Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Is Sustainable?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the rest of my life is going to look, lifestyle-wise, with the eating and activity. It seems to me that it is easy to sustain some habits while it is very hard to sustain others. Maybe it's because of payoff, or desire, or just what's ingrained in my since childhood over the past 41 years. It IS difficult to change. But obviously it can be done.

Over that past nearly four years of weight loss blogging, I have watched a tremendous amount of bloggers come and go. Hundreds. Maybe a thousand or more. Some blog for a few weeks and quit. Most blog for a matter of months and then the posts slow down to a trickle and then *poof*, the blog disappears and you wonder whatever happened to them and their struggle. I've seen a lot of success and failure, including my own. But there is such a small percentage of blogs that remain. So few who were blogging back when I started in August 2007 are still around. I love the ones who are, even if they only post sporadically! Seeing long-term progress and/or dedication to improving one's health is a blessing for me. Anyone can blog and post happy losses for 2 or 3 weeks. It takes a lot of guts to hang in there for years, success or not, and show the world the real story.

I am sure some folks quit blogging because they just don't like to blog, don't have time, don't get the feedback they hoped for, or move on to other things and still lose the weight. But I have a feeling... and the occasional resurrection of long-lost blogs seems to back this up... that bloggy silence and disappearance usually happens because folks feel like they are not a "success", they are having a hard time losing weight or keeping it off, and they are just plain discouraged and sometimes embarrassed. Understandable. I've been there too.

So far, for me, blogging has been a sustainable change in my life. But the other nitty gritty is harder to sort out. People obviously have a hard time changing from a junk food, greasy/salty/sugary overeating diet to one full of lean meats and vegetables. It is doable, and the changes in health and body become a driver. But if the mind doesn't change, things tend to slip back to the way they were. And I think the older we are, the harder it is to change.

I am eating small portions, frequently. That has proven to be sustainable. I am eating a healthy, reasonable dinner of lean protein and vegetables and healthy fat in appropriate portions. That has also been sustainable, although I have my days where a pan of lasagna and a loaf of garlic bread sound very tempting. I have to say Medifast has helped me incorporate a better way of eating dinner (grainless, sugarless, reduced fat, high protein, low carb, high veg) and also taught me to eat small portions every 3 hours. I can sustain this.

However, some things are soooo, sooo hard for me to change in my head. When I was a little kid, I was fed a LOT of sugar and junk. My mom couldn't cook, and she had a weight problem and (I think) an eating disorder, and it was always either a freezer stocked with Weight Watcher meals (that I was not allowed to touch) or bins of ice cream and frozen treats. It was either salads or potato chips. Cream of wheat or chocolate ice cream for breakfast. Lots of hot dogs as a toddler. I barely remember eating any fruit as a child. Lots of boxed mac n cheese. Lots of McDonald's. And even now as a 41-year-old woman, those are the foods I WANT by default. I have not had McDonald's for something like a year and a half now and never will go back to that, but the other things? Hard.

If all nutrition was equal, I would STILL choose chocolate ice cream, potato chips, candy bars, hot dogs, Coke, and the like for about 80% of my meals. All the delicious, well-prepared salads, veggies, chicken, fish, fresh fruit, etc has not changed that. People do say that their tastes change over time and they no longer want that kind of thing, but for me it is difficult. I don't think about it all the time. I let it go and don't obsess (once I am off those foods for a week or so and get them out of my system), but the fact remains that I would eat pizza and brownies every day if they didn't make me unhealthy and miserable.

And then someone will say, "so have your pizza and brownies! Nothing is off limits! Just count calories, have a slice of pizza and a salad for dinner and a brownie for dessert!" Well, that's all good in theory and everything, but I cannot remember EVER eating *one slice* of pizza or *one* brownie. In fact the first thought I have is "one brownie?? It's not even worth it." Because I cannot get the experience and effect I want from one piddly brownie. Even if it is frosted. I "need" a minimum of 4 or 5 brownies and 4 or 5 slices of pizza to get "the effect." Which tells me that what I am looking for from those kinds of foods is NOT taste as much as it is an *experience.* And that explains why I would eat an entire PAN of mediocre, dry brownies that don't taste very good. I am looking for an experience that only comes with *volume.*

If I could have a healthy, strong body and eat junk food and not exercise, I'd do it.
If I could get *the experience* from carrots and chicken breast, I'd do it.
But I can't, so I make choices every day... every hour... to do what will lead me to my goals of better health and lower weight and greater strength. And I believe that *making choices* is sustainable.

THAT is what will get me to my goal and keep m there. My choices. My decision not to follow my desires all the time... not to give in to what I'd really prefer, and not to fool myself into thinking I'm "cured" or whatnot. It is always going to be my choices that take me wherever I end up, whether that be at 145 pounds or 245 pounds. Each choice is a step. And since I do not believe this eating disorder and skewed desire for food experience is, itself, something that will ever "go away," I am relying on my CHOICES... my brain, my power over my own actions... to be the sustainable thing and the factor that will get me where I want to go.


allthingsjennifer said...

I've been able to BLOG for 8 years but not even begin to REALLY blog about and make the healthy lifestyle changes I need in life. I need to get on this bandwagon stat. And blogs like yours help. :)

dupster said...

GREAT BLOG! It's all about making the right choices, and for me, it's not just hour by hour, it is every waking minute of my life. I have resigned myself (hopefully) to the fact that this will always be a struggle for me. I wish it wasn't. Like you, I wish I could eat pizza and brownies and NOT exercise and still maintain my current weight. But I know that is not going to happen. So CHOICES I make have to be GOOD ones. Fish and salad and fruit are good for me, and they taste good too. Just not as good as McDonald's, or potato chips! Ah well--when I look in the mirror, I know that the choices I'm making are worth it. When I remember my blood pressure is once again normal, I know my choices are SMART. When I am able to walk all day at the amusement park or zoo with my grandkids, I know the choice to eat healthy is the only choice I WANT to make. And I only hope I can remember all that for the rest of my life, because it is never going to get any easier.

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit said...

Like you, I've found that some of my new habits have stuck harder than others. Just when I think I've got all the lions tamed, one sneaks up and bites me on the ass. It's frustrating, but I think that for those of us with the issues we've got, eternal vigilance may be the only course if we want the health and body we say we want. I just wish there wasn't such a disconnect between my brain and my actions at times; anyway, keep up the great work, Lyn. And I'm with you that blogging is a great tool to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Alzie said...

I feel like you just read my mind.

lisa~sunshine said...

I had huge issues of overeating and wanting way more than would fit into my calorie limits.. For this reason I learned to recreate things which would fit into my calorie limits and be better for me.. example.. black bean brownies.. I also jumped on the bandwagon of eating these 5-6 smaller meals but it didn't work for me.. since I was a overeater I enjoy eating larger meals so I do intermitten fasting which allows me to eat bigger portions.. As for exercise.. I think the best way is to find areas to increase your Daily activity.. not necessarily a ACTUAL workout.. but a way to increase staying active and busy.. Another nice thing is to use a fitbit to see the actual activity and daily burn.. it pushes me each day to stay motivated and moving..

I do love your blog Lynn.. and your doing a great job..

Princess Dieter said...

I always have a soft spot for this blog because we started about the same time, me in May and you in the summer of 2007. I was heavier than you (my highest was 299, my weight when I started Once Upon a Diet was 289).

I stuck in there, with some quiet moments, but part of me knew NOT TO GIVE UP, even when I felt like a freaking failure and hopeless case and even researched bariatric surgery.

I am glad I hung in for 3 years, cause it was finally in June of 2010--3 years and a couple weeks after my weight loss blog debut--that something CLICKED. Those 3 years of experimenting and trying led to the epiphanies I needed to now be 36 pounds away from goal, instead of 139 away from goal. :)

For me, 2 meals works. I don't have to think about food much, I have stable meals I like, my blood sugar is steady, I have no wild hunger and minimal appetite. 2 meals. Sometimes a snack (like a pear or apple with nut butter). Does me fine. 1200 to 1500 calories. I find I can just NOT think about food and not binge (1 year+ without a binge). I have energy. I feel alive. I have hope.

I am grateful for all the blogs that encouraged me, and yours in the top three, Lyn. You kept me going with hope when I wanted to just eat myself into oblivion. Thank you.

Hugs and love,

Andra said...

Razor sharp post, this. Taste buds *can* be re-trained. The brain is a much tougher nut to crack.

It's not the mouth that wants the pizza and brownies. Never the mouth, always the brain. It wants to be high, feel soothed, feel loved, feel numb, feel anything other than it is feeling at that moment the food thoughts come calling. To feel other sad, mediocre, bored, numb, lonely...

Jane Cartelli said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! I, too, know that if all things were equal, I would be eating ice cream and pizza 90% of the time. That is what I ate before making a decision to have a better life - why would I not go back to it if all things were equal?

Things will never be equal and I am glad I have come to know healthy eating and behaviors and I am grateful I have opened my mind to accepting that I do not have all the answers and I can learn from others if I keep an open mind and heart.

Thank you for your party in my day today


Lyn said...

Princess Dieter~

seems you have ALWAYS been there! I have been so excited to see your success. Thank you for being supportive, offering good insights over the years and for blogging all this time. You are awesome :)

Beyond Willpower said...

I'm relatively new to weight loss blogging I started in January, but I hope to be around for a long time. It's been rough lately with a stall and I'm still here, holding on, the good the bad and the ugly, it's all there. ;)

You're idea of sustainable choices is a great point. :)

Leslie said...

I absolutely love this post, Lyn. When you talked about your unique "brand" of "eating experience" when your eating is disordered or addictive, I could relate entirely. I will never ever be genuinely satisfied and happy with one (or 1 serving) of whatever I want...a cookie, brownie, chips, fries, onion rings, etc. I'm beginning to really know at a deep level that if I want to not sabotage myself with food, I need to omit completely those foods that set me off. It's painful to know that, and painful to admit.

Unlike you I also know I can't summon enough power on my own to stay away from trigger foods. I really can't. So the question becomes, what is it I really want in my life? A lean healthy body and freedom from food obsession and compulsion, or what I've been having for 57 years - which is bouts of clean eating (that become harder and harder to acquire) among the much more frequent episodes of bingeing and fighting with myself over it.

Why is this so hard??? But I'm so grateful to you for putting words to it all with courage and clarity.

journeytobehealthy said...

As always - your post is spot on. Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself. As I've said before, it is always good to know that I'm not struggling alone.

I admire that you've stuck with this blog during the good times and the bad. Hope to keep seeing posts from you for many years to come!

Taryl said...

I agree with you, so many blogs come and go, SND I ink so much of that comes from shame of perceived 'failure', rather than realizing it is ALL a journey and there is no 'failure' until they give up, themselves.

I so deeply relate to your talk of 'the experience' of food, coming with volume. I was fed very healthiky as a kid and I STILL struggle with junk and eating large quantities of it. For me, sustainability has been gradual, slow changes and yes, working in small quantities of those foods I still desire. I can't just cut them out, that leads to binge behavior, so I have found a balance. It is still a daily set of choices, mostly good, that leads to me losing weight, but I am thankful that it doesn't involve abstaining from most foods.

Still, life and health have to be more powerful to me than food, and there's no easy way to continue thinking that way without daily effort. So I do what I have to do.

And I've been blogging for three years now on the subject, I'm not going away any time soon :)

aurora said...

What an awesome post :)
I have just starting my loss blogging journey, and my weight loss journey full stop really, after many years of up and down and all around.
It is HARD. So easy to get obese, and so hard to undo it.
Im only a few days in to trying my hardest - I have the sugar craving headaches, and major craving for McDonalds. Did you cut out altogether, or cut down gradually, allowing yourself the "not good" foods every so often, or not at all? Just trying to find out different approaches.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that every post you do is AWESOME!!! I soooo love your honesty. When you put it out there like you do I can COMPLETELY understand where you are coming from because I share the same struggles...I too am constantky working on this BRAIN GAME thing and sometimes it makes me crazy BUT then I read your post and I feel o.k. I feel like I am NOT alone...I feel so connected to your struggles and through you it helps me to understand myself and my addiction
Thank you so much and may God continue to bless you and give you strength on this journey
with so much admiration
Stacey D
Sylmar Ca

Barb said...

Of all the things I have come to admire you for, this - the unflinching willingness to keep writing whether it's a good, bad or ugly sort of day - is the thing I admire most.

You are a warrior! And a hero to so many of us. Thank you for not giving up on yourself, even when things get rough!

Fat Chance said...

I have the same childhood food issues you do. And it is HARD HARD HARD. I just take it one day at a time. Thanks for being an inspiratin!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being one of the bloggers that has stuck around! I so look forward to reading what you write and today was no exception. Thanks for the insight and inspiration.

Lyn said...


I quit McD's cold turkey and never looked back. I have found it very difficult to gradually cut out anything at all. My major successes have been 100% abstinence from trigger foods like cupcakes, potato chips, etc. However, I have relapsed on those things on occasion (but not the McD's). I know some foods that don't trigger me, like plain dark chocolate (if you put nuts in it, all bets are off!)

Hope this helps!

timothy said...

great post, i love your honesty and oh boy do i understand "the experience" for me it was 2 meat lovers pizzas, breadsticks, and a 2 liter of DIET soda! lolol yeah right! then a family size bag of chips and a king size candy bar because i work hard and i deserve it! lol DAMN i still want that, now mind you i haven't done that in ages and i NEVER will but the desire is still there because it's not a physical need but an amotional one. thanks sweetie you sure do shine a light in dark corners! xoxoxoxoxo

danibabe2 said...

I've been blogging for a few years on a regular life blog, however I did start a weight-loss blog about 7 months ago and I've been trying to keep it up.

I completely understand the one brownie, one slice of pizza thing. I can't do it either. I've always had to have more and more and more.

I've reached a place with my weight where I'm trying to maintain. I find it hard to eat things in moderation, I was just so accustomed to eat whatever I want whenever I want and now it's different. I want it to be different and I will work on things to make it sustainable.

Keep up the great blog!

Fish's Guppy said...

I am one of those bloggers who poofed. I haven't forgotten to blog on my regular page regularly, but I did start a weight loss/bodybugg blog that gained to watchers. I think greatest reason I deleted the blog was that there wasn't support out there. No one was reading it and I felt alone in my struggle. You have to admit, in a country filled with obese people, we aren't very supportive of one another. I continue to blog about my weight loss on my regular blog, it's just not a focus. I have to give credit to you for keeping it up.
With regards to habits/lifestyle changes, it really takes dedication and caring to make permanent changes with a mindset of keeping it up for life. I really like Bob Harper's take on making the changes that need to be made for LIFE and not just a temporary fix.
Thank you again for being a motivator for people like me.

Jen said...

Thank you! You really say what so many of us are living!

screaming fatgirl said...

You say that you are looking for "an experience" and that means you can't eat one brownie or one slice of pizza, since taste is not the experience you seek, it may be of value to define what "the experience" you're after is.

It sounds like (and I absolutely could be wrong) that what you want is the experience of feeling very full and/or simply deriving pleasure from the act of eating a lot of bad food. This is something I've had as well and it is a process by which the very act of eating what you want in the amount you want brings satisfaction and comfort. However, if you really want to sustain a healthy happy body and a relationship with food that is both emotionally and physically satisfying, I'd recommending starting to change the desire for this particular experience.

Like you, food once occupied a place in my life which it was not meant to. Food is for taste, nutrition, and energy. Food is for joy and sustenance. If food is for emotional comfort or numbing, and it really sounds like it still is for you, then that's something to work on. It's not because I think we all need perfect eating habits (far from it), but rather because living with this problem robs you of the joys of eating pleasurable food (and it is a considerable joy) by coupling the consumption of it with guilt and even physical illness (from overstuffing oneself with food which doesn't digest or sit well).

For me, I think a lot of the pleasure and comfort I took in the act of eating and eating a lot was from growing up poor and not getting what I wanted a lot of the time in life. Sometimes, I wanted something I wanted in exactly the way I wanted it. I wanted to have this one thing be whatever I wanted it to be because so little in my life was the way I needed it to be. It was about control, but also about feeding a larger sense of deprivation. Being fat, poor, having bad parents, and being tormented daily in school because of my weight meant nothing lived up to my expectations in life, but food did. Eating a whole bag of store brand nachos (which were bad, but still felt good) was something I could have to the very end the way I wanted to experience it.

It is possible to extract pleasure from the taste, smell, and texture of food rather than from the volume, but it's something you have to train yourself to do with slow changes in how you experience food *and* attention to finding what isn't fulfilling your otherwise. Mindful eating is part of it, but so is dealing with the psychological part which makes you seek an experience which is not natural for humans. Perhaps you need other areas in your life in which you are "selfish" and have something exactly the way you want it. We weren't born extracting pleasure from mass consumption. It's something which is conditioned into us and can be conditioned away with a lot of effort, time, and especially patience and loving oneself.

shay said...

Great blog post, i have only had my blog for a couple of months but i can definitley relate to alot of what your saying, its easy for people who dont have a weight problem to say "just have 1 brownie, 1 slice of pizza or a handfull of chips, but who can do that? one just makes you want more, they taste good..but your right for anyone who has to work everyday to make the right choices its hard, especially when it's constantly in your face.

CatherineMarie said...

Just to give you some encouragement, I think you *are* getting to the point where you can have a couple slices of pizza and a brownie, eventually.

You have posted that your "binges" are decreasing in size. So eventually, your "binge" will become a "splurge meal"... and I don't think that time is too far in the future, either.

(And one thing that helps me eat healthy is joining a CSA, getting those veggies that I HAVE to use up, fresh from the farm....) The other thing is decent kitchen equipment and a decent setup for the kitchen.

aurora said...

Thanks Lyn - that does help. Ive also discovered your weekly habit challenges which Im going to start as well. I DID give in and have McDs today for the first time in a wee while and it was awful and made me feel nauseas - which in turn made me quite happy :)
I look forward to continuing to be inspired by you.

42lbs to lose said...

Just came across your blog and I love this post! Will totally keep coming back for more. I started my blog in April and find it very motivating seeing all the people checking in to see what I'm up to. It's a great weight loss tool!
Really, really well done on your success so far! I'm going to wait till I have some decent after photos before I put any of mine up there for all to see though! xx

Sarah said...

What SFG said:

It's not because I think we all need perfect eating habits (far from it), but rather because living with this problem robs you of the joys of eating pleasurable food (and it is a considerable joy) by coupling the consumption of it with guilt and even physical illness (from overstuffing oneself with food which doesn't digest or sit well).

My own two cents. It makes me sad that your first thought is one brownie isn't even worth it. Food is meant to be enjoyed! A lifetime over eating taught me that I never tasted good food. I just ate. No purpose except to fill a void. Food should be something we can live with, not something that torments us. This takes time and it is a testament to your dedication that you are still blogging.... and talking about these things. I hope to read several years from now that you have worked through these issues and that you are in fact able to enjoy one brownie. To savor it, enjoy it and respect it for what it is. Just one.

Lyn said...

sfg and Sarah~

you both have good points. I do enjoy some foods, like the dark chocolate I mentioned or even plain ice cream without "stuff" in it... I can enjoy a few bites and be okay. However some things, like normal/sugary brownies with a high GI, set me off so I cannot enjoy just one. I think it has to do with the chemical reactions in the brain and body that this type of food sets off, as explained in "The End of Overeating" by Kessler. It drives me to obsession. Sort of like if you said to an alcoholic, "alcohol is not evil, you should be able to just enjoy one drink!" True, it is not evil, but some people need to abstain and enjoy life without alcohol (or even brownies). I would rather truly enjoy a fresh peach. But time will tell what I can/will do with this!