Sometimes, it's really hard to say how important to me (or unimportant) this whole weight thing is. There are days when it feels like the most urgent thing EVER (like, when my pants are too tight, or I come across someone who has not seen me since I regained the weight, or when I just don't FEEL well because of obesity) and there are days when it is not even on the radar (like when I am just having a great day, feeling good and happy and like there is nothing at all negative in my life). Really there are days it doesn't cross my mind because I am busy living life and the fat just is what it is, I am the size I am, and it becomes a non-issue.
I guess it shouldn't be that way. At least, I kind of feel guilty about it when I stop and think about it. Like... I had some great, but busy days this week and it did not cross my mind at all to feel bad about my weight (which may be good) but it also did not cross my mind to make an effort to do anything about it (which is not so good, unless I want to stay 245 pounds). It's kind of what I wanted: for food and diet to fade back into the background of life... to feel completely UN-obsessed with food. It's a healthy mindset from a recovered eating disorder point of view; the "binge monster" and obsessive food thoughts went right back into hibernation when I stopped weighing, measuring, and tracking all my food and calories. That's good, right? I don't feel disordered. I feel pretty normal in the food thought department.
But does feeling "normal" and un-obsessed about food preclude weight loss? Do you HAVE to have a food-centric existence to get the weight off? Is it possible to lose 70 or 80 pounds without a razor sharp focus on diet and exercise... without making The Diet the main focus of your existence? I dunno. When I lost large chunks of weight on Medifast, I had to "drink the Kool Aid" and live, eat, and breathe the Medifast lifestyle. That *did* result in the food obsession going away.... mainly because all the choices were made (packets instead of food) and food became an inconvenience more than anything. I mean, really, any plan that has you measuring spices like pepper and oregano and has you eating on an exact schedule from a very limited menu requires you to truly buy in to their doctrine... like a religion. Calorie counting, not so much, but it also requires a lot of attention to food. I really would like to get the weight off without thinking about it so much. Is that too much to ask?
This week I have gone back to eating basically whatever healthy choices I prefer. I find my body does tell me if I need protein, or carbs, or fat if I listen. When I get hungry, if I pay attention I can feel what I am hungry for. I still sometimes want junk, but I just don't keep it in the house so if I really, REALLY want it I have to go get it. And then I get one portion. Mentally this feels healthy to me. And my weight has stopped going up. But I am not losing.
Am I just too happy and content with my life? Maybe I need to be more miserable. I admit I am scared that a health crisis is what will give me that huge shove to DO something about my weight. But then I think... I AM doing something. More protein and produce, less carbs and junk. And it is benefiting my health. My joints don't ache like they used to. The tendinitis is gone. I sleep better and don't have reflux when I am eating well. My A1C is good and my blood pressure is great with 1/4 the medication dose that I was taking in the past. But what I am doing is not enough for weight loss.
Well, enough of that for now. Time to get back to living life.
Today is only the third day since I gave up calorie counting, and I feel immeasurably better. I am much more relaxed and the tension over food is gone. I know that is not a "normal" response (meaning, a response one would have if they never had food issues), but I have struggled with eating disorders for many years, and I don't want to ramp that back up. To be clear, I know I have a problem with overeating sometimes, or eating too often, just because something tastes really good. I sometimes make a choice that is not the best for health, just like most other people I know who do not have an eating disorder. Sometimes the cheesecake just looks really good, or you take seconds on dinner because it was delicious, even though you're not hungry anymore. I think those are pretty normal behaviors. Not saying they are *wise* behaviors for an obese person, but if a thin person has a slice of cake after dinner or takes seconds, no one thinks twice about it. It's not a sign of disorder. What IS a sign of disorder, or the first symptom of an ED coming out of hibernation for *me* is the "voices in my head." I don't mean literal voices. I mean the running dialogue of thought that is generally calm and low key turns into a rambling commentary about food, moving to a higher and more fervent pitch as I am exposed to food thoughts and smells and sights. THAT is not normal, so when I start getting this tense feeling and thinking, "omg, I have to have a burger and fries, I miss having a burger and fries but I cannot eat that because it will put me over my calories for today, and I CANNOT go over my calories for today, because I went over yesterday and I am never going to lose weight if I don't stick to my calories, but oh that burger that lady was eating looked SO good and I really want a burger and not a salad, and not chicken or vegetables but a BURGER and fries...." and so on... then I know the eating disorder is coming back to life. And that's what was starting to happen with all this weighing, measuring, tracking, counting, etc. As soon as I quit, all of that noise in my head stopped, and I felt relaxed and not hyperfocused on food anymore.
I have to stay here, in this healthy mind-space about food and eating. It is *really* dangerous, not to mention terribly distracting to me, to spend all that time and energy on FOOD like I used to do when I was binge eating years ago. I NEVER want to go there again. I do need and want to lose weight, but not at the cost of my mental health. Do you want to know what I think would happen over time if I kept trying to force myself into the calorie thing? I think I would become bulimic. I think my BED would rise from the dead along with my obsessive food thoughts, but I would not be able to control my eating and would, at this point, do ANYTHING not to get back up around 300 pounds, and I would find a way to purge after the binges. I know I would. I cannot go there, just can't.
So that leaves the question: what to do about the unhealthy extra fat I am carrying around? WLS is still on the table for next year. But I also still have time to try and work this out.
The last couple of days I have not restricted AT ALL. I have not told myself I *cannot* have any certain food... only that I *want* to eat for health and that I will *usually* avoid higher carb foods. I know that ruling out whole foods groups (like grains) gets tricky for me (mentally) but I also know they are not helpful in my quest for health. So I tell myself, "if you want bread you can have it. But do you really want it?" and sometimes I do... often I can skip it. If I do want it I take half the portion I think I want. I look at my food and decide if it will be healthy or not. I don't add up calories in my head. I am just... trying to relax about food again.
Yesterday for breakfast I made this "Paleo Pumpkin N'Oatmeal" (not because I am going Paleo, but because Paleo recipes are, in general, a healthier choice for me) and it was so good!
I had a little bit leftover today... just a few spoonfuls... and heated that up to have for breakfast with a pastured pork sausage link and some berries and a small nectarine from the Farmer's Market. I am having some coffee with coconut milk now, and the dinner plan is smothered pork chops with onion and mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and sauteed fresh green beans. I often will make mashed cauliflower in place of the potatoes for myself, but I don't have any on hand so I will limit myself to a small spoon of the potatoes, load up on green beans, and have some fresh cantaloupe for dessert. I did go to the Farmer's Market this week and got some locally grown squash (butternut, acorn, and spaghetti), apples, plums, berries, nectarines, celery, carrots, leeks, greens, onions, and melons.
This is my method: plan healthy meals based on protein and produce. Stock up on the healthy stuff and prep it so it is ready when I am hungry. Get back on the bike today and get back into the riding habit. I'll give it a week for the food thoughts to settle and see how the scale responds to that. I will cut back in non-triggering ways as needed.
Wow, it's been awhile since I wrote! I appreciate the comments and emails you sent to make sure I am okay. It's nice to be missed! I don't want to leave you hanging though. Plus I am ready to give an accounting of what I've been up to and why the lack of blogging.
It's true: I lost 64 pounds counting calories in 2007-8. It worked. It works for lots of people and there's no reason it shouldn't also work for me again. So when many of you recommended I go back to "what works," that's what I did. I have spent a couple of weeks counting calories, with limited success, on My Fitness Pal. I could feel my inner resistance to this as I got out the food scale and measuring cups and started tracking every bite I ate. I told my inner rebelliousness to shut up, that this is what needs to be done and it is NOT THAT HARD and I can do this. I just need to get into the habit. Suck it up, just do it until it is habit. I knew that the resistance came because I had tracked on and off for years and was just really sick of it. The last couple years of "freedom from tracking" really did feel like a freedom, but look what it got me? Certainly not weight loss.
So I pushed on, trying to get a few solid days of tracking in a row. The feeling in my head was one of being overwhelmed with "food thoughts." I found myself starting to obsess about food more and more: what could I eat? How much could I eat within the calorie budget? How many grapes can I have tonight? Is there room for a cookie too? Even simple things like making a pot of soup felt triggering to me because instead of just throwing carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, turnips, etc into a pot, I had to weigh and measure each ingredient, enter it into a recipe calculator, then measure the finished soup and divide the total calories into servings. Even something like a baked chicken thigh or some roasted broccoli turned into a lot of food thought: how much olive oil am I brushing on these and how much am I ingesting? I have to weigh and measure the chicken and the veggies, figure out the oil, decide if I should or should not eat the skin? If someone makes a dish that I am not familiar with, how do I know how many calories are in this? Even a tossed salad turned into a feeling of stress because I don't really know how much of each vegetable, protein, or dressing the person put in there. Even the baked salmon a friend prepared stressed me out because I am not bringing a food scale to a party and weighing my portions in front of everyone like an obsessed crazy person. Wait... an obsessed crazy person? Is that the label for someone who hauls around a food scale, measures every bit no matter where they are, breaks out the measuring cups at the potluck to measure their steamed green beans, and MUST KNOW the caloric content of every bite they put in their mouth? Is it?
Maybe for some people. Certainly for me. Counting, tracking, weighing, measuring turned my brain back to food obsession. I was thinking about food FAR more often and for longer than I was when I was just aiming for healthy choices. I had a window open on my laptop all day long for logging food, and was running to add things in several times a day, analyzing my carbs and protein and planning what I should have later to fit into the macros. I have a slippery slope going on here: I used to binge eat. I used to have serious food obsessions, but this disappeared over the past couple of years with a more relaxed approach to healthy eating. LESS thinking about food felt healthier to me. The problem is I did not lose weight doing that. NOT tracking... is it healthier? It is definitely better for my mental health. But I also have not lost any weight doing this so far. I am up a couple of pounds. I am feeling more stressed about food. I don't like it. I am done with tracking as of right now. I am closing My Fitness Pal with its 442 logged calories for today and letting it go.
For me, it is healthier to look at a food spread (whether it's at a potluck, a party, or my own kitchen) and think, "steamed vegetables are a good choice. Lean protein is a good choice. I will put those on my plate and eat until I am satisfied but not full." My mental health and the remission of my eating disorders is far more important to me than my weight, honestly. And I would lose weight doing my general untracked healthy eating.... if I did not ALSO eat sweets and grains.
I don't have all the answers. I can't keep going with something that resurrects my eating disorders so I am going for the better mental health right now and will go back to "make the best choices at the moment, eat as healthy as I can, and don't eat too much or too often." I have all the old tools at my disposal (like drinking more water, cutting out sugar, watching the carbs, eating enough protein, and the good ol' CSA produce box) but I am sure nothing, and I mean nothing will work if my mind is constantly agitated about food.
In other news, life's been good here even with the lack of weight progress. One of my sons came home to visit last week, my nephew came to stay for a long weekend the week prior, and we are down to ONE foster dog right now which lightens my load considerably! When she is adopted I am not taking any new fosters for a long time. I need to focus on my health, so as much as I love volunteering with rescue, I am going to take a break from the fostering and transport side of things. I will still be doing therapy visits with one of my dogs; that is rewarding and so enjoyable and I meet the most wonderful people that way. The kids are all doing well (although my daughter was sick with a fever last week for a few days, she is back to school now) so the general stress level of life is low. I had the stomach flu last week also (before my daughter got sick) and that was a couple days of misery, but I'm fine now. The biking has not been happening but I am still on my journey to bike across America; I just have to get back in the habit of riding morning and evening and get caught up on my miles.
This journey is far from over. I know I am on the right path. I can't see all the exact twists and turns ahead, but I just feel it in my gut that I am learning exactly what I need to learn to come to a place of peace with food... a peace that will be permanent and result in my best health!
An update, or maybe a continuation of my post yesterday, which was written from a place of fear and desperation. I still have it underlying. But I am still working through it. I do want to thank you all who left comments and answer a few things. A lot of you mentioned OA. Funny, I had written a paragraph about OA in that post and then deleted it because it seemed like a lot of blather, but basically what I said was this. Before I wrote the post, I sat down and looked up all the possible weight loss support groups in my area, from OA to TOPS to WW to a private group. I contacted all of them either by phone or email, and found that most of the meetings were at times I could not attend or were 30-45 minutes away. There is a TOPS meeting closer to me so I may give them a try. I did OA meetings a couple of times in the past, when they were not far from my home. I also have done OA online but never with a sponsor (not sure if they even do sponsors for online participants). I am definitely in a place where I would like some kind of weekly meeting for support in this, so I hope the TOPS meeting pans out.
I wanted to give a general idea of what I meant by saying I failed all week, so here is a look at one day:
I started out the morning with my usual cup of black decaf coffee. After I got ready and took my daughter to school, I came home and ate. Here's the rest of my day:
Breakfast: 2 slices of bacon, 1 egg, 1/4 c zucchini grated and sauteed, and 2/3 c cantaloupe. Another cup of coffee with 2 T. half and half
Snack: protein hot cocoa
Lunch: 7 T. hummus and one sliced cucumber with sugar free peach iced tea
afternoon: decaf coffee with 2 T. half and half
afternoon, hungry again: 1 leftover bratwurst with onions and peppers
I got very cravy later in the day and ate 2 whole, freshly picked tomatoes with just salt.
At dinner it "fell apart," at least I felt like it did because we had all these lovely tomatoes and fresh lettuce from the neighbor's garden, and everyone was eating BLTs and I just WANTED one. So I used whole wheat bread (and felt like... yes it is too high carb, but better than white) with bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo.
This was a rather early dinner (at 5) and later, when people were eating ice cream sandwiches I had a cup of decaf coffee with 2 T half and half. And then, I gave in and had an ice cream sandwich, too.
I weighed, measured, and tracked calories all the way through this and at 6 pm I was at 1406 calories, 132 g carbs and 65 g protein. If I would have stopped eating at this point it would have been fine!!! But I felt like I had failed because of the bread and the ice cream sandwich... and something went on emotionally, about this... and I drove to the gas station and got a Hershey bar and ate that, came home and had some cheese and crackers and a diet soda. I did not measure them and did not add it to my tracking for the day. Instead I gave up and felt like I was a failure.
This is typical of what I have done all week. Eating not ideal, but not horrible, but then something flips my switch and I lose my bearings. Like if dinner is provided and I don't have any idea what the calorie count is, I bail on the tracking and eat MORE than usual. And if something like a cookie is available that normally I would say no to, I find myself thinking "I can fit this into my calories today" and eating it, only to feel like a failure again EVEN THOUGH it DOES fit into my calories, and just quitting later in the evening. Really dumb, I know! I know it is my head so why?
Today once again I am attempting to track a solid day. It is almost 2 pm and I am at 694 calories... a bit high for this early in the day, but really okay. I am trying not to go over 1500/day as a starting point. I also biked 3 miles this morning and plan to bike again in the evening.
My eating is really NOT going well right now. It's not. I would say this week my eating has been the worst it has been in a couple of years. I hate this one thing about myself... my freaking out about food and diet. I love so much about my life but then there is this huge black cloud of obesity and food disorder always hanging over. This week I counted calories part time every day but what's the use in that? I got no useful data because not ONE day did I track everything I ate. Not one day did I eat NO junk. In fact my junk consumption skyrocketed. I know I am disordered about food. I know it runs deep. This isn't me being a stupid lazy person who refuses to track. There is seriously something wrong in my brain in the food/weight department. I hate it, I really hate it. Don't you think that if I COULD turn it off and eat right, I would? Don't you think it causes me distress when I set out to do something and fail? It hurts.
Today even felt like a binge. Emotionally it felt like a binge. It was not NEAR the volume I used to eat so I think, nah, not a binge. But when I feel those feelings, like I MUST EAT this food now, I know it is not normal. And it is LEADING BACK to binge behavior. I feel it... something I have not felt in like, 5 years. And it scares me.
There is not a single diet in the world that can fix this. I have given up on the medical community in regards to eating disorders aside from anorexia (they seem to be able to get decent treatment around here). I wonder if ANYTHING will ever fix this. Six doctors, at least as many counselors, and a psychiatrist all have basically given me nothing that has helped. No clear path.
I am sorely tempted to shut it down and give up, for real, for good. I can't though, I just can't do it. There is something, I know there is something, whether outside of me or from within me, there is something that will fix this and I will be well. Somehow.
I am 38 years old, female, a degree-holding stay-at-home-mom, and I weigh 278 pounds. I have been obese for ten years now. Time to get out of this fat prison I have made for myself.
--This is the original introduction I wrote when I first started this blog in 2007. I leave it as a reminder to myself of where I came from. Currently, I am 46 years old and weigh significantly less...see the blog for details. I lost 103 pounds, then had a partial regain, and am once again working at weight loss and better health.
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