The Devil We Know & The Devil We Don’t: Fear & Weight Loss

When I worked at The Job From Hell, The Boss used to berate me for “not embracing change.” I think she believed I was afraid of it. There’s a difference between fearing change and being annoyed with it.  Frankly, I don’t like change because it interferes with my routine and as The Boss rightly noted, I love my routines!  Change means I have to learn to do things differently, which takes time and can be confusing and so very frustrating! There are some things for which I have a high tolerance (such as traffic) but others things, like learning to access voicemail on a new phone system, not so much! I’m not afraid of learning something new.  Learning is fun for me, but when it gets in my way, not fun.

When it comes to weight loss, there is usually a lot of fear involved.  There’s the obvious Fear of Failure but there’s also Fear of Success.  Most of us have faced Fear of Failure (FOF) before and we’re usually way too familiar with this one!: “What if I can’t lose weight?”; “What if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong?”; “What if it’s too hard to stick with it?”  What we don’t expect is to be afraid of success and a lot of times we don’t recognize it when we experience it.

Fear of Success (FOS) can have its roots in fear of change.  If we are successful in losing weight, that means there will be some changes in our lives, but what kind of changes?  What does that mean for us? What if we lose a lot of weight and then gain it back? Do we know how to keep it off? What happens if we have ugly saggy skin? What if the saggy skin looks worse than being overweight?  What if our spouse/ partner isn’t attracted to us anymore? What if our friends/ family don’t like our new lifestyle? That is the voice of Fear trying to undermine your success and self-confidence!

Fear is like water and once it soaks in, it’s hard to get it out again and it can be devastating. Water erodes and cracks rock; it can wash away entire cities. All we have to do is look at the Grand Canyon to see the power of water: fear can be just as overwhelming if you let it. But if you don’t let it soak in and wash you away, fear has no control over you.

One of my favorite tv shows is Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (roll your eyes- I’m used to it!)  One of the reasons I liked it so much is because the message behind the episodes actually had meaning.  In this particular Halloween episode, Buffy and her friends go to a ‘haunted house party’ in which a fear demon has been unleashed. As she and each of her friends enter the house, they become separated from each other and come face to face with their worst fears. Once they break the spell and actually face the demon, he is only about four inches tall, so Buffy squashes him like the bug he is.

That particular episode is a great metaphor for how fear works, its impact in our lives and how its true nature looks bigger than it really is. Fear makes us feel alone, as if there is no one who can help us, no one who understands and how if others ‘really knew us,’ they wouldn’t love us anymore.  When we give in to fear, we allow it to isolate us and take over our lives. Our fears dominate us and keep us feeling alone and helpless. We can’t go to others for help because ‘no one can help us’ and we feel we have to keep hiding our fears and our true selves to hang on to the lives we have. It isn’t until we bring those fears out into the light of day that we see how tiny and insignificant they really are: they just seemed monstrously huge!

I am not going to make light of facing our fears. (I’ve got a few fear demons locked in my own closet!) But eventually, there comes a point when you either have to give up and give in to fear or you have to face it down and stomp on it.  When it comes to Fear of Failure, we expect that. All we need to do is google and we’ll have a 100,000 answers in 8.4 seconds! Surely, one of those will answer your problem? Maybe and if nothing else, you have about a 100,000 starting points! It’s the Fear of Success that blindsides us and we usually don’t realize what that nagging little voice is.

I know one of my excuses for not losing weight was loose saggy skin.  If I lost weight, then I’d have all this ugly saggy skin and the only way to get rid of it is surgery and since I didn’t want surgery, I didn’t want to lose weight.  I reasoned that I was preventing a problem by ‘choosing’ not to lose weight.  What I was really doing was hiding behind my fears: I was afraid that I couldn’t lose weight.  I was afraid others would find out I was ‘on a diet’ and when I didn’t lose the weight, they’d think I was stupid or lazy or a glutton or [insert negative adjective here].

I was also afraid of what I would do if I actually did lose the weight and did have to deal with that loose saggy skin! Instead of looking like a tick about to pop, I’d be looking like a melted candle or a deflated balloon. Yay! Even more unattractive! What if I l gained it all back?  We’ve all heard the stats on the Rebound Gain: people lose forty pounds and gain back sixty and then it’s even harder to lose it again! Does that mean I can get even bigger than 440 lbs?!

Then there’s the fear of losing weight the ‘wrong way’ and ending up in a worse situation than obesity (though in my case, is there anything much worse than Super Morbid Obesity?)  I ran into a similar situation when I started following a Paleo diet: criticism from others. “It’s not healthy”; “it’s a fad diet”; “you’ll end up vitamin-deficient and malnourished.” My mom, who is a retired Registered Nurse, was one of those critics.  Initially there was so much wrong with eating Paleo according to her.  Even though I was successfully losing weight I was doing it in a way that was sure to make me sicker than before! If I had not been so resolutely obstinate, it would have frightened me away from eventual success.  It can be scary thinking that what looks like success is actually something that ends up hurting you, which is what happened with my aunt whose gastric bypass led to fatal complications.  As a medical professional, my mom is an actual authority figure and her recommendations are usually valid. All you have to do is pick a weight loss plan and google it and there’s another 10,000 horror stories about people who got sick and/ or died from eating Paleo/ keto/ fasting/ having surgery.  It worked for them until XYZ happened  and then they died or nearly died! These kind of anecdotes scare you into thinking “I’m fat but at least I’m alive and otherwise healthy!”

Really? It’s that old joke about the guy who fell off the skyscraper: as he fell past the windows, people heard him saying “so far, so good.”  That’s really what’s going on with obesity: so far, so good.  It’s the punchline from the other version of the skyscraper joke: it’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the bottom.  Our weight has consequences that take their toll on our health.  Sometimes it’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Sometimes it’s Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), and most often it’s Type 2 Diabetes (D2).  The real problem is that these conditions have become so prevalent in our society because of the obesity epidemic that they aren’t seen as the serious conditions they truly are.  We see commercials for drugs to control or minimize the effect of COPD, CHF and D2.  We see happy people with portable oxygen machines and long acting insulin pens and other medications that make it easier to live with the effects of obesity.  The longer we are obese, the more it harms our health.  Like water it wears away at us until the cracks begin to show.  Eventually, we can’t patch them up anymore and the health problem actually becomes a life threatening situation.  Not being able to breathe is a problem. Having a heart that doesn’t pump efficiently is a problem. Having your organs shut down because of toxic blood sugar levels is a problem.

By making these problems seem manageable, we are denying they are actually problems and making it easier to hide behind our fears: “I don’t have to face my fear of being obese because it’s not causing me problems!” Except I can’t breathe sometimes and some days my fingertips are blue and I have to check my blood sugar three times a day and take some pills.  We are more afraid of looking stupid and failing at weight loss or having ugly saggy skin or losing weight the wrong way than we are of the serious long term consequences of our obesity.  We’re looking at the spectre of serious health problems and instead of seeing Freddy Kruger, we see Sully from Monsters, Inc., when our fear is the real blowhard but that D2 really is Freddy. When we break through the paralyzing spell fear has over us, like Buffy and the Scoobies, we see it for what they is: just an annoying little pest. So just step on the little bug before Freddy shows up!

Watch Where You’re Going! Weight Loss & “Constant Vigilance”

We’ve all heard the phrase “keep your chin up!” It’s supposed to keep you feeling like a success and encourage you to stay strong.  It also really helps if you want to know where you are going. Realistically, if you don’t watch where you are walking, you will probably trip over something, but it also works for weight loss since if you don’t watch where your weight loss is going, you probably won’t get there.

While I’m not necessarily talking about tracking (people react so negatively to that term!), I am suggesting that not paying attention is a proven method for failure.  Not paying attention makes it easy to give in to excuses, to make exceptions and to ‘plan for later,’ until one day you get on the scale and realize that you’ve not lost any more weight or — horrors!you’ve gained! How the heck did that happen?!

Not to be a nag, but if you were paying attention, you’d know how that happened! And if you are honest with yourself, looking back, it’s fairly obvious how that number got on the scale. For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, you might remember Professor Mad-Eye Moody’s refrain of “Constant vigilance!” and while you don’t have to be super strict with yourself, being aware and paying attention are the most important parts of weight loss.  That simply means if you’re out with friends on a Friday night, it’s okay to choose the jalapeno poppers and beer as long as you are aware that they’re not going to be ‘fat loss friendly’ and that making a weekly habit of them is going to slow (or stop) your weight loss unless you make some adjustments to your eating plan to take out some things that you enjoy less.  While this seems like a no-brainer, the problem comes with making exception after exception or ‘adjustment after adjustment’ until we have ‘adjusted’ our way from weight loss to weight gain.

There are a lot of dieters who simply refuse to track because “I know what I eat!”  Unfortunately, these are often the same people who get up one day and wonder why their pants feel a little snug and then when they get on the scale or take out the tape measure, are shocked to discover that they’ve put on a few pounds. It’s like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky! “How could I have gained weight?!”  Well, if they had tracked what they ate, they’d have a pretty good idea of where those pounds came from: the month of Fridays out with friends; the bagels they had a couple times or more a week for the last three weeks; that pizza party for the kid’s birthday along with the cake and ice cream… and hot dogs, chips, wings and pretzels at the baseball game, and then there was dinner out with friends (pasta, garlic bread and tiramisu with wine).  Those ‘exceptions’ to our healthy eating plan somehow stopped being actual ‘exceptions’ and pretty much became the rule.  They probably felt like true exceptions at the time, since they were most likely spread out over a month or more, but when taken together, it seems pretty obvious that they really aren’t aberrations to how you eat any more. That’s what makes tracking so valuable.  We really do forget what we ate and how much we ate, even if we really are paying attention. We look at the big plate of pasta and garlic bread and think “yeah, I’ll remember eating this!”  Maybe for a day or so, but after a week, when our friends suggest the nachos and beer out at the pub, we may not remember that Tuesday night pasta on Saturday night.  Or those bagel bites we had on the Wednesday morning meeting. Or that we had small slice of cake on Monday because it was Cheryl-at-the-office’s birthday.  All these things add up and on Sunday when we stand on the scale or whip out the tape measure, we might be a bit perplexed that there’s no loss.  Instead of being confused and wondering why you hit a plateau, if you had a record of what you’ve eaten for the past week, you could see why that ‘plateau’ is really just poor eating choices.

Tracking your food doesn’t mean that you have to weigh everything you eat and count each nut and seed that goes in your mouth.  It’s really as simple as watching where you are going and noting where you have been.  If it’s a handful of macadamias, you don’t need to weigh them.  If it’s a small slice of cake, you don’t have to ‘estimate the ounces’ or what’s in the frosting– you just need to make a note of what you ate.  Writing it down as you eat it or at the end of the day is the least you need to do.  Although I have an app on my phone, I like using a paper food journal since it’s easier for me to flip through.  I like putting it in the app right after or before I eat it so I don’t have the time to ‘adjust’ the portion sizes.  (It’s amazing that a half a bagel at noon can seem more like a a third of a bagel by the evening- it wasn’t that big, was it?)

This is part of the same thing that happens after a month or so of ‘exceptions.’  “I’ve been really good/ really trying, so why did I gain weight?” The stark black and white reality of what actually passed through your lips explains those extra pounds on your hips! When you- or since we’re being honest here- I flip back over the past weeks, and there’s page after page with entries like “bread,” “cookies,” “frozen yogurt,” “chocolate,” “chocolate,” “dark chocolate” (just to change things up!), it’s pretty obvious why my bathing suit is a little tighter than it used to be.  I can blame ‘poor sleep’ and ‘lots of stress’ all I want but until I pay more attention to all those ‘exceptions,’ I’m not going to be losing any more weight!

However you choose to pay attention, watching where you are going as well as where you have been are good strategies for making sure you end up where you want to be! Even if it’s just in the Notes app on your phone, if you decide to eat something not fat loss friendly, it wouldn’t hurt to write it down in the Notes, so when your friends ask you if you want nachos and beer this weekend, you can open your app, remember that pasta and garlic bread on Tuesday and opt for either just the beer, just the nachos or neither.  You don’t have to be Constantly Vigilant, but keeping an eye out for trouble can keep you from unwanted surprises.

Information Isn’t Action: Weight Loss Requires Activity!

When it comes to weight loss, too many people think the activity I’m referring to means working out, going to the gym or walking or some kind of exercise.  While exercise has its place in weight loss, what I mean is that you must take action to lose weight.  Reading a nutrition or diet book is not action: it’s research.  I can read every diet book that comes out this year and still not lose a pound unless I actually do something such as implementing the strategies in those diet books.

This distinction confuses a lot of people and it’s completely understandable.  We take the time to read the diet/ nutrition books; we buy the yoga CDs (I’ve got dozens of those- still in the wrappers!) and we think we are ‘making progress!’  As in, “I’m planning to lose weight and exercise more and I’ve got my strategy all mapped out!”  But until you put that strategy into action, you ain’t gonna be losing weight!  Take my yoga CDs: I really really want to start yoga, as evidenced by the CDs and books stacked on my bookcase.  How good am I at yoga? Not started it! I’ve got the mat and strap and bolster literally buried in my closet but I’ve not used them. So how good am I at yoga? I’m guessing I pretty much suck since I’ve not tried in the last 15 years or so.  But I really really want to! Little clue here: you have to do it in order to make progress!

So why haven’t I done anything with my yoga practice? Oh, the usual excuses: “I don’t have time”; “I don’t know if I’m doing it right”; “I’m afraid I might hurt myself”; “I can’t afford the classes”; blah blah blah. The point is that while I have all the resources and tools to practice yoga, they are gathering dust and I am making no progress at all really fast! However, I don’t expect that I’ll be magically good at yoga just because I have all the tools and information at my fingertips, but when it comes to weight loss, there are a lot of people who get lost in the research and strategizing.

I’ve got another confession here: I really love research! I love reading a new book or magazine about health or listening to a new podcast about being healthier. The problem is that reading about health and weight loss and listening to other people talk about getting fitter does not improve my health and fitness unless and until I actually put these ideas into action. I can’t tell you how much I’ve heard and read about the ketogenic diet and Intermittent Fasting, but I can also tell you that I am most definitely not in ketosis! Why? Because I haven’t made the changes in my diet necessary to get into ketosis. [I did try keto and decided I didn’t like it very much, ergo not eating keto!]

It seems simple: if you want to make progress, you have to take action. Research, although it feels like you are doing something, really isn’t action. It is accumulating information.  What you do with that information determines how much progress you make. Too many of us get lost in the informational weeds because we want to lose weight ‘the right way,’ or we just plain don’t know what to do or where to begin.  Those are all good starting points but we have to remember they are only starting points! Once we have a plan or a beginning, we have to begin doing something with that information we’ve so carefully accumulated.

Which brings us back to my yoga non-practice.  The honest real reason I haven’t tried yoga? It intimidates the bloody hell out of me! Despite reading all the books and watching the CDs, I truly don’t know if I can get into some of those poses and if I get there, how the hell do I get out of them? What if I get stuck or hurt myself? What if I just look stupid? Hello! That’s why we practice! No one can reasonably expect a beginner to do anything perfectly the first time or even the hundredth time! It’s a progression and until we actually begin doing it, we aren’t making progress!

This is one of the pitfalls of too much information gathering: we are afraid we won’t do it right or that we’ll be unable to do it.  Seriously, not-doing it is the biggest way to mess it up! Allowing yourself to be intimidated is a sure way to keep you from making any progress towards your goals or even from trying anything new.  Aside from not making any progress, it can keep you from doing something you turn out to enjoy.  And as for doing it ‘wrong,’ every professional started out as an amateur.  Mozart may have been a prodigy, but the first time he stepped up to a piano, he still had to figure out which key was what note! Even failure can teach you since now you know what not to do! Everything takes practice!

While we may learn the basic framework through information gathering aka ‘research,’ it only benefits us when we put that knowledge into action. This is why doctors spend years in residence: book knowledge is so very different than actually doing the procedures.  I can read all about Intermittent Fasting and learn all the tips and tricks for getting through a seven day water fast, but again actually fasting for seven days only drinking water is a whole ‘nother experience! And that’s the key word: experience.  Experience is true knowledge and it only comes through action.  The more experience you have with your weight loss process, the more you know about your body, what works for you and what doesn’t (i.e., me & keto). It’s great to read about different supplements, different fasting regimens and different recipes or eating plans, but unless and until you put that information into action, you are only wasting your time and not making progress! If you are serious about weight loss, you need to do something about it, and reading about it doesn’t count! [Now I need to get off my butt and dig that dang yoga mat out of the closet!]

 

Fearlessly Being You: Weight Loss & Liking Who You Are

I am sure we are all familiar with the self-help mantras “you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you,” and the ever-popular Serenity Prayer. I accept that these mantras have merit, but they’re a little too mainstream for me.  I much prefer the somewhat quirky “wherever you go, there you are!”  I feel it not only speaks to where you are in life, but who you are as well.

One of the newer podcasts I’ve been listening to is The Wellness Force podcast with Josh Trent and while I’m still not sure he’s going to fit with my lifestyle, one of the recent podcasts he had was with professional volleyball player Kelly Claes who used an expression that really resonated with me: “fearlessly authentic.”  The inspirational quote app that I use updated earlier this year and now allows me to create tags for my favorite quotes and the first tag I created is “#fearless.”  Simply put: sometimes you need to be fearless to get where you want to go!

Most of us start out life with our parents setting our goals and aspirations.  This is pretty normal: as a kid, you really don’t know what’s what so you look to your parents for guidance and somewhere along the line, you realize you don’t want to be a doctor or a teacher but an artist or a baseball player or an engineer.  You start finding yourself and finding your own way.  Again, this is pretty normal.

But when you’re a kid and you’re overweight, you face some different obstacles. Most parents either believe ‘it’s a phase’ and you’ll ‘grow out of it’ or they start trying to guide you out of it. Sometimes their guidance is encouraging you to be more active, play sports or eat healthier foods.  Sometimes, it’s humiliation and recrimination. Even if they don’t mean to do it, sometimes it feels like their love and acceptance hinges on how much you do or don’t weigh. They may not ever say it, but we feel their disappointment and disapproval of our weight and from those unspoken feelings, we begin to feel that we are simply inadequate, lacking and a failure.

Growing up is hard enough without feeling like you are a failure as a person. While this post is about weight loss and obesity, it happens to kids for all kinds of things: not being pretty enough; not being a good enough athlete; not being smart enough.  Parents don’t mean to do it, but they place their own expectations on their children and when they fall short of those expectations, the child internalizes the disappointment as being their own personal failure. When it comes to weight loss, it can lead to a lifetime eating disorder, among other things. Generally children who feel inadequate either begin to crave their parents’ approval or they go the opposite direction. (Guess which way I went!)

For me as an overweight child, I was constantly being told “if only you lost weight, [insert good thing here].”  If I lost weight, I’d have boys lining up at my door.  If I lost weight, I could wear all the pretty clothes.  If I lost weight, I could have a whole new wardrobe.  Basically, if I lost weight, I’d be perfect.

Except I didn’t lose weight.  I stayed obese and after years of failing to win my mom’s approval (she was the most critical), I eventually gave up trying to get something I was so obviously never going to get.  (While my dad wasn’t exactly happy with my weight either, he was more focused on other goals such as college and a career.) This is where I learned to be fearless when it came to being me.

What I mean by “fearless” is that I simply stopped apologizing for being obese and not being perfect. It also means that I accepted myself for the person I was at that time and not who I was going to be at some time in the future.  This is paramount because until we accept who we are right now, we’ll always be stuck putting off our lives until some future time ‘when we’re thinner.’ While you’re probably thinking that’s a no-brainer, this idea sometimes gets internalized with the “I’m not good enough” mentality and before you realize it, it’s part of who we are.  Unfortunately, it’s usually the part that holds us back from living the life we want.

One of the constants on My 600 lb Life is patients saying how they need to have surgery so “I can get my life back” or “start living my life.”  Many of them probably never considered that their lives don’t have to be on hold because of their weight.

Obviously there are a lot of issues behind their compulsive overeating but I think a portion of it comes from that ‘waiting to be perfect’ mentality. They can’t move forward because they believe there is something wrong with the person they are right now. Being morbidly obese- and especially super morbidly obese- is a fact of life that has to be dealt with but when you put your life on hold until you are ‘fixed,’ it can mean waiting forever. Most of are familiar with the ‘perfect outfit’ in our closet that we can’t wear until we lose 20 lbs or so, and we hang onto it until it’s no longer in style and we have to give it away without ever wearing it… and we replace it with another perfect outfit we’ll never wear. Imagine that’s your life: always waiting for it to ‘start’ until you’ve got no time left.

Wherever- and whoever- you are is all you’ve got. There were a lot of times I was rejected because of my weight. I was told I wouldn’t advance or be successful in some jobs because of my weight, that guys wouldn’t find me attractive because of my weight, that my weight was always going to hold me back from doing things I wanted to do. Some of these statements were and still are true.

But I’ve lived all my adult life obese, mostly around 375 lbs. Once I learned to stop apologizing for being fat and imperfect and fearlessly live my life on my terms, my weight took a backseat to the rest of my life. Yes, there were times it got in the way and there were a lot of times I wished I were thinner. FYI: I also wished I were taller, too! But for most of my life I refused to let my weight make me miserable.

When my weight did finally become a problem I had to deal with, it still took a backseat to an even bigger problem, mainly my depression over The Job From Hell. That job seriously made me hate my life and who I’d become and it wasn’t until I dealt with that as well as the mental and emotional fallout from that job that I was able to deal with my weight. When I learned to like myself again, it gave me the strength to take advantage of new and unexpected opportunities which led to some serious weight loss.

Even though I’ve lost nearly 170 lbs, most of the world still considers me obese. There are a lot of family members who would be happier if I lost another 100 lbs. I’m still eating healthy and I’m still being as active as I can be, but my weight doesn’t define me anymore now than it did when I was 375. I am still more than just the number on the scale. For most of my life, I liked and accepted myself for the person I was, and I like who I am now. The difference is that now I’m 170 lbs lighter. It was my acceptance of myself that gave me the strength to grow and succeed and make the necessary changes. My acceptance of who I am gives me the courage to live fearlessly and do what’s right for me instead of following advice that doesn’t work for me, whether it’s for weight loss or anything else. If I hadn’t had the strength and courage to live fearlessly, I’d never have tried the Paleo diet; I’d never have gone to a gym or tried water aerobics; I’d never have joined My Fitness Pal, or started blogging, and I’d likely never have lost the weight I’ve lost. Liking myself, accepting myself and trusting myself has allowed me to continue growing into someone I like better who is happier and healthier than she used to be. But weight loss isn’t what’s made me happier and healthier: it’s the byproduct of learning to like myself again.

Sometimes we think we know where we’re going. We all have an idea of where we want to be but a lot of times, that’s not where we end up. That’s why I like that quirky mantra so much: “wherever you go, there you are!” And if you don’t like where you are, have the courage to go somewhere else!

Keep Your Eyes on the Road! Weight Loss & Losing Focus

This one can be a little tricky because it can look like we are staying focused when we really are all over the place.  The best analogy I can think of is driving.  As some of you know, I spend about four hours on the road every work day so at the end of the week, I’ve logged another 20 hours of driving.  Most of it is on the freeway, and I really don’t mind the drive much because it’s when I listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

My commute takes me down Highway 99 in California and as you leave the Sacramento/ Elk Grove area, southbound 99 goes from four lanes to three and then to two as you move from the urban to the rural. Normally, my drive home is about two hours and there’s usually a little congestion there due to the decreasing lanes and onramps.  There was one day when I was stuck in that area for about an hour in stop and go traffic! It should have taken me about ten minutes to get past the Elk Grove Auto Mall and into the outlying region which also has stop and go traffic (about 20 minutes to get out of the city and into the country).

Being stuck in that traffic for so long was frustrating but I naturally assumed there was construction or an accident ahead of me and since there was nothing I could do about it, I was as patient as I could be.  As I came alongside the frontage road, I started seeing a commotion in front of the little grocery off the freeway and as I grew closer, I realized there were about five police cruisers parked in front of it, all with their lights on.  I remember thinking “what’s going on there?” and kept driving… until I realized the cars in front of me were slowing down, pausing, then accelerating back to freeway speed.  ARE. YOU. FREAKING’. KIDDING. ME?!?!

Nope! Not kidding! That entire hour-long slowdown was due to all the Rubberneckers slowing down to get a look at what was happening on the frontage road. It probably wouldn’t have been so maddening to me except that Rubberneckers are a pet peeve of mine.  It’s one thing to slow down or change lanes if there’s someone broken down on the side of the road: that’s just a safety issue since there could be pedestrians on the roadside.  Too many of them slow down to get a good look at what’s happening: that guy’s changing a tire! There’s an accident!

Yeah, it’s an accident! And if you don’t watch where you’re going, you’re going to have one too!  That’s pretty much what happens with our weight loss if we aren’t careful: we’re too busy watching what someone else is doing, what’s the Hot Trend du Jour, or looking for what’s up and coming.  We are so focused on Someone or Something Else to see what’s happening with us.  In driving, you’re watching the cars on the side of the road and don’t see that the car in front of you has stopped or slowed down until your front end is in her backseat! In weight loss, you’re reading about Intermittent Fasting or trying the latest protein bars or shakes and aren’t paying attention to how your body is reacting to what you are doing today.  Even worse, by the time your body tells you that the new protein shakes don’t agree with you, you’ve moved on to the trendy new supplement! So now, when you get the godawful cramps and bloating, you think it’s the supplement doing that to you.  It could be, but it could also be the protein shakes you were doing before that, or it could be the combination of the shakes and the supplement or it could be that you cut back on your fiber, upped your dietary fat intake and began the shakes and then the supplement.  Place your bet and spin the wheel! Too many “or’s” in the water for me!

The point is that you are so busy being focused on “what’s going on over there?” that you aren’t focused on what’s in front of you, namely you, your body and your weight loss! You need to focus on you and what’s working or not working for you. Just because everyone is ‘going keto’ doesn’t mean that you have to go keto too. If what you are doing is working for you, as in you feel good physically and mentally, you are losing body fat, like what you’re eating and aren’t starving all the time, don’t fix what ain’t broken! Especially if  you’re only doing it to keep up with the latest trends!

If you aren’t getting the results that you want, then it’s time to make a responsible change.  Note that Responsible is in italics! That means give your body time to make the adjustment, which can be a week or more depending on your body.  You know how long it takes your body to adjust so make one (or two at most) change and see what happens. That way you’re not playing What’s Up with My Body Roulette and waste more time trying to guess what’s not working.

If you’re getting good results and think you can up your game, that’s something else.  If you’re already Paleo (or low carb) and want to try keto, give it a responsible attempt and see how that works out.  This way, if it doesn’t, you know there’s a proven plan you can go back to, and if it does work out for you, even better!

We all need to be less of a Rubbernecker and more focused when it comes to our weight loss.  I know it’s hard because I have to fight the urge myself when I hear about something new.  My own pet pitfall is Information Gathering, as in there’s always another book I want to read, another podcast to download or another supplement to try.  It’s enticing and they lure you in, just like those cars on the side of the road do to the Rubberneckers on the freeway.  Our curiosity gets the better of us and our ‘commute’ to better health ends up getting bogged down in traffic or sidelined with a major calamity.  Keep your eyes on your own road and avoid the distractions, even if you sometimes have to put on blinders to do it!

It Takes a Village to Lose Weight: Weight Loss & Community

We’ve all heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child.” When it comes to weight loss, our idea of community is usually limited to a partner or an “accountabili-buddy.” What we don’t realize is that support is more than just a workout partner or a diet buddy: it really takes a village (or community).

That doesn’t mean we’re doomed to failure if we don’t have that community; it just means it’s going to be a lot harder than it has to be. A couple years before I quit The Job From Hell and really lost weight, the Associate I worked with told me about My Fitness Pal (MFP). He lost about 30-40 lbs using it and I didn’t. Even though I logged my meals, I didn’t have “friends” or even look at the Forums. Essentially, even though I was using an app with millions of users who could have been supportive, I was alone. After a few weeks, I gave up: I stopped logging, and I stopped trying.

When I went back to MFP, I browsed the Forums, I responded to others’ posts and I made friends. This community I’m now a part of isn’t just “you can do it!”: it’s a resource for new ideas, points of reference and explanations. This community is where I first learned about the ketogenic diet and ketosis, Intermittent Fasting, fat bombs, new recipes and- huge for me- the Primal Potential Podcast.

This is the place where I ask questions about how to try something new, if I’m not sure I’m doing it correctly, if I’m not sure about my results, or anything at all. If I need a recommendation about a product (like MCT oil), this is where I go. If I’m not getting the results I want with IF (Intermittent Fasting), they give their recommendations for what’s worked for them. Even if I’m not having an issue, they still provide new ideas or perspectives.

I also don’t want to minimize the importance of the “you can do it!” support. This is a safe place to vent frustrations, rants and feelings of all kinds. Naturally there’ve been times when I feel like I’m completely screwing up and losing control, so just posting on MFP for me is therapeutic. I don’t have to keep negative feelings inside where they can fester and I can share happy feelings as well. What I sometimes forget is that when we’re buried in the middle of a difficult situation, we lose perspective. There’ve been times when, after I’ve posted about it, I get a Reality Check from my friends letting me know that, yes, this is really a hard situation and I’m doing pretty good, all things considered! This was especially true the last four months of 2017. My sister was getting married out of state, I was originally just the wedding planner, ended up being the officiant, all of which meant getting everything arranged and myself certified- all in under ninety days! On top of that, my mom had major surgery which necessitated a three month stay in the hospital, which meant my dad (her ex-husband) and I had to take care of her two dogs (one a puppy) and her house. Then there was my own life: my pets, my house, working, commuting, weight loss, working out, friends and commitments. Yay, stress??

Posting my frustrations, stress freak- outs, rants and just “I feel incredibly overwhelmed!” helped me keep my focus where it needed to be and it also helped validate that: 1) I’m not crazy; 2) it’s okay to feel stressed; 3) I don’t have to be perfect; and 4) I’m going to get through this. The support I got from my friends on MFP was (and is) invaluable!

It also gives me the opportunity to support them. It may seem backwards, but being able to offer my support to them reinforces my focus on my own weight loss. There’s also something truly uplifting to be able to help someone else. These kinds of exchanges create an network that makes it harder for our goals to fall by the wayside. The community, diverse as it is, has a common focus on health and weight loss and it’s committed to reaching common goals.

I know it might seem touchy- feely but just knowing there’s a safe supportive place where you can vent about what the family did, how the job is screwing up our workouts, or how we’re having overwhelming chocolate cravings is an awesome stress reliever! It’s also the first place to go when we’ve got questions and the combination of support and information is unbeatable. The benefit of a ‘village’ is diverse generations of knowledge, experience and support to draw on. Why not use it?

Hang On- It’s Going to Get Bumpy! Weight Loss, Chaos & Staying Motivated

It would be nice if weight loss were smooth and linear, and while I’m wishing for the impossible, how about a million bucks, too?  We all know it’s easier to lose weight when nothing crazy is going on at work and you can eat the healthy lunch you brought without phones going off and people popping into your office asking “where are you on the Saunders project?”  It’s the same thing at home: when it’s calm, it’s easier, but usually the boys’ ride to soccer practice has to reschedule, the dog loses the fight with the neighbor’s cat and your spouse’s trip to Boston gets bumped up a couple of days to today.  Yay, chaos- also known as the Real World! This is pretty much how it is for most of us at home and at work.

It’s so so tempting to tell yourself “I’ll lose weight when it’s less stressful!” So…. let’s put it on our calendar for the second Tuesday from Never? Because that’s when it’s going to be ‘less stressful.’ There will always be fussy, high-maintenance clients, bosses and coworkers who hijack your time, and fly balls coming out of left field to disrupt your carefully orchestrated schedule.  And that’s just at work: when you have a family, especially with kids, you’ve pretty much joined the circus with every day being opening night until they move out.  Yup: the Real World is pure chaos!

I’m not telling you this so you get discouraged: I’m telling you this because most of us like order and schedules and plans.  We plan our healthy meals; we schedule our workouts and we make grocery lists full of nutritious whole foods.  Sounds lovely! We’ll be losing weight so fast…. until our meticulous plans meet our actual lives and suddenly, we’re doing the Seat of Our Pants Weight Loss Plan.  Instead of sauteed broccoli with meatballs and marinara, we’re suddenly doing frozen bunless burgers with bag salad.  Instead of the turkey lettuce wrap for lunch, we’re having hardboiled eggs with carrot sticks.  Instead of our water aerobics class on Wednesday, we’re doing laps in the pool on Thursday night.  It feels like we’re running to catch up and, even worse, it feels like we’re failing at weight loss.

Not true!In Real Life most of us pride ourselves on being flexible when it comes to work and family life.  That’s pretty much the way life works- things happen, we make an adjustment and keep on going.  Rigidity is what happens right before something breaks!  But when it comes to our weight loss, healthy eating or working out, we stubbornly adhere to a rigid plan of How It’s Supposed to Be, and when it breaks, we’re surprised, disappointed and think we’ve ‘screwed up royally!’  I will admit that in the beginning of a new lifestyle, routine and predictability are a true benefit. It makes it easier for us to make the adjustment, but we all know it’s going to be short-lived at best and before long, we’re going to be bobbing and weaving as usual.  The trouble is that no one has ever told us that changing our weight loss and work out plans on the fly isn’t failure- it’s adaptability! We all know and accept that sudden changes happen at work and with family, so we need to write that into our weight loss plan too!  How many times do we get stuck working through lunch? Is that going to stop just because we decided to ‘eat healthy?’ Not hardly! So plan for it: when I have to work through lunch, I have X planned! When I have to work late and don’t have time to fix dinner or go to the store, I’ve got X in the freezer. When I can’t make my scheduled workout, I’ve got my gym bag in the car so I can stop in the next day that I do have time. This is how the Weight Loss meets the Real World, and it’s not much different from how we deal with other Real World occurrences. When the ride to soccer practice gets canceled, instead of canceling your plans, you make a shift and do your errands or shopping after you’ve dropped them off and then swing back to pick them up. You probably don’t even think about this as a problem: it’s a normal occurrence! When you have to work through lunch, you probably have a similar shift in your repertoire: either you skip lunch, eat later or have something delivered. So when you start bringing something healthy, you still have the same options either to skip lunch or eat later and if you do opt for delivery, order a salad or veggie wrap or something similar to what you brought.

It seems fairly obvious but our mindset gets in the way and tells us we’ve failed or screwed up because we’re ‘not sticking to our Weight Loss Plan’! That would be that rigid inflexible plan that can’t exist in the Real World. This is inflexibility is why so many weight loss plans are unrealistic- they don’t allow for adjustments. Making healthy high protein breakfast smoothies for breakfast is great until we don’t have time to make them because ‘something comes up,’ as it always does, and if we’re supposed to changing our smoothie ingredients on rigid schedule, we just blew our plan. (My mom gave me one of those smoothies-on-a-schedule diet books!) I know my schedule: I didn’t even try it! Too inflexible and too complicated!

Staying flexible with our healthy eating, weight loss and activity plans lets us continue to make progress. We have to approach our weight loss goals with the same mindset we have towards everything else in our lives. If we didn’t make adjustments in our jobs and families, would we still have jobs and families? Would we throw up our hands and say “I just blew it with the kids! Guess I have to give them away!” Or quit our jobs when we missed a deadline or didn’t hit it out of the park on a project? That’s extreme overreacting and no one would seriously consider giving either of those actions. But that’s exactly what we do when we’re talking about weight loss. Allowing ourselves to adjust not only keeps us on that bumpy road to better health, it gives us a fighting chance to reach our goals, so bob, weave, and hang on!

Weight Loss & The Sympathy Junkie: Just Say NO!

I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about “sympathy junkies” in some of my posts. I have a lot of experience with people who have this disorder.  While I know one of the terms for it is Munchhausen Syndrome and others call it narcissism, I usually boil it down the “Look at Me!” mentality.  Whatever it is going on with them, these people want to be the center of attention.  They are firm believers in the motto “there’s no such thing as bad publicity!” Hah! I can think of a few celebrities and corporations that would disagree: it’s not always a good thing to have people focused on you.

There’s nothing wrong with positive attention.  If you’ve done something good, we all like the pat on the head and the “attaboy/ attagirl!”  But most of us are also familiar with the schoolyard bully who’d hit kids just to get the teacher’s attention because he wasn’t getting any at home. For this kid, any attention was positive attention because it was better than NO attention.

For some of us, this idea of attention has become connected to our weight loss and health improvement goals.  Most times, it’s a good thing: we lose weight, we become more fit, we eat healthier and we get a lot of positive attention from our family and friends.  They’re proud of our success and the positive attention encourages us to keep making positive changes and to continue to do well.  That’s how it’s supposed to work and most of the time, that’s what happens with us.

For some of us, mainly the sympathy junkies, they’re like the schoolyard bullies: they want any kind of attention, and if they can’t get it by doing something good, they’ll get it for being helpless or having some kind of problem.  We all know people who have problem after problem and their lives are one trainwreck after another. “Poor Mimi! Nothing good ever happens to her!”  The irony is that Mimi and others like her are only happy when they’re miserable, while the rest of us just silently groan and ask “what’s wrong with Mimi today?” There is no real sympathy left because she’s cried wolf every day since you met her.

I gave serious thought before writing about this topic and I had put it on the back burner for several weeks, because, really, does it relate to weight loss?  The very day I had reviewed it and decided I was going to table it indefinitely, something happened that reminded me that yes, this is a topic that can affect our weight loss.

For starters, we definitely do not want to be Mimi the Munchhausen Moaner whom no one wants to be around! There’s a reason no one likes her: she’s always complaining, always helpless and always wants all of your time and attention.  (For the record: it can be Mike the Munchhausen Moaner, too!)

For most of us, when we hit a snag with our workouts or a plateau in our weight loss, we bring up our problem because we are looking for a solution. We’re obviously not doing something right or we’ve injured ourselves or we need to make a change, so we’re asking for help.  Sympathy is nice, but it’s not going to help me recover from my injury or make progress with my weight loss. Solutions only, please!

The sympathy junkies don’t want solutions- they just want your sympathy and attention! When you start coming up with alternate workouts or changes to their eating plans, they usually start coming up with reasons why that doesn’t work for them. They can’t change their workout because of this ailment or other injury; they can’t change how their eating habits because of blah blah blah.  That’s a huge clue you are dealing with a sympathy junkie: they’ve got an infinite number of excuses or failing that, they’re great at failing! They tried and failed and now they’re just doomed. (Cue the melodramatic music!) It’s also a huge clue if you find excuses tripping glibly off your tongue: you are not looking for an actual solution to your problem!

Most of us don’t have this problem: we want a solution so we can move forward.  Mimi (or Mike) is our real problem: we have one or more of them in our lives! To be blunt, they are giant sinkholes. They waste our time and our energy and frankly, they wear on our nerves.  It would be different if they wanted to improve or a solution to their problem but they don’t.  They just want you either to do something for them or pay attention to them.

Believe it or not, they do affect our weight loss because they are sapping time that could be put to working out or meal planning or another activity.  They sap our energy so that by the time we are done dealing with their “Drama du jour,” we’re too mentally or physically exhausted to take care of ourselves, and they add to our stress since we are usually expected to drop everything to deal with that Drama du jour again in the middle of our day or week. So much for our workout/ walk/ grocery trip! Goodbye healthy lunch since now we’ve got to scarf it (or something else) on the way to deal with Mimi or Mike! Not to mention keeping us up nights either with resentment or just fretting over what they’re going to drop on us next!

Lack of sleep and chronic stress trigger our bodies to hang on to our energy stores, aka body fat.  We’re fighting the tide when we don’t get enough rest or are always stressed out. (Haven’t we all got enough of our own problems?) Not to mention the sabotage to our healthy meal planning, eating habits and workouts.  We might have something healthy at home ready to prepare but then we get stuck at Mike’s house because of another disaster he needs our help with so by the time we get home, it’s either eat nothing at all or what’s quick? (Too often, ‘quick’ ends up being the healthiest option at the drive-thru.) It interferes with meal planning or meal prep for the same reasons: we set aside time to do it and then Hurricane Mimi hits and all that goes out the window! So when we go to bed that night, we may not have accomplished all we needed to, so now we’re fretting about “what do I do for meals the rest of the week?” and “what’s next with Mimi?”

Obviously, if Mimi / Mike is not a relative, removing her/ him from your circle of friends is easier, but if they’re relatives, then it’s more problematic. Telling them you’re too busy may not be a viable option, but ultimately you need to understand that while he and she are not doing you any favors, you are not doing them any favors either by jumping every time they call.

One of the issues Dr. Nowzaradan (My 600 lb Life) has to deal with on a regular basis is his patients’ enablers.  These are the people who make it easy for his patients to eat 10,000+ calories daily because they either buy it for them, bring it to them or both! Obviously, if it’s hard for you to walk or drive, you’re not going to be wandering around the grocery store filling your cart with brownies, chips or candy and if it’s hard for you to fit behind a steering wheel, you’re not going to be hitting Dunkin Donuts, Sonic or KFC multiple times a day.  His patients get to 500 lbs or more because there are people who do this for them, and they are obviously not doing these super morbidly obese patients any favors.  This is what an enabler does: make it easy for the bad behavior to continue.

Every time you come when Mimi or Mike has their daily disaster, you make it easy for them to continue this attention-seeking behavior. When their toilet gets stopped up or their cell phone dies or they have a flat tire, they can do what everyone else does and call a plumber, the auto club or take the phone to the wireless store. When they have a problem and call you, give them a solution and go on with your day.  When they keep calling with excuses or why they need your help, you do not have to answer! They’ll either take your advice or eventually stop calling you. FYI: be prepared for a tantrum and a lot of passive-aggressive retaliation about how you’re too busy to help them out.  The answer is “Yes, I am too busy! Sorry about that!” I know this sounds harsh, especially if Mike/ Mimi is a relative, but the more they lean on you, the more dependent they become.  Unless they are an actual invalid, this is not good for them because when the time comes for them to act on their own (and it always does), they won’t know what to do because you (or someone else) has always taken care of them!

The Mimi in my life sparks a lot of anger and resentment which not only keeps me up nights, but I’ve recently learned that I do not make the healthiest meal choices when I am angry at her. When dealing with her daily disaster, I am more prone to grab something that I know is not good for me because I am not paying attention to what I am doing: my focus is what she just dumped on me and how angry I am. While blaming Mimi for my bad choice is one excuse I can make, the truth is that it’s my fault for not dealing with Mimi. Allowing the Mimis and Mikes in our lives to run roughshod over our plans and goals is simply an excuse we make for our own failures and in the end we become mini versions of them by blaming them for our behavior: “I’d have reached by goal by now but Mike/ Mimi kept getting in my way.” Sound familiar? Sounds a bit scary to me!