More Scientific Stuff

Another issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter arrived. And I discovered that I am just like those darn scientists–I have theories, and I love it when other people agree with me!

So. I have pondered forever and a day about why we as a nation eat too much and so many of us fall into the obese category. I just can’t get on board with those who vilify certain food groups. Having been in the countries where they can ONLY eat grains, that can’t be the problem. And I had come up with a theory–it had to be the ABUNDANCE of food available in our country.

One of the things I’ve thought about lately is that ITS STILL THERE. Here’s what I mean. You can convince yourself that sugar is the devil. You can abstain from sugar, and you can even get to the point where “sugar is too sweet.” (I did this and thought this on a diet in my late 20’s.) Guess what? Thirty years later, sugar is still there. And it still calls to me.

Related to my abundance theory:  In my last diet attempt where I lost 25 pounds in a year, I noticed that limiting the amount of food I keep in my house helped me to limit what I ate.

So, last week the Healthletter arrived with a large review of many dieting trials,   concluding that no one method of diet restriction or food group elimination worked very well. Their theory at the end was the extreme availability of food in the marketplace seemed to be the main cause of obesity in the world today. I loved that they agreed with my theory of abundance. Now, their emphasis was on the availability of highly palatable processed foods–you know, that fat/salt/sugar combo. But I say that its just the extreme abundance of all foods. I am living proof that you can overeat really healthy foods.

This morning I looked in the fridge. I have a lot of fruit right now. And I get a feeling of pressure that I need to eat that stuff before it goes bad. I have a lot of lettuce. Ha! I can hear you all thinking, “she’s gone off the deep end. You can’t gain weight from lettuce.” No, but you can gain weight if the way you want to eat it is with a lot of higher calorie tasty mix-ins and some really great salad dressing.

I don’t really have a solution for this problem, except to think about what you need vs. what you want when you go to the grocery store. You don’t have to get ALL THE FRUIT on this trip. It’ll still be there next week when you go back to the store.

Those Scientists!

Even though I don’t write about it much any more, I think about diet and losing weight and healthy living all the time. I watch you tube videos, read online and magazine articles, and sometimes even buy a book.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I get exasperated at those scientists! They are so gung ho on their theories that they present their information as FACT. They seldom use the word theory in their presentations. So even though you may watch two doctors giving two OPPOSING presentations about the best way to eat and lose weight, both of them will be presented as fact, not as theory.

I listened to one UC doctor who said that sugar was the enemy. His concluding thoughts were reasonable–stop drinking sugared soda. Then I listened to a very popular doctor who thinks that fasting is the solution to all our problems. As a nurse, he made statements of “fact” over and over that I know to be untrue. And aside from his enthusiasm for fasting, he actually adhered to a paleo diet.

Then, I decided to buy the book “Body Respect,” because I realized that I was having issues with feeling very poorly about myself and I did not like that. The title was something I was looking for. However, the author, who is also a doctor, presented pretty much the same message that she has in her previous book (Health at Any Size.) And as a doctor she presented many “facts” about why being overweight does not affect your health. To be fair, the goal of this book was to try to convince health care workers to be more compassionate in their care of the overweight person. But being very overweight does take a toll on your health, IMO. Also, to be fair, just reading this book, which did not really teach me anything new, did manage to calm myself down about how I feel about still being overweight.

And then I got my Nutrition Action Healthletter. Before I got it, I had thought that I would say that I still appreciate Marion Nestle’s advice about healthy eating. And there was an interview with her about how scientists can be swayed by industry funding and their own points of view! One quote from her: ” All researchers have intellectual conflicts of interest.” 

Bottom line: Read a lot, but don’t believe that everything in print is truth. Experiment and find out what works and doesn’t work for you. Later this week I’ll write more about what is working for me now in living the healthiest life possible at age 62 🙂

Fighting Destiny

You know how some scientists and diet “experts” talk about your natural set-point? Yeah, my body’s natural set-point is 257.5 pounds. I actually was always surprised when I visited someone who kept a scale in their house, and my weight was almost always exactly 257.5 pounds. It seemed weird that I could weigh so much and yet my weight was the same to a tenth of a pound.

Eleven years ago, shortly after my 50th birthday, I started a weight loss venture that ended a year and a half later with a total loss of 100 pounds. Well, “ended” is the wrong word to use. It has not ended yet. I currently am keeping off 75 of those pounds. I have lost and regained those other 25 pounds several times in the intervening years.

So, fighting destiny seems a little overly dramatic. But it seemed like the right words for what I’ve been thinking about. Sometimes it seems like I am fighting destiny, trying to maintain my weight loss. Whether it is genetic, environmental, or ENTIRELY MY FAULT, some days it just seems like its a losing battle (and here the word losing is not what we are all hoping for.)

Is it genetic? My parents used to love to tell the story of how, when I first came home from the hospital (and I was their first baby,) they would have to have a second bottle warming up. Because when the first bottle was finished, I would start screaming if there was not another one ready to pop into my mouth. Oh, and their second favorite story? It was that my first word was not daddy or mama. No, my first word was “nappo” (apple.) That does seem like there might be a little genetic component there, doesn’t it?

Is it environmental? Both of my parents enjoyed food and loved sweets. A “goodie bag” was a typical Friday night treat (my dad would get five candy bars, and we had to pick one out of the bag without looking.) We had good home-cooked meals most nights, but when we could afford it, we ordered pizza or went out for burgers. Sunday after church we’d stop for a restaurant dinner on the way home. Heck, I grew up in the era when MacDonalds was born!

Is it ENTIRELY MY FAULT? At least three times in my younger life, I lost (and then re-gained) 80-100 pounds. And then there were the innumerable times that I lost and regained 30-50 pounds. In the end, when I was about 30 years old, I said I’d never diet again. I gained from 232 up to said 257.5 pounds, and stayed there for many years. I ate whatever I wanted. I wasn’t a binger. I just ate cookies every day, had an afternoon snack of a candy bar at work, and pretty much stopped for a fast food dinner on my way home every night. I was a really good baker.

So most days now, I feel like I am fighting destiny. I usually weigh and/or measure my food. I make really healthy choices, being careful to get enough fresh veggies, fruits, and protein in. I oftentimes log my food. And I exercise six days a week, usually for 40 minutes. But many days I want A LITTLE MORE. It is not a binge. Sometimes it is even healthy food. But I want more. And therein lies the rub. You can’t keep the weight off, and you sure can’t lose if you want a little more. Ha! One article claimed that to keep from GAINING 2 pounds a year, it was only a difference in 10-20 calories a day! Their example was ONE STARBURST candy. Good grief.

This is the negative side of my daily inner thought life. Come back later in the week to read about the positive side 🙂

 

What Good are Diets?

Most people have probably seen Anne Lamott’s New Year’s article about NOT going on a diet. It starts like this:

I know you are planning to start a diet on Thursday, January 1st, I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, ” Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”

I agree with what she is saying. But what caught my attention was the long “comment conversation” between a woman who was having success on her diet and disagreeing with Anne, and many other people who wanted to try to explain to her what Anne really meant.

All this led me to ponder–what good are diets, anyway? Well, I think they can be useful, depending on what your intention is going into it. If you go into a diet just to “get the weight off,” well, we all know how that ends up. I still remember a sentinel moment early on, when I started Weight Watchers eleven years ago. I was going to Weight Watchers with a friend. We were “working the program,” counting points like crazy. And we had enough points to go out for a light lunch. As we paid for our lunch, I stared longingly at the huge brownie at the check out counter. My friend said, “Don’t worry. Pretty soon we’ll be able to have one of those with our lunch.” I didn’t reply, but I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Never again will that happen. I have to change the way I am eating forever.” And pretty much, that is the truth. At least about brownies 🙂

But if you go into a diet “program” with an inquisitive, even slightly open mind, there is a lot you can learn. Some of the things you can learn can help you to have a healthier future life. New food choices, new ways of handling stress, the healthy benefits of exercise. Practicing all of these things during a diet program, trying new things you weren’t willing to try before–the things that work can become a new way of life for you.

Here’s some of the things I’ve changed in response to “diets” I’ve done:

  • I realized that I ate in response to anxiety. Just recognizing that has helped me to choose to NOT eat when something makes me anxious.
  • I’ve tried new foods, things that I would NEVER try before. Some of those things are my new favorite go-to foods.
  • My diet is MUCH less meat-centric. I still know the value of having a fair amount of protein in my diet, but there are plenty of days that I just skip the meat.
  • Sugar–its not my mortal enemy, but its not my bestie anymore. I know when to hold ’em.
  • I know that super restriction does not work for me. The temptation is always there. But I can reflect and know that it does not work in the long run.
  • Whole foods. Now those are my friends. And you know that thing about shopping the perimeter of the store that every new dieter learns? Who knew–I still am surprised sometimes when I realize that that is ALWAYS the way that I shop.
  • Regular exercise is a given. Its just a huge part of my life. That is very different than how I lived before.

All of these things I learned and practiced until they became ingrained while I was “on a diet.” So a diet can do a lot of good, if you are using it to learn and grow and change. A diet’s a waste of time if you just want to “get the weight off” and go back to your usual way of eating and moving through this life.