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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Two

Food is fuel. Food is nutrition. Food is medicine.
Food is not love or acceptance or a drug. It doesn't soothe loneliness or stress or depression. It can become a crutch or a habit or a compulsion. The best way I deal with it is to become analytical (which admittedly drives people crazy when I do that.) But when I approach food as a tool, as something necessary, I can separate myself from obsessive behavior. I have to teach myself again and again to be mindful in what I eat, and to eat when hungry. Right now, I'd love some popcorn, but my stomach is full. So I'm sipping on green tea instead.
Some of the best eating programs are just common sense. I was once put on a diabetic diet and I've never felt so much natural energy in my life! Spark People is an online tool where you can track your daily calories, and it also analyzes your nutrition. For free. Its got a great community and a lot of support. I'll be heading back there soon. Weight Watchers teaches portion sizes and accountability. These are tools you can use, and there are more out there.
I'm not a nutritionist, but I worked with a slew of them for five years when I was with Public Health. My daughter is a chef who specializes in medical diets and my other daughter is a dental hygienist, and had to study nutrition for her degree. 
Here's some of what I learned from my experience, and from their expertise:

  • Don't skimp on protein. If you remove protein from your diet, your body will rob from your muscles. 
  • Don't cut out grains unless you are intolerant. Without the B vitamins and omegas that whole grains provide, you are robbing your brain. 
  • Don't fall into that "Fruits and Vegetables are just sugar" trap. They are higher in carbs, but they are complex carbohydrates. Go easy on juice, as its doesn't have the fiber that is necessary to slow digestion. 
  • Do fill your plate with color. Seek out vegetable proteins to take the place of animal proteins. On another note, fruits, vegetables and fiber are your best weapons in the fight against certain cancers. Use them.
  • Don't go on starvation programs, extended fasts, detox programs or fad diets. (I remember in the '70s, my sister used to go on crash diets. Ugh.) And for God's sake, don't try to put yourself into a state of ketosis. I don't care what Atkins said, its not safe for most people.
  • Drink water. Keep hydrated. Your skin, kidneys, liver and digestive tract are your detox system. Treat them well. Water is your friend. And fiber...
  • Avoid "white" foods: processed sugars, flour, bread, pasta. Look for whole grain, unprocessed alternatives. Generally, white foods are processed and are simple carbs. Whole grain, unprocessed foods are complex carbs. I suspect when people lose weight by going gluten free, its largely because they are cutting out simple carbs.
  • Do indulge. There's no harm in treating moderation. I love pizza. I can eat one slice as a meal. When I was seriously losing, I allowed myself two Hershey's Kisses a day. Unfortunately, two turned into four, then eight, then a dozen...LOL!
  • If you're going for a real lifestyle change, cut or reduce one unnecessary item at a time. For me, I totally eliminated soda and alcohol. I had about an ounce of Coke the other day and that was enough. Likewise, I'll have one drink at an event...maybe four a year. At this point, I'll be halving the sugar I put in my tea and getting a grip on my candy compulsions. Sugar is my devil and must be wrangled back under control.
  • Don't hurry. The optimum amount of weight you should lose...for permanent loss, is one to two and a half pounds per week. Sometimes you might lose nothing. Sometimes you might drop quite a lot. Bodies are weird that way.
  • Be realistic in your expectations. Calm down. Meditate. Journal your feelings. By the time I lost about 40 pounds, my appearance changed so drastically that I went through a true emotional crisis. I couldn't look into a mirror because I didn't know myself. I reached out to others who'd lost a lot of weight and found that wasn't unusual.
  • Take care of yourself. Love yourself and accept yourself, even as you are making changes.
  • Exercise. Ugh. Yes. It helps. Take three ten minute walks a day, or whatever gets you to that thirty minutes. FYI, I have a gym membership I've never used. LOL! But someday I will!
There's a reason nutritions and dietitians study "food science." Its complicated and is rooted in chemistry. They are the experts. I used to have a doctor that urged me to live on apples and cheese sticks. Really. If you're having problems or need expert advice, try to find a practice that will refer you to a nutritionist.
Sometimes you can get away with a short term diet plan, but unless you alter your lifestyle, that ten or fifteen pounds will come back. For me, and for so many people, losing, and then managing weight is a total lifestyle overhaul. Don't fall prey to depression or despair. Earlier today, I was literally down on my back, thinking about how my world sucked. Then I found those old pants. And they gave me a reason to be cheerful.

Me in my happy place (Bath, UK) and at my happiest weight. Take note, that wasn't when I was at my thinnest, just my most comfortable.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One

So I'm going to share a soul-searching, very personal experience. When this photo was taken, (about 4 years ago) I knew I was overweight, but I honestly didn't realize HOW overweight I'd gotten. This came onto my timeline and I literally dropped my jaw.

At that time, I'd developed a severe problem in my foot, and then for the first time ever, I was turned away from donating platelets because my BP was too high. I have a genetic disposition to gastric ulcers, and those were kicking in again. I was crippled with sciatica and horrid back pain. One day I was driving and had to pull over because I was dizzy. My blood pressure had spiked dramatically. That's when I became acutely aware of my mortality. I hadn't been to the doctor in years, had no clue how much I weighed, and didn't even own a scale.
I have people who depend on me. I have children and now I have a grandson. I have my DOGS for goodness sake! I have a good life and so many more stories to tell. According to my physician, I was morbidly obese and every pound was stealing my life...and my quality of life.
Well, I lost weight, about 85 pounds. Maybe more. I didn't want to be thin, just normal and healthy. It wasn't easy but when you're afraid for your life, you get things done. The foot got better, ulcer issues faded, back mostly got better, all my bloodwork was great...and so on.
But last spring, I started gaining again. Slowly, but surely. Then November happened and as Zam says, I began to eat my liberal outrage. LOL! I've been feeling pretty blue because I still don't own a scale, but I've gone up a size...maybe two. And I've had to buy some new clothes. Which didn't make me happy. Being unhappy taps into my love affair with Lindor Truffles...and my guilt...and more chocolate...
My foot started hurting again. And my back. And my stomach. My clothes don't fit. So I ordered my protein powder again and I'm trying to gently make peace with my chocolate cravings. No real progress yet, but its never easy. Still, I feel like I'm starting all over at the beginning. OMG. So much weight to lose again.
Tonight, I was cleaning and found a pair of pants I wore before I lost weight. I held them up and they swallowed me. They were enormous and I felt much better. I'm not even close to where I was. So yes, I gained, but not as much as I thought. I still have to go to the doctor soon, get weighed in and face that number, but it won't be near what it was at the time this photo was taken.
So here's the deal. If you're trying to lose weight, reduce BP, reduce pain ,whatever, so much is involved in nutrition. Don't do anything faddish or extreme. Focus on what actually goes into your body. Try to understand food, what works for you and what doesn't. Learn about portion size. Experiment. I love milk, but I can't tolerate it, so I get my calcium elsewhere. I've always hated avocados, now I'm becoming more accepting of them. Maybe kinda liking them...
Yes, food is pleasurable. For some people like me, there's a deep psychological component to eating. I have compulsions that are rooted in OCD behavior. Its my manifestation of addictive behavior, and frankly, I'm the lucky one in my family. Everyone else is addicted to drugs, alcohol or tobacco. But the difference is, one of my siblings spent a year in rehab getting off opiates. Now that she's clean, its not a problem because they aren't part of her daily life. Food...well, we need it to stay alive. Its in our faces every. single. day.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two. Getting back under control.