Here is my life in a microcosm. 32 pounds (at least) since my peak in November, 18 pounds in the last month, 10 pounds in the last two weeks.
That spike happened while we were dealing with dad’s illness, his death, and the estate. We closed out the estate work in October and I finally was able to stop doing the I-5 tango to LA and start dealing with my own issues again.
The numbers I’m happy about is that right now, I weigh about 10 pounds less than my stable weight going back to 2005. I sat at 375 for a good while; in 2004, I made an attempt to get some weight off and got down to about 345, and as soon as the stress at worked kicked in, it all came back. Except for those few months in 2004, I’ve weighed around 375 going back into 2003, and 360+ since the millenium.
Think about this a bit. Go to a bowling alley. Pick up the lightest ball in the racks; that’s what I’ve lost two weeks; strap the ball to your belly and try to maintain a normal life. Or pick up the heaviest ball in the alley, and that’s what has gone away in the last month. In the last 2 months, I’ve taken 5″ off of my waist.
And this is all, for me, a beginning. I’ve got to take that 30 pounds off four more times before I can start to think about a goal weight — but in reality, I’m guessing a goal weight around 240-250 — about 30 pounds less than I weighed when I was 30 — is a reasonable place to shoot for.
And for what it’s worth, I’m not dieting. Diets fail, and they suck. This isn’t a diet, but the end result of three years of work with my doctor and others, and a lot of research and self-study understanding what triggers the eating and fighting to figure out how to remove or mitigate or circumvent those triggers.
(quick digression: if I had a dollar for every time someone suggested I just eat less, or not put as much on my plate, or any of the other “easy” solutions, I could retire — and drink Starbucks Frappucinos every day the rest of my life. “Just say no” works about as well in obesity as it did for Nancy with teenage sex. Reality is that this is all pretty damn complicated — or we probably wouldn’t have this worldwide “obesity crisis”, no? Well-meaning, yes. useful? not so).
Everyone’s triggers are different, but there are a few things that seem to be pretty universal. Here are some things that have worked for me — so far.
First, it’s not a diet. it’s a healthy lifestyle. Fix the lifestyle, the weight will get fixed with it. That doesn’t mean you don’t plan on losing weight, it means that you make changes to fix the problems that are triggering the weight; obesity is most of the time a symptom of other issues. Lose the weight without solving those other issues — and it’ll come back. (in my case, I could name a bunch of triggers: stress, low self-esteem, stress, bad eating habits, a slow satiety response, and, well, stress).
Sweetened sodas: First thing my doctor told me, they’re gone. He’s right. absolutely wastelands for calories. “Diet” sweetened sodas aren’t much better, because they seem to trigger insulin into the blood which causes hunger, which causes snacking. So your best bet is — water. Or unsweetened iced tea, my personal favorite. Bonus evil points for high-yield fructose sweeteners (corny syrup) as the research keeps showing more and more that it’s nasty and evil (and probably contributing to diabetes and insulin resistance and weight gains). So drink lots of fluids, but teach yourself to drink stuff that isn’t sugary, whether it’s sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or something artificial. That said, it’s hard to do, because so few things available these days are both portable AND unsweetened, and if you’re out and need something to drink and didn’t bring anything, you can have problems; I still buy a lot of bottled fluids for portability’s sake, but I’m experimenting with a 2 liter insulated flask so I can fill it with ice and water from the Pur filter. I’ll probably do a 1 liter version as well. When I’m out in the Real World, it seems better to buy bottled water than the toher stuff, but sometimes, a little flavor is nice. My preferences are: water (plain, or the crystal geyser unsweetened carbonated), unsweetened tea (lipton makes a bottled one that’s drinkable, so does tejava); stuff sweetened with Splenda. Maybe once a month do I drink something with corn syrup, as much as anything for a change of pace, or because it’s all I can get. I’ll drink something sweetened with corn syrup before drinking something with Aspartame in it, and something with Splenda in it ahead of those, and unsweetened stuff when I can.
Food diaries: When you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong, your best friend is probably the food diary. you write down whatever you eat, when you eat it, without cheating. It’s also useful to write down whether you’re hungry or not, and what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Without cheating. First, you’ll find out how hard it is to not cheat — because you’ll have to admit to yourself how often you lie to yourself about what you eat. Second, you’ll find out how much you eat without thinking; the cookie the admin brought in, grabbing a Coke before staff meeting (sugared), etc. non-meal, non-planned, mostly habitual food. And finally, with the hunger and mood annotations, you’ll start getting a fix on the various things that cause you to eat. You’ll start seeing patterns (habits!) and you’ll probably find some of the fascinating, and others frightening. Eat when you’re sad? stressed? angry? How often do you eat when you’re hungry, as opposed to when it’s 6PM (dinnertime!). Once you understand your eating habits, good and bad, you can start fixing them. Diaries are the map to doing this.
Fix your habits — one habit at a time. Massive lifestyle changes fail pretty reliably. If you change everything at once, it’ll fall apart. Choose something you know you need to fix, and practice fixing it. Keep working at it until you realize you’re no longer having to work at it. It could take days, it’ll probably take weeks, but at some point, you’ll realize you no longer have to think about or convince yourself to do “the right thing”; the right thing becomes the habitual thing. Then go choose another thing to fix and start fixing it. Lots of little steps, each one do-able, leads to success. Jumping off the cliff into your new healthy lifestyle? well, jumping off a cliff rarely ends well. climb down that cliff in manageable steps. As long as you don’t have a crisis health problem, a bit at a time will be a much less risky change.
Learn to eat slow. Some interesting new research this week: how fast a society eats meals, on average, correlates nicely with how obese that society is. I used to be a sprinter; I’ve been practicing slowing down. There are two feedback cycles involved in eating: hunger encourages you to eat. Satiety encourages you to stop. That is not the same as fullness (or “stuffed”); Sateity is the feeling of no longer being hungry, more or less. In my reality, it’s rather slow to react, so I have a tendency to blow right past it; eating more slowly allows this all to sort itself out. This is a work in progress for me, but I’m getting there. Besides when you eat so fast, you don’t taste the food. For a lot of the crap we stuff ourselves with, this is a feature — so if you learn to slow down, and you find you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, learn to eat something else (this advice will scare the crap out of fast food outlets)
Think about your food. Part of the food diary process: every time I pick up a piece of food, I ask myself two questions: Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? If the answer to either is yes, I eat it. If not, I put it down. The first question helps you understand how often you eat something because it’s handy, not because you’re hunry. The second question helps you understand how often you eat something because, well, it’s food, not necessarily because you want to eat it. Pop quiz: how often do you leave a mexican restaurant with chips in the chip bowl? I know my answer, and it’s pretty brutal. Second pop quiz: were those chips store bought in bags or made by the restaurant? If your answer is “I didn’t notice…..” then you have homework to think over, right?
Don’t deprive yourself: a good way for this to all fail is to hate doing it. I admit it: I still eat fast food — but instead of eating it 5-6 lunches a week, like I did the last year I was at Apple, I eat it occasionally. Like once every ten days or so. And when I eat it, I look at what I’m eating; you don’t have to supersize (or better yet, Wendy’s does a decent baked potato instead of fries — or learn to toss the fries after you’ve enjoyed the taste of them, if you do). Be really wary of fast food salads. they are generally not your friend. A common reason people get into the fast food habit (raises hand) is “fast”; don’t even have to get out of the frigging car. A way to start breaking this habit: find the fast food that’s just far enough away to be a hassle, and go eat there. Break the “this is convenient, I have to be ready for that next meeting” faux-convenience. Beyond that? I still eat ice cream; it’s a personal, favorite vice. But I do it within the larger plan, and I do it consciously. I can (and do) live without fries. I don’t particularly want to live without ice cream — so I don’t. But work it into your dietary plan and lifestyle, and when you choose to do that, figure out what things you won’t do so that it fits into the plan. Then it’s no longer a “treat”, it’s part of your diet, and your “diet” isn’t something you hate. Which means you’ll stay on it better.
That Kit-Kat bar may be your friend. The diet nazis tend to get really uppity about some things — like fast food, ice cream, candy. All the stuff you like. But you may well find out that candy bar can save your ass; god help me, most “energy bars” (like Powerbar, etc) take like crap. I find Clif bars both tolerable and almost edible, and they have a selection that doesn’t trigger my alergies (no nuts, no peanuts, no peanut butter; with many brands, I’m screwed). I, personally, have sworn that I will sell my soul to the devil before eating another freaking rice cake. I’d rather go to the woodshop and chow down on sawdust, you know? But when that mid-afternoon between meeting “my god, my blood sugar is crashing, I’m starving” snack urge hits (and it will, if you reduce calories to lose weight. plan for it) then you may well find that the best thing in the vending machine is the candy bar — and you’ll like it. Just make sure it gets fitted into the plan. What’s probably worst? I’d bet the pop-tarts, speaking of going to the woodshop for sawdust… And fighting that urge and ignoring the energy crash and blood sugar level jumping off a cliff? you’re just asking for a binge eat along the way. A planned retreat is much preferred over attempting to out-macho your appetite. If you find you have this fight regularly, then plan a snack into the day to circumvent it. Like a Clif bar, if you can eat them every day and not want to kill yourself. Or fruit. Or… maybe a kit-kat bar. Just don’t lie to yourself about the calories.
Know your body: the 70′s idea that everyone does best on a “mediterranean” higher-carb diet (as opposed to the “high carb” diet fiascos) is bogus. we all have different genetic backgrounds with different dietary realities. If your background is mediterranean, then be my guest. Me? my genetic background is germanic (northern europe white guy) — and my body does better powered by protein, but I need to manage the fat that normally ocmes with that, so I tend to eat a lot of turkey and ham. Figure out what works for your body, and don’t be suprised if it’s not what “everyones says you should do”. and if someone tries telling you that the answer is the old Pasta and Bagel diet, stuff them down a toilet.
Stay hydrated. Going to the bathroom is not a sin. honest. Surprisingly large percentages of americans don’t drink enough fluid. I tend to dehydrate easily, especially in summer (I’m well insulated. good for annoying people by walking around without a jacket in winter, bad in summer….). Increasing your fluid intake not only reduces dehydration and the symptoms it causes (for me, low energy and headaches) — it’s an interesting appetite suppressant. If you’re slowly adding water to the system, you’ll spend less time feeling empty and hungry. Try it. It’s amazing. You’ll learn over time what level makes you feel best, but I’ll bet it’s likely more than you’re actually drinking now.
And that’s probably enough of that for now. But one more thing. A couple of people have noted to me recently that it’s hard to find a photo of me online. Guilty as charged. In all honesty, I like TAKING pictures, not sitting for them. But professionally, I need to get over it and do some mug shots, so I set that as a personal project, to find out how to take my own portrait and do some publicity images for myself. I’ve hated every attempt so far, but it was only a week ago that I realized why.
Every time I see a picture of myself, I don’t actually SEE ME. I see this:
Which is what I feel like when I weight almost 400 pounds. On the other hand, looking in the mirror, I can see significnt changes even with the weight lost so far. There’s hope for me yet; I can see a significant reduction to the jowls already. But I still have this nasty urge to grab a guitar and start plucking…