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!

Learning to Live in a Different Body

Recently, I listened to a podcast about learning to accept your body after losing a significant amount of weight.  Since this is pretty much my situation, I was eager to hear the advice this podcaster had to give, and… I was rather disappointed.  It wasn’t that his advice was not good; it was just really nothing I hadn’t heard before. It seemed to me to be mostly a lot of “feel good” mantras that I don’t think address my issues.  I also wanted to ask what does he consider a “significant” amount of weight?  20 lbs? 40? That’s a lot of weight to lose and it does cause some changes in your physique, not to mention your head, but my issue is a little bit bigger than that.

I’ve lost approximately 160 lbs over the last two years and there have been some really BIG changes in my life, my body and (loathe though I am to admit it) my head. I admit that when I first started losing weight in early 2015, I was pretty jazzed.  It was nice that my clothes were feeling looser, my shoes fit better and my knees weren’t aching as much as usual.  I liked feeling lighter, but eventually, I noticed that as my body got smaller, other changes became more noticeable and some of these changes were not so much fun.

Probably the most noticeable and most not-fun change was loose skin that continues to accumulate.  I noticed it first on my thighs when I lie flat: my legs look like they’re melting, and the more weight I lose, the looser the skin gets. It now sags in pockety pouches on my thighs, over my knees and now, over my ankles.  When I work out in the pool, it floats weirdly, almost like it’s attached to my bathing suit, and my saggy butt is saggier.  There is now a little pouch on my stomach above my waistline and a lovely turkey wattle under my chin.  I have bat wings on my upper arms and “fringe” on my forearms.  As I said, it’s not fun but neither is it the end of the world.  I knew it was coming: you can’t be as big as I was and not expect this when you lose weight.  It’s a little gross, and sometimes inconvenient, but it was entirely expected and I hope once I have reached my goal weight, I can get it removed.  That will be a whole ‘nother experience in itself!

There are some other things that come along with dramatically changing your size that I did not expect.  One of the changes that I was actually looking forward to was the steering wheel in my truck.  Obviously, I had to tilt the wheel up so I could turn without it rubbing against my belly, and now there is so much distance, I was thinking it’s time to tilt it back down, especially since one of the unexpected changes is that now I sit a lot lower on the seat. The bench seat in the truck does not adjust up and down, but apparently, my butt does.  Losing all that butt padding has “lowered” me a couple of inches at least and now I have to lean forward to see the end of the truck’s hood.  I was really not expecting that!

I think one of the other things in conjunction with losing some butt padding is that while my knees feel a whole lot better, the bone spur in my lumbar spine (low back) has not improved.  It hurts a lot when I have to sit for more than an hour or so.  That would normally not be a problem, except that I commute for almost two hours each way, five days a week.  So twice a day, each week day, my low back protests rather loudly.  In addition, I’ve noticed how much bonier I am.  My dog in particular has noticed, since he used to be able to lay on one of my thighs and now he slides off.  My knee, which used to make a nice platform for him to jump from, is now much narrower.  My joints are more prominent which makes for some painful whacks as I’m not used to them having way less padding.

My rings have gotten a lot bigger.  I sort of knew that was coming, but now they are so loose I have to put them on my thumbs or my middle finger to keep them from falling off. I also knew my clothes would continue to get bigger, but I have a binder clip keeping my pants on right now and I need a new swim suit because the old one starts to slide off in the pool. I keep adjusting my sandals tighter and tighter because they keep getting looser and looser.  My mom used to try to tempt me to lose weight with promises of a new wardrobe but I’ve never liked buying new clothes, even in smaller sizes now.  Of course, do I buy new clothes so I can shrink out of them too before they wear out?

I’ve also started noticing the changes in temperature a lot more: I was never one of those people who’s cold all the time, but I’ve noticed that I feel it a whole lot more than I used to and I know that’s because I’ve lost 100+ lbs of “insulation.”  I’ve had to adjust the thermostat at my house and in the car because I just get too cold sometimes, but this was another change that I could not have anticipated.

These are the physical changes;my lifestyle has changed in healthier ways: I eat better, eat less and am more active.  I sleep more and sleep better and those are good things.  If I’m watching tv in the evening, I’m not automatically scarfing something down something sugar- and carb-laden.  But the changes in my head are a little harder to explain and deal with.  I keep looking at the number on the scale getting smaller and smaller and it’s a little scary.  Sometimes when I’m writing it down, I think I must have written it wrong: it can’t be 277; I must have meant to write 377, but no, it’s a 2 not a 3 on the scale.  I catch my reflection as I go by a mirror and I think “who is that person?” because I really don’t recognize me sometimes.  In fact, the facial recognition software in my mom’s computer also doesn’t recognize me!  She was going over it with the tech who said “that’s a different person” and my mom told him, no, it’s my daughter.  He did the mother of all doubletakes! I’ve had other people not recognize, including my mom (she walked right by me at a restaurant recently). It’s odd to think that losing weight can be frightening but it is.  I heard once that one of the reasons we find it so hard to lose weight is that we are conditioned to recover what we lose, so when we lose 5 lbs, we try to gain it back.  I don’ t know if that’s true or not, but when I think that I’m slowly turning into a different person, physically and mentally, I start wondering a little about who this “new person” is. I wonder how else my life will change.

Last week I was at a festival at our local Greek Orthodox church; for $15, you get to see the Greek youth dancers, a chicken dinner and the opportunity to spend money on pastries and other things.  Usually my friends and I have pastries, coffee, watch the dancing, do some shopping and have our dinner in the park next door.  It’s a fun and busy day, but when I did this before, I was eating Paleo but I was still relatively new to it.  This last time, I noticed how much of the dinner were things I don’t normally eat, like rice, peas, bread and of course the pastries.  I still enjoyed the day, but later that evening I started craving protein.  Pretty much all I’d had that day was the feta cheese in the salad and the chicken.  It was so weird remembering that I used to eat like that all the time, meaning most of what I ate was refined carbs, breads, and pastas.

I’ve also noticed that more guys are talking to me.  I’m not the kind of woman guys normally talk to and smile at, but I’ve noticed more of them are. I’ve had guys ask me out, which is really awkward.  The person I used to be didn’t date.  I think part of it was there aren’t a lot of guys attracted to women my size, but I was always someone who liked living alone (if living with a pack of pets counts as alone!).  All of a sudden (it seemed to me anyway) guys are interested, and frankly, I don’t really handle this well.  Do I even want to date?  Is this one of those things where I don’t know what I’m missing? Talk about FOMO! If I don’t know what I’m missing, am I really missing out?? Honestly, this was the last problem I’d ever thought would come up! I’m fifty years old and worried about dating?! (Not going into the weightloss- menopause issue, but yeah, there’s an issue!)

This is kind of where I am right now: getting thinner and getting a little scared of getting thinner (Stephen King nightmares here). Not sure of who I’m turning into and trying to handle some of the more unexpected changes. This is why I was so eager to hear what this lifestyle guru had to say about accepting your body after significant weight loss.  A lot of his talk was about how to handle those old pics of the fatter you and that “little bit of loose skin.”  It was perfectly appropriate for his audience, which I’m assuming are people who’ve lost 20-40 lbs or so.  I am not in his target audience; I’ve lost the equivalent of an adult human. Believe me, I’m not whining about getting thinner and I certainly do not want to go back to the person I was, but a little guidance down the new road would be nice! I remember as I was gaining the weight, there was a slow and sometimes difficult transition into an obese person: things like buying bigger clothes, not fitting into chairs and cars, painful body parts and embarrassing close up situations in tight quarters where everyone was squished to let the “fat girl” in the room.  I don’t know why I would be surprised that there’s a transition back to being skinny.  I just didn’t know there would be so many bumps and odd detours.

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!

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  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!



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.

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm, It’s Still a Long Long Row to Hoe…

Well, I bought the scale, but I haven’t had the nerve to weigh myself yet. Had the scale less than a week, so I’m working up the courage, I guess you can say.

I’ve been pretty good. There was one day a couple weeks ago when I went off the program to try a new restaurant. I logged the calories like always. My daily calorie average, even with my little “excursion,” is still under 1500.  Lately I keep thinking that I’m gaining weight. I don’t know if it’s just some panicked reaction to eating off my program (OMG, I had BREAD!) Maybe it’s just fear of “going rogue” because I have “naughty food” in the house: I actually have croissants AND muffins! Bad, bad foods!  I think I’ve had 2 croissants and one muffin since I bought them more than 2 weeks ago. When I ate them, I added in the calories, so even though they aren’t the best choices, I included them in my calorie count, so I didn’t go over my limit on any of those days.

I just keep looking at my legs and thinking I’ve gained weight. I don’t see how I could have, since I’m under 1500 calories a day. I know I don’t exercise much, but even then I should be losing weight. I don’t think I can take the calorie count any lower without risking my metabolism shutting down. I did a little walking the other day and it really hurt my knees, but I’m going to keep walking. I need the exercise and I need to walk, be more mobile.

Sooner or later I’m going to have to weigh myself and get the hard cold numbers. I don’t know what I’m going to do if the scale shows I’ve stopped losing weight, or gained. I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge if it happens. I guess I’m tired of waiting to lose weight. I’m tired of being patient, eating the right foods, of having to cook my foods instead of just getting something prepared. I miss eating the way I used to: getting fast food, eating what I have in the house that’s ready to eat like muffins and croissants.  I miss eating the foods I used to eat, like the muffins and croissants and the Hershey bars I’ve still got in the house. I am tired of being good.

I keep telling myself that I’m doing this to be healthy and feel better. I do feel better.  I’m wearing smaller clothes and getting lots of compliments. I know this takes time. I know that for other people losing 51 lbs in a little less than three months is a big deal. I’m down 74 lbs from my highest weight and I’m not dismissing that. Either of those losses is a big deal. My doctor was thrilled with the 51 lbs. I’m proud of it. It’s just tha for “normal” people they’d have reached their goal weight already. They’d be looking at maintaining their weight instead of losing. There would be a little more leeway in their diet, meaning more grain products in their diet, maybe pasta once a week, or a sandwich or a muffin. For me, it still means watching my calories like a hawk: the more exercise the better, the fewer calories the better. I knew it was going to be a long haul when I started this trip. You don’t get fat overnight and you don’t lose the weight overnight. It’s a lot easier gaining the weight than it is losing it.  (It’s a lot more fun, too, eating whatever you wanted to, as much as you wanted to.)

So I’m here in the middle of this process, slogging along, counting calories, trying to get as much exercise as I can and reminding myself how beneficial this is for me. I guess one of the things that bothers e is listening to other dieters complain about how tired they are of counting calories when they have only 20 or 30 pounds to lose. I know that’s a lot for some people and I don’t mean to make light of their problem, but somehow comparing 30 lbs to 244 lbs seems a little ridiculous! It’s the difference between pudgy and super obese. It’s the difference between a few months and a long long way to go. Carry on, everyone!

The Scale Debate

I am thinking of getting a scale. Just the fact that I am actually considering it is a huge step. I don’t remember the last time I was on a scale at my house. I must have been a child, literally, because I don’t recall one as a teen, and I know I never had one in my house as an adult (and that’s been a few decades!).  I haven’t decided if I’m going to get one; I’m just thinking about it. But, since I went to the doctor a few days ago, I am a little more encouraged.

I went to the doctor for another issue and of course I had to get weighed. For the first time in ages, I actually looked at the numbers on the scale and I lost 30 lbs.  My doctor was very happy and encouraging. Since last March, I have lost 51 lbs.  That makes 74 lbs down from my highest weight of 438 .  My family thinks I may have weighed more; my mom at least thinks I gained more weight after that doctor visit. My doctor asked about my diet, since she didn’t know how I was losing the weight. Once I told her I was following the Paleo diet, she was very pleased and very encouraging.

I have to say that even though I was glad to see that I had lost a significant amount of weight (about 10 lbs a month), there is a part of me that was disappointed my weight loss wasn’t greater. That’s the problem with losing weight: it takes a long time. There is no “quick fix” to lose weight. There are things like liposuction, but for people like me, who need to lose significant amounts of weight, lipo isn’t an option. People like me got to do it the long slow hard way (hence the title of my blog). This is one of the major pitfalls for people who have to lose so much weight: we get discouraged by our slow tedious progress.

This is where scales come in. Obviously, people weigh themselves regularly to track their weight loss, but anxious to see how much they’re losing, people weigh too often. They see they are not losing “enough” weight and get discouraged. They start working out and weigh themselves and are shocked to see they’ve gained weight. Obviously, to professional dieters like me, we know that muscle weighs more than fat, but still, even though we’re healthier, it’s still a weight gain. Then there is the slow tedious “mini-losses”: a quarter pound; a half pound; a third of a pound.  Weighing every week and seeing no significant loss can be very disheartening, even if it is a slow steady loss. When you have 274 lbs to Lise, like I do, losing a half a pound a week makes it seem like you are never going to get there. You start doing the calculations: 52 weeks a year, that’s 26 pounds a year, divide 274 by 26 and it’s 10.5 years before I reach my target weight.  Can it get any more depressing than that?  This is why people give up. This is what makes the scale a double edged sword.  I’d like to confirm that my program is working and that I’m still losing weight; I don’t want to face the fact that I’m losing at a minuscule rate, or worse not losing at all. Gaining weight would be disastrous!

And I’m still not really comfortable with scales. They still scare me. What if it shows I’m not losing weight?  What if I start gaining weight?  I don’t want to keep looking at those numbers showing how far I still have to. I don’t want to look at the numbers showing that I still weigh 364 lbs.  Granted, it’s 74 lbs down from what I used to weigh, but hell! it’s still 364 lbs! My dream, my goal, is to weigh a “normal” weight, something average for my height and frame. But I don’t know if i have the stamina to look at the numbers every week, or every two weeks, only to see incremental losses. I know how I am; I know this is going to be a tough battle even under the best of circumstances. I am a master at self-sabotage, and scales have never been my ally.  It would be like inviting the enemy into the fort!

As much as I dread the thought, I think at some point, I am going to have to get a scale. I can’t keep going to the doctor to get weighed. I suppose I can find a scale at my gym, or somewhere else, but then I’m going to be weighing myself in public! Yay? (I don’t think so!). At least at home, I can be humiliated and depressed at home. But then, I’m looking at the downside again: I’m assuming it won’t be good news!

I’m following my program. I’m tracking my calories. I should be losing weight. I’m getting exercise (not as much as I’d like, thank you so much, arthritis!) but, I’m working on it. Bottom line, I’m not giving up. I have made enough changes in my lifestyle that they’re part of my normal routine. I still have to tell myself, remind myself, that I don’t weigh 438 lbs anymore and I will never weigh that much again. I will eventually have to  get a scale, but I’m going to make sure that the scale works for me.