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.

What is Left to Say?

Us bloggers tend to have a lot to say, no? That’s usually why we started blogging in the first place. When I first lost my weight, I loved talking about it. I wanted to encourage other people that it Could! Be! Done!! Now I feel a little like my grandpa, who used to say ‘the older I get, the less I know.’ Obesity and losing weight and maintaining weight loss are such complex issues. And actually losing weight is the least  complex. Everybody can do that. But understanding obesity, the source and type of it, and then maintaining weight loss long term turn out to be extraordinarily complex issues. What can I possibly say that might help?

I’ve listened to a couple of lectures given by Dr. Sharma on Youtube. Some of the things he points out might be perceived as discouraging. But I have always found comfort and strength in hearing the truth, even if it isn’t the magic bullet I would have wished for.

Dr. Sharma points out that obesity is not just a disease. It is a chronic disease. A chronic disease without a cure. It doesn’t even have very many effective treatment options. The best you can do is to manage it. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. As discouraging as this might sound, I found comfort in it. I was beginning to feel like there was something very wrong with me. On my last trip to Tahoe, I worked hard at balancing enjoying special treats with eating really healthy foods. Overall, I think I did a really good job on this trip. But I remember one day saying to myself, “MY GOSH, you think a LOT about food. Its abnormal.” After I got home, I kept on thinking about this. One day it occurred to me that at my heaviest, I also thought a LOT about food. I got a good laugh out of that one.

Dr. Sharma also talks a lot about exercise. He says that exercise has very little to do with direct weight loss. VERY LITTLE. But he pointed out that all the side benefits that come with exercise can have a beneficial effect on your efforts to lose weight. Stress relief, better sleep, and just feeling better about yourself so that you WANT to eat better are all side benefits of regular exercise. I totally believe this.

Dr. Sharma also talks about the time it takes to maintain weight loss. How it almost has to become a second job. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep (you all know there is a lot of information tying sleep to weight loss, right?), planning, preparing, and/or journaling your food all take a good amount of time.

So as I reach the tenth year of when I STARTED this last weight loss, and I do still struggle with maintaining that loss, I guess I just want to say that it is very much worth the struggle. I would love to be able to convince people that learning to be content at a weight that is much lower than your highest weight, but still not as low as your “ideal” might be a key to at least maintaining weight loss.

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.

 

Its a Cookie Kind of Christmas

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This Christmas, it seems, I have loosened up my relationship with cookies.  I read with admiration my friends that are abstaining from the Christmas goodies. I have done that plenty of times myself through the years. But not this year. In the interest of truthfulness, I thought I’d share with you what I’m doing.

I noticed about a month ago that I was developing some rather obsessive behavior in regards to food. I mean, more obsessive than my usual obsessivity… I wondered if it was a backlash to my fairly restrictive diet for the past year. And I also noticed that I had become bored with my bedtime habit of writing down my menu for the following day. I thought about how I could remedy this without going backwards in my efforts to maintain my recent weight loss, and my effort to lose a few more pounds.

I decided to give another calorie counting website one more try. I’ve never been happy with negotiating these websites. They seemed difficult to use, especially with all the cooking I do. But this one is a goodie! I am totally enjoying it. Lose It is very easy to navigate, and very easy to add my custom foods to. It remembers “my foods” so all I have to do is type in a few letters and a list of recent choices comes up. It also has cute icons for each food. So if I type in Strawberry Cheesecake Protein Smoothie, first a strawberry icon shows up, then it changes to cheese, and finally it changes to a piece of cake! I can easily change it back to the strawberry icon. Its not necessary to have an icon for the food we eat, but it is fun.

Lose It gives you a daily calorie goal based on your weight. So as you lose weight, your calorie goal changes too. My calorie goal is about 1250. As you log your food during the day, it subtracts that amount from your calorie goal, and gives you the amount of calories you have left for the rest of the day. It has the option of logging your exercise calories so that you have a larger amount of calories to eat. I’ve never done this before, but I decided to log my exercise only on the days that I exercise for a whole hour at the gym. I thought that this would give me some variability to my caloric intake, and maybe would juggle my metabolism a bit. These extra calories came in handy for Christmas goodies, and also motivated me to take time to go to the gym if I was planning to celebrate that day.

Back to the cookies. I allowed myself to choose one favorite treat to make for Thanksgiving, and one to bake for Christmas. And I made my annual fruitcake for my mom. I either give away most of the goodies right away, or I wrap them well and put in the freezer for later distribution. I designate a couple of each cookie to keep for myself. I told my friend I felt like a squirrel. I have my little stash of cookies from my baking and from various friends wrapped carefully and put in my freezer. If I have calories at the end of the day (and I make sure I do!) I choose one or two to indulge in that night. I have some really light but delicious meals that I can choose from so that there are enough cookie calories left over. My turkey salad is a good example of this. Just romaine lettuce, with some turkey, laughing cow light, and my low calorie cranberry sauce. With the cheese and the sauce, no dressing is needed.

This seems to be working well for me. I have stayed on course according to Lose It, and have even lost a few pounds. I’ll report more about this after the new year.

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(About my Christmas decorations–I thought I was not going to decorate at all this year. Every time I went out to the storage shed and looked at the big plastic bins full of Christmas stuff, I just felt overwhelmed and left them all out there. I even bought a little live Christmas tree, but I thought it was going to get left outside too. Then one day I decided to just look in one bin. I chose a few of my favorite sentimental decorations and brought them in the house. In less than a couple of hours, I had enough decorating done to enjoy the season. Isn’t it funny how we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by circumstances or too many choices? When all we have to do is just ONE THING. Feel free to apply this to your weight loss efforts as we go into a  shiny bright new year : ) )

About that Goal Weight

A little bit ago I shared that I had once again reached ONE HUNDRED POUNDS LOST. I didn’t say it in the post, but some people assumed that I had reached my goal weight. A reasonable assumption, since that is the most I’ve ever lost. But it is not my goal weight. I would actually like to lose more weight in the hopes that it will decrease the stress on my knees and my back. Right now I have in mind to lose another fifteen pounds. Anyone want to bet on the fact that it’ll probably take me another year to do that?

But here’s the thing. I don’t think I want to have a goal weight. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have a GOAL LIFE? Here are some of the qualities I would like to achieve in that goal life:

  • Kinder
  • Humbler
  • Productive
  • Healthier (which would include being as thin as possible with food choices to support optimal health)
  • BALANCED, with a side of contentedness (keeping up with that healthier goal but with minimal angst over food choices.)

For me, this seems a healthier way to look at weight loss. It is just one part of a whole and healthy life. Granted, it is a big part. But if those other things go by the wayside in order to achieve a certain weight or body size, that is NOT a whole and healthy life. I suppose if someone held a gun to my head and made me choose between being a morbidly obese, kind person, or a model-thin, mean-spirited person, I would choose the former. Fortunately, that is not a choice any of us have to make.

Everything works together. If I neglect my health, eating whatever I want, whenever I want, I will be in (even more) pain all the time. Do you know how hard it is to be loving and kind when you are in pain? So the best possible health is really very important. But if I am impatient or unkind or just plain unwilling to help a person in need because I am obsessed  with what food I am going to eat, or worried that I might miss a workout at the gym, that is not a good life either.

These are some lofty goals. I am not always balanced. Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows I spend a little too much time thinking about food. I am not naturally kind and humble. I have certainly learned a lot about humility in the last few years, but kindness is something I always have to work on. I think I’m relatively productive, but I can be very wasteful of my days sometimes. And heaven knows, I’m doing my best to work on my health LOL.

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.