Coming Up For Air: Weight Loss & Getting Perspective

When it comes to losing weight, most of us know what are problems are.  We get lazy about food choices; we give in to cravings; we bail on our workouts because we just don’t feel like it– whatever the excuse is, we know it’s an excuse no matter how we try to justify it!

For some of us, though, we don’t know what the problem is until we are away from the problem.  I remember last year when my weight loss started to hit a few bumps and I was feeling really tired, really stressed and there were quite a few days when I made the ‘best fast food choice’ I could because I didn’t have time to cook.  I was very depressed about the whole situation, mainly blaming myself for making excuses. I was emailing a friend about what was going on in my life: I was working & commuting as usual (2 hrs each way x 5 days a week); I was taking care of my mom’s dogs (going by her place 3-5 times a week) and taking them to the groomers/ vet; I was taking care of my own errands (my dog, groceries & truck maintenance); I was trying to make my workouts (2-3 x week) and I had been doing this since August.  At the time of my email, it was November and of course, now I had to add holiday shopping into that list.  After spending most of one day each weekend with my mom’s dogs while she was in the hospital and going by her home evenings 3-4 times a week after I got off work/ gym/ grocery store, I was too tired to cook when I got home at 8 or 8:30 p.m.  If I didn’t have something healthy I could quickly heat up, then here comes the ‘healthy fast food!’  After taking care of my own pets, housework and dinner, I’d be lucky if I got to bed around 10:00 and then I’m getting up again at 5:30 a.m.  While it still feels like a lot of excuses to me, there were a few of my gym friends whose mouths dropped when I told them what I was doing on a regular basis, and had been doing for nearly four months straight.  No wonder I was tired and cranky!

When I actually stopped to re-read what I had written, I realized that’s a lot to cram into 168 hours a week, and that includes sleeping! Once I wrote it down as an objective list of what I was doing on a daily and weekly basis, I got perspective on my situation. There were legitimate reasons I was feeling so tired and cranky and my eating choices were seriously skewed. The point isn’t “great! I have reasons, not excuses!”; the point is that now I have some perspective on the situation, I can begin to formulate a planned response instead of just jumping from crisis to crisis!  In a lot of ways, this situation was nearly a mirror image of the last two years I worked The Job From Hell: late hours, poor eating choices, no activity, no sleep and triple stress!  I was too busy bouncing from crisis to crisis to stop and get perspective on my situation or figure out how to improve it.  This is the same situation that propelled my weight to nearly 440 lbs and caused my general health to head into the toilet.  In short, it nearly killed me and, while my health and weight were greatly improved by August 2017, I was heading back down the road to where I was in September 2014. Definitely not a good place to be!

Perspective is important, and not just when it comes to weight loss.  What I had been doing at The Job From Hell and those four months last year was slapping band-aids on problems that needed serious attention, and unfortunately, that’s what a lot of us do. When we aren’t being deluged with crises, we all know what kinds of problems can get by with a band-aid and what needs a real solution but when we are drowning in emergencies and ‘gotta do it now!’ situations, we can’t see that. We are too busy trying to keep from drowning to realize that we are bailing out an ocean liner with a teacup.  Maybe you’ve seen the commercial for car insurance where the driver spills his coffee and since he’s reacting to the spilled coffee, he doesn’t see the car in front of him.  It’s because our focus has shifted to what looks like an emergency.  Maybe it is a genuine emergency but unless we keep our focus where it needs to be, our overall situation will never improve.  This is why we need to step back and get a good objective view of what is really going on.

On a recent episode of My 600 lb Life: Where Are They Now?, we got an update on Erica’s weight loss journey. Her first episode was heart-breaking for me because while she lived alone, she was completely dependent on her brother, sister and niece for any assistance such as shopping and some personal care. Only her niece seemed to have any sympathy  or real concern for her situation.  Her brother was apathetic at best and her sister was downright cruel at times.  Although her sister and brother-in-law eventually helped her, it was blatantly obvious that it was not from the goodness of their hearts!  Their nasty snide remarks and threats to stop helping her made it clear that Erica had two choices: meekly accept the abuse or go it on her own.  As it was, their assistance was minimal at best and at worst, it literally put her life at risk. Rather than take the few days to drive her from Central California to Houston, they would only take her if she went on a plane, despite the risk of fatal complications involved with flying. With a flight of about five hours and weighing 661 lbs, Erica was in real danger of developing a fatal blood clot (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism). As it was, upon her arrival in Houston, she ended up being hospitalized due to severe dehydration. (She was so dehydrated she had blood in her urine.)

Erica’s overall attitude was more negative than most patients. It was apparent she had made a difficult last-ditch effort to save her life and she had almost no support from her family. She was not only struggling against her own issues: she had to fight her family’s negativity as well.

It wasn’t until after she had moved to Houston and been living there for a while that she realized her separation from her family and the situation in California allowed her to get perspective on her struggles. When she had to return to California due to finances, she was able to put together a planned response to the issues she knew she was going to have to face. As a result of getting perspective and formulating a plan, Erica was able to make significant progress on her weight loss and at the end of this update, she was within 60-70 lbs of her goal weight.

Getting perspective is hard, mainly because we’re too close to the problem to realize we’re drowning. This is one reason some kind of support community is so important to success: you get the benefit of perspective. You don’t have to get a therapist like Erica did; in my case, I was just emailing a friend. I also share my frustrations and experiences in an online community (My Fitness Pal). A supportive community of any kind not only provides encouragement, ideas and suggestions but it also lets someone who is not drowning in your situation to offer an objective opinion, even if it’s something as simple as “don’t you think that’s a lot of changes all at once?” (They were right!) Perspective allows you to make well considered decisions instead of just reacting to what’s going on around you. It allows you to exercise some control over a situation that may not be entirely within your control. It allows you to develop contingency plans, which in my case meant keeping quick-cooking healthy food on hand (eggs, steam-ready veggies) so I didn’t have to resort to ‘so-called healthy fast food.’

It’s not easy for some of us to find a supportive community and a lot of us think we don’t need one. We do. All the other times I tried to lose weight failed and a big part of that failure was because I was toughing it out on my own. Ironically, having no perspective on my situation kept me from seeing I was drowning all alone and it didn’t have to be that way. Your support community doesn’t have to be others involved in weight loss: some of my biggest supporters are my friends who don’t need to lose weight! They offer motivation, ideas, encouragement and that so necessary objective perspective. Being my friends is all they need to do: giving me their honest opinions, listening when I need a sympathetic sounding board and occasionally helping me come up for air.

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?

Get Off the Island! Don’t Be Afraid of Community

At some point in the course of our education, most of us have had to read something by Ernest Hemingway. Being an eminently employable English major means I’ve actually read several things by him, but the first was For Whom the Bell Tolls. On a side note, I’d like to think it helped motivate me to fierce independence and mild (okay, moderate!) feminism. There are a few things I like about Hemingway, but for me the best part of this particular book is that it was my first exposure to John Donne.  For those of you who aren’t utterly fascinated by old dead British dudes, John Donne was a poet and cleric who died about 1631.  He is most well known for his metaphysical poems, especially the one below from which Hemingway takes his title.

No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee                                                                                                                                         ~ John Donne
Brief little poetic explication here: it’s about how we are all a part of a larger community and every human is connected to every other human.  I think this is why Hemingway chose this poem for his book about the Spanish Civil War- no matter who dies in battle, we are all the lesser for their loss. The death knell is for ourselves, no matter who died.

Yikes, now there’s a happy thought!  But really, the idea is a good one, and I think it’s tremendously important when it comes to weight loss and fitness.  Most of us try to go it alone when we try to eat healthy, lose weight and make better fitness choices.  Either because we are embarrassed by how out of shape we are, how ‘awful’ we think our habits are, because we don’t know how to ask for help, or we don’t think that we need any: (“I shouldn’t need help to know how to eat, for Heaven’s sake!”)  Yeah, we do need help! For a long time, I didn’t know there was help available other than a paid program like Overeaters Anonymous or Weight Watchers. While I don’t want to say that going it alone is guaranteed failure (although it was for me), I do want to let you know that toughing it out by yourself is just making it so very much harder than it needs to be!

I was thinking about communities the other day and I guess that’s why this poem popped into my head.  Bits of Donne’s poem have become cliche in today’s world, but like so many cliches, we hear them, repeat them, but do we remember what they mean?  We roll our eyes when someone tells us “remember, no man is an island!” but we rarely think about this truth in our own lives, especially when it comes to something like weight loss.

This is the reason we have things like ‘accountabili-buddies’ and ‘fitness friends’ and ‘work out buddies.’ Toughing it out by your solitary self is halfway to disaster! Community offers more than just moral support- they are a resource for information and ideas too, and don’t knock the moral support! Remember the last time you tried dieting during the holidays? The office is full of cookies and fudge and candy and there you are with your diet soda and salad- YUM! I know when things like that happen in my office, it helps me tremendously to open up the MFP app on my phone and grouse about it!  I am sharing my frustration with my fitness friends, and I inevitably get back some support,  commiseration and some ideas on how to avoid scarfing all the frosted candy cane cookies. A community also shares ideas about what’s working for them, how you can make positive changes and some other sources of help and information. Today one of my fitness friends shared her recipe for bulletproof coffee, which was miles better than the last recipe I used! Hers actually sounded like something I might want to drink (mine went down the drain)! I got Elizabeth Benton’s name (Primal Potential podcast) from a fitness friend and she has been an invaluable resource, which I have happily shared as much as I can.

A community of any kind is basically a network to help its members share information and provide assistance.  We use them in our jobs and churches and in our social lives.  Facebook? Instagram? Crowd-sourcing? They are all networks and as social creatures, networking is what we are made to do! But when it comes to weight loss and fitness, we balk, mainly for the reasons I mentioned earlier: embarrassment and shame.  This is why so many of us fail with our fitness goals.  We don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re doing, even if we don’t!I know I’m preaching to the choir a bit here. Since you’re reading this blog, you’re at least reaching out for information and support (WTG, you!) While I always encourage questions or comments on this blog, there’s other support out there that’s a bit more interactive. Facebook is always popular. You can post on your own wall or join a dedicated group. Most of the podcasts I listen to have Facebook forums: Metabolic Radio; 40+Fitness, Primal Potential, 2 Keto Dudes. Many also have Instagram accounts too.  You can join the conversation for info and support. 

You can also join an online site like My Fitness Pal (MFP).  I’m honestly not familiar with a lot of these, mainly because I just like MFP. It’s a lot like a fitness oriented Facebook with sections for tracking your food, water, weight, fitness goals as well as forums for asking questions, joining a challenge or message your friends. I credit MFP with a lot of my success- the support, information and feedback have been invaluable. 

While you don’t have to join MFP or any other online group, you’re not doing yourself any favors going it alone. Finding support and community can be as invaluable for you as it has been for me. You don’t have to be super active in any forum you join- that’s up to you- but finding a community makes it easier. Do yourself a favor and get off the island! 

 

Bit by the Fitbit Bug!

A while ago I did a post about how I got a Fitbit, and then my friend did and then another of our friends did.  Suddenly, wearable fitness trackers are all the rage.  People are snatching them up like candy from a busted pinata! But, like candy, there’s a few considerations when it comes to fitness trackers.

I think the thing that concerns most health & fitness “experts” is that people rely on the trackers for their calories burnt and, in turn, how much to eat.  This is something I was already aware of before I got my first tracker. Having been on MFP (My Fitness Pal website) for several months, I knew that when I entered my activity into the app, the app calculated my “calorie burn” for the activity, the amount of time and the level of difficulty.  Obviously, vigorous aerobics for 20 minutes burned more calories than leisure walking for the same amount of time, but one thing I heard repeatedly on the site is that the calculated calorie burn was not accurate and if you “ate back” those calories, you could be overeating.

My goal in getting the tracker was to encourage me to be more active.  I wanted to see how many steps I took a day, how many “active minutes” I normally racked up in a day (sadly, far fewer of both of those than I thought! sad face), but once I saw how active I really was, it got me moving more.  I’ve also noticed on my own that the tracker is far off on how many flights of stairs I climb each day.  I normally avoid stairs due to the arthritis in my knees (plus one has a pin), so climbing stairs is a painful hassle for me.  One day, my Fitbit happily told me I’d climbed a whopping 14  flights of stairs (yeah! One. Four. Hah!) Obviously, I hadn’t climbed even one! So this might beg the question: what’s the point if they’re so far off?  Because even though I might not have been going up the stairs, I was doing something active and that’s what the little device was picking up! It’s fairly accurate (most experts agree) as far as counting steps, and because you personalize the info you load it with, like age, weight and height, when it does calculate your “calorie burn,” it’s closer to the mark than a general machine or an app, even if it’s not entirely accurate.

The best thing about a fitness tracker isn’t actually your step count, active minutes or the calorie burns: it’s the bug that makes you want to move! We all love gadgets and games and this is both.  It tracks your steps and activity, so there’s always the incentive to beat your best score, plus once you add friends to your account, you get to compete with them to see who hits their goals or who gets the most steps.  It’s a motivator, and motivation is something we all need at one time or another!

It’s like the Pokemon Go app that so many people have been complaining about or defending.  I don’t play the game but I really don’t think there’s anything bad with making a video game that encourages people to get up and move.  I think people need to look where they’re going instead of staring at their phones, but people are going to do that for texting, watching YouTube or anything else on their phones! They were doing it long before Pokemon Go and they’ll be doing it once the game is no longer the craze du jour.

I know I gave it a lot of thought before I got my first Fitbit, mainly because not using it would be a waste of money, but once I decided to get it, I just made a habit of sticking it in my pocket every day and it quickly became a habit.  Just as quickly, I realized I should have spent a little more money and gotten the next model up.  My first Fitbit was a Zip, and I realized the One (next model up) would also help me track my sleep, which I really need to work on.  Eventually I got the One and my sister gave me a Charge HR for Christmas.  The Charge also tracks my heart rate, which I think is pretty cool.  [People make a lot of fuss about the fat burning zone for heart rates.  It’s a lower zone, so you allegedly burn less calories but the higher percentage of those calories are fat (about 60%) and people work to stay in the lower fat burning zone.  As Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) pointed out, if you burn 100 calories in the fat burning zone, 60 of those will be fat, but if you burn 500 calories in the non-fat burning zone and only 40% of those are fat, that’s 200 fat calories, so what’s the better deal here? Just an FYI.]

My point in my last post about trackers was how contagious they can be.  My friend Judy had seen her doctor who encouraged her to get more exercise naturally, and she was asking me about trackers.  I loaned her my Zip, which she’s had ever since, and after a while, a mutual friend of ours also got one, having seen how much fun we were having with ours.  In some ways, it’s a validation of how much we get done in a day: running errands, doing housework and yard work, just being out and moving.  When we come home and flop in the chair, and our Fitbit says we got 12,431 steps in, we feel a little accomplished and somewhat justified in our being tired.  We got it done!!

Conversely, when we pull out our Fitbit at 3:45 pm and we’ve got a grand total of 2224 steps for the day, it’s a reminder that we’ve been sitting on our butts for most of the day and even though we may have been “busy,” we really haven’t (“binge-watching Grimm reruns don’t cut it, hon!” says Fitbit).  It’s a motivator to get out and do something active, even if it’s just doing the shopping or the errands- it’s moving!

Movement really matters, and not just for the calories it burns.  I’m reading Kelly Starrett’s Deskbound, which is a little scary since just sitting in a chair can cause a lot of damage to your body.  Inactivity is deadly.  The old cliche “move it or lose it” really applies here, so one of the nice little bonuses about Fitbits is that you can set an alarm in some models (like my One) to urge you to get up and move.  They also have “chatter” which are slogans that pop up on the screen and say things like “Take me for a walk!” when you haven’t been very active.

As you might have guessed, I love my little One and if you want to take it from me, you are welcome to lean over my dead body and pry it from my cold dead hand (apologies to Charlton Heston here), but it’s true.  I love checking my stats for steps, sleep and active minutes.  I feel the nagging when yes, it’s 3:45 on Sunday and I’ve got less than 3000 steps (yikes!) and I feel very proud when I really rack them up (I clocked 7 miles on the Queen Mary last May- yay!) It’s the motivation that I enjoy.  I like knowing that I routinely get more steps now than I did when I got my first one over a year ago.  It’s progress I’m proud of.  I also like that my friends are also getting more active; this is something we love to share now, though both of them put my step count to shame (and they’re 15 years older than me too! Eeek!)

So if you decide to get a fitness tracker, do some comparison shopping.  I opted for Fitbit because I didn’t know a lot about some of the others, and Fitbit seemed a little more price friendly to me (code for cheaper).  If I do ever get another one, I will probably get a Garmin, since my water aerobics trainer has a waterproof model she wears in the pool.  (The one thing I don’t like about Fitbit is they aren’t waterproof.) But whichever one you decide to get, make sure you’re getting it for the right reasons.  If you want to track your calories or energy burn or even heart rates, bear in mind their accuracy is limited.  In my opinion, they function best as motivation.  It’s a lot like hitting the gym or going for a walk with a buddy- it’s just more fun to do and if you enjoy it more, you’ll do it more! The more you move, the easier it becomes and the better you feel.  Humans weren’t made to sit around; we were made to move!  So, move it, people!

Resources: Sharing is Caring- really!

One of the most important things I have learned on my weight loss journey is that resources are key to your success.  When I say resources, I mean things like a supportive community, reliable sources of information and the right tools for you.  Most people turn to the Internet, but the internet is a double edged sword.  While it can inform, it can also inundate.  Getting washed away by too much information is nearly as bad as having none at all.

When I realized I was actually losing weight and the changes I was making were actually becoming permanent, I went to the Internet to look for a diet that would work long term and be doable.  I also went back to the My Fitness Pal website, but this time, I began to use it!  This is when it started to dawn on me that not only is it easier to do this with friends, it’s practically impossible to do it without friends.  When they say things “it takes a village,” it’s the truth, not a cliché.  Doing the hard stuff is a whole lot easier when you know there are others doing it too!  It also puts difficult situations in perspective when you come home hurting or are feeling like you blew it and look online and see other people are having the same hard time: it’s not just you and no, you didn’t blow it—this is a normal situation and you can make progress!  You are just like everyone else going through this process and it’s not impossible!

I’ve made a list here of resources that I use pretty much all the time.  They work for me and if they don’t feel comfortable for you, don’t worry- it’s just a matter of finding something that does work for you! Hopefully, if these don’t, there’s a resource or a link that can help you find it!

The Paleo Lifestyle

This is more a way of life than an actual resource (obviously!) but I’m listing it because some people don’t know what it’s about, even though they may have heard about it in passing.  Paleo is simply put a whole foods diet.  People call it “the caveman diet” because one of the basic premises is “no foods our ancestors didn’t eat,” but really it comes down to eating as few processed foods as possible.  I stay away from most grains/ grain products because they tend to be highly processed, ie wheat gets turned into flour and turned into pasta or bread.  Some people argue about dairy products not being “Paleo,” but really what I do is eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, and most of my diet is vegetables, proteins, some fruit and a little dairy in the form of cream in my coffee and the occasional cheese or yogurt (I’m a little lactose intolerant).  I actually eat more vegetables than meat.  Most people think that the “caveman diet” is nothing but meat and it’s not- in fact, it’s mostly vegetables (I like broccoli and other cruciferous veggies with the occasional sweet potato thrown in!)  I think even you don’t want to “Paleo,” there is a benefit to limiting processed foods and refined carbohydrates.

My Fitness Pal (MFP)

This website and app is such an incredible source of support for me.  It lets you track your food, calories, nutrition, water intake and exercise.  You enter everything you eat and drink and the app/ website calculates the calories.  It’s got a huge database and if your food isn’t there (rarely happens!), you can add it in. It’s the same with exercise.  There are also forums available if you have questions, if you want to discuss or learn about a particular topic.  This is one place you can go to get information on some other resources & support.  It also lets you make friends.  It’s a lot like a fitness-oriented Facebook.  You get to see your friends’ posts and they see yours.  You can also message them in the app.  As I said, it’s an incredible source of support and information for me; I see that so many of them are dealing with the same issues I’m dealing with (I’m not a freak of nature! Yay!) and I can get some advice or at the very least, some perspective on what I’m going through.

Primal Potential & Elizabeth Benton

She is probably the second most important resource I have.  Incidentally, I got her name from one of my MFP friends.  Elizabeth has been through the same process I’m going through myself.  She has PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which makes it hard to lose weight and has been overweight all her life.  After reaching nearly 350 lbs, and a lifetime of failed attempts, she learned to make sustainable long term changes, lost the weight and started Primal Potential to help others get healthier.  She has a lot of free information on her website, such as 100 healthy fat loss friendly meal ideas, free supportive wallpapers for your phone and a podcast available on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and iHeartRadio.  She has other free information available in her free weekly newsletter and is very accessible by email and Facebook.  She has programs that you can purchase and she is hosting a women’s transformational weekend coming this November in Nashville (I think tickets are still available at her site).  She is very straightforward and honest about weight loss.  She does group coaching called Fast Track and the fall/winter fast track waiting list should be opening up sometime this fall.  She uploads new podcasts every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and all of the episodes are downloadable on Primal Potential.

Metabolic Radio/ Taylor Empey & Shane Pace

This is another podcast and website that I heard of through MFP.  Shane Pace, who is one of the hosts, is actually an MFP friend of mine.  He is a massage therapist and life-long lifter (weights).  Taylor is a fitness trainer and is in the process of becoming a registered dietician.  (They are both in Utah and I’m not sure what the certifications are there since I’m in California.  Their bios are available on the website.) Metabolic Radio is less centered on fat loss or weight loss like Primal Potential and is more focused on fitness and nutrition.  They have a private forum on Facebook that you can join once you send a request and you can ask them questions there or submit them to the podcast, where they do a weekly Q&A as well as episodes covering what’s trending in the fitness world and cover topics related to fitness, strength training and nutrition, such as supplements, how to choose a trainer, and probiotics, for example.  You can also sign up their free weekly newsletter or submit questions on the website.  They are relatively new to the podcast world but are growing fast.  They are so dedicated to giving you the best advice and if they don’t know the answer to your question, they will either find it or point you in the right direction.  They are much more oriented to fitness and training than Primal Potential and I think these two podcasts complement each other well.

Paleo Solution & Robb Wolf

You cannot have heard about Paleo without hearing about The Paleo Solution written by Robb Wolf.  This was one of the breakthrough books on Paleo (I blush to admit that I have not read it! Gasp!) I do however listen to his podcast.  One of the great things about his podcast is that he focuses on guests who cover different topics in the Paleo, health and nutrition world.  While Primal Potential and Metabolic Radio focus more on informational topics and questions from listeners, Robb’s guests cover various topics and tend to be experts in their fields, such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Katy Bowman and Dr. Jason Fung (to name a few!)  It’s a great way to keep up with the current trends in nutrition, Paleo, fitness and also get more background in the areas in which I am not well versed.

Paleo Magazine, Paleo Magazine Radio and Tony Federico

I was so excited to find there is an entire magazine dedicated to the Paleo lifestyle! This is a huge resource for me because it covers what’s new, what’s getting updated and it’s full of advertisements for Paleo friendly products! One of the problems with eating Paleo is that it’s hard to find products that aren’t highly processed or that come from non-GMO sources or aren’t full of things I don’t like eating.  (I don’t like eating crop oils, and most things have soybean / canola or corn oil in them.) So this magazine gives me all the latest information in my little nutritional niche, besides having a podcast (hosted by Tony) with guests who are at the forefront of new ideas and approaches in living healthy.  He recently attended the Ancestral Health Symposium and gave a great talk on the history of sedentarism (sitting) and how it’s not really healthy for you, and he also had several interviews with some of the big names in the AH and Functional Medicine arenas, not to mention a rousing discussion on the great Pokemon Go opportunities at the Symposium itself. Seriously! (I don’t play but it sounded like a lot of fun, and if you can’t have fun being fit, what’s the point?) Even if you’re not eating Paleo, it has some great info on healthy living in general.  I think it’s worth a look and I got my first copy at Barnes & Noble.  They also offer a digital version via a smartphone app!

The Paleo Women, Noelle Tarr and Stefani Ruper

This is a podcast I recently started listening to, so I’m still learning a lot about the hosts.  I do want to note that shortly after I started listening, I realized they had placed #2 in the “Best New Podcast” category in Paleo Magazine.  Number 1 (Nom Nom Paleo) is also an excellent podcast but they do not seem to be producing new episodes.  The Paleo Women seems to be geared mainly for younger women (I am 50) but I still think they have a lot of great ideas for healthy nutrition (they had a long discussion on apples! Lol) and just general fitness.  They are also a lot of fun to listen to.  It’s a lot like having coffee with a couple of friends and chatting about fitness, health and nutrition.

Some Helpful Tools

Everything is easier to do when you have the right tools and why make things harder on yourself? Getting fit and/ or losing weight is hard enough!  The list that I have here is by no means comprehensive and they are definitely not specific for Paleo, but I’ve found they are enormously helpful for me, especially when I was starting out.

Food Journal

I know a lot of people don’t like keeping a food journal.  They think it’s a hassle or it’s a little embarrassing.  It’s not about tracking calories, although you can; it’s about finding out what foods work better for you.  Elizabeth Benton (see above) recommends tracking what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat it and how it makes you feel (ie, low energy, really hungry, sugar spike, etc).  She has some great templates on her website if you want to check those out.  MFP  (also above) is essentially a calorie & food tracking app.  You enter in what you ate and how much and it automatically tracks your calories and your macros for you.  There is also a place where you can add food notes, like “ravenously hungry after breakfast” or “really worn out after workout,” etc.  The drawback is that it’s a little tough to page back to look at the trends.  I like a paper book journal.  The one I use is DietMinder from Memory Minder and they are available on their website or at Amazon.  I got my first one from Barnes & Noble.  It’s made mostly for tracking things like calories, macros and fiber, water, exercise, but it’s got some open spaces where I take notes and add in what I’m currently tracking.  The point of the journal is if you aren’t going in the direction you want, you can look at what you’re doing to make changes.  I was eating very low carb at one point and I was getting very tired so when I looked at my journal, I saw that the tiredness started when my carbs dropped 100 grams or lower.  I find now that when I keep my carbs around 135, I have energy and I still lose weight.

Nutrition for Dummies

This is important no matter what diet or lifestyle you try out!  As I’ve mentioned before, I like the Dummies books because they assume you know nothing and are laid out in a pretty straightforward manner and are easy to navigate.  This book covers the basics in nutrition and lets you know what you need to eat to stay healthy as a human being, and if you are going vegetarian or vegan, where some pitfalls might be hiding.  A lot of times, I’d see patients on My 600 lb Life who are eating badly and think they are doing great but they are actually malnourished, or eating high carbohydrates.  This book explains what all those macros are in detail and why we need to get certain vitamins and minerals.  If you haven’t looked at nutrition since high school biology and you’re starting a new eating plan, you might want to give it a look.  It’ll explain to you why something like the pasta lover’s diet might not be your best option!

Scales (Yes! The infernal Contraptions!)

I’ll be honest: I hated scales!  Food scales, me scales, any kind!  I really didn’t want to get one to weigh me, but I figured I couldn’t track my progress without one, since I only got weighed at the doctor’s office.  I finally broke down and ordered one off Amazon (the ubiquitous supplier of everything in my life!).  I got an EatSmart brand scale that has an extra wide platform and will weigh up to 500lbs.  It’s digital and it’s got an auto-shut off and calibration.  I like it (as much as I can like a scale!) and it’s been pretty reliable.  The best thing is that I can check my weight at home.

The other scale I finally bought is an Ozeri digital food scale (again from Amazon).  I’d actually had this one for over a year before it got reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen and it was their best buy! (Whoo hoo- I did good!)  This scale is flat so it’ll fit in a drawer, has clear tare and unit buttons (so you can switch between grams & ounces & milliliters) and an easy readout.  It’ll weigh up to 11 lbs and also has an auto- shut off.  The reason I bought the scale wasn’t so much obsessing about accuracy of how much I ate, but to help me determine portion size.  When you go to a restaurant, the amount of food they give you is not a portion for one meal; it’s usually for several meals, but if that’s what you’re used to seeing, you have no idea (I didn’t anyway!) of what one serving of meat/ veggies/ pasta looks like.  I got it so I could get an idea of what a serving of nuts looks like (0.25 cup) or what 4 oz. of meat looks like.  Now I have a pretty good idea, but I still use it almost every day, mainly out of habit, but it helps me stay on target with portion sizes!

I also bought a cheap whiteboard for my fridge to help with the food scale.  I discovered shortly after I got the Ozeri that I was having to write down the amounts on scraps of paper and then having to gather up the scraps when I wrote the numbers in my journal, or I was bringing my journal into the kitchen ( and getting it full of gunk!), so when school was starting up, I got one of the $5 whiteboards (made for student lockers) with the magnetic pen with the eraser tip. It hangs easily on my fridge right next to the scale; I write stuff down, and it makes this a lot easier.  Since I’m posting this in September, there should be a lot of these whiteboards available out there right now!

Living Paleo for Dummies

Again with the Dummies!  I got this because I was interested in this lifestyle and it definitely answered my questions!  It also has sections on movement and work outs (with pictures!) and a recipes section!  There are a lot of Paleo books out there but this one doesn’t espouse one particular field or author.  If you are interested in Paleo, I think a lot of my other resources can help you find your way, especially Paleo Magazine and the Paleo Solution and Robb Wolf.

I’m also going to give a plug for cookbooks.  I don’t particularly like cookbooks because I’m not that kind of cook.  If it needs a recipe, it’s too complicated for me, but I know lots of people use them!  One I did buy is Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong.  They are definitely not chefs and so their style of cooking is pretty simple and easy and their food is great! (They also have an app and a blog!)  Elizabeth Benton also has 100 Fat Loss Friendly Recipes on her website for free and she also did a podcast on fat loss friendly meals under $1.99 a serving (mostly available from Trader Joe’s but I’ve got one, so yay!)  The point I’m trying to make is that if you are starting something new or something very different from how you have been cooking/ eating, you want to have some kind of framework (which is what these tools & resources are supposed to be!)  They’re kind of like training wheels until you can get your balance! You don’t have to use them, but if they help, why not give them a look?  I’m not associated with any of the above except as an average consumer.  I’ve tried these products and I like them.  You might not, but hopefully you can find something similar that will be helpful to you!  As always, if you have any questions, you can leave a comment here and I will get back to you!  Thanks!

Pick Your Poison: It’s All Up to You!

Lately I have noticed several of my friends on MFP (My Fitness Pal) struggling with making healthy changes or just resenting/ getting tired of the ongoing “struggle to stay healthy.”  I know that struggle well! Pretty much every Sunday, I post my “weekly gripe” about prepping for the coming week! (Grrr!! Ruins my Sunday!) I know I’ve complained about it here, but I do it every week and even though I grouse mightily about it, I know it needs to be done.  Truth be told, I resent it the way I generally resent Mondays, the way I resent having to get up early every weekday morning, having to put gas in the car every other day, having to do laundry, etc.  It’s a “chore” and the lazy wastrel in me loathes doing chores! I actually take my laundry to a drop off service, so my version on “doing laundry” is sorting the clothes, putting them in the laundry bags and dropping them off then picking them up.  I don’t actually wash and fold the clothes myself.  One of my friends thinks I’m a little extravagant for paying someone else to do this for me, but frankly, it’s one less thing for me to do, I don’t have to cram it into my schedule in the evening/ weekend and I know it gets done right.  It’s worth it to me (besides it’s only my work clothes- the other stuff I still have to cram in on the weekends usually every couple weeks or so!)

I grouse, I whine, I do it anyway! So what’s the big deal?  The “deal” is that we all pick our own poison: either we choose something we hate to do that needs to be done or we do what we really want to do and the devil take the consequences! It would be really easy for me to shut off the alarm every morning, roll over in bed and say “f*** getting up!” (That’s pretty much what I think when I hear that hated alarm!) I am NOT a morning person.  Mornings for me start somewhere in the afternoon!  Mornings are when I go to sleep (like 1 or 2 AM!) But I get up anyway and drag my sorry butt down the hall to get ready for work.  This is called being responsible and being an adult and being accountable and all that good junk that comes with being a productive human being. At 5:45 a.m., being responsible, accountable and productive totally and completely sucks! I hate it but I do it anyway, because once I’m awake and coherent and sane, I love my job! I love being productive and learning things and helping people out.  It’s the process I can’t stand.  It’s the “getting there” that gets in the way!

It’s the same thing every Sunday when I wake up and know that it’s “prep day.” (ugly nasty groan here!) I know the day is only mine until about 2:00 p.m.  That’s pretty much the latest that I should go to the grocery store and start getting things done for the upcoming week. This is pretty much how the rest of the day goes:

2:00 p.m.  Grocery shopping; 3:00-3:30 p.m. Putting groceries away & start making lunch & breakfasts for next week;[ 5:00 p.m. Start Sunday’s dinner; 6:30ish Finish dinner; 7:00 p.m. Shower;] 7:45ish pack gym bag & lay out Monday’s clothes (& clothes for the rest of the week if feeling ambitious). 8:00 p.m. Set up coffee for the next day & pack the lunch bag. The rest of Sunday night is now devoted to me (usually PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery).

That’s pretty much the routine every Sunday afternoon & evening.  You wouldn’t think it would take up so much time, but it does.  It’s about 4 hours out of my weekend devoted to getting everything set up for the coming week, and this is not counting (obviously!) the housework and yardwork and other stuff that goes along with everyday life.  So every Sunday afternoon, I grouse and complain and resent having to do it, but I do it anyway.  It’s part of that being “responsible” junk I was discussing earlier: once it’s done, I’m a lot happier.  Because once it’s done, I feel accomplished: I got a lot done!  Once it’s done, I don’t have to worry about “what am I having for breakfast/ lunch/ dinner tomorrow (or the rest of the week)?”  Once it’s done, I don’t have to go to bed thinking “remember to wake up ten minutes earlier because we need to find what I’m wearing/ pack the gym bag/ make the coffee/ get food together to take.” FYI: during the week when I’m making dinner, I set up the coffee and pack my breakfast & lunch for the next day- why not? I’m already in the kitchen!

This has become as much a part of my regular routine as getting up the next day, getting gas in the car, feeding the pets, etc.  It’s been fully integrated into my lifestyle by this point and although it is as much fun as cleaning the litter box (now there’s a true to life image!), it’s just as necessary and we all feel a whole lot better when it’s done (including the cats)!

But I can still choose NOT to do it.  What happens if I blow off Sunday prep?  Let me illustrate that for you:

5:30- 6:15 a.m. Get up and dig through the drawers/ closet for my clothes, socks, etc. Pack gym bag (2 piece suit, towel, gym shoes, shorts, t shirt) 6:15 a.m. drive to fast food place for breakfast  6:30ish a.m. get gas & drive to work. 12:00ish have lunch delivered or drive to get it 3:15-5:30 p.m. drive home & get to gym 6:45 p.m. leave gym (wet from the pool) & go to grocery store 7:30ish get home & make dinner 8:00ish eat dinner.  The only real difference there would be if I went to a fast food place instead of the grocery store, which would give me another 45-hour of free time.That schedule above is what I used to do.  Just about every day.  And I did it for almost 6 years (minus the gym but add another 2-3 hours of job).  Because “I didn’t have time” on the weekends to prep for the week ahead.  It was a little more expensive than what I do now, cash-wise.  It was a LOT more expensive health-wise. What did those extra 4 hours on Sundays gain me: an extra 160 lbs (to date); elevated blood sugar; joint pain; back pain; pain walking & standing; a rotten trip to Disneyland (no walking or standing there!); and clothes that barely fit.  Got me a lot, didn’t it?  Real fun stuff too!

So every Sunday, I get to pick my poison: I can blow off the 4 hours of prep time and the blasted trip to the grocery store or I can fly by the seat of my pants and do it all as it comes due every single day. I can eat out every day all week and spare myself the cooking & shopping time.  I can choose to have more “free time!”  OH, HELL NO!! Every Sunday, I get my butt down to the local Safeway and I grumble as I go through my list and I b*tch as I make my lunches and pack my stupid gym bag and everything else on my weekly prep list, because as much as I BMW about it, I know -without a doubt- I would rather do this than go back to doing it the old way.  And truly, once it’s all done, I feel a lot better about having done it (and it gives me an extra fifteen minutes of snooze time & play time with the pets in the morning!).

This is the “poison” I pick.  We all get to choose our own; for some of my MFP friends, it’s choosing healthy foods over the convenient stuff, or getting the workout done; or maybe it’s meal planning and prep like me. What it is is actually less important that the fact we choose to do it.  Yeah, it’s a sacrifice.  Yeah, it’s a pain in the butt.  Yeah, it’s not always fun.  It’s a chore.  It’s a hassle.  It’s boring and it takes away from the fun stuff we’d much rather be doing (for me pretty much anything involving the pets or On Demand tv)! Many of my MFP friends were asking themselves why they keep doing it when it’s making them unhappy?  To start with the only thing really keeping them unhappy about it is their perspective.  I’m going to pull a page from Sam Clemens here: if you tell someone they have to whitewash a fence, they’re going to hate it, but if you tell them, they can’t, they will eventually pay you for the privilege of doing it (Tom Sawyer).  If you tell yourself over and over again what a pain in the butt it is to log your food every day, then, yes, it will be a pain in the butt. Each time you do it.  If you tell yourself this is an opportunity to learn something about yourself or to keep yourself moving towards your goals, then that’s what it becomes!  Yes, I grouse and grumble about meal prep, but I feel pretty good when it’s done and I know I can have those extra minutes (an entire hour or more) each weekday with my cockapoo and kitties.  Would I rather be scrambling for my clothes and lunch or wrestling with my cat and playing ball with my dog? No brainer! It’s a trade off I am happy to make (and I kinda like grousing about it- gives me something to b*tch about)! So, from my perspective, it’s a necessary chore.

Also, if this necessary chore isn’t working for you, then find one that does!  I used to take my laundry on Tuesdays, but I found it was stacking the front part of my week with too much to do, so I moved it to a later day of the week.  It still gets done, but now it’s more convenient for me.  I tried doing grocery shopping during the week but it was too much of a hassle trying to get it done during the work week when the trade off included getting to bed later.  The schedule I have now is the one that works best for me. It took a little fine tuning but so far, it’s working out pretty well.  If it weren’t working out, or if it stops working out in the future, I will have to change it.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone!

Probably the biggest mistake most people make when they try to make a new habit, healthy or not, is that they try to make ALL the changes at ONCE!  This is so not the way to do it! We all do a lot better making one change at a time and once that becomes a new habit, we make another change! We do it slowly and incorporate them into the routine once the “new” habit has become part of the routine.  When I started my prepping routine, I started making my lunches as part of last night’s dinners: I’d make more than enough because I used the leftovers for lunch or breakfast.  I started making breakfast on the weekends.  I started incorporating little habits one at a time and then fine tuning them until I got a routine that works.  I may go back to doing leftovers again- who knows? If it works out better, then yeah, I will, but this is part of the process of change.  We need to do what works best for us, what we feel good about and we need to keep a positive attitude about it!  This is what I mean when I say it’s all up to you! You can make it “the end of the world” and the “most awful experience ever” or you can focus on the benefits you get from it!  Each morning when I take ten minutes and wrestle with my pets, that schlepping to the grocery store Sunday afternoon pays off!  When I can spend a few extra minutes programming my iPod before I leave for work, it pays off!  Knowing I don’t have to make a mad dash soaking wet for the grocery store deli before all the rotisserie chickens are gone on Wednesday after water aerobics, it’s worth it!  We pick our poison and just because it may not be the yummiest flavor in the world doesn’t mean it has to taste awful either! We have alternatives; it’s up to us to make the best decision we can.  Bottoms up, everyone!

 

Taking Stock of the Journey Thus Far

  I weigh 283 lbs.  That is shocking to me.  It would be shocking for most people but not for the same reasons.  For most of my adult life, I weighed more than 300 lbs.  For the last ten years or so, I weighed 375 or more, then tipped over the 400 mark about 2011 or 2012.  I think the last time I weighed under 300 was some time in the early 90’s or maybe the late 80’s.  I’ve been pretty focused on getting under 300 since the beginning of 2016, but it was mainly just as a goal.  I was so thrilled when I finally hit the 200’s because I had reached my “goal” and then I started focusing on the new one: getting under 290.  Now the realization that “I am under 300 lbs” is finally hitting me.  I know other people still see an obese woman, but for me, I am noticing how much smaller and stronger I am, and I keep finding little reminders, mainly with my clothes.  The 4x shorts that I used to wear around the house and after the pool are way too big now.  They literally fall off unless I use a binder clip to keep them up.  There are a couple pair of slacks I wear to work that I need the binder clip on, so I have to wear a long top to hide the clip.  I have a few “at home” pants that need the same clip, and I think I need to take in the waist on my swim shorts, since they start to slide off when I exercise in the pool.  I had stopped wearing last summer’s swimsuit because the top and the shorts were sliding off.  I had figured it was because the suit was old and stretched out (could be!) but the fact is now, both of them are now getting big on me (I got the new one in March).  The shoes that I barely got into in March now fit fine; the ones that I could barely tie when I got them in 2014 are now a little loose and the two pairs of sandals that nearly needed another hole punched in the straps: I’ve tightened both of them three times since I keep stepping out of them.  A few of my tops are starting to hang on me, and most of the ones I wear to work now are hand-me-downs from my younger, smaller, sister.  I was shopping online and found a cute top, but I didn’t buy it because I was afraid it would hang on me too (it was a plus size site.)  Also, one of my rings which was nearly too tight now fits on my middle finger, the one that fit fine is now so loose I take it off in the pool (nearly lost it a few times working out) and the small size ring my mom gave me that I could not wear now fits although it’s kinda tight.

Walking around the office I am almost always conscious of how easy it is to walk (and walk a little fast!).  I’m also aware of how relatively flat my stomach is, how much more defined the muscles are in my arms, how bony my knees look and how I actually have contours in my calves.  I also have shoulders and a collarbone again. It’s been pretty weird seeing the physical changes in my body because for so long I was focused on the number on the scale and tracking my nutrition.  The changes in my body were a by-product, and, yeah, I was noticing but like my weight loss, I didn’t really internalize it.  It was an interesting and encouraging by-product, but beyond that, the only thing about the changes that really concerned me was the loose skin and the varicose veins in my legs that were becoming noticeable now that the surrounding adipose tissue (code for “fat”) was going away.

I think the realization kind of really hit me when I saw my doctor at the end of June 2016.  I had last seen her early in the year and I only needed to see her for my ongoing arthritis (knees) and bone spur (lumbar spine). When I last saw her, I had already lost about 100 and my doctor was very enthusiastic and supportive.  When my doctor walked into the room a few weeks ago, she was in awe—literally in awe—of my weight loss.  I had seen the number of pounds lost going up and I had seen the congratulatory comments from my fitness friends and I had rejoiced in my ongoing progress.  I’m competitive, so seeing my friends’ weight loss numbers rising kept encouraging me to lose more, do better, make better choices and that’s part of the motivational process with My Fitness Pal, but until I saw the look on my doctor’s face, I don’t think I realized the enormity (yeah, it’s a pathetic pun) of my weight loss: 150 lbs then and another five since.

 In June of 2014, when I went to the doctor, I weighed in at 438.  I was utterly miserable; at the time, I thought my weight had little to do with it.  I thought it was stress from my job that was the source of my misery, and I wasn’t entirely wrong.  The stress was causing a lot of real problems with my life and though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was contributing to my obesity, but it was only one of a lot of factors.

After I left my “killer job,” it started a snowball effect which led eventually to my weight loss.  I started losing weight in January 2015 after making a series of what I thought were unconnected changes.  The bottom line is that I went back to my doctor’s on June 30th and two years later, I weighed in at 289.  That’s 149 lbs lost in two years.  When I saw my doctor in July 2015, I had already lost close to 100 lbs and my doctor was extremely enthusiastic to say the least.  When I went back to see her two weeks ago, she was literally in awe.  She essentially looked at my blood work and said it was all good.  Aside from checking on my knees and low back (I have arthritis, disc degeneration and bone spurs), her biggest concern was finding out if I was going to continue losing weight, why I started losing and where to go from here.

 It’s definitely been an adventure.  The simple explanation I gave my doctor was that after leaving my job, I got depressed, stopped eating fast food and that change alone was enough to spur a 40 lb weight loss.  I started watching My 600 lb Life and after having the crap scared out of me, I took Dr. Nowzaradan’s advice to eat a high protein- low carb diet. After that, I looked for ways to keep going with the weight loss and made a decision to keep going.

That’s the short version.  I literally made losing weight the focus of my life.  I spent a lot of time looking at books and diets and eating plans.  I looked for a support community.  The one that I went back to was My Fitness Pal, and this time I posted on the forums and made friends, so I have a mutually supportive group of people.  We support and motivate each other to keep going.  We look to each other for advice and resources.  One of them gave me the Primal Potential podcast/ website which is another resource for me.  This led me to find other podcasts, such as Metabolic Radio, the Paleo Solution, and Paleo Magazine Radio.  I continue to watch My 600 lb Life when it’s on and now My Big Fat Fabulous Life.  All these keep me focused on my goals: being healthier and continuing to lose weight.  (This blog does the same thing.)

I joke with my friends that all of these function as my “12 step meeting,” and while my friends kinda giggle over it, it’s true.  I honestly don’t know if what I can really be called a true addict when it comes to food, but I know that support is crucial when it comes to changing lifelong habits. I think most of the healthy habits I’ve developed have become permanent parts of life now.

The biggest indicator of this has come just recently.  I’ve been wanting certain foods, like apple fritters, pancakes, chocolate and others refined carbs that I used to eat regularly.  I had a couple donuts a few weeks ago on a lark.  Donuts have never been a real trigger for me; they always smell better than they taste to me, so resisting them has always been easy.  I had a two and they weren’t terrible, but they weren’t irresistible.  The biggest draw for me was that after I bought them, I saw they had apple fritters, which I really like, but I didn’t buy any because they were too much with the others that I’d already chosen.  For days afterwards, I kept thinking about them, but not buying them.  Partly because it was just wanting, but also because my new habits had sent me out the door with my breakfast already.  Yesterday when I went to the store, I had planned to buy me a buttermilk bar and split it for dessert tonight; they didn’t have the bars, but they did have apple fritters, but I went home without any donuts.  I wanted the buttermilk bar.  I stopped at See’s Candies earlier that day. I only got a few because usually once I eat a couple, I really REALLY want the rest, so I figure the fewer I have to binge on, the better.  Well, after eating the few I had planned on (about half), I didn’t feel the irresistible craving I usually get for candy.  In fact, I forgot about and left it on the coffee table when I went shopping for my weekly groceries.  My pup thankfully isn’t a chowhound so it was still there when I got back.  Still not craving the candy.  It’s so weird not to be craving the candy.  There’s a part of my brain that is saying “pancakes and bread and noodles are good and you should be eating them” but there is another part of my brain that says “eh, not worth the effort.”

On one level, it’s great knowing that I don’t have these cravings for foods that aren’t good for me, but on another level, it’s more than a bit disconcerting, because this is not who I am.  Or rather, this isn’t who I used to be.  Is this who I am now?  Because this is a person I don’t know.  I am not a person who looks at things like apple fritters and See’s Candy and doesn’t want them.  The same thing happened when I went to lunch with my dad the other day: we went to lunch at a buffet and when he ran out of tortilla chips, I went and got him more.  I sat there looking at the chips right next to me and I didn’t want them.  Last week I went out with friends and ordered a sandwich (it was the best option on the menu) and a side salad instead of the fries, but they screwed up and served me fries anyway.  My friends ate some and I left them there when I boxed up the rest of my sandwich.  I love fries, and tortilla chips, and apple fritters and chocolates.  Or at least I used to.  Who is this new person and what does she love?  Irony: at the lunch last Saturday, they ordered appetizers (deep fried calamari, cheese bites, shrimp and bruschetta) and I didn’t have any, but when my salad arrived I actually said “yay, salad!” and meant it.  Apparently, this new person loves salad.  In a way, it’ll be interesting finding out what she loves, but on another level, it’s rather disorienting and a little scary.  It’s new and uncharted territory, but I’m trying to look at it as an adventure, a journey of self-discovery.  We are used to people trying to “find themselves” as some kind of midlife crisis, but this is different.  It hasn’t been brought on by a crisis but instead by growth.  I’ve grown out of my comfort zone and I’m headed into a new frontier (I’m an old Trekkie- what can I say?). Discovery is exciting because it’s unknown, but that’s what also makes it scary.  Who knows what I’ll uncover and who knows who I’ll become? I guess I get to find out.

Follow the Bouncing Ball: Scale Rebound

I hate when this happens! And it happens to me a lot: I go down three pounds and then up two.  Down one and a half, then up one. Over and over again! Aack!! (yeah, that’s a scream face) It’s so frustrating and I just wish it would stop, even if it means not losing weight but just holding steady! It happened again today: I’d gone down 9 lbs last week and I’m up 3 this week! Grrr!

Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do to stop this.  This is how our bodies work. Because we are always eating, drinking, moving, our weight changes not only day to day but hour to hour! Almost all of us have had the experience where we weigh first thing in the morning and then later on at the doctor or the gym, we hop on their scale and -yikes! that’s 3 pounds more than this morning! Is this thing broken?!

I wish! Unfortunately, our weight naturally fluctuates due to what we’ve eaten, what we drank, whether we’re retaining water, if we are menstruating, if we are sick, etc.  Just eating requires fluid to metabolize food, so there’s that weight! Not to mention whatever we happen to be wearing! This is why most people tend to weigh the same time of day, wearing (or not wearing) the same thing each time.  Frankly, even we are doing everything right, our weight will fluctuate but unfortunately, this is not a comforting fact to any of us! This is why a lot of weight loss experts recommend taking measurements in addition to or in place of weighing.  This is the primary reason why these same experts do not recommend “daily weigh ins!”  Weighing in daily, or even weekly, can be tremendously discouraging, especially if you hit a plateau.

It took me a long time to buy a scale.  I really thought lightning was going to strike me when I finally did, but I had reached the point where I actually wanted to know my weight and I had no scale at all in my home. For the first time in my life, getting on the scale wasn’t painful or scary or as depressing as it always had been.  At first I weighed every couple of months and it was frankly kind of exciting to see the number going down, and then I joined an MFP challenge that required weekly weigh ins, and for the first time, I began to see the scale fluctuation for myself.  It was confusing and depressing and discouraging: what am I doing wrong? Why aren’t I losing? Is this a plateau and how do I get over one? How long do they last?  Sooo. Very. Upsetting. This is why so many people quit.  This is why so many people go on a binge.  It’s very hard not to panic when you see the number not moving or worse, as in my case so often, bouncing up a few pounds! If it had not been for the support of my MFP fitness friends, I probably would have panicked and done some stupid “protein shake cleanse” or something equally hare-brained!

FYI: this is where I remind you guys that if you aren’t tracking, you should be! I don’t mean you need to count calories or weigh your food, but you do need to keep track of what you eat, a ballpark figure of how much you ate (like one hamburger patty or 3 eggs), when you ate it, what exercise you did and how you felt during the day.  For example, if you felt really sleepy after lunch or got really hungry after dinner, then that tells you how your body responded to your food.  This way, if you do end up on a plateau or you really aren’t losing weight, you can look at what isn’t working and start making changes, otherwise, it’s like trying to hit a bulls-eye in a dark room: you can’t hit the target you can’t see. If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you won’t know what you’re doing right either.  You don’t want to change the wrong things! Apps like My Fitness Pal let you log your food and exercise and there is a little section for Notes at the bottom of your diary so you can track things like hunger or low/ high energy.  I also use a DietMinder journal just because I like the paper kind.  If you want to know more about tracking, why you should do it and another great template, check out PrimalPotential.com.  Elizabeth Benton has some great info and some great podcasts on the topic (among other things!)

Scale rebound is normal and common and if you haven’t seen it yet, you probably will at some point.  Weight fluctuation is normal.  Our weight is not made to stay the same day after day, because our bodies are processing plants: things come in; things go out, and whenever you decide to weigh yourself, who knows what you’re still processing inside? I’ve been on this journey for about a year and a half, and I’m never happy to see the number creep down or bounce back, but I’ve learned not to panic when it’s not the number I wanted to see.

First off, I am not someone who weighs daily: I weigh no more than once a week, mainly because I am okay with whatever number pops up on there and also because now that number motivates me- whatever it is! If it’s down, then, yay!! keep going!! If it’s not, then get your butt in gear and get it lower!! It also lets me know if I’m on a plateau or if my current eating habits aren’t working for me. It keeps me in touch with my body, but I also have to accept that it’s not always going to give me the news I want to hear.

The other thing that I started doing is taking measurements.  For a long time, I held off on this, partly because I’m not the most coordinated person, and also because I knew I wasn’t going to find a measuring tape long enough.  I admit, that thought was really REALLY depressing, considering most tape measures are about five or six feet long and they still aren’t long enough to go around my hips! (Yeah, that’s a freaking scream face emoji right there!! Ugh!!) But I got one, eventually, and after a while, the tape does reach around the widest part of my body! (FINALLY! YAY!) That in itself is tremendously encouraging! Losing inches tells you that you are making progress even if your weight is not going down. How does that happen? Because, as trainers like to tell you, muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are working out, then you can be building muscle and burning fat, which weight-wise, could cancel each other out! Building muscle is good for your metabolism, since it raises your basal metabolic rate; maintaining muscle burns more calories than maintaining fat, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate.  Think of how this might play out if you are not taking measurements: Let’s say you weigh 285 and are exercising, eating healthy and after a couple of months, you still weigh 280.  You might become discouraged and give up. “I did everything I was supposed to and I’ve only lost 5 lbs in 2 months?!” But if you were taking measurements, what you might have seen is that you lost 2 inches on your waist and 3 on your hips, which means you’ve exchanged the fat for muscle, so even though your weight looks like it hasn’t changed substantially, you’ve actually made some great progress!  This can add to the confusion and frustration because most of us would have noticed that our clothes fit differently, so “my pants are a lot looser, but I haven’t lost hardly any weight?!” It’s like looking through a keyhole- you’re only seeing a narrow part of the whole room; taking measurements actually opens the door! Yes, you are making progress, and your body is healthier for it, but if you don’t use more than one tool to measure that progress, you can set yourself up for disappointment and discouragement!

That doesn’t mean you should throw away your scale (unless you want to). It’s a tool, but like all tools, it has it’s limitations.  Measuring yourself isn’t going to tell you how much you weigh: it’s just going to show you how your body has changed.  For example, I lost more inches around my hips, waist and bust and less around my arms and legs, mainly because I’m trying to gain muscle and lose weight. So I’m losing fewer inches in certain places and more in others.  I think measuring tapes and scales are best used in conjunction with each other, but that is because it works for me.  So while my body is changing shape overall, I’m also seeing a downward trend in my weight.

Ultimately, that’s what you want with the scale: a steady downward trend, while in your measurements, you can see progress of a different kind.  The key takeaway is that you don’t only focus on one tool to measure your progress! You don’t rely on one technique for building a healthier life- it’s a combination of things, like diet and exercise, not just one or the other. So in measuring your progress, it’s best to do the same thing: use everything at your disposal!

Another key takeaway is not to be discouraged by fluctuations in your weight.  Our bodies are living organisms, not static statues.  They change as we change and change is not always a bad thing.  In fact, when I initially started losing weight, my doctor was more concerned that it was a symptom of serious illness than she was excited that I was finally dropping pounds. Losing weight rapidly is not healthy and usually not sustainable, so when your weight bounces around before finally going down and staying there, look at it as a sign of being healthy and not a sign of failure.  People keep telling me that weight loss is a journey, and sometimes there are detours.  You’ll get there eventually, so learn from the journey and try to enjoy yourself along the way!

 

 

Eating to Lose: Feeding the Weight Loss

One of the biggest issues with weight loss is healthy eating.  You’d think that’s pretty obvious, but people have so much trouble formulating a healthy eating plan.  This is where most healthy eating/ weight loss plans fail before they even begin.  People do things like drastically restrict their calorie consumption, eat the wrong foods for weight loss or just stop eating altogether!  Everyone thinks, “yeah, I know how to eat! Hello- I’m an adult, and I think I can feed myself!” but actually designing a healthy menu plan for weight loss is a lot harder than it seems.  This is why so many people/ companies get rich in the weight loss industry (it’s why there’s an industry in the first place!) People make drastic changes to their calories (or eating in general) and lose a lot of weight really fast, then go back to their former eating habits, and usually gain back more than they lost.  Creating a healthy eating plan is key for long term weight loss and overall health in general, but that is actually not the topic I want to go over today.

What I wanted to discuss today is pretty basic: Eating.  It’s one thing when you’re “just” overweight and it’s another thing when you weighed what I used to weigh.  People are cruel when you weigh 300 or 400 pounds.  The worst are the rude comments; the least of it are the looks.  It gets to the point that you can almost hear their voices in your head: “she’s eating that?!” “I guess we know why she’s so fat if that’s what she eats!” You become self-conscious before long and the judgments become internalized: the voice in your head becomes your own.  Every time you go to eat something that isn’t “diet” or “healthy” or even if it is but it’s “too much,” you hear the judgmental condemnations in your head.  You hate what you eat and you hate yourself for eating it, but at the same time, you’re at a loss about what to do. Everyone can pretty much agree on what you shouldn’t be eating, but beyond the obvious vegetables (even that is not so obvious), there is not a lot of consensus on what you should be eating.  So, you can rule out anything fast food, junk food and pretty much anything deep fried or sugary, but then it’s a toss-up.  Salads are pretty much universally accepted for weight loss, but what goes into the salad? Only vegetables? How about things like cheese? Meats? Eggs? Then there’s the whole issue of dressing: are bottled commercial dressings okay? Or oil and vinegar only? And how much is too much dressing? Then the whole “low fat” or “regular” dressing question thanks to the whole transfat debacle.  So, salads are on the list of “approved foods,” but what else is on there?  Lean proteins? Eggs? Vegetables? What about carbohydrates and grains?  They’re supposed to be good fiber and fiber is supposed to fill you up so you eat less.  That’s got to be good, right? It’s just eating, for Pete’s sake! It shouldn’t be this hard!

This is where a lot of overweight people fall into self- destructive eating patterns.  Already, they- we- don’t have the best eating habits, since we eat too much of the wrong things usually: junk food, fast food, sweets, fried foods. We start eating in secret: we become ashamed of eating.  We know we’re going to get “the looks” from others, so we eat alone, which only increases the shame and guilt, so we start eating our emotions. It’s a vicious circle:  We eat to feel good, to circumvent the shame, but then we feel ashamed of what we ate, and end up condemning ourselves, so we eat something to feel good…..

Or we go the other route: we start not-eating.  We already weigh 200- 300-400 pounds, so we can “afford” to skip a few meals.  Missing a few sure isn’t going to hurt us, so we skip breakfast and lunch and “just eat dinner,” or we flip it around, eating only one meal, or just a “few snacks,” because we feel guilty for eating.  Our internal condemnation judges us for eating anything at all: we tell ourselves as fat as we are, we shouldn’t be eating- we don’t deserve to eat!  Whether we mean to or not, we try to starve ourselves thin.  This behavior is just unhealthy on so many levels.

Not eating puts stresses on our metabolism that doesn’t lead to any kind of sustained weight loss.  The body has two options when it’s not getting enough food; one is to start consuming muscle tissue- not fat- and the second is to slow down the metabolism.  It’s a lot like trying to save money on the heating bill: we turn the thermostat down so instead of coming on at 75, we lower it to 60, so it comes on less and it’s colder in the house than before.  When we drastically lower our calorie intake, our body lowers our metabolism, so we have less energy, more cravings and our body slows down.  This is how we can eat 1000 calories or less a day and still not lose weight.  We are starving ourselves into greater metabolic damage, not losing weight, feeling tired, hungry and fighting cravings, and not understanding why this isn’t working!  Not only does this hurt our self-confidence, it damages our bodies.  Even when we go back to “eating normally,” our metabolism doesn’t recover like it should.  This is how yo-yo dieting hurts us.  Any weight loss we have is not sustainable, since we’re using extreme methods, and when we gain the weight back, our metabolism usually hasn’t bounced back to its former level, so our basal metabolic rate, which is the rate at which we burn calories just by being alive, stays lower.  To go back to the thermostat analogy, it’s like we turn the thermostat back up from 60 to 75, but the furnace never gets the house up to 75- it only heats it up to 70.  (This can happen because the more muscle you have the higher your basal metabolic rate, and if your body has been tearing down the muscle to sustain itself because you’ve been on a starvation diet, there’s less muscle to keep your BMR high!)  Years of doing this starvation behavior can leave us eating lettuce and tuna three times a day and still not losing weight, besides feeling terrible in general!

Sustainable weight loss begins with healthy eating.

Whatever healthy eating program we end up creating for ourselves, there are a few basic ground rules that go with all of them.  The first is that we need to eat a realistic amount of food to sustain our bodies; whether we end up eating many small meals, one big meal, or go with Intermittent Fasting, starving ourselves is not the way to go.  The second is much more internal, but no less important: we need to stop punishing ourselves for being overweight.  Condemnation and punishing ourselves by not eating is not productive.  We all practice self talk, whether we are aware of it or not, and some of us can be incredibly cruel to ourselves.  If we had a bruise for each time we castigated ourselves for eating something “unhealthy,” we’d look like we’d gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson! I hear and read some of the comments people on My Fitness Pal make about their eating habits, what they ate, how they went off their diet, and most of us would never think of saying those kinds of comments to someone else, but we think nothing of being cruel to ourselves.  Why? Because no one hears it but us? Because we are trying to impress upon ourselves the “seriousness of our transgressions?” I admit, I tend to go the other way: “I had donuts- big deal, it’s done.  Get over it and move on.”  That’s pretty much how I talk to myself, and many times I wonder if I am too easy on myself.  I more or less offer the same kind of support to my fitness friends: “it’s done, so don’t dwell on it and move on.”  I sometimes think I’m a little too lenient.  Maybe I should be sterner, more admonishing, but I don’t think so.  I say what I think and I really don’t think reading someone (including myself) the riot act is the right way to encourage someone to stay on their program.  You know what you ate and you know it’s not on your program, so beating yourself up isn’t going to make you “un-eat” whatever it was.  I like to treat people like adults.  I own my choices and I like to encourage people to do the same.  If anything, I try to figure out why I chose to eat what I ate: was I at a function and everyone was eating the donuts? Did I go by the donuts in the bakery section and they just smelled so good that I had to have one (or two)?  Did I just get a craving for sugar?  What was it that triggered this and how can I stop myself from giving in the next time?  Do I really need to stop myself from doing it again?  Was it a treat that I enjoyed but I know I’m not going to go on a “sugar bender” anytime soon?  Believe it or not, people can eat donuts without hating themselves!

Allowing yourself to eat-and to eat real food- is a lot harder than it sounds for some people.  When you’ve been telling yourself for years that you don’t deserve to eat, and certainly not that much, it’s hard.  You feel guilty; the recriminations start popping into your head and you start feeling like this is just so wrong!  But the truth is that if you really want to lose weight and be healthier, and not just punish yourself for imagined past sins, then eating is the first step to getting there! Your body needs fuel to run the way it’s supposed to, just like your car needs oil and gas.  When you’re trying to conserve gas, you don’t “force your car to run on fumes,” because that ain’t gonna happen!  It’ll just stop dead in the middle of the road, and that’s what happens when you don’t give your body the fuel that it needs: you pass out or the body starts eating muscle.  Neither of those are healthy options!  So bottom line: you want to lose weight, you want to be healthier- YOU NEED TO EAT!!

Steppin’ on the ol’ Scale, and the Aftermath…

Well, I got the scale on Saturday, July 25th. I left it sitting in the bathroom, kind of giving it the evil eye, like it was a snake. Every time I got near it, starting thinking about weighing myself, I’d get a little panicky, didn’t want to do it: “I’ll do it later.”  Of course, later, well, you weigh yourself first thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten or had something to drink, so you know what you “truly” weigh. After breakfast, well, now I have to wait until the next day.

I managed to put weighing myself for a week. I told myself I should pick a day of the week so I could weigh myself once a week or maybe very two weeks. I didn’t want to do Mondays, ’cause Mondays are bad enough!  Didn’t want to do Wednesdays ’cause I’ve heard too many “Weigh-in Wednesdays.”  I thought Saturdays might be good, since it would keep me from splurging on the weekend, although a bad weigh in would kind of ruin the weekend, but I knew that no day was going to be a “good”day. So Saturday, before I had a chance to think about it, I got on the scale, took a deep breath, & looked down: 354 lbs. I’ve lost another 10 lbs!

Honestly, I don’t know how to feel. Talk about an anti-climax! I was glad that I hadn’t gained weight. For about a week or so, I’d been half convinced I’d gained weight, because whenever I looked at my legs, I kept thinking they were bigger.  I was glad to see that I’d lost more weight. In fact, when I realized that I’ve been losing about ten pounds a month, I was very pleased! I updated my apps with my new weight. My friends on social media were very supportive! Truly, I don’t think I could manage this weight loss program without the support of my social media friends. I posted my weight loss on Facebook, but it’s kind do strange, ’cause I don’t want to brag: “I’m losing weight! Look at me!” But at the same time, hello!! Got a blog that’s all about me losing weight! I also know that losing as much weight as I have is an accomplishment, especially since I’m doing it without bariatric surgery and “crash dieting.”  I’ve made changes to my eating habits that I can live with for a lifetime and I’m very happy with it.

It was good to get support from my friends and family on Facebook, but without my friends on my fitness app, it’d be so much harder! The friends I’ve made on the app are all like me: people committed to making healthier choices going forward for the rest of their lives. When we feel like we are really down, messing up our eating, or just burnt out, we can post on the app and get supportive messages from our friends in the same boat. Getting and giving daily support is one of the most important parts of this process. It builds up my resolve and it keeps me focused on my goal.

Today is a week since I weighed myself. From listening to my fitness friends, most of them get unhappy results weighing every week. They seem to be more content with monthly or twice monthly weigh ins. I think I’ll follow their lead. I’m still scared of the scale, but really, I’m scared of failing at this weight loss program. I’m scared of going back to the way I used to eat and weighing what I used to weigh. I have heard of people like me going from one extreme to the other: from overeating to anorexia. I can believe it. I have felt that panicky fear of gaining weight. It’s what made me buy my food scale, my “bathroom scale,” and the protein powder for smoothies (which I haven’t used yet).   I had sworn that I would never buy stuff like that to lose weight ’cause “I don’t need them.” And yet there they sit in my house, and it weigh my morning bananas. I weighed myself. I researched the protein powder & then decided I wanted almond milk for it. I already had the Nutribullet for it. Fear of being fat, pocrescophobia, can be powerful. It’s part of what keeps me motivated, but more importantly, I have to make sure it doesn’t dominate my life.