I got an email today, from a great friend I haven’t seen in a long time:
Hello M’dear –
I always see your posts about your weight loss success and I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I’ve always had a bad relationship with food – I have no self control when it comes to it. Whenever I want to get healthy, I stick to it for a month or so, and then right back to my bad habits. I have lots of friends who eat healthy, but it’s difficult to get advice from someone for whom healthy eating comes easily, as opposed to a constant battle. I really want to make some serious, long term changes – lifestyle changes.
Any advice? Are there any support groups or online resources that you’ve found really helpful?
I really appreciate any advice you can give. And as always, congrats on your success thus far, and I hope it continues!
Didn’t you see the posts about the 40 pounds I re-gained in 2011???
I’m not sure I’m an expert on this topic. It is a constant battle for me, too.
I could blame it all on the hives, and sometimes I do in order to give myself a fresh start and a clean slate, but the truth is that I got complacent with my pouch.
But, I did manage to keep off 70 of the 115 pounds that I lost, and I’m losing weight again, so I guess that I do have some wisdom to share.
I advertise when I make healthy choices, because the encouragement helps fuel me for the next battle. Every time I order a meal, or go to cook at home, or go to the grocery store, I struggle. If you can somehow make your weight loss efforts public, people will hold you accountable. You need to make sure that it’s an environment where you feel safe, but get the maximum amount of accountability that you feel comfortable with. An anonymous blog, a blog with your name on it, Facebook, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Livestrong.com, SparkPeople.com, anywhere that you can get out there and share your struggle with others. I’ve got Facebook and this blog.
Try to accept that EVERYONE falls off the wagon. EVERYONE. The trick is not to allow a couple of bad days (or weeks) give you permission to continue bad habits for months. If you can be good for a month, bad for a week, good for a month, bad for two weeks, good again etc, you’re going to lose weight or at the very least stop gaining. The self-shaming when we fail needs to be eliminated to ensure long term success. Because you will fall down and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s once in a while. And that’s okay. Have a salad tomorrow! If you consistently try, you will win more than you fail, and that’s better than a life of complacency.
This one is probably the hardest to accept. People with weight problems consistently lie to themselves about what they eat, why they eat, how much and how often. You may or may not be at the point where you are conscious of your justifications or snacktime-amnesia. There is a whole spectrum of denial from the 500 pound people who cry, insisting they’re trying their hardest, to the skinny 120 pound lady who can’t figure out why they gained 5 pounds after that 7 day cruise. “After all, we went hiking!” Yeah, but you also visited the midnight chocolate buffet, and had many margaritas on the Lido deck. You need to try to push yourself to be completely honest with yourself. If you’re hungry because you’re bored, have a TINY healthy snack, but then find something to do and acknowledge your thought process. Transparency, objective and consistent measurement, and accountability will lead to self-honesty.
They say not to eat infront of the TV, but my TV is always on. So, if I’m home, I’m eating infront of the TV. Take that for what it’s worth, I guess.
Calorie counting is key. All of those crazy diet programs that have long-term success are ultimately based on calorie intake. Low carbs and high protein is a pretty good formula, but mainly because protein keeps you full longer, and tends to be lower in calories as long as it’s lean. I use Thedailyplate.com (A Livestrong Product). It’s user-maintained, kind of like wikipedia, so it has almost every food. And if your food isn’t there, you can add it. You can track fitness here, and it will calculate how many calories should be your limit. I suggest setting your profile to “Sedentary” regardless of how active you think you are, and to lose no more than 1.5 pounds per week. You want to make it as easy to succeed as possible. You can track fitness here too, but I suggest if you do that and want to be able to eat those burned calories, you should set your calorie limit to losing 2 pounds per week. I’m not 100% confident in the accuracy of their fitness calories burned. The iPhone app has some bugs right now, but it’s functional, cheap, and easy to use. It crashes a lot. They’ll fix it though, it used to be great but the interface wasn’t as nice. A mobile app is important so you can get into the habit of logging exactly what you eat either right before, or right after, no matter where you are. Calorie counting is another thing you will fail at. But get back on the horse consistently, and eventually it will become routine.
One of the biggest ways we lie to ourselves and undermine success is by forgetting to count condiment and beverage calories. Alcohol, ranch dressing, mayonnaise, honey mustard, butter, jelly….these all have some serious calories. You’ve got to count them. A couple of margaritas is my ENTIRE DAILY INTAKE LIMIT.
The only way to count calories accurately is to measure by weight and volume. Buy a little kitchen scale and use it until you’re able to accurately guess how many ounces something is, and weighing gets you within a half-ounce.
One of the greatest things I’ve ever heard is (paraphrasing) “It took you your whole life to get this fat. And you have the rest of your life to become who you want to be.” You need to make long-term choices for long-term success, but acknowledge that the battle is never going to end. I guess the idea is to try to downgrade your World War with food into more of a “police action.”
Portion size is incredibly difficult to manage independently. Measuring will be a great defense against over-eating. If you have to account for everything, and you have accurate measurements, you’ll opt for lower calorie foods when you feel like you need “more” food. However, if you can reduce your stomach size and actually require less volume, that would be huge. There are a couple ways to imitate the type of restriction that Weight Loss Surgery offers without actually having surgery. Since they are are less extreme, they’re also going to have less extreme results.
I don’t know if their “system” works. I haven’t tried it. But when I feel like I just can’t get enough food, I crack into a bag of their cheddar Full Bites. They’re delicious, and have 8 grams of protein per bag. Their chocolate protein shakes are good and low calorie, and 15 grams of protein each. The full bars are vaguely reminiscent of flavored and pressed packing peanuts, but I actually like them a lot. Follow the directions and consume with a big glass of pure water, and you’ll be full in no time.
My cafeteria at my new job allows me to buy food by weight, which is a GREAT IDEA for anyone who has had weight loss surgery. You spend less money, and there’s no “clean your plate” guilt when when your plate is actually only a cup (and a half) of food instead of the massive cafeteria-dictated portions of a big sandwich or something. I don’t recommend this method for non-surgical people with self control issues. Pre-portioned meals are your friend.
I’m pretty sure that the 5 Day Pouch Test would work for people who haven’t had WLS. Basically you follow a protein-only diet similar to that which people follow after WLS, but abbreviated into 5 days. Start with protein shakes and clear liquids, then mush, then soft solids, and then solids. The liquids you can have as much as you want, but no more than a cup of anything remotely solid at a time. Your stomach WILL shrink, just like being very sick and not being able to eat and then finding when you’re healthy you eat less. I should probably advise you to check with your doctor before doing this, but…we’re all adults here.
And then finally, the piece of advice that I know you know already — Get active. The common theme throughout 2011 was that I was sedentary. Both because I chose not to be active and also because for a time I wasn’t able to be active. Personal training is amazing, if you can afford it. I hate the dance class stuff, like Zumba, but many of my friends SWEAR by it, and they’re smart people. So, give it a try if you’re so inclined. I love Dance Dance Revolution and I’m probably going to play as soon as I’m done writing this post. If you can manage to do an hour of cardio at the gym and then 20 minutes of weight/resistance training 2-4 times per week, you will lose weight. If you don’t know how to weight train, find a friend who can show you. If you’re not intimidated by the gym staff, they’ll show you. I know that I found that to be an impossible task, though, when I first started gymming. As soon as it gets warm out again, I’m going to start doing the Couch to 5K program again, but this time, outside. I discovered that everyone was right. Running outside is way easier than on the treadmill.
And I think that’s the sum-total of my knowledge. Do I do all of these things all the time? Of course not! But I strive to do most of these things, most of the time, and I think the net result will be a win. I’ll keep everyone posted.
I gained a couple more pounds after my last post and got up to 213.8 at my highest weight since losing the 115 pounds. Today, only 2 weeks later, I am 209.4. Let’s zoom in on the very end of the weight chart I put in the beginning of this blog.
You might notice I didn’t track the 213.8. I was ashamed. This was a failure to hold myself accountable. I will lose many more battles along my journey. And that’s okay!
Because I know I will win the war.