Not Perfect

I just returned from a week long trip to the Bay Area and Cambria. And as usual, when I travel, my food and exercise regime is severely interrupted. I eat different food than I eat at home. I eat more food. I eat sugar and wheat freely (two things I minimize in my normal daily diet.) I drink less water and more coffee. I give a half-hearted nod to exercise. And since many times my travel involves quilt or rug hooking workshops, I spend way more time sitting for extended periods of time.

All that to say that when I was driving home, I said to my friend “I gained ten pounds this week!” And I truly felt like that.

Long time readers will know that I don’t believe in weighing yourself after any travel time. I do believe that just the actual physical traveling can make you retain water and/or pounds and can affect your weight. So I usually won’t weigh myself for a full week after I return from a trip. But this time, I wanted to see if my estimate was right. Sure enough, my weight was up 9 pounds from when I weighed myself the day before I left on this trip. Four pounds are already gone in 2 days. Interesting.

Sometimes this travel bit is distressing to me. Why do I think its free season on food consumption when I travel? Why can’t I get it under control? Why do I gain so much weight when I travel, when I’m really not eating any more than the “regular people?”

Well, coming home, and comfortably slipping back into my regular routine, with no longings for wheat or sugar, and extra doses of fruits and veggies, is always reassuring to me.

And yesterday, when I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that I am not yet perfect. It just made me laugh at myself. I really only share this stuff in case it is helpful to someone working on (imperfectly) maintaining weight loss. I hope it might be encouraging.

Diet Fatigue… and a Maintenance Experiment

Diet Fatigue. Its not something I’ve seen defined anywhere. But I bet all of you who have ever been on a diet know what I am talking about. Sometimes it wears on you, all this thinking and restricting and counting and denying…whatever your particular form of dieting happens to be at this particular time.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. That is, I started this last weight loss adventure over 10 years ago. I have been “maintaining,” more or less, for over 8 years. I guess I won’t talk about anybody else’s experience, but for me, maintaining has been an ongoing tension between a diet mindset and trying to “normalize” my relationship with food. One thing that’s been consistent about my maintenance: I have consistently gained and lost between 10 and 20 pounds over the years.

So right now, I’m tired. I’m really really tired. Bah to diets. A couple of weeks ago, on my way home from church, I bought a particular junk food baked item that I love. I’ve probably had 3 of them in the past 10 years. And I ate it on the way home. 430 delicious calories. And then I proceeded to feel “bad” about that choice for the rest of the way home. And it made me mad, that I couldn’t even enjoy a treat without angst. And I remembered for the first time in a long time why I had said “I will never diet again,” and I “maintained” a weight of 257.5 (haha, I have to laugh that the .5 was so consistent when I used to weigh back then) for over 20 years. My mind flashed on all the candy bars I ate every day (that I never eat now) and I wanted to eat all of them, right now! Fortunately, I mostly got over that feeling by the time I got home. And, BTW, its only a 20 minute drive from the grocery store to my house :)

So I decided to try an experiment. You know how some folks say you are sabotaging yourself by restricting your calories? So I decided to try eating more. Mind you, I’ve tried this many times over the years, and sadly, it never works for me. The rules are different for the formerly severely overweight person. ANYWAY, the experiment. I decided to log my food into LoseIt. Bu I would not worry if I went a little over their calorie allotment for me. After all, that calorie allotment was supposed to be for weight loss, and that was not my goal for this experiment. My goal was to not GAIN any weight, which is a constant worry for me. And I would log ALL my exercise, and eat all those “exercise calories” if I wanted to. I would only weigh once a week to make sure this crazy plan was not leading to weight gain.

I know for most of you, this will just be another form of dieting. But for me it was reassuring to have the parameters of logging food and exercise and weighing once a week while I experimented with eating more than normal.

I’m pretty sure I ate more than I usually do, and I did eat without guilt or angst. I’m pretty sure I exercised a little more. I think LoseIt was pretty generous with their exercise calories, but I just went with it. And the result of the experiment? For five weeks I maintained the same weight. One week it would be two pounds up, and another it would be two pounds down. But for five weeks, my weight was very consistent.

Diet fatigue doesn’t last forever. And this experiment will not last forever. According to most experts, change in your diet and exercise is actually a good thing for long term weight loss. So if you’re feeling tired, don’t throw in the towel. Give yourself a little grace, and try something new or different.

Thinking About Food… or Not

Frequently, I read weight loss bloggers lamenting the amount of thinking they have to do about food in order to lose weight and/or maintain that weight loss. I have periodically complained about that myself on this blog.

But first I want to point out that there are at least two different ways that I (and maybe you) think about food.

The first is the way we are usually thinking when we complain. The obsessive “can I eat this?” or “will this fit into my points/calorie allotment/food plan?” This thinking is what wears us out.

The second thinking we can do about food is completely pleasurable. You know I watch a lot of food shows. Those chefs think a LOT about food. They love everything about it, like an artist enjoys his paints and canvases (or fabric and thread :) ) I enjoy reading and then trying a new recipe. I love to think about how I can increase the flavor of something without adding calories. Re-working a recipe to make it healthier, so I can enjoy it on a regular basis, is more fun than doing a jigsaw puzzle. Okay, bad example. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t really that fun. Anyway, there is no reason to eliminate this kind of thinking.

For most of us, we will always have to be vigilant, and we will have to spend some time thinking and planning our meals so that we can lose weight or maintain a weight loss. But there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the amount of thinking you have to do.

  • Find a basic assortment of “favored” healthy foods that you enjoy.
  • Keep those foods stocked in your refrigerator.
  • Batch cook, and freeze in individual portions.
  • Watch for new recipes, or experiment yourself with different ways of combining your favored foods.

The longer you continue to eat in a certain way, the more familiar you become with the nutritional information and calorie count of those foods. I’m not talking about eating the same three foods over and over. You can have a pretty diverse diet without having to think too much at all.

As much as I enjoy food and food preparation and baking and cooking, it might surprise people to observe me for a week. Many days I don’t do any cooking at all. It is more assembling or thawing. This works very well for me. I don’t really have to do much thinking at all. I already know the calorie count of so many of the foods I eat. I still use my measuring cups to portion out things like yogurt and cottage cheese. I have a food scale on the counter for when I do need to weigh food. Sometimes I track my food online, and sometimes I just write it on a scrap of paper. Lots of times my food choices are so familiar that I just track it in my mind.

Think about food now. Its like practicing the piano. Pretty soon you will be able to play that melody (or make a healthy meal) without thinking about it at all.

Two Loops

Lately I’ve had a couple of thought loops running through my mind. I think it has something to do with turning 60. The loops do not intersect. It seems they run on separate tracks, although they are about the same topic.

The first loop is this:

I am 60 years old. I do not want to spend the rest of my life obsessing about food and weight and weight loss and weight gain and weight maintenance. I want to live the best possible life, the most meaningful spiritual life that I can. I want to enjoy a meal with friends, accept a treat when offered. I want to celebrate with food occasionally. I want to physically be able to serve God and serve others. I think often about Dallas Willard (the author I loved so much.) He lived the life I seek. “Dallas Willard would not obsess over food decisions like this,” I often think.

I am not talking about gaining weight back. But to eat this way, I need to be content to maintain at a higher weight range.

The second loop is this:

My back hurts. It would help if you lost some weight.

Yep, that’s the whole loop. While my back would not be healed by weight loss, I know for a fact that losing weight does decrease pain.

For a while, these two loops went through my mind on a daily basis. Each of them I acknowledge as truthful statements. But each of them requires that I make a decision and act on it. That has not exactly happened. One day I will follow one loop, and the next day I will follow the other. This, at least, keeps me maintaining my weight at this higher level.

You know, the truth is, that by “not making a decision to follow one loop or the other,” I actually have made a decision. For now, the truth is that I have made a decision to not actively pursue weight loss. To hold life a little less tightly. To live with a bit of pain and a little less angst. To still eat from a very healthy food template and to exercise on a regular basis. But to understand and agree that weight will not be lost this way. And for now, that’s okay.

A Blip.

Well, when last I wrote, I was climbing back on the diet bandwagon (removing sugar/ logging calories, upping exercise…) And then last week happened. I don’t know what really happened.

I could blame it on my mascara. My eyes are really sensitive, and so I always use Almay mascara (hypo-allergenic.) This time when I went to get a new tube, they didn’t have the same one I always buy. No biggie, its all Almay, right? Well, my eyes didn’t like the different mascara. And then they get itchy and sore, and I can’t stop rubbing them, and pretty soon, I just feel rotten.

I could blame it on a burst of creative energy. After taking an “artist’s holiday” during the holidays, I got right back into working with more ideas than ever. I’ve been finishing projects and starting new ones. I want to work on them all all the time.

So whatever it was, I didn’t want to go to the gym. I even got as far as getting dressed and going to town several days, and I still didn’t go to the gym. I usually came home and took a half-hearted walk with Noah.

And I wanted to eat MORE. So I ate more. More of my healthy food, and more of my not-so healthy choices.

When this happens, I can start to panic. Is this the beginning of the end??? Then I review all the years past. Times when I over-ate, or didn’t exercise for a week, or didn’t log my food. And I’m still here, plugging along. Its a concern, but its not reason to panic.

I just thought I’d keep it real, and let you know I have days and weeks like this.

Thinking about Food

A few posts back I mentioned that I was slightly disturbed by HOW MUCH I think about food. Some of the commenters said that they also thought about food a lot, and recently, a couple of other bloggers have mentioned the same thing. One blogger’s therapist called it an eating disorder. That bothered me, so I started thinking about that.

And here’s what I came up with.

First, back to Dr. Sharma’s talks. When Dr. Sharma talked about obesity being a chronic disease, he pointed out that treating it (maintaining weight loss) requires abnormal behavior, just like a diabetic who sticks themselves to check their blood sugar each day–that is abnormal behavior. To maintain a large weight loss, most people have to track their food, make careful food choices, etc. That is abnormal behavior. But it is what is required to control this chronic disease. So right there, you can see how that would lead you to think more about food.

The second thing that came up was this. Several people that are about my age and height have said that 1400 calories seems to be the amount they can eat to maintain their weight loss. I know that’s true for me. That’s not normal either. I input a 60 year old, 5 foot 1 inch, 155 pound active woman into the USDA’s calculator. They said I could eat 2200 calories a day to maintain that weight. IN MY DREAMS. So us weight loss maintainers get to eat about two-thirds of what the “normal folk” eat on a regular basis. That said, if you make good choices, you can eat very well, and be very satisfied at 1400 calories. BUT IT REQUIRES YOU TO THINK ABOUT FOOD A LOT.

So that’s what I’m thinking about this morning.

P.S. If you are waiting for the code so you can watch my episode of The Quilt Show, I am too! The Quilt Show is having some technical difficulties. I will get the code to you as soon as I hear from them!

Thin Enough

“Thin enough.” That’s how I described myself after seeing the trailer for The Quilt Show episode that I am going to be featured in this coming Monday. There are so many layers to those two little words. Because “thin” is not a word any normal person would use to describe me. At 5 ft. 1/4 inch, with my weight regularly fluctuating between 155 and 168, thin just doesn’t come to mind.

But following up on yesterday’s post, I am working on being satisfied with the weight I am. I am fast approaching 60 years of age (I KNOW, I can’t believe it either :) ). I don’t want to spend the next 20 or so years being unhappy with myself.

I also feel a little pressure to meet a certain expectation–after all, this blog is about “living a whole and healthy life.” And on The Quilt Show blog, I am a semi-regular contributor as “The Healthy Quilter.” I think that pressure is a good thing–a form of accountability that I can’t escape. So I was relieved to see that I looked “thin enough” (and healthy enough) on camera.

I went to the doctor last week. We talked about my ongoing knee pain (yay–finally got the referral to go back to the ortho doc) and I told her all the things I am doing–walking, riding the exercise bike, P.T. exercises. And she said mildly, “well, maybe you should lose a little weight.” I took no offense at her statement. Its a good idea. Its just a little more complex than that. Because really what she should say is “maybe you should LIVE at a lower weight.” And to live at a lower weight would mean restricting my food intake to a degree that I am unwilling or unable to do at this time. I reminded her that it was not on her computer record that I had lost 100 pounds before she became my doctor. I’m not sure that meant anything to her. And so for now, even as a person who is facing eventual knee replacement surgery, I am thin enough.

Anyway, it is a very good feeling (make no mistake, I don’t feel like this 100 percent of the time) to be content with the way I look. Sometimes I try to think about what my perception as a 20 year old was of what a 60 year old woman should look like. I think I look better than that :)

Thin enough is definitely a term that needs to be seen in perspective. For a woman who spent well over 20 years weighing 257 pounds, I am thin enough.