I left high school at 5'7" and 118 pounds. Because of my youth and heredity, food was nothing to me. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. As a result, I knew ZERO about nutrition or food discipline. Of course, the magazines still told me I was fat, but, overall, my genes rocked my jeans.
Fast forward to 2008. I was married, more unhappily than happily. My freshman 15 had hung on, but I still wore 32/32 Levis and was a size 10. A family business was in start-up phase and I'd been in court on an idiotic intellectual property lawsuit for 3+ years. But I only thought things were bad. The market crashed and the business just . . . stopped. Things spun out of control until November 2009 when I got the dreaded door knock with the four words that change everything, "There's been an accident." My husband's incipient drinking and prescription drug problem had finally rang lemons. In the next horrifying 12 weeks driving the 50 miles back and forth to the hospital during one of the harshest winters in years, food became a combo of comfort and afterthought. I'd bundle the dogs into bed, add on three blankets and eat cold hotdogs and potato chips because that was all there was.
I don't even remember much of 2009 through 2014. It was nothing but a grind of care-giving for a paraplegic, working three jobs, and wondering what the hell had happened to my life. I ended up living in a place with little heat and no kitchen, so, the corner diner became my haven. Add in the loss of my only brother and the suicide of my husband and I was out of fucks to give. But food didn't ask for anything in return, it didn't judge me, and it was always there.
I'd find myself sitting up eating donuts at 4 a.m. because that's when the nightmares came.
Let's just say I was fully in touch with the "sturdiness" of my farm heritage. I thought this was my lot in life. Just another one of the "People of Walmart." Someone who had given up because she was just tired.
Then the "thing" happened.
My business, the one that keeps the lights turned on, is to buy, sell, and trade antiques and oddball collectibles. That requires a lot of iron-butt patience at auctions and digging skills at rummage sales. I was at an auction and noticed the pain in my knees. By the time I'd made it to a big multi-story flea market, the pain was grinding and lancing. A two-step platform required me to hang onto the handrail. I was in danger of losing my mobility. That was unacceptable. I've lost weight before, 25 to 30 pounds, but it didn't stick for one reason.
I didn't change.
This time, with a year of therapy to deal with the PTSD, I am changing. Not just my eating habits. I'm changing my head and redefining my relationship with food.
Back to the photo at the top of the post. I'm visual and numbers-oriented. I'm an engineer, it goes with the territory. So, I set up a Pinteresty thing with two antique glasses and some colored marbles. I used a different color for every goal. Every Monday, when I weigh myself, I get to move a marble for every pound. The clear ones were the first goal. The brown one is the first pound in the next goal.
Overall, I've lost 21 pounds in five months.
BUT BUT BUT . . . . WITH THIS DIET YOU CAN LOSE ELEVENTY-SEVEN POUNDS IN TWO WEEKS . . .
*hand over mouth* Shut up and listen.
I'm not on a diet. I'm changing myself. Weight loss is the tangible dividend. I'm not eating cottage cheese and celery or juicing or drinking boiled bone broth. And for gawd's sake, I'm not paleo. I'm not doing any of the things that dieters loathe and can't wait to stop doing. If I want Chinese buffet, I go get Chinese buffet. My "diet" includes butter and chocolate and having breakfast out with my friends.
What I'm doing is asking myself why I want Chinese. Am I lonely? Am I bored? Am I trying to avoid work? Do I need a nap? What is the bottom line? When the answer is, "I want to sit with my book around other humans and enjoy myself with a heaping plate of Chinese food," then it's time to go. Otherwise, I need to do something different and be honest about my intentions. The honesty is the hard part.
Special food is an event. It's not a substitute for dark emotions or fatigue or loneliness. It's something to be savored and treasured and enjoyed. It is not something to feel guilty about or to wail, "I'm a failure, nothing matters, hey, is that cake?"
Even with my regular meals, I do not work. I might read or play a silly game or watch TV. My food is an event for my own benefit. It doesn't just sustain me, it fulfills me.
So, with no real dieting methods or obsessive calorie counting, I have been losing about a pound a week. Some weeks have been zero. Others have been as many as four pounds. I got some very bad news. It triggered a mild binge for a week. But the difference between then and now is that I could stop without beating myself up and get back on that horse that threw me.
So how am I doing it? I've had a few people ask, and I'll share what has worked for me. Obligatory PSA: no two people have the same health. None of this may work and only your doctor can advise you on what is or isn't safe for you. That said, here goes . . .
1. Above all, I eat reasonable portions of healthy food. Bacon is about as insane as I get. I alternate between low carb and low fat. You can't do both at the same time. It's unhealthy and won't work long term. I alternate because it changes the menu and keeps down the temptations.
2. Portions. Quit fooling yourself people. You probably eat too much. 12 ounces is 2-3 servings of meat, not one. 2 tablespoons = 1/8th cup is all the salad dressing you need. Stop with the Ranch geyser. These are all the utensils I use. The red is one fluid cup or about 4 ounces of ground meat. That's a quarter-pounder and all you need. Really. On other meat, I read the package. A pound doesn't get cut in half. It gets cut into quarters. The white are mixing spoons that are an 1/8 and 1/4 cup. It's a lot more food than it sounds like. Read the labels on containers and portion accordingly.
3. Carbohydrates. The quickest way to get started is to cut carbs to the bone. Kick bread to the curb along with chips, noodles, rice, and potatoes. You can add them back in after you can naturally control your portions. Start at 20 carbs per day for a month. Then add a few more in depending on your weight loss and appetite. Your body has to work harder to burn fat, killing off the easy fuel makes your metabolism use more energy to extract the fuel and nutrition from your food.
BECAUSE . . .
4. Water weight. Unless you are extremely muscular, your first month or so is going to be losing the bucket of water you've been hauling around. This is primarily what was causing my knee pain. It is also a culprit in high BP. When you eat more carbs than you can burn, it converts and stores in tissue and muscles. Those stored sugars attract and bind water molecules. Imagine wearing this as a belt everywhere you go, every step you take:
|This is 16 pounds and you probably have it stashed on your body.|
Since offing my water load, my BP dropped from 128/90 to 85/63 and most of my joint pain has vanished. You'll know when the off-loading starts. Let's just say you don't want to be too far from the bathroom.
5. Get enough sleep. Your body needs time to process the water weight and re-adjust your metabolism. If you aren't sleeping, your body doesn't have the down time it needs to do this vital work. You know how after a short bad night of crappy sleep you feel puffy and bloated? IT'S BECAUSE YOU ARE PUFFY AND BLOATED. And fatigue is a huge trigger for binge eating.
6. Carb Brain. This is a side-effect until your metabolism straightens out. Like anything addictive, carbs and sugars create and nourish pleasure centers in your brain. As you deprive them, the screaming begins. It can manifest in feeling foggy and tired and you may experience a hunger that is as profound as any you have experienced. If something protein-filled, like cheese, doesn't satisfy it, you'll need to feed the beast. It doesn't take much. But all carbs are not equal. Pizza is a huge trigger for me. The scale shoots up and it takes a good week to get stabilized. On the flip side, a couple of ounces of high quality dark chocolate doesn't even faze me. In fact, a few bites of chocolate feels like a damn shot of Demerol when the monkey on my back is howling. Make it an event. Don't gobble it down in the car. I make some fresh tea, put on a show or open a book, and break it into small pieces, savoring every nibble as well-being spreads through me.
7. Forgive yourself. Unless you've been ill, you didn't accumulate this weight overnight. You won't get rid of it and keep it off overnight. Even if it's flabby and unappealing and hurts, your chunky butt is the only body you have and deserves your love and respect. This is going to sound weird, but roll with me. When you decide to make this change, take a hard look at your body in the mirror. Squeeze and poke, and muddle. I couldn't bear to take the "before" pic. I am tagged in enough Facebook vacation pics to make myself cringe. The reason it is important to be self-aware, is that your body will begin to change quicker than you think and you deserve to enjoy it. Mine was the discovery of "Well hello there hip and collar bones, it's been too long."
The steps to forgiveness are:
1) Be honest about your weight gain and the reasons behind it. If you can change something like a bad relationship, a hateful job, or an untreated mental issue - do it. If not, call the past the past and move on. You can't uneat the ghost of pizzas past.
2) Be realistic. I won't see my high school body again and that is okay. What I want is health, mobility, and maybe an occasional cute outfit. I am acceptably single and have no desire to cougar or MILF, so well-fitting yoga pants and polo shirts are fine by me.
3) Be kind to yourself. You are going to fail. Make sure you fail big and enjoy every damn second of it, because you will be looking at sugar detox again. Then forgive yourself and move on.
4) Avoid quick fixes. Juice fasts, "detoxification regimes," binges on certain foods, etc. are nothing more than temporary fixes that can become permanent problems. Oprah Winfrey is brutally honest in her book where she finally confronted her weight. She permanently jacked up her metabolism with all of her goofy-ass protein fasts and made it next to impossible for her to keep weight off.
5) Read the damn labels. "Lite" "Diet" "Slim" and omg "Low-Fat" formulas use sugar to beef up the texture and flavor of everything. They don't work. Also watch portions. That "lite" sauce may show for a 1/4 cup portion and when you compare it to the regular 1/2 cup portion, the calories and carbs are the same. I use full fat butter and salad dressings in, you guessed it, moderate portions.
BUT I HATE DIETING, THE FOOD IS AWFUL!
I'll finish this (too) long post with a quick overview of my typical day's menu. You can decide if it's icky or not.
Saute two cups mixed of onion, mushrooms, and garlic in butter and olive oil.
Scramble in 2 eggs.
Add one diced tomato and 1/8th cup cheddar cheese. Fold like an omelette or scramble.
Garnish with salsa.
If I am going low-carb, I add bacon or sausage. If I am in low-fat mode, I add an english muffin. One or the other, not both, and not neither.
Saute a mixed cup of vegetables (I don't like peppers, but feel free to go there) in butter and olive oil. Season to taste. I vary - sometimes soy sauce, or Frank's red hot sauce, or Zesty Italian dressing.
Cube up 4-5 ounces of lean meat (beef, pork, chicken, burger) and pan fry with the vegetables.
Shred up a 2-quart mixing bowl of Romaine lettuce (nothing magic, I just like Romaine)
Toss in 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of full-fat Caesar dressing.
Toss in the meat and vegetable mix.
Add 1/8th cup of real Parm cheese (not the grated sawdust)
Lemme tell ya, that's a salad. If you aren't counting carbs, add in a small handful of croutons.
Not a drop of cottage cheese. Real food in reasonable portions. The goal is to not be hungry. Either of these meals, you will not be hungry.
It may take me another four months to get to the next color of marbles in the glass. But that's okay.