity and the “I can’t do this” mentality to get in their way: they think ‘eating healthy’ is complicated.  I know all those experts and celebrity chefs are trying to help by putting out cookbooks that make eating healthy look delicious, but they also make it look complicated! More than five ingredients and I totally balk at the recipe! (And five is pushing it!)

It takes a little practice to learn not to focus on the problem, but when you find yourself thinking something along the lines of “this is too hard,” or “this isn’t going to work for me,” take a breath and ask yourself “What can I do? How can I find a way around this?” The same thing applies when you’re going grocery shopping: planning what you’re eating for the week doesn’t have to involve a variety of mushrooms, duck fat and arrowroot flour!It can be something as simple as omelettes, roasted chicken or green salads! Eat what you like that you can easily- the only requirement is that it be healthy for you! Also, things like nuts, canned tuna/ fish or jerky are also handy for when you decide to say no to the office lunch. I keep some of these at my desk as well as in my pantry.

So when you find yourself spinning your wheels, remember the kitty litter! You can sit shivering in the snow or you can get out of the car and do something!


Source & Resource: Getting Started Getting Fit & Losing Weight

We’ve all heard the expression “consider the source!” Usually we think of this when it comes to someone complaining or ‘having issues’ with something or someone, but when it comes to your health, it is extremely important!

This is the time of year when weight loss gizmos and potions go into high gear, along with all those other gadgets “guaranteed to give you a rock-hard six-pack in fifteen minutes a day!”  This is when you need to consider the source before you buy anything! This goes for any kind of gadget or machinery and especially any kind of potion, pill or weight loss plan.  Some of these can hurt you or make you ill!

I don’t mean to be a scare-monger, but trying out some equipment that you saw on a tv commercial when you’ve never or seldom used any kind of workout equipment can be tricky.  You can pull or tear a muscle or ligament; in other words, you can end up seriously injuring yourself. The same goes for trying some kind of weight loss pill that’s guaranteed to make you ‘burn body fat’ without really changing what you’re eating.  I know giving up brownies and popcorn and soda can really be hard and a major pain in the butt, but eating healthier and getting fit isn’t about the rock-hard six-pack (okay, it’s about more than just the six-pack): it’s about you actually being healthier and stronger! That means being more active and eating nourishing food, and that means work! It also means not depending on a ‘magic pill’ to get you there!

Most of these gizmos and super diet pills have great testimonials from ‘actual customers’ who swear that whatever it is they’re using was the only thing that helped them lose weight or get that awesome body.  They may not tell you that they were using the item for sale in addition to something else, like a diet plan or a workout schedule or trainer.  In small print, most of these items have some kind of disclaimer (“results not typical”) or some other advisory, like a diet plan or workout schedule.

Obviously, when it comes to source material, tv is not your best option.  I know it’s fun to think you can get great abs by ‘twisting’ the muffin top away on a mini surf board, but seriously, you need to be serious when it comes to exercise and eating healthy.  Your doctor may also not be your best bet, although talking to him or her might not be a bad idea.  The only reason I hesitate referring you to your physician is because unless he or she has done more research into nutrition, most doctors have grand total of 24 hours or less in nutrition.  In class time, that’s about one hour, five days a week for a month- less than a semester! So unless your doctor is really into eating well and nutrition (some are), then you should look into other options.  If he or she is willing to give you a referral to nutritionist or anther specialist, go for it! If not, then heading to the book store isn’t a bad idea.  Google isn’t a bad place to start, but before you jump whole-heartedly into whatever happens to be trending (right now it’s keto), go to a library or bookstore and take a look at the actual books that advocate whatever eating plan you’re looking for.  FYI: if you have a kindle or kindle app, you can usually download the first few chapters of a book as a sample for free!

It’s also not a bad idea to look at more than one book even if it’s the same eating plan.  There’s about a hundred books on the Paleo diet, the keto diet, Whole Foods/ Whole 30 and others.  Take a look at what they have to say; you want something that will work with you and your personality.  Many of these authors also have websites designed to help you out and some of these authors are very accessible via email.  Just remember that just because something is popular and works for all your friends and family does not mean that it’s right for you!  My mom loved Jenny Craig, had boiled eggs every day and lost weight, although she put it back on every time.  No offense, Jenny, but your food and your diet plan grossed me out (I prepared all my mom’s food).

You need to remember to choose something that you think you can stick with for the long term.  Healthy eating should not have an expiration date; the same for working out. If you are going from eating the Standard American Diet full of processed foods or lots of quick processed grains (breads, cereals, etc), then jumping into something a little more extreme like keto or even Paleo might be a bigger jump than you think.  Take a look at some books that offer a more gradual transition, like Wired to Eat (Robb Wolf), The Keto Reset Diet (Mark Sisson), Always Hungry? (David Ludwig) or even The Whole 30 (Melissa Hartwig). If none of these speak to you, they have many other books as well as many other authors covering similar eating plans.

Don’t forget that choosing an eating plan and/ or book doesn’t mean that you’ve permanently signed up for that plan. I know a lot of people from MFP (My Fitness Pal) who have tried to stick with a keto or low carb eating plan and no matter how hard they try, it’s still very hard and frustrating for them.  Sometimes they end up giving up on losing weight and if they don’t, they usually raise their carb intake, which is a better option in my opinion than giving up.  Not everyone can eat the same.  The goal is finding something that works for you long term.  Like my mom’s example above, unless you’re going to keep eating Jenny Craig and boiled eggs forever, you’re going to put the weight back on.  The point is to change your eating habits to a healthier diet than what you ate before and to make this change gradually.  Once you’ve adjusted to that healthy change, then if you think you can make more progress, then do it! This is the kind of transition Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf and others advocate: something sustainable long term.

Not to sound like a commercial, but one of the best resources I found was Elizabeth Benton’s Primal Potential website and podcast.  FYI: I learned about her from My Fitness Pal, another great resource! (It’s like fitness oriented Facebook.) Elizabeth has a lot of free information on her website in addition to her podcast and her philosophy is pretty much what I’ve said here already: we are all different so do what works for you! She’s easily accessible via email and has paid coaching programs available, although most of what she offers is free. She has some great advice she calls The Golden Rules of Carbs & Fat Loss. This January 2018 she also has free workshops available to help participants structure a workable sustainable weight loss plan for the new year.  All the registration information is available at her website. (I signed up for one!) Even if you don’t opt for a workshop, she is a great resource (she has a degree in nutrition and lost almost 150 lbs herself!)

Whatever eating or exercise plan you decide on, you need to consider the source and who is recommending it to you.  Again, if you’ve been sedentary for the last few years, jumping into a Beach Body workout video can be painful! But if you think that a plan might work for you, do some research and see what options are available.  You don’t have to go cold turkey and give up bread or meat all at once if that’s too hard for you.  When I decided to go Paleo, I did it in stages, giving up one or two things a month until I made the adjustment. I didn’t worry about ‘doing it fast’ because this is how I want to eat for the rest of my life. Eating this way makes me feel healthier and better overall, and I’ve discovered that I really enjoy what I eat (not making me feel cruddy is a bonus!) If the eating style you’ve chosen isn’t working for you, then change it, (it’s not a catastrophe!) but if it is working then stick with it!  FYI: I encountered some resistance from family members when I made this change, but in the end, we all have to do what’s best for us, even if others don’t like it.  What changed their minds was how much better I felt, how much weight I lost and how much more I was able to do.  There’s just no arguing with success!


Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your Engines! Beginning Weight Loss Basics

Beginning your  new healthy eating lifestyle can be a double edged sword. Too many of us get lost in the planning and information stage. It’s easier to keep “gathering information” rather than actually taking action. But planning and gathering information is meant to be just a foundation. It’s a lot like getting directions off google: it gives you a way to go- a plan of action- but then you’ve got to get on the road! Sometimes when you get on the highway, you find there’s road work or detours. That means you’ve got to do some ‘recalculating.’ For some people, ‘recalculating’ or a change of plans is seen as failure. I prefer to think of it as ‘refining the process,’ because that’s exactly what it is. 

Brace yourself: we’re all different! That means whatever weight loss plan has worked great for you might not work great for me. Several months ago, my sister started eating low carb and she went pretty much straight from vegetarianism to keto in a few days with very little trouble. She was a little tired and low energy for a few days but other than that, she had very little difficulty with the transition. For me, transitioning from Paleo (low carb) to keto (low carb high fat) is a lot harder. The logistics are more complicated for me and the physical side effects take longer to work through. That doesn’t mean that keto won’t work for me or that somehow her body handles ketosis better than mine: it simply means we’re different. 

People are more than just their bodies: we’re made up of habits and  preferences in addition to the physical elements. We like different foods, have different goals, hobbies and habits. Some of us handle stress better than others and some of us are naturally more active than others. Some of us also have very real physical limitations, and we all start from different starting points! 

This is extremely important, even though it sounds like obvious common sense information. How many times have you compared your weight loss or workouts with someone else’s and felt like you’re ‘falling behind’? They’re doing so much better than you are and you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, but you must be doing something wrong because they’re ‘winning’ and you aren’t. So, like most of us, you start ‘re-evaluating’ your plan: what are they doing that you aren’t? 

Like I said earlier: double edged sword. If your only reason for changing your plan is Liz or Eddie is losing more weight or gaining more muscle faster than you are, that’s probably the wrong reason to make changes. If you are losing weight or building muscle and they’re just ‘faster’ at it than you are, you’re still winning! Remember- different bodies, different starting points, etc.? But, if your plan isn’t working, and by this I mean not losing weight, not building muscle or making progress towards your goals, then re-evaluation is legitimately warranted.

This is where the information gathering comes in, tempered by your habits, preferences and the rest of your unique qualities. Example: when I started eating Paleo, I had no problems adding in more cruciferous vegetables. I like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but the ‘kale craze’? Leave me out! The same with eggs: Paleo recipes love them as much as they love kale! So when I started, I modified most of the recipes to replace the stuff I don’t like for stuff I like better. Eventually, I opted for real eggs at breakfast instead of the substitutes (lots of hot sauce to kill the egg taste) but kale still isn’t on my menu. 

This means if your best friend’s menu plan is full of yogurt and you’re lactose intolerant, or just plain don’t like yogurt, then that may not be the diet for you, or you’ll need to make some major changes to follow it. This is where information gathering pays off. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may be able to switch from cow’s milk yogurt to sheep or goat milk. If you just don’t like yogurt, you may be able to make other swaps, or you can try researching other diets/ eating plans, if what you’re doing now isn’t working. 

There’s nothing wrong with starting your weight loss plan by gathering information and there’s nothing wrong with refining your plan once you get started. But you can’t keep doing the ‘refining’ your plan without putting it into action. Seriously, I tried a hundred different salad veggie combinations before I decided on one that I really like, and the same with salad dressings, but until I got on the road and actually ate the salads, it was all academic. You have to take action and try out your plan before you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t. Another example: I tried a few different brands and flavors of protein powders before I settled on ones I liked; then I experimented with almond milk, coconut milk and some blends. Then, I came to the conclusion that protein shakes worked best for me on an occasional basis. That doesn’t mean all my ‘refining’ was a waste: it means I learned that real foods are better for my weight loss and my body. Protein shakes aren’t bad for me, but on a daily basis, I’m better off sticking with whole foods. 

Making a plan is a great place to start but don’t be afraid of change and don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s a learning curve but don’t forget we’re all individuals and our plan needs to reflect our individuality. 

Progress, Not Perfection in Fitness & Weight Loss

At this time of year, everyone is already bemoaning their weight gain over the holidays and either dreading making their New Year’s Resolutions or gearing up to go hard in 2018!  I know that fitness equipment and gadgets will be under a lot of families’ Christmas trees no doubt with a variety of books on nutrition, diet and working out.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts!

Actually, the thought is nice, but that’s not what counts when it comes to fitness and weight loss.  What counts is action.  Buying or receiving the diet book, kettlebells and Fitbit show your intent to work out, but how many of those kettlebells, step trackers and diet books are going to be gathering dust by March?  Did you actually make it past the first two chapters in that diet book? That Fitbit might be handy, especially if it doubles as your watch.

I’m not trying to be snippy here because I know in college my stationary bike made a great clothes rack and I’ve lost count of the diet books I’ve been given that ended up in the garage never having been opened.  This is what happens with most of us: we have great intent, but massively poor execution.  We know what we want, but we either don’t know how to get there or we’ve convinced ourselves it’s going to be really hard, painful or both, so do we really want to do that?

No matter if we plot out a day by day approach for our fitness or weight loss goals or if we just decide we’re going to ‘play it by ear,’ none of it matters without execution.  This is the fancy way of saying ‘just do the dang work!’  Plans or no plans, we need to get our hands dirty to reach our goals, or even make progress.  Unfortunately, when it comes to doing the work, most of us chicken out.  We use any excuse we can find to put it off, no matter if we roll our eyes when we say it, even to ourselves. Excuses aren’t going to move us forward but ‘we’ve got plans!’

The truth is that fear of doing the work is usually inflated, meaning we make it out to be some horrible, awful, painful task that’s going to cause all kinds of hassle for us and results in our dreading it. It can be that way, if we try implementing a major master plan all at once.  These are things like cleaning out all the sugar in the house, or starting a ketogenic diet on Monday after eating the Standard American Diet on Sunday. Going from a plate of fettucine alfredo with garlic bread on Sunday night to a super low carb diet the next day can be beyond tough, especially if your normal breakfast is a breakfast sandwich and venti latte! “You mean three ounces of cheese is my entire breakfast?”

This is why we need to focus on making progress rather than trying to execute the Master Plan all at once (perfection).  When we look at our nutrition books and diet plans, most of them give you a step by step approach, but who wants to wait? That takes too long! Let’s skip to the end and bypass the ‘busy work!’ That usually ends up being the fatal flaw in our Master Plan: our haste to avoid all the intervening steps and ‘just get it done and over’ makes it too hard to execute! The plan generally isn’t a bad one, whether you designed it or you are following something from a book. We are usually the problem because of our poor execution of that plan.

When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students “when all else fails, read the directions!” I find that motto works pretty good out of school as well, because we like to take shortcuts, and we do it with everything! Most of the time, we can get away with it: we bring home a microwave, plug it in, set the time and we’re done! No need to read that manual- microwaves are pretty self-explanatory! We’ve gotten used to it in other areas of our lives, so why not fitness and nutrition?

Because fitness, nutrition and our health aren’t an appliance! We may think that eating Paleo and working out five times a week is a great plan for us, but if you’ve never done anything like those things, it’s too hard to start all at once.  The plan is great one, but we get lost in the execution. After a couple of work out sessions, our muscles are not going to be happy with us and if we’ve eaten bread at every meal, our cravings are going to be out of control! After a week or so of no bread, no grains and back-to-back work outs, we’re going to be very grumpy and probably pretty miserable, and the obvious response will be “this is too hard! If being healthy means being miserable, I don’t want to do it!”

Another important technique I learned as a teacher is that any new habit or activity needs practice. I taught Basic English Skills at college and many of my students weren’t avid readers. These are people who don’t read books for pleasure: they read because they have to, so they were pretty out of practice.  The books I assigned to them were generally short (200 pages or so).  For me, given a quiet afternoon, I’d kill that book and move on to the next one, but I’m pretty much a professional reader (I get giddy over history books that would make my students groan!) So I told my students to read for at least five minutes every night. If you aren’t a reader, it takes practice to focus and to sit still.  It also takes a little time to get pulled into the subject.

When we begin making changes to our eating plan or begin working out, we need to do the equivalent of five minutes of reading a night, because- like my students- eventually that five minutes turns into ten then fifteen and then they want to read for as long as they can.  When we get used to eating more veggies, or eating less sugar or less bread, we start looking for other changes we can make, because we aren’t fighting the cravings for the foods we stopped eating days ago and for most of us, we feel better overall too.  We start looking for opportunities to go to the gym or other activities we can do, because our bodies want to move more. It’s a natural progression.  We’ve mastered the basics and are ready for the next step. We trip ourselves up when we try to bypass those basic steps and go right for perfection.  We miss the importance of progress because our eyes are on the end goal.

One of the things I really enjoyed about teaching was seeing how many of my students learned that they liked reading. I’d see them in class or on the campus and they’d be much farther along in the book than just the chapters I’d assigned, and the look on their faces plainly showed they were into the story.  If they’d tried to read the whole book at once, they’d likely never finish it and think that reading was just too hard, but taking it five minutes at a time, they’d built the skills it takes to read and for a lot of them, the skills to read well. We can do the same thing with fitness and healthy eating habits, but first we have to learn to take it five minutes at a time.

Today is a Gift: Weight Loss and ‘The Moment’

Most of us have heard the expression: “Yesterday’s the past; tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present” (Bil Keane).  I admit it sounds a little hokey, but it’s true.  We can’t undo what happened yesterday and tomorrow is promised to no one, so all anyone really has is the moment before us right now, and that moment is priceless.

I’ve worked a lot of jobs with some crappy hours and crappy pay mainly because their hours were nearly golden to me.  They paid enough to keep me above water (barely) but they left me with a lot of free time, which meant more to me than the money.  It still means more to me than the money, because the job I work now, while paying better than the crappy ones, still leaves me with a good amount of free time.  One of the biggest pains working The Job From Hell is that it sucked up all my time. Even though it had better pay and benefits, literally all I had time to do was work, drive and sleep.

Most of us squander our moments; I admit that I am so very guilty of this! I make a list of things to do and then I use that list to procrastinate: “hmm, I can do that one tomorrow; I can do that one later tonight; I can put that one off until after the weekend and that last one can wait until after the holidays.” So out of a list of about ten things, I’ll get two or three of them done and shove the rest off for another time. I’ve actually checked out books on how to make a ‘correct and efficient to-do list.’ Really?? We need a book? How about we just do the dang things we put on the list?? One of the apps on my phone is a reminders app called Alarmed (by and I love the thing!  I use it for most of the tasks that I will forget to do, like scheduling appointments, getting everything on my list and when California went to the reusable bag law, I used it to remind me to bring them. One of ‘reminder alarms’ on the app is a stern voice saying “That’s a direct order! Do it now!” That one I reserve for the no-more-procrastinating tasks, and most of the time, it works for me. I remind myself that there’s a reason I chose that alarm.

Unfortunately, I can’t use that app for the times when I really really need to kick myself in the butt when it comes to weight loss. Most of us aren’t really aware of the ways we procrastinate when it comes to losing weight or eating healthy.  There’s the obvious ways, like I’ll start my diet tomorrow/ Monday/ after the holidays, and we do the same for working out: I’ll go tomorrow/ this weekend/ next week/ next class.  But the little things and little choices are not so obvious and when we push them off for another time, we’ve missed an opportunity we didn’t know we had.

These are choices like the healthier breakfast or lunch vs the less healthy more convenient meal, or the little snacks throughout the day or walking instead of driving across the shopping center. These are all opportunities and they add up.  This probably sounds familiar: I had a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch, but then I had cookies in the breakroom and stopped for a mocha on the way home because it was cold and I was tired and I’d already had the cookies, and once I got home, I didn’t have anything ready for dinner and ended up ordering Chinese so I blew the day!  I know I’ve argued with myself many afternoons on “whether a plain latte is ‘healthy’ or not and does it fit in my calorie budget.”  The question I really should be asking myself is “how can I make the best of this moment in front of me?” It doesn’t matter if I had a dozen cookies before the latte or if I just ate celery all day; what matters is the moment and choice in front of me now: latte or no latte?

We do the same thing with our workouts: I forgot my gym bag, so no workout for me today! Do I really need my gym bag to get in some exercise? Well, if I’m planning on going to the pool, yes, I do need it, but how much exercise can I get in without it?  That includes things like walking around the office as much as possible; if I’m running errands, I can always park at the far end of the lot and get in more walking. I can do some body weight squats while I’m waiting for the printer to finish its job; I can do some stretches when I get up from my chair. There are a lot of days when I brought my gym bag with me but ended up missing my class because I had to work late, so how about I go to the pool anyway and just swim or even tread water? That moment when I realize I am not going to make it to class, I have a choice: go later or bail on the opportunity? And that really is what it comes down to: am I going to make the most of the moment I have in front of me or am I going to take the easy way out?

Some of us argue that these little choices really don’t matter.  How much exercise do we really get walking back and forth from the copy room to our desk? Is a latte really going to torpedo our whole weight loss plan?  I believe they do add up, just like sitting at our desk, in our cars or at home adds up: minutes become hours, just like a handful of M&Ms every afternoon eventually becomes a bag of M&Ms in a couple of days. These eventually show up in the stiff muscles and joints and the muffin-top around our waistband, but even more important is the pattern they create!

The more we get used to choosing the ‘easy choice’ rather than the ‘best choice,’ the more we lean towards that choice. It’s easier to give in to the ‘I blew the day’ excuse, and then before too long, it becomes a week of ‘I blew the days,’ and how much longer before we just throw up our hands and say ‘I can’t do this’? We create a bad habit without realizing we’re doing it.  We wear a groove in our memory, our behavior that keeps leading us down a road we don’t want to take. When we ask ourselves ‘what’s the best choice’ or ‘what’s the best use of this moment,’ we put a stop on our automatic “this day is already lost!” attitude and begin to look at ways to re-evaluate our choices.  We stop settling for ‘good enough’ and aim for ‘better’ instead. Even if it’s something as simple as getting in 7000 steps a day instead of 5000, it’s a better choice than just settling for ‘okay.’

We don’t have to make a Master Plan for Weight Loss or schedule activity for every hour or even plan out our meals for the entire week; we just need to look at the moment we’ve been given and ask ourselves “what’s the best I can do right now?” and then do it! (That’s direct order!)



Ignorance Hurts! Weight Loss & New Ideas

One of the most painful stereotypes regarding the obese is that they are gluttons, followed hard by the second most painful stereotype: they are lazy.  Neither statement is true in most cases.  Most people who go on diets adhere closely to the program; they eat their diet food, measure their portions, say no to the cheats and treats.  They lose some weight, maybe even hit their goal, but then we all know what happens next: rebound weight gain!  They feel like failures and society for the most part believes they must have screwed up somewhere or just gone off their diet.

The truth is that, like most people, I tried very hard to lose weight.  I played sports; I tried to eat the healthy food.  My mom was always pushing one diet or another at me, and most of them were pretty awful and I never lost much weight.  Some of her plans included a fast-metabolism program, where I eliminate certain foods from my diet, drink smoothies according to the book’s recipe list, and then the following week, I make more changes to my diet to include/ eliminate more foods, and then make even more changes the next week!  This was guaranteed to jump-start my metabolism so I would burn off weight in no time at all!  Another one of her guaranteed fixes included drinking a smoothie made with an expensive powder (like $30 a pound!) and this powder would ‘bind’ to the sugar/ carbs/ whatever to keep it from being absorbed, so I would lose a lot of weight fast!  One of these diets included the questionably ‘healthy’ meal of buttered egg noodles on a regular basis.  Even as a teenager, I really didn’t think buttered noodles counted as ‘diet food’ and it didn’t take long before I stopped listening to my mom’s fad diet schemes.

However weird and wacky some of these diet plans might have been, my mom had the right idea: we need to keep learning and stay open to new ideas.  What we all thought was the ‘right answer’ when I was growing up (low fat-high carb and eat less-move more) is more than likely NOT the right answer!  We know that carbs turn into glucose in the body and that chronically high glucose leads to insulin resistance which keeps the body from metabolizing stored body fat.  Essentially, the more carbs you eat and the more often you eat them, the less body fat you burn off.  All that advice we were given about eating every two-three hours isn’t ‘jump-starting’ our metabolism but it is keeping us overweight.  The carb roller coaster is why we feel tired two hours after lunch and why that afternoon granola bar makes us feel energized.

When you open yourself up to new ideas, there’s always the danger of getting taken for a ride.  This is why if you are going to keep learning new things, you need to do your homework! I confess I am one of those who poo-poo’d the Paleo diet as one more weird freaky fad diet to be avoided, and I did it without learning anything about it.  I simply lumped into another one of those ‘flash in the pan & sell as many books as possible’ marketing schemes.  Bad, bad, bad! I should know better and I’m going to blame a cynical outlook on weight loss for my poor judgment! Before I made a snap judgment, I should have taken a look at what the Paleo/ Caveman Diet proponents were actually saying.

I’m not going to tell you that Paleo is 100% effective for everyone, because I honestly have no idea if it is.  I can tell you that after years of reading about other weird fad diets and trying a few of them that this one made the most sense to me.  The number one reason for me is that it’s a pretty basic plan: eat real whole food.  I don’t have to go looking for some expensive powder or a long list of strange smoothie ingredients, and I don’t have to drink all my food for weeks at time while doing XYZ exercises.  I simply avoid the processed foods.  Essentially, if it comes packaged in a box or a bag and has chemical gobbledygook ingredients, I should probably leave it on the shelf.

Proponents of Paleo have suggested that one of the reasons it took a long time for this way of eating (most don’t like the word ‘diet’) is that other than cookbooks and how-to books, there’s not a lot of marketing to go along with Paleo.  This is one of the failings of the Weight Loss Industry– because it is an industry!  People make money selling others like me the Hope of Losing Weight, usually in some package or some program that we have to pay for.  There are whole aisles at the grocery store full of packaged diet food, mostly full of chemicals, preservatives and other things that may not be good for us. We can lose weight eating those processed foods, usually only until we stop eating them.  This was my major question when I was losing weight on Nutrisystem: what happens when I stop eating their boxed food?  Easy! I gain weight again, because the focus is mainly on eating their food, not how I should be eating (supposedly that comes later, but I never got to that part!)

This is why Paleo works for me: it’s real whole simple food and I don’t have to buy the “Paleo” brand of food, although now there are brands like Primal Kitchen that fit the criteria, but it’s up to you if you want to buy them- you don’t need them to eat Paleo. If I want to buy some simple salad dressing instead of making it myself, I can buy it and not have to worry about it being full of canola oil, but if I want to make a simple vinaigrette, I can still do it.  The bottom line for Paleo is to keep your food as real, whole and unprocessed as possible.  Like I said, simple!

The point I’m trying to make is that if one thing doesn’t work for you, keep an open mind and keep learning about other methods that might work.  You need to give it an honest attempt (one week probably isn’t long enough) but if it’s not sustainable, you should probably cross it off your list.  A temporary fix is always and only temporary, just like all fad diets- once you stop eating their food or following their program, you’ll gain the weight back.  Paleo is no different in this way: if I were to go back to eating the processed foods I ate growing up, I would gain back the weight. What makes it work for me is that I’m still eating real food and it’s real food I like eating, like salad and spare ribs.  I feel better when I eat it instead of feeling hungry and tired after eating the fettucine alfredo.  I like what I eat, I don’t have to buy weird expensive ingredients or take handfuls of pills.  If I had done my homework about Paleo when I first heard about it, I’d probably have lost weight years before I did and no doubt saved myself some grief.  By choosing to stay ignorant and cynical, I only hurt myself.  Shame on me for being narrow-minded!

[Since learning about it, I’ve read some other great books that follow the same kind of idea: Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson; The Paleo Solution and Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf; Always Hungry? by David Ludwig, and Melissa Hartwig of Whole 30 has just come out with two new books.  All of these advocate eating unprocessed nutrient dense foods and keeping the processed ingredients to a minimum.  However you choose to eat, choose nutrition over convenience when possible and always go for unprocessed.]