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Thinking Like a Thin Person

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date of Writing: 4/20/2012
My "homework" given to me by my program this week is to think about how I can head off temptation. In other words, thinking about what I will do when I really want to eat but shouldn't or really don't want to exercise but should.

This has never been my strong suit. When it comes to school or work, I am incredibly disciplined. But when it comes to my own body, I'm queen of excuses. Here's how the conversation in my head goes when I want something to eat: "Mmm, that smells/looks good. I think I'll have some!" When I'm not trying to eat healthy (which I haven't been for awhile), there are no "shouldn'ts" that enter my mind. If I'm trying to eat healthy, I'm usually either 100% disciplined, or if I've already started to slip, the conversation in my head goes: "Mmm, that smells/looks good. I probably shouldn't have it. But I've already screwed up. It's too late anyway. Why not?"

When it comes to working out, usually it doesn't even enter my mind. I'm happy to be warm and snug on the couch. If I could choose my favorite activities, they would all be inside and sedentary (reading, watching movies, eating--of course). When I'm trying to be healthy, it's easy for me to just push it out of my mind, thinking, "I'll do it later," "It's late," "I'm tired," or "I can do it tomorrow."

The thing is, I don't think that's how thin people think. I've noticed that thin people say things like, "I've already had one, I don't need another," "I haven't worked out today, so I shouldn't," "No, thanks--I don't need any brownies because I just ate," "I'll just have half," "I'm not really hungry" or "It looks good, but I've eaten too much today, so I don't want any." Hearing them talk like that always surprised me, because they would then follow those comments up by NOT EATING something delicious, or at least not eating very much of it. It turns out that I think thin people either don't really care about food (my husband) or they keep kind of a running tally of how much they've eaten and stop at some point, choose not to eat things that are unhealthy, or they listen really well to their bodies and don't eat when they're not hungry. I was never capable of that--I was always either eating as much as I wanted, all the time or not eating but feeling bitter and hungry and just waiting until I could again.

Thin people also like to exercise, either that or they like to be outside and active. And the ones who don't actually like exercising seem to force themselves to do it, even if they don't like it. They say things like, "Well, I've got to go, even though it's cold and raining," "My plan calls on me to do 10 miles tomorrow, so I better figure out my route tonight," or "Do you think there'll be a chance for us to go running/biking/hiking/skiing while we're there?" They're always looking for something to do, sticking to their plans, and planning ahead to make sure they can get their workouts in, rather than looking forward to reasons why they can't work out.

So, I think if I'm going to make this a new lifestyle (which increasingly I think I need to, because otherwise I'm just going to end up where I was before), I think I need to start thinking like a thin person. So, when I'm tempted by food like I was tonight (Punch pizza--yum!), I could decide beforehand how much is within my "budget" for the day. Or I could eat something healthy first, and then just have a bite or two. Or I could make it a treat, and only eat it after I've had salad or something healthy on most days. Or I could just say no.

Today I tried seeing what that would be like. When I walked by a huge tray of treats (doughnuts, cranberry bread, Hershey's kisses, chocolate brownies with bananas on top, etc.), and of course I couldn't eat any. Usually, I would have looked at this as an unexpected feast: I would have had one of everything, maybe two brownies, and taken some Hershey's kisses back to my room for later. Today, all I did was let myself smell the basked. I picked up some Hershey's kisses and smelled them and held them, and then put them down again. Then I left. Here's the weird thing: it turns out that I could, in fact, not eat them. And five minutes later, heck one minute later, it didn't even bother me. I wasn't even thinking about it. I just walked away. That's what thin people do--they see food, decide whether it's a good thing to eat and how much is the right amount, and then they act on it and walk away. I think I can do that, if I make a commitment to controlling my hunger rather than letting it control me.

As for the exercise, I think I need to do what thin people do there, too. I need to keep myself on track (sign up for a race, for example, which I've already done, and also keep track of my times and chart my progress, which I'm doing now, too). I need to set out my clothes the night before, to figure a time when I can work out so that I can work around my other commitments and still get it done (like how Jason gets up at 6:00 for weekend runs, so that he can still get everything else done). I need to remind myself that I can't afford to take time off, because I've got a goal to work toward, and so work out indoors if it's cold, or force myself to go out in the rain, if I need to.

I can't say that this is going to be easy for me, because for many decades I have lived the lifestyle of, and have the habits of and self-image of a fat person. In some ways the self image is the hardest to change, because when I think about telling people that I'm going out for a run, I feel like an impostor. I am sure that people know me as someone who loves to eat, and what will happen to all the jokes about me finishing everything off? What will people say if I show up to a party and don't bring something rich and fattening? What will they think if I turn down delicious food? It seems odd, but I feel everyone thinks of me as fat and would be surprised if I didn't act like a fat person, like they'd think I was getting uppity to try to pass myself off as a thin person when I don't deserve it.

Maybe, the more I think about it, I'm the one that I need to convince.



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date of Writing: 4/15/2012
This weekend I chaperoned a school trip to Chicago. That meant that I was not able to have control over my eating, and I had to eat regular food instead of my "protein shakes." Over the course of the weekend, I had the opportunity to eat brownies, cookies, candy, more cookies, Oreos, Subway sandwiches, taffy, chips, granola bars, french fries, caramel corn, cheese corn, pizza, and on and on and on. Every time I was tempted, I turned it down. It was a reminder of how much people eat, and not very healthily.

I ended up eating salad every time, though with dressing and cheese for the protein. Sometimes I also had a shake later, which made me nervous that I was eating too many calories, or that I had stopped being in Ketosis. I have to admit that food was a scary thing. I'm so used to hearing that the weight comes back on instantly, that I was afraid I would have regained all the weight I've lost, even though I could not be eating many calories.

I was hoping that by the time I came back, I would have stayed the same weight. In fact, my initial weighing registered a one pound loss. Then my reaction was instantly disappointment, that this week is probably only going to be a 2-3 pound loss. Funny how my expectations swing so wildly.

Realistically, I think I should be proud of myself for not caving in to temptation (I even avoided the croutons on my salad plate). I should also be pleased that I lost a pound, even though I spent hours and hours on the bus and didn't get in any exercise. And today I was 100% on program, including going rauking (my new term for the run-walking as part of the Ease into 5k).

In fact, I was feeling so inspired, I signed up for a 5k. September 23, 2012 is D-Day. I'm trying to act how fit, healthy, skinny people act--turning down temptation and signing up for running races. I guess that's what I'm going to have to do to keep up the progress.



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date of Writing: 4/10/2012
My weigh-in today, one day short of official weigh-in day, tells me that I've lost 10 pounds so far. In 2 weeks. Wow!

I know that I can't expect to continue this kind of progress throughout, but it does give me motivation. I need some, too. Easter was tough--delicious food, and everyone snacking all day long, while I just drank one shake. And all the Easter candy. And the pasta at home that I cooked for my daughter's birthday.

So far, if I'm not around food, I'm alright. Not hungry even. But if I see other people eating, smell food, or am around it, then I start getting a) hungry and b) bitter, and neither of those are conducive to discipline.

So far so good--I haven't been off plan so far. But this week chaperoning the trip to Chicago will prove a definite temptation. I'm going to have to eat in restaurants with the students, so we'll see how that goes. Hopefully I can keep my progress in mind, as I chomp on my lettuce.



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date of Writing: 4/3/2012
I am on day 6 now, and I'm finding it oddly difficult to find my appetite. I've only had two shakes today and it's 7:25, but I'm not even hungry for the third. I certainly still crave food, and certain foods in particular (those Fritos in the cupboard are calling to me, and I've visited them occasionally to make sure they're doing ok, but I haven't eaten any yet). But it's more of a psychological hunger, not a physical hunger.

Actually, that has been one of the more instructive parts of this process. Having to reacquaint myself with what hunger feels like, and doesn't feel like, is really useful. It reminds me of how rarely I used to eat because I was actually hungry. Right now, the only reason why I'm eating is because I need the energy for my body so I don't get weak. Eating for fuel rather than hedonistic pleasure--radical thought.


The Hunger Games

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date of Writing: 4/2/2012
The meal plan I'm on provides 600 calories a day. That is clearly not enough to sustain a human being, and even though the meal replacements are carefully balanced to provide 100% of my vitamins and minerals, plus high protein and fiber and moderate fat, it's been a struggle to get used to such a limited caloric intake. The goal is to mimic starvation--after four or five days, the body goes into ketosis, in which instead of burning carbohydrate it burns fat, thus resulting in rapid weight loss (and appetite suppression, which is one of the side effects of starvation, incidentally).

Of course this is very radical, and not something that I would normally endorse or participate in. I've always been a believer in moderate, safe weight loss and have never been attracted to severe calorie restriction. In fact, such schemes always smack of quacks, gimmicks, and unhealthy results to me. But VLCDs (very low calorie diet) have been around for years and have in fact been the subject of several studies (which I read from the original journals publishing the research).

Researchers have found them to be not only effective in weight loss, but also effective in reducing diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, PCOS, etc. The research shows that for people with a BMI higher than 30 (me), the risks of the program (potential for gallbladder stones being the most prominent) are dwarfed by the positive health impacts when carried out under a doctor's care.

My program is being monitored by a physician (who is also a registered dietitian and board-certified bariatrician). Before I started I was given an EKG, urinalysis, full blood work and labs, and had my blood pressure, body fat, and lean body mass measured. I will continue to go in for checks every week and I will have my blood, urine and EKG monitored to make sure that I'm not developing any complications.

The expectation is that I will be able to lose between 3 and 5 pounds per week. So far, that seems about right, since this first week isn't even over and I've already lost 7 pounds (usually the first week's loss is about double what it will be, given water weight loss).

All this sounds pretty good, right? Safe, fast weight loss? Without being hungry? Without having to exercise? Without having to count calories or points or measure fiber or fat grams? Well, so far, that's all true. Eating a lemon or chocolate shake for every meal is a little repetitious, but other than that the process has been pretty easy. I was crazy hungry for the first few days, but that is abating. The lightheadedness has been the worst symptom so far.

So, what's the catch? Well, the research on the long-term effectiveness of VLCDs is also pretty clear: most people don't keep the weight off. You're more likely to do so if you receive behavioral modification during the process (which I am), but many people just gain the weight right back. It's easy to understand why: you've been off real food so long, the tendency is to gorge; you haven't really learned how to eat properly or what a realistic serving size is; you haven't necessarily changed your exercise habits, and with rapid weight loss lean muscle mass is also lost, which can undermine long-term weight control. It's also possible that your metabolism has been suppressed, though my doctor says that isn't the case with the program I'm on because the fat content of the meal replacements is high enough for it not to happen. But without a doubt, the real battle here will not be getting the weight off but keeping it off.

That's one of the reasons for starting this blog: to have a place to hold myself accountable, once I get to the maintenance phase. In the past when I've lost weight, I've either gotten pregnant and gained it back or lost motivation and gained it back. This time I realize that if I don't want to end up right back where I am now, I'm going to have to be really, really careful to count every calorie and log every morsel once I start on real food again. This is the opposite of my usual M.O., which is to relax once I've lost the weight, throwing caution to the wind. Well, we can see how well that worked!


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