Friday, February 1, 2013

Tips for Successful Weight Loss

After 30+ years of yo-yo dieting, the one thing I have learned is that dieting doesn’t work. For me, dieting has been an exercise in food deprivation and weight gain. I’d always lose the weight, but then I’d put it back on along with an extra 10-20lbs.
Successful weight loss and maintenance means a permanent lifestyle change. To be honest, it’s the word permanent that trips me up every time. It almost sounds like a life sentence without parole. I have nightmares about having to become food Nazi, always hyper-vigilant about what I’m putting into my mouth in order to maintain weight loss long term.
Having said all that, I have devised a list of what I think I need to do to be successful, cherry picking those bits I’ve picked up over the years that have worked for me. I’ve decided that the list is not written in stone, in fact, it’s written in pencil, to be tweaked and modified as needed. And like all rules, they’re made to be broken. At times.
Here it is:
  1. No White: sugar, flour, potatoes, pasta, etc. No wheat.
  2. Move my body
  3. Water is my friend
  4. Daily food record
  5. Weigh myself once a month no matter what
  6. 80/20
  7. Forgive myself
  8. Accept the fact that I will be uncomfortable at times
  9. Try a new recipe each week
  10. Journaling
  11. Meditation
  12. Visualization
  13. Affirmations
  14. No deadlines: give myself as long as I need
  15. Collage
  16. Letters of Gratitude
It is a flexible list in that I don’t want to become overwhelmed. I’ll do follow-up posts on each tip on the list.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What a Shame

During the week, a noted bioethicist (here’s the link ) came up with the brilliant idea that fat people should be shamed into losing weight.
What a novel idea-making fun of fat people! Because that has never been done before. For whatever reason, fat people in our size-zero obsessed society are easy targets.
Yes, there is an obesity epidemic, but shaming isn’t the answer.
From the time I was thirteen, I was made to feel ashamed of myself for being a little bit overweight (seriously- 128lbs on a 5’3” frame). It wasn’t just from complete strangers shouting caustic remarks for all to hear but also from supposedly ‘well-intentioned’ people who were supposed to love me. Some family members felt they were doing me a favor by pointing it out  (all under the guise of constructive criticism) and telling me things like ‘you don’t want to be the fattest one in the wedding party’ or my all time favorite: 'no man wants a fat woman, that's just the way it is'. Then there were the 'boyfriends' who preferred it if you looked like your sister or worse, offered to pay for a fat camp when you hit 160lbs in order to ‘save’ the relationship. (And no I didn’t go- it was just easier to break-up).
Not once did any of the shame lead me to a better path of taking care of myself. In fact, quite the opposite happened. The constant focus on my weight and the subsequent shame of it ballooned quite literally into chronic weight gain and an eating disorder. At the end of all that shame, you’re left battered and bruised and eventually you are unable to separate your self-worth and your identity from the number on the scale. It becomes an inverse relationship: the higher the number goes on the scale, the worse you feel about yourself until you reach the stratosphere of not caring at all. And even if you do manage to get your weight under control, you still have to deal with the feelings of worthlessness and low self esteem, for that is a by-product of continual shaming.
This is what you learn when you are made to feel ashamed about your weight: nothing matters; it doesn’t matter what you do in your life, what you accomplish or what you achieve; or how good or kind you are. It means nothing because you are fat. That is both the message and the corrosive nature of shame.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What I've Been Doing

I read a book last year that made a lot of sense to me. Personally I’m against diets and I think that everybody just has to find whatever it is that works for them in an effort to lose weight and keep it off. I read Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.  and it was a compelling indictment on modern-day, genetically- modified wheat. (I’ll do a more in-depth post on this book later). So last March, I tried it. I lasted 2 weeks. It was going well until a tragic death in our family and I immediately-without a thought- turned to food for comfort. As a wise friend pointed out to me: all that overeating did not change a thing; it did not bring my cousin back. It took me another eight months before I tried it again. I started November 21 and listed a set of things that I felt that I had to do in order for me to be successful. I said goodbye to my old friends: bagels and cream cheese and I got a quickie divorce from the family-size Galaxy bar that I consumed on an almost daily basis at a cost of 700 calories! I went cold off of everything white: sugar, flour, pasta, potatoes, etc and everything wheat. Within forty-eight hours, I noticed the cravings had diminished and there was a definite increase in my energy levels. Gone was the mid-afternoon carbohydrate slump that had my eyes at half-mast and required a two hour nap to snap out of it. I actually tried to nap but found that I just wasn’t tired enough.  Even when another cousin died unexpectedly at the beginning of December, I managed to hold it together. However, Christmas rolled into town and I completely went off the rails. However, I have managed to stay off of the bagels and the chocolate bars. But I’m determined to get back on track and get this right. I’m going to keep trying until it clicks; even if that means I’m still posting on this blog when I’m eighty years old.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I'm Back!

Saturday, the 19th was my 47th birthday and I woke up thinking I’m still fat, broke and unpublished. I could actually feel myself starting to slide into that black pit of depression. I haven’t been there since January of 2009 when I got so depressed I stayed in bed for 3 weeks. Eight months of therapy and anti-depressants eventually pulled me out of it. But it came at a cost: I put on close to forty pounds as a side effect of the medication. I’m still struggling to get that weight off.  Depression is a place that I am determined not to revisit. Anxiety is usually my constant companion and over the years I have learned to manage that through meditation, distraction and deep breathing. However, last week was a bad week, with one thing after another and the anxiety got the better of me, overwhelmed me and opened the door for depression. I’ve examined the state of my affairs closely. Yes, I’m still unpublished and my dream of becoming a paid writer is still just that: a dream. But I am doing everything I can to make it happen: I’m writing. A lot. And I’ve learned a lot about the writing process in the last seven years. I just need to hang on and continue what I’m doing. As for being broke, I’m doing everything I can short of moving back to the US. The unemployment rate in this lovely country is close to 15%. My husband as a carpenter, has become a victim of this recession like so many other tradesmen. But even my field, healthcare, is taking a hit. A bastion that I had once considered ‘safe’ is no longer as I watch both my hours and base pay get cut over and over again. Again, I’m doing everything I can: taking any kind of work where I can find it. Now for the part about being fat: my attempts to get to grips with the thing that I actually have the most control over is haphazard at best. There have been small changes and as you can see from the stats, I’m still not where I need to be, but thankfully, I’m not at my all-time high.
So, I struggled through my birthday, in a really dark place. I went for a fifteen minute walk (that’s all I could manage) and used some tools that I learned in the past. I kept busy. It was hard day. I was sliding all day. But it didn’t get any worse. When I woke Sunday, I felt a little bit better and went for another fifteen minute walk. Yesterday, I felt like I was back on track. Ready again, to tackle my weight. I have limited control over the last two things, but I certainly have control over the first. I must keep trying.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Constant Companion

In a previous post, I mentioned that I started walking back in February to get a handle on my anxiety, a faithful companion for the last twenty plus years.
Although I've never been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, if it quacks like a duck and all of that. And because I've never been diagnosed, I take no medication for it. And I wouldn't want to anyways: I'm adverse to taking anything unless I really have to.
My anxiety is exacerbated by stress and the fact that I'm obese does not help. Talk about the proverbial vicious circle.
When I look back on my life, I can not pinpoint the place in time when I first was afflicted with it. All I know is that it popped up somewhere in my twenties.
Anxiety is always in the background, lurking in the corner. I have no idea when it will strike and the most inane thing can set it off.
But these are my symptoms:
First, I will have vague sense of unease. There's a slight shift in my well being about nothing in particular or everything. This is how it always starts. Gradually, it escalates to restlessness, chest tightness, illogical thinking and then full blown agitation.
The chest tightness is about the size of a grapefruit in the middle of my chest. It both expands and constricts at the same time. It can feel like a vice and it physically hurts. When I get to this part, I know that I am in trouble.
The illogical thinking is defiant. An illogical thought will careen around the inside of my like a runaway train. My rational mind will argue against it but it is soon overwhelmed by the thought processes that have gone off the rails.
This all leads to agitation, which is an awful feeling: restlessness squared. You don't know whether to sit up, stand or pace; to cry, scream or remain mute.
In the past, a phone call to one of my sisters helped to alleviate it. Why? Because they could distract me like no one's business. And they know me and my anxiety well enough to know how to navigate through the choppy waters. And God was good when He gave me two sisters: one to prop me up on each side. Both Jen & Bec- to their eternal credit- can get me out of it. But it can sometimes take a good hour. Initially, they are sympathetic and talk logic to me and then they go in for the kill: they distract me. But by the end of it, I am exhausted.
My husband is just realizing the harsh reality of my anxiety and has expressed a willingness to help.
I started my own research on the internet because I couldn't keep eating up these huge blocks of time of my sisters' lives. The mantra out there is this: deep breathing, exercise, meditation and yoga. ( I have to forget yoga- no one tells you that you have to be uber flexible to do some of those poses).
And that's why I started walking- to take the edge off and it has helped. I also am trying to be more aware of when I feel that sense of unease coming on and nipping it in the bud before it gets out of control.
Anxiety's cousin, Depression, gets a lot of media attention which is good because it leads to awareness,demystifies it and lessens the stigma attached to it. Recently, Catherine Zeta Jones spoke about her problems with bipolar disorder. Here in Ireland, Marian Keyes has gone public with her own battle with depression. Maybe someday a celebrity will speak out about anxiety and how apprehensive they are towards the setting sun when the dark can make it ten times worse. It's time to bring it out of the closet.

Thanks to Natalie Dee for the fabulous comic.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Not Usually Jealous But...

By my own nature I am not a jealous person.If anything, I'd be the opposite.In fact, one thing I love is weight loss testimonials because it gives me hope that someday it could be me.When others succeed, I'm happy for them.When they acquire nice things, I'm happy.Others succeeding and aquiring tends to inspire me.For if it can happen to them, it can happen I just don't do jealous.
Except for this one big thing.
Two weeks ago, we took the boys to Fota Island Wildlife Park and it was there that I first laid eyes on a scimitar horned oryx (see accompanying pic).I was perfectly all right-living happily in a jealous free zone- until he leaned his head back and used his horns to scratch his back.
Instantly, I was consumed with jealousy.For I've had this itch in the most unreachable part of my back for a long time- and I can never quite get to it.I've used doors, corners, the letter opener, pointy ends on anything, etc.In fact Daniel walked in on me one day using the letter opener to reach the middle of my back and commented, "If you need to use that to scratch your back then you should see a doctor." He's eight and he may have a point.
But I thought if I had a pair of horns on my head like that I might just be able to get that itch scratched properly.
Just saying.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Still Here

I've been thinking about writing this blog post since February. It's now almost May. I guess I'll never be accused of being speedy.

There's a saying that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome. And if you take away the expectation, then what you have is a habit.

In January, I went temporarily insane. While in the States in December, I jumped onto the newest diet bandwagon, anxious to start it right away, full of hopes and dreams that this time was going to be it. It was going to be the magic bullet and solve all of my weight problems and I'd be thin and happy and rich and you get the picture. I grabbed onto this diet with both hands like it was a lifeline and wanted it to be that. But secretly, deep down- after thirty plus years of trying every diet out there- I hate 'diets' because I know that they don't work long-term and the statistics are consistent enough to back that up.

I lasted 3 days on the 7 day detox phase where the only thing you ate was fruits and vegetables. My capacity for any diet is 3 weeks and true to form, by the third week I began feeling anxious, restless and most of all, deprived. In the end I gave up on that particular diet, but not my determination to lead a healthier life.

In February, the boys were out a week with a terrible bout of the flu- different weeks of course- and I used food as my coping mechanism. But when it was over, I was aware of what I had done and was determined not to use it as an excuse to slide into one long binge.

On February 18th, I started walking-not for exercise or to lose weight- but in an effort to get a handle on my anxiety. The first day, my husband went with me. I had asked him and even though we're separated, he would help me like that. I was afraid that I wouldn't make it or worse that one or both of my knees would buckle. I managed 14 minutes- 7 minutes one way and 7 minutes back. Granted, I had to hang onto my husband to get back, but I did make it.

I've been walking ever since and am now up to 30 minutes. I've discovered the 99 acre Demesne park in town and it's quite lovely as you can see from the pictures.

And after two months, I can see a difference. Thursday, we took the boys to the Fota Wildlife Park and we were there for over 5 hours and I managed to walk the entire thing. Granted, I would have to sit down on a bench and rest at times, but dammit, I was able to do something with my boys. At Christmas, I could barely stand up. A pair of pants that I had bought in December, are now falling off of me and I love wearing them because it reminds me that I'm doing it. Right now.

Unlike other attempts in the past where I would try to figure out the maximum amount of weight I could lose in the shortest possible time, I'm taking this one slow. I'm happy with my weight loss so far and am ok with the fact that I have many more pounds to go.

One day at a time.