Wednesday, February 09, 2011
The essential lesson today is that hunger is not an emergency, and that is because hunger is not even very uncomfortable.
Beck asks us to think about past experiences of severe discomfort (for me, day after recovery from various surgeries); moderate discomfort (toe nail removal); and mild discomfort (achiness after cross country skiing).
She then suggests that we eat a normal breakfast, skip lunch, and not eat again until dinner time. The purpose of this exercise is to track on the hour how much "discomfort" (not "hunger") we experience (severe, moderate, mild) and also how long that discomfort actually lasts.
Those of us who struggle with weight tend to think of hunger as a hugely oppressive emergency which must be alleviated immediately. But in fact, she says even severe hunger constitutes only moderate discomfort and the sensation of hunger-discomfort doesn't last very long whether we eat or not.
Yesterday's monitoring of hunger, desire and cravings was very interesting. I was hungry only at one point, 11 a.m., and told myself that it was just an hour until lunch. I did not experience any desire to eat or any cravings all day (maybe because I'd organized my environment and hidden the peanut butter!! DH and son are being very very kind about putting it back out of sight after they use it!!).
Got to the gym this morning for full cardio and upper body weights workout: I'm feeling great. Had a high protein breakfast of omelette with 2 Omega eggs, arugula, lean turkey, salsa plus fat free sugar free yogourt and blackberries, blueberries, strawberries. A lot of satisfaction, I'm hoping, since it's going to last me until supper time. Not taking any lunch salads with me today !
Beck is providing an excellent training in learning how to think differently. Much like when I returned to school and had to learn to think "law", I'm finding my mind running in different grooves.
Hunger is not an emergency!! It's not even severe discomfort! I've experienced much more hunger than is likely to arise on missing one lunch: and I've experienced much more discomfort.
One thing that Beck does not fully consider here -- psychic discomfort. I believe this chapter could have been strengthened had she taken that into consideration. Because for most of us struggling with weight loss/weight loss maintenance, it's the "psychic discomfort" (not the physical discomfort) which does us in. However, having read ahead, I'm thinking she tackles this component with her cognitive strategies for dealing with sabotaging thoughts: one hurdle at a time!!
My other thought: a week of practising some of the key skills (sitting down while eating, tolerating hunger) before moving on might be even better. But of course I can do that, if I choose to: and depending on how things go today, I just may slow down and repeat. Sabotaging thoughts will also be a biggy for me!!
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Learning to distinguigh among hunger, desire and craving for food is going to be very important for me.
Hunger is a physical sensation in the stomach -- rumbling, emptiness -- when I have not eaten for 3 hours or more.
Desire is simply the inclination to continue eating, even though I've had a reasonable meal.
And craving is that tension and yearning for food, experienced in the mouth or throat or body, even though I might actually be "full": potato chips, I yearn for!!
OK: how do I learn how to differentiate among these sensations? Again, Beck provides a cognitive stragegy: monitor for a complete day (I should be doing this much more regularly) every hour on the hour by asking myself the question: Do I feel like eating now?
Identify the bodily sensation: is it hunger, desire or out-and-out craving? And label it accordingly.
Dieting (still not a word I like) will be easier when I learn to distinguish among hunger, desire and craving. I do not need to eat when I'm experiencing desire, or craving. And even hunger is not an emergency!! I can wait it out until it's time to eat.
I will be monitoring today. Right now, I've just had my breakfast of oatmeal, flax, raisins, 1% milk and I do not feel like eating now. I am pleasantly full! And have my salad with low fat feta cheese and my chopped fruit ready for my lunch, my pot of chili soup in the fridge ready for dinner (with yogourt and berries).
Here goes Day 11 -- together with sitting down while eating, this is right at the heart of the cognitive training for me.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Not much to say about this really: I know it's important to exercise, it's something I have done consistently my whole life (been a member at my gym since 1975!!, before that at univ gym, before that worked as lifeguard/swim instructor). Yes there have been periods when health issues made it impossible to work out, but I don't panic: I know I love to exercise, I know I will get back to it. At various points in my life depending upon other responsibilities I've scheduled exercise for before work (current time slot, preferred time slot, one that has worked best for me over the years); lunch time (when commuting); after work (put gym bag on the front seat in the car, go directly from work!!); after supper (least fave, hate going out again).
Currently I'm hitting 30 minutes x 3 cardio plus ST plus abs plus stretches every month: mixing up the gym trips with golf in summer, cross country skiing (newly discovered passon) this winter. We did 6 km yesterday on the skis (2 hours) and will be out again today: glorious!!
And I do seek out "spontaneous" exercise opportunities: parking at the far end of the lot, running up and down the stairs at home and at work, zooming around to pick up stuff off the printer, shovelling the walk midworning at work at our office building . . . . nice change of pace, actually.
So I'm giving myself credit on this one pretty much.
Here are Beck's reasons for exercising, and a couple comments:
1. helps you stick with your diet -- yup, when I see on the cross trainer just how hard it is to burn 100 calories, I am sooo much less likely to stuff 100 extra calories into my mouth (all it takes to gain 10 pounds a year)
2. might help control appetite -- for me not so much: I just have to tolerate being hungry if I want to be slim
3. boosts mood and soothes stress -- BIG time, more important for me than any other reason for exercising
4. burns calories -- sure does, just not enough: I can never exercise enough to eat as much as I want
5. preserves muscle tissue -- especially strength training, keeping those arms and shoulders still worthy of sleeveless!!
6. builds confidence -- another big factor: hard to sustain that posture of being "in control" (key for my profession) if not "in control" of my own self physically
7. makes you feel better physically-- love that feeling of moving around gracefully, conscious that I have hip bones!!
8. improves health and helps prevent disease -- so important in managing my concerns about breast cancer recurrence
So there it is: about exercise I am a true believer!! And it's been deeply embedded in my life for decades . . . a fundamental part of who I am through good times and bad times. Even when I weighed 80 pounds more, most of the time I was getting to the gym.
So the cautionary tale for me is: exercise is necessary but it's never been sufficient to achieve either weight loss or weight maintenance.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
To lose weight and to maintain weight loss, I have to plan my life around exercise and dieting activities. Which means I have to permit myself to put myself first.
This is huge. When I was raising young children (both of whom had early health problems) I could not do that very well. I did continue to go to the gym, but I also stress-ate.
When my son was relatively well, however, and before I returned to the work force I was running 10 km most days and volunteering as a YMCA fitness leader. I definitely regained my fitness levels and improved them significantly.
Once I went back to school and was commuting 3+ hours a day, reading on the commuter bus, rushing home to be with my two still-small children, doing more homework every night after they went to bed, often till after 12: there was no way that I could put myself first or second or third. Although during those years I did still get to the gym before class almost every day, I also went back to stress-eating. It was probably only 100 extra calories a day but that was enough to put on 10 pounds a year, for some seven years. And a little more!
But beginning in 2001 I could and (for the most part) I did put dieting further up my list of priorities, if not first. My kids were older, healthy, more self-sufficient, and the stress levels of the work I do made health care essential. That's when I peeled off the 80 pounds I'd accumulated during the school/commuting/licensing years. And maintained that 80 pound loss more or less successfully, until 2009, when I retained 20 under stress of cancer dx; but then took the 20 off again with SP within a few months. And have maintained ( but with more fluctuation than I want) since September 2009; maintained, but without learning to think like a thin person. Which is what I'm doing now!.
Today's Beck cognitive strategies require me to think about making time for:
1. At least 30 minutes exercise 3 times a week, plus daily "spontaneous" exercise.
About this I'm pretty reliable and have been for a long time. When my weeks are too busy to get to the gym at 5:30 am every day, I still do get there a couple times and then make up with more exercise (gym, cross country, skiing, golf) on the weekends). I'm good about daily spontaneous exercise too: moving around my office, going to the printer to pick up materials, running upstairs to confer in person with my assistant or partners and associates: and so on. Relatively full credit on this one!! Although I'd like to get to the gym reliably the three times a week. And have scheduled this now.
2. Continuing to work in the Beck work book.
Doing it!! Yup!! And happy about how it's going!!
3. Continuing to sit down and eat every meal and snack slowly and mindfully.
Doing it!! Yesterday I did have to attend a reception after my conference which was a "stand up": so yes, I did have a few raw veggies and 1 grilled chicken skewer standing up, and one glass of red wine. No place to sit down: important net working time; had had a very very light lunch (of the only healthful food available: namely, salad and fruit); so I made a conscious decision in advance that this was OK. Did not eat (from morning break) ANY of the muffins, croissants, danish etc. on offer: did not even look at them. Waited till I got home ("hunger is not an emergency") and at 7 pm prepared a healthful omelette with feta, arugula, tomato plus fresh fruit. Ate breakfast,, lunch and dinner sitting down, slowly, mindfully. All healthy. Tracked it all. No peanut butter, no chips, no cheddar cheese!!
So today, as Beck directs, I've filled out my "daily schedule" chart.
That means scheduling times for formal exercise (5:30 a.m. at gym); my light box, work, lunch (salad and fruit) work, supper (soup, yogourt, berries); preparing next day's lunch, Spark, Beck, reading, early to bed by 9 pm. This is in fact pretty much the schedule I do follow -- with laundry, grocery shopping, extra exercise, soup making on the weekends.
Then I filled out my priority chart -- sleep, exercise, eating, food prep, work, time with DH and son, daughter (by email) and Charlie, Beck, Spark, reading. These are all "essential" activities -- for me.
Next task was to identify "highly desirable" activities: friend time; more time with DH and kid contact; Scrabble (with my son: a fierce competitor!!), high priority personal appointments; daily house tidying of the wipe counters/check bathrooms/put stuff away type. I am lucky to have help weekly with the major cleaning.
And then I set out a few "desirable" activities: shopping, library, various appointments and errands for things like hair cuts, taking stuff for repairs and such like; cultural activities such as movies (loved "King's Speech" recently) concerts, galleries; and more major decluttering/attention to the house.
There is no TV on my schedule-- I don't watch even 3 hours a year. Don't watch videos at home ever either. But this is no particular virtue on my part. TV was simply not something introduced to me as a young child. Instead, I'm constantly reading all kinds of stuff, professional/newspapers/"literature", chick lit/junk -- yeah!! That's my addiction and chief time waster.
Doing all of this scheduling and prioritizing and then blogging about it also took time. And for me time spent complying with Beck Day 8 tasks also reinforced that dieting itself takes time.
Carrying out the Beck Day 8 tasks confirms for me that most of this scheduling and prioritizing I have in fact been doing. I am highly organized (except for household clutter: diastrous!!). So this is not a big change for me. But it helps to set out that these are my values, these are my priorities. It helps to give myself credit for doing what I need to do to diet. It's probably the reason I've been as successful with weight loss and maintaining weight loss as I have been.
But I don't want to be smug about this. Because although "maintaining" I haven't been thinking like a thin person. This planning helped me zero in on the new key cognitive strategies I require to think like a thin person: eating sitting down, focusing on my reasons for losing/maintaining weight .
And in addition, I'm vividly aware that at various times in my life when I have been heavy, I would have been seriously neglecting other responsibilities to spend more time on self care.
I am not making excuses for my younger self: but still, I didn't need to be stress eating! The time I spent at the gym wasn't very helpful when I ate more calories than I burned.
But -- having been there -- my heart goes out to the younger mums on this site. Young mums who are often so highly self-critical because they can't care for their kids in the highly attentive manner currently decreed by all the parenting "authorities" and hold down full time significant jobs and spend quality time with their spouses so they don't end up expanding the divorce statistics and keep in touch with family and friends and provide elder care as required and entertain frequently with gourmet meals and keep a house and garden beaufiful and dress fashionably (but not too expensively) and have lovely skin/hair/nails and in general look like a model. They can't do it all, have it all, be it all. Not all at once.
Neither could I or did I when in the throes of babies and career building.
Sequentially. We can do it all, have it all, be it all, maybe. But not all at once. Maybe only sequentially.
Here's to a long, healthy life: and time to experience all of the great challenges and deeply human experiences life has on offer. Sequentially.
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