I Bought Another Diet Book

I bought another diet book. (Disclaimer: this is not a book review.) As I virtually thumbed through this book on my Kindle, the question that kept running through my mind was “why?” Why did I buy another diet book? What was I looking for? I’ve been dieting and/or maintaining for almost 10 years now. Did I really think I would find something new?

Was I looking for the magic bullet, just like the rest of America? If I just do this or that, I can eat whatever I want and still be thin and fabulous.

But what I really think I was looking for is reassurance. Reassurance that my thinking is not wrong. That I am doing the best I can. That it is okay to eat what I eat. Its okay that I am not as thin as the “American ideal” (haha–that’s a funny one, isn’t it? In our all-powerful country, a huge percentage of us are obese, but our “ideal” is borderline underweight.)

This book provided that reassurance.

There are so many voices out there on the inter webs yelling at us that their way is the only way. That their way is the best. If only you would eliminate this or that food, you would be cured of all your aches and pains and you would be thin and rich (okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration.) I admit it–sometimes I get lost in the melee. I start to doubt myself. I wonder if what I have learned over the years is true. This book provided a voice of reason, backed by the author’s solid scientific background and years of experience in the weight loss and weight loss maintenance field.

Maybe another time I’ll review this book, but for now I’ll just tell you that I recommend it. Its chock full of good and true helpful information for the person who wants to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.

 

The Garden…and Other Things I Haven’t Written About

This morning I spent about 3 hours working in the garden. And I thought about taking pictures, but it just seemed like the garden is in that in-between stage when there’s nothing particularly interesting to show. Hopefully, in a few weeks, my work will be rewarded with lots of pretty flowers to share with you.

But while I worked, I thought about all the things I HAVEN’T written about lately. And how, just like the garden, even though I haven’t written about those things, it doesn’t mean the work is not being done.

Just because I haven’t written much about weight loss/maintenance DOESN’T MEAN I AM FAT. GIVE ME A BREAK. Maybe I have already said everything I could possibly think to say about the subject. Maybe I am busy living my life, and going to the computer to repeat my thoughts about what is necessary to lose and maintain weight has been usurped by much more interesting creative impulses.

Every day of my life I work on maintaining my weight loss. Some days it seems absolutely effortless. And some days it seems like a full time job. When I mention to people that I used to weigh a lot more, and we’re discussing keeping the weight off, I almost always say the same thing–”Its hard work.”

Just because I am not writing about food or recipes or low-cal cooking DOESN’T mean I have gone off the rails. FAR FROM IT. I’ve tried some really excellent new recipes lately. They were other people’s recipes, and they were tasty and healthy and low calorie. I didn’t even have to adjust them. They’re all out there on the web. I just didn’t feel the need to share them. And sometimes food tastes better than it looks. That’s the case with my latest try.

Just because I haven’t mentioned the gym lately, doesn’t mean I sit for hours in my Lazy Boy in front of the boob tube. How many times and in how many different ways can I say “I went to the gym. I did my weights workouts. The same exercises at the same weights. I got on the exercise bike, and I rode for the same distance in the same amount of minutes.” And on the other days, “I took Noah for a walk, and I came home and did my PT exercises.” And in case anybody’s wondering–yes, I am in an exercise rut. Its a rut I like very much. Which means that I will keep exercising consistently. Which is one of the most important factors in weight loss maintenance.

Oh, and one more thing. Just because I do not post pictures of myself that often, it does not mean I have gained a ton of weight and am embarrassed by my appearance. I live alone. My arms are short. You do the math.

Maybe, just maybe, if I am ever really healed of the chronic condition of WEIGHT, there will be no more need to write ad nauseam about the daily vagaries of my LIFE WITH FOOD.

I love you guys and I love blogging. I love the comments and “conversations” we have on this blog and some of my other friends’ blogs.

But sometimes the drama and the judgmental attitudes expressed by other bloggers just gets to me. Their opinions are arrogant and mean-spirited, and they are saying those things about people they don’t even really know. If you want to write about your own shortcomings, that’s fine. But don’t drag all the rest of us in with your irresponsible blanket statements.

 

 

A Gazillion Calories in a Single Day

Isn’t that a song or book title?? Anyway, that’s what Christmas day felt like. I decided early in the day that that was the way it was going to be. It was very fun, but I still have to work at not having guilty feelings or negative thoughts about eating whatever I want. I did only eat a small dinner, since I was pretty much not hungry from all the other treats I’d been eating. And by the time I drove home that night, I was SOOO ready to start my regular healthy eating the next day. I made a plate of goodies for my contractor and that pretty much cleared the house of Christmas treats.

Yesterday, I went back to my normal eating habits and logged all my food in Lose It. I ate every 3 or 4 hours, and made sure I had food that I enjoyed.

The thing is, its become more and more clear to me, that it is my INTENTION to eat healthily and stay as fit as possible. I have a very clear vision of what I want my aging life to be. I also have a very clear vision of what I do NOT want my life to be. Its been a while, but its still very clear in my mind how I felt every day when I weighed a hundred pounds more than I do now. I can imagine how that old body would feel with 9 years of aging on it.

So onward into the new year. I’m sure there will be lots of new (and old) advice and hopes for starting a newer, healthier life. I guess my wish would be for everyone to think clearly about living a healthier life, instead of a life at a certain weight or wearing a certain dress size or looking a certain way. None of those things has anything to do with a good life.

Forever and Ever?

Forever and ever. Have you ever said that about a new diet or weight loss method you are using?

Finally. Finally it seems like you have found something that is working for you. And you think, “I will eat this way forever.” Or, “I will eliminate that food group from my diet forever.” Or, “If this is what it takes, I will keep coming to these meetings for the rest of my life.” Or, “this exercise method is the key to my new thinner self. I will do this for the rest of my life.”

I have. When I started Weight Watchers nine years ago, and it looked like it was actually going to “take,” I remember thinking (and even saying out loud) that I would continue coming to the meetings for the rest of my life. I thought of it as being like an alcoholic who needs to keep going to AA meetings to stay on the straight and narrow.

Only I didn’t. Me and W.W. parted ways  after a couple of years. I like to call it an amicable divorce.

Between W.W. and the Me Diet, there have been a lot of twists and turns in the weight loss and weight maintenance journey. I completely changed the foods I ate and how much I ate and how often I ate several times. I like to think that most of the changes I made were for the better.

Last November, when I started the “me diet,” I understood that “forever and ever” could not be depended on. I was pretty sure I could not keep drinking shakes for the rest of my life. So what was I going to do? I thought about this ALL THE TIME.

During the past year I have come up with a few alternative low-cal higher-protein meal/snacks that I can substitute for the shakes. And, surprisingly, I have come to enjoy my shakes (smoothies.) Thanks to my friends, Lori and Cammy, I have a very nice repertoire of low-calorie, high-protein smoothies.

I have no doubt that as time goes on, I will continue to make changes in my food choices and portions.

And exercise! Now that was one of the first things I read as I started to lose weight–how our bodies are highly adaptable, and would get used to one kind of exercise and become very efficient at that. And so it was a good idea to occasionally change the type of exercise you did, especially if your goal was weight loss.

The main point, I guess, is to know that the human body is very complex and is not static. It   changes, and its needs change. To navigate weight loss and maintenance successfully, I think you have to agree to this and at least be willing to consider change along the way.

Change

Why is change so hard for so many of us? I’m talking specifically about the change needed for long-term sustained weight loss. I read a book recently (actually it was the kindle sample of the book!) that gave me an aha! moment in regards to this problem.

The book was Switch, How to Change Things When Change is Hard, and it was recommended by Cammy in her recent blog post. What she said intrigued me enough that I went to Amazon and ordered the sample to my kindle that day.

And here’s what it said, essentially. If your life is filled on a daily basis with many decisions requiring some kind of emotional input, it becomes virtually impossible to make any more decisions.

Could that be the answer to why and when some people are able to make “the switch” and others just can’t quite do it? I wonder, if we were to examine and analyze the lives of people who have “made the switch” and those who just keep “wanting to switch,” would we find that those who were successful just happened to be at a more peaceful, less stressful or activity-filled time of life?

When I think about my most recent time of ‘trying’ to switch back to weight loss mode, I know that it was during a very stressful three year period of my life. And the month I was successful in “making the switch?” Was it just coincident that that was the month that I finished up the work on the trust of my father’s estate?

Cammy did such a good job of reviewing this book a few years ago that I don’t feel the need to go over the main points. What was an “aha moment” for me in that little sample I read was that self control is an exhaustible resource. When you have too many decisions that require a little “will-power” it is draining. Ah. So that’s what happens to so many of us.

The kindle book sample stopped at that point, and so being the thrifty person that I (sometimes) am, I ordered the book from the library. They have lots of examples of making small specific changes that relate to our food/diet/exercise conundrum. Examples like: Instead of saying “eat healthier,” say “drink 1% milk.” A whole town lost a LOT of weight using just this one specific instruction.

But my biggest takeaway was their explanation of why it is so difficult for so many people to change. Here in America, of our own choosing, our lives are frenetic and filled with more activity, choices, and events than was ever meant to be the way to live. If we choose to slow the pace down, we often feel guilty (speaking personally here,) or even slovenly–that we are not accomplishing all that we could. Its no wonder we can’t make that next decision to eat romaine lettuce instead of wonder bread.

AIM: What’s different this time?

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Our first AIM (Adventures in Maintenance) question of the month is: what was different this time? Between the ages of 13 and 30, there were a number of times I lost fairly large amounts of weight. Each time, I not only gained the weight back, but I added on a few extra pounds. If statistics are right, this is the experience of 95% of people who lose weight. Its heartbreaking, really.

SO WHAT WAS DIFFERENT THIS TIME?

Honestly, it was a bloomin’ miracle. The end.

What? You think there was more to it than that?

Well, here are the three factors that I think have had the biggest impact on my weight loss and maintenance:

  1. One of the things I told myself right from the start was “What you’re doing now isn’t working. You must do something different.” This proved to be valuable advice to myself.
  2. Another factor was that I knew it had to be a lifelong change. I actually knew that for twenty years before I had the gumption to act on it. 
  3. Maybe it was being humble enough to accept that I needed some help. (see #1–it wasn’t working to try to do it all on my own. I needed to do something different.)

So, let’s see. How did these three factors play out in my finally having a successful long term weight loss?

“You’ve got to do something different.” I finally gave in and went to Weight Watchers with a friend. It required me to be humble enough to admit that I could not do it on my own. Over the years the “something different” has applied to a number of things: the types of foods I choose to eat, the amount of food I choose to eat, when I choose to eat, and of course, the amount and type of exercise that I do. I have had to learn to be flexible. The body is a complex and ever-changing thing, and I must learn to adapt to its needs as time goes on. (That’s a whole ‘nother post about aging and weight loss!)

I needed some help. Along the way I sought help from a number of friends and experts. I was very skeptical of any information provided by Weight Watchers. So I did a lot of reading and research on my own (who knew–the vast majority of the information provided by Weight Watchers was true!) And when Weight Watchers was no longer working for me (and doing it all on my own was not working either,) I started working with a personal trainer. I had already changed my entire way of eating, but I learned even more from her about eating truly healthy nourishing foods, and I changed the way I was eating again. And of course, the whole blog world has brought me new friends and support, and has been a great resource for new recipes and foods to try.

It had to be a lifetime change. Like I said, I had known this for a long time. That’s why I WOULDN’T try to lose weight for a long time. I didn’t think I could give up the foods I loved so much. I really loved all those foods. But funny thing is, I loved the new foods that I tried along the way. And even now, when I have pared my foods down once again, I still love the foods I am choosing to eat. My mom and sister and I were talking about this recently. My mom made the statement about me “and she really knows good food!” And my sister said somewhat wistfully, “But somewhere along the way, your tastes change.” I knew exactly what she meant. That was the fear that kept me from trying to lose weight for so long. I didn’t WANT to stop enjoying those lovely foods. But here’s the rub: so what if your tastes change? If you still enjoy these new healthier lower calorie foods just as much as the old foods, is that such a bad thing?

In a nutshell, I think those are the things that have helped me to stay on this lifetime of  “adventures in maintenance!”

To read more about “what was different this time?” be sure to check out my friends and maintaining experts:

Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh

Lori @ Finding Radiance

Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

 

Maintaining and Weight Loss

Well that covers it all doesn’t it? I can hardly believe that its been eight years since I started this last journey of weight loss. And it doesn’t seem like its coming to an end anytime soon.

When I am in Haiti or Nairobi, it seems absolutely ludicrous that I or anyone else would spend a minute of time thinking about food. What’s the best food to eat, and at which time? Should certain foods be eliminated and which ones should you eat for the fastest weight loss? I’m telling you, it seems ludicrous. And yet, here I am, home for a week, and this topic looms large in my mind. I can’t help it.

So. I wanted to be sure to share a brilliant quote by my friend Lori. I swear, some of the best stuff is found in the comments on blogs, and I am always afraid it will not be seen by enough people. On Lynn’s blog entry about “The Mental Price of Skinny,” Lori commented,

“real maintenance is not clutching to weight with white knuckles, but learning to live with the ups and downs that come with it.”

And that seems to be what I am doing right now. I have done the clutching and the white knuckle thing. I have been embarrassed that as a “successful maintainer” I have been not so successful at maintaining the 100 pounds I lost. I have tried to lose some of that weight, and only succeeded in gaining a little bit more. I have eliminated certain food groups, and I have eaten mindfully. I have refined and changed my diet over the years so that now I eat mostly unprocessed food (that’s a good change!) And all that time I observed myself, and made note of what worked for me and what didn’t, sometimes IN SPITE of what the ‘experts’ said.

This Me Diet thing seems to be working. If it stops working, I will try not to panic and white knuckle it, but will try to roll with the ups and downs, maybe tweaking this or that, and continuing on this never-ending journey that we call maintenance.

Lori also posted a link to a very interesting podcast. A couple of experts were talking about recent findings in weight loss. Of course I found it very interesting, because their findings seemed to validate my self-observations.

Paraphrasing, they said:

  • Calorie for calorie, fat does not relieve hunger that well.
  • Protein is the best calorie buy for hunger relief.
  • For the satiation factor, a low fat/higher volume of food works well.

I am definitely paraphrasing here, so check out the podcast for yourself. But these were points that I had observed in myself and so tried to incorporate them into this new diet plan.

I originally lost weight on Weight Watchers. Whether that was their goal or not, what I learned was that I could eat a bigger volume if I would eat a very low fat, high fiber diet. After I left W.W., I was encouraged to try adding in some healthy fats. There is no doubt about it, fat just makes food taste good! But I tend to get carried away with fat.  (Some of you might recall my love affair with walnuts.)

I knew the information about protein, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Adding the two mid-day meals with 20 grams of protein in 170 calories has made it easy to NOT think about food so much during the day. Its important to me that these are foods that I truly enjoy.

And finally, when I thought about my breakfast choices, I made some changes. I LOVE breakfast. I had quite a variety of nutritious breakfasts that I enjoyed, and most of them came in around 300-350 calories. Nothing wrong with that. Except that I noticed I was often over-full after eating them. So I started cutting some of them back, and developing a new breakfast menu that was lower in fat, but still high in volume. Most of them come in at less than 200 calories. And this seems to be working perfectly for me.

So I guess what I started out to say is that sometimes weight loss is PART of maintaining. That’s just life.

Layer upon Layer, A Body of Knowledge is Built

How long have I been doing this?  In January 2013, it will be 9 years since I started this last weight loss journey.  NINE YEARS!!  Nine years of reading and researching how to do it, anything and everything about food and nutrition, various types of diet theories (Weight Watchers, paleo, vegetarian, raw food, intuitive eating, low carb, calories in/calories out, whole grain, you get the picture,) the whole psychological component to weight loss, why some people succeed at maintaining weight loss and what and how they do that, oh, and exercise.  I’m sure I left something out.  But you know.  Its a LOT of information.

And the thing is…all of it is useful.  Even the stuff I have decided is not true for me.

Yes, it is frustrating that there is not more definitive information about obesity, its causes and cures, and weight loss maintenance.  But still, we have an awful lot of knowledge to draw upon.  Layer upon layer, I have added all this to the base of my eating and exercise habits.  When I decided to try The Hunger Game, I did not throw away everything I knew about good nutrition and what works in my favor.  If anything, I am using that information more than ever.

It kind of drives me nuts when people who have been doing this a long time figuratively throw their hands up in the air and act like they do not know anything.  We know a LOT.

Part of what I know is that it is hard work to maintain a lower body weight.  It is hard because as you age, something or other goes on in your body (more efficient?  slower metabolism? hormones?) and your body holds onto weight.  Helen reminded me that you don’t need to eat as much when you get older, and the next day I got an article in the mail saying that women who have gone through menopause need 200 calories LESS a day!  Oh my goodness.

It is hard work to maintain a lower body weight if you have previously been very overweight for an extended part of your life.  That is a theory I believe because of the overwhelming amount of objective information available (evidence gathered by various scientists, and also the testimony of many many people who have lost weight and maintained that loss with varying degrees of success.)

I know a LOT about food and nutrition and how the body processes food.  (Oh, side rant:  I know many of you would be more comfortable believing that the body is a machine–that you can input certain food or exercise and you will receive the same results every time.  I’m sorry, but that is simply not true.  The body is closer to a work of art than it is to a machine. Period.  end rant.)  So at my best, I am easily able to choose healthy, balanced whole foods that will keep me satiated for 3-4 hours.

I know a lot about exercise, and what part it plays in weight loss (very little) and weight loss maintenance (a lot.)  I know that the body gets accustomed to the same exercise and gets more efficient at how it processes that exercise (not fair!) so that it is good to continue to challenge your body with exercise by increasing the intensity or by changing the type of exercise periodically.  I know that it is good for your heart and your mind.  I know that it keeps me from becoming stiff as a board, so I keep doing it!

It took a while, but I do understand very well the part that the mind plays in food choices and eating.  I learned that for me, anxiety was the single largest factor in why I overate.  Just learning that was a tremendous step forward in changing my relationship with food.

So I know all this stuff.  I did not discard one bit of it when I decided to WAIT UNTIL I WAS HUNGRY to eat.  Honestly, it just makes sense to me.  Just one more piece of the puzzle.