Sunday, September 30, 2012
You will either find this blog very depressing, or very inspiring. Sometimes the truth hurts, the truth will also set you free.
I think as a society we’ve all come to the agreement that “diets don’t work”. The problem is, we’ve repackaged dieting and are now calling it “lifestyle changes”. Who’s kidding who? If you are measuring out food, logging what you eat into a journal, counting calories-carbs-points-whatever
, you are dieting.
Lots and lots of people lose weight. You can see inspiring testimonials all over. There are as many different ways to lose weight as there are different people. No matter what plan you read about, they all have a common thread—you consume less and you exercise more…calories in/calories out….the law of thermodynamics which has ruled the diet industry.
The problem lies not in the losing of weight; it’s in the keeping of it off. Yes, you hear about so-and-so who lost 50 lbs., 100 lbs., “half their body size”. But how often to you read about the person who has maintained their weight loss for 5 years or more? I’ve lost the same 40-60 lbs. many times over the years. Yet, here I am still working at it. That goal weight is always just over the horizon. But as I keep traveling the same road towards it, that horizon keeps moving forward as well and I never quite get there.
I am impressed with the Biggest Loser show because it does bring back former contestants and tells the truth about who is maintaining and who has regained. A lot of the winners have maintained a healthy weight; a good majority gained back 20-30 lbs. from the final results show, but they are maintaining a weight that is more reasonable for them to sustain. A lot of those people now work somehow in the fitness industry and obviously have changed their lifestyles. There are also many contestants who did gain all the weight back.
Studies done of people who’ve lost weight indicate that 95% of them gain all or some of it back. Those are really bad odds! I’ve been on Weight Watchers the past couple of years (off and on) and read a lot of the blogs on the site. I’ve been a member of SparkPeople for 5 years and read similar blogs. More often, the blogs are written about despair. Not being able to stay consistent is a common theme. Yes, there are the 5% who got to their goal weight and are learning to maintain. But the other 95% are still trying to find the answer. So many are starting over fresh…beginning again…striving to keep positive. Everyone wants to succeed, but I can feel their self-doubt when I read. The statistics are daunting. Sometimes it seems as though it’s better to just stay the same instead of going up and down over the years. I just read that in mice they studied, yo-yoing is actually better for health than staying obese. Well, that may be true, but it does raise havoc on the psyche. I’ve been through it so many times. I lose a considerable amount of weight and the compliments flow often. I gain back the weight and there is silence….the deadening silence that speaks so much louder than words.
It’s a mental thing. “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it” ~Albert Einstein. Another Einstein-ism: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Yes, he truly was a genius!
It’s often difficult to view a problem with different eyes, to try something new that doesn’t feel natural, to accept a philosophy that’s opposite of the belief system we’ve had since we were children. For many of us who have been working on this quest for slimness for a long time, we think we know what to do but we feel it’s this illusive thing that is just beyond our grasp. This time I will do it, this will be my year! Every time we don’t make it, we feel like we’re the failure. But the fact is that it’s our method that’s really the failure.
Okay, so I’ve gotten through the depressing bad news part of the story. The good news is that there really IS an answer. I’ve read it SO many times in various books and articles. It’s so simple and yet I haven’t yet fully embraced the principle.
There is only ONE way to guarantee both weight loss and maintenance. It involves eating, and sometimes lots of it. You never have to weigh and measure a bit of food again! You don’t have to keep track of calories, count points, log food into a journal. You don’t even have to be concerned about portion control. You can eat as often as you like. Because of the way you now eat, you will no longer think obsessively about food. You don’t have to fear social events and you definitely don’t have to fear gaining weight back. That got your attention, didn’t it?
You know the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true….” Well, there IS a slight catch. You must eat high-nutrient food the majority of time. Notice I didn’t say ALL of the time; although that would be optimal, I think somewhat unrealistic. You can’t go from 0 to 100 in one second. I can see your face wincing and your disappointment. I felt the same way too. Heck, if that was easy, we’d all be thin! Another saying comes to mind, “I didn’t say it would be easy, I said it would be worth it”.
ALL excess sugar is stored as fat. Period. ALL empty calories are fat calories. Your body just doesn’t need sugar. It’s not one of the major food groups. However, if you eat nutritious foods, they will be used by the body and not stored. Further, the more you feed your body nutritious food, the less it will crave food. Hunger and cravings are two entirely different things. Feeding your body addictive foods increases the need for these foods, which results in constant cravings that are never really satisfied…the more you eat, the more you want. Feeding your body nutritious foods satisfies the needs of the body and satisfies hunger. You naturally eat less because once the needs are met, the desire of food subsides. The other part of this is that if you are truly hungry, you enjoy your food more. If you are constantly eating due to cravings, you don’t reach the same level of enjoyment—it’s just a habit and something you do in a coma-like state. Add to that the fact that regular consumption of sugar, salt, and other chemically processed additives will dull the taste buds. I haven’t drunk soda in many years and have had the experience of tasting a soft drink and hating the heavy, syrupy taste of it. The same thing happens when you go for an extended period of time without eating sugar, excess salt, and processed foods. People talk about how their taste buds re-awaken to the sweetness of fruits and yes, even vegetables.
I’ve read this simple principle too many times to ignore. It requires me to take off my rose-colored glasses and come to grips with the real truth. A little bit of certain foods CAN hurt you. Moderation/smoderation - food addiction is real. There are chemicals in the foods we eat that are more dangerous and addictive than heroin. There’s going to be an uncomfortable withdrawal period when eliminating these foods. The longer I can hang in there and keep them out of my diet, the easier it will become. Any time I re-introduce these foods…no matter how long I went without them…I will become re-addicted and will have to repeat the grueling process of abstinence all over again.
My own brother lost 100 pounds in a period of a year. He was on a doctor’s program and he completely, 100%, gave up all bread and sugar. He sat right there in my kitchen and told me that he would NEVER go back to those foods, and I quote: “Those foods cause me to gain weight. I’ve lost weight before, went back to eating them, and gained the weight back. I do not miss these foods”. Man, was I impressed with his conviction. He sent me a picture of himself on a vacation in California where he looked the happiest I’d ever seen him and brimming with health and vitality (truth be told, I was kinda jealous). When I went to visit him 6 months later, my trim brother was grabbing a few tortilla chips, sampling cheesecake at dinner, and eating a large amount of trail mix at the ballgame. I was shocked and concerned. Rightfully so, because 6 months after that we spoke on the phone and he was bummed out that he’d gained back half of the 100 pounds he’d lost. Six months after that, he’d gained it all back and was back to being entangled in food addiction and feeling hopeless and ashamed. This story is not meant to discourage anyone. It’s to demonstrate the power foods have over us. He was as committed as he could be when he’d abstained for many months. All it takes is that first bite. It’s dangerous because it sneaks up on us slowly when we THINK we’re in control and we can handle it. Reminds me of the analogy of how to kill a frog. If you put the frog into boiling water, chances are it’ll jump out. Put the frog in a pot of cold water and heat it up slowly to a boil and that’s it for the frog. These foods are doing the same to us. By the time we realize the damage, we feel powerless to get out.
The worst of these addictive substances/foods are:
White sugar in all forms, most especially dangerous is high fructose corn syrup. This includes the obvious candy, cookies, cake, pies, donuts, pastries, ice cream. The number one offender of high sugar, nothing-but-empty-calories is something that’s not even eating….soda pop! The not-so-obvious are things like cereal, ketchup, bar-b-que sauces, and a whole array of packaged foods…you MUST read labels. Dr. Joel Fuhrman said it best: "The most important thing to remember about food labels is that you should avoid foods that have labels."
White flour, and in some cases even wheat flour
In fact, all refined foods including white rice. Any food where the nutrients have been stripped away and they are now just empty calories.
Fried foods…fried chicken, chicken tenders, French fries, fried onion rings, potato chips, etc.
Saturated fat – and did you know that cheese has more artery-clogging saturated fat than even butter?!
Trans fats, the worst of all fats. You have to be cautious of labeling. The package may say zero trans fats per serving, but that’s merely because a serving is a teaspoon. Biggest offender in my opinion is Cool Whip….I used to be able to eat an entire container in one sitting. Anything with partially-hydrogenated on the label has trans fats.
(While I’m talking fats, unroasted nuts and seeds are healthy. They have many good nutrients and it’s good to have them daily. Unfortunately, they’re not unlimited because they are very high in calories and the deliciousness of them makes it easy to over-consume. A handful is the maximum portion. Portioning them out is key – freely eating them out of a container makes them turn from healthy to fat-producing.)
Processed foods. There are chemicals added to packaged foods to preserve freshness and increase shelf life. The longer the shelf life, the unhealthier the food (remember Twinkies!). There are also chemicals added to enhance flavors, which are especially dangerous because they cause us to be satisfied with less and want more, more, more. Proceed with caution anything that comes in a wrapper, bag, box…read the labels and you may be more inclined to put it back on the shelf. Ignorance is NOT bliss.
Oh my gosh, you say. What CAN I eat? All vegetables & fruits are unlimited. So are whole grains because they’re not only nutritious but they contain a lot of fiber that will fill you up faster. The secret to this eating style is to not focus on what you can’t have; rather, replace these things with all the great foods you can and should have. If you HAVE to have bread, sprouted grain bread like Food for Life Ezekiel is perfect. I rather love the nutty taste of Ezekiel English muffins. Bake instead of fry. I enjoy cutting up sweet potatoes into fries, sprinkling with garlic powder and Mrs. Dash’s spices with a small drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and baking them into crunchy fries. You can do the same thing to make kale chips, butternut squash chips, etc. Let your own creativity be your guide. I’ve given up cereal for the filling, yummy flavor of pure oatmeal cooked with chopped apple, blueberries, & cinnamon with chopped walnuts and a dash of pure maple syrup on top. A natural sweetener that is often overlooked is dates. I throw a few into the blender for my smoothies. I even make an outstanding sorbet by blending a frozen fruit (strawberry or mango are my all-time favorites) with unsweetened almond milk and a few dates. It’s far better than ice cream because it not only tastes great but it fills me instead of leaving me wanting for more.
Once you’ve cleansed your body of the bad stuff and experimented with ways to enjoy the good stuff, you’ve crossed over the threshold into a whole other world—the land of Never Having To Worry About Weight Gain. But it’s so much more than even that! Science is finding more and more benefits to eating fresh veggies & fruit. They contain phytochemicals and micro-nutrients that aid and protect our bodies from diseases…not only heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but even the mysterious and scariest of all: cancer! I’ve even read about some foods preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s in older age. Who wouldn’t want all of that? Normal weight naturally AND protection from illness! It doesn’t seem as insurmountable a task to forgo sickly sweets and fats anymore, does it?
You know, I can read and read about this stuff ‘til the cows come home. I can talk about it and all the benefits. It’s all well and good, but it’s meaningless if it’s not put into practice. I wrote this blog mainly for me. I wrote it to read and re-read and remind myself of what I want most. What I want most is to not just reach a particular goal weight; in fact, I've come to think that number is also meaningless and how I feel inside physically and emotionally is more important. My biggest desire is to change my habits permenantly - to conquer the internal demons that taunt me and laugh at me when I stumble....sometimes just yards from the finish line. It's a cruel joke. It feels the same as when all the bullies in my Junior High school class teased and laughed and took pleasure in the pain I felt inside. Those years partially shaped who I am and are hard to let go of completely. I know I have to let go because those memories stand in the way of my success so often.
I struggle with consistency. I know WHAT to do and I know why I want to do it. I never lack motivation. I still am working on lining up my analytical mind/thoughts with my subconscious habits/emotions. The desire and the follow-through seem to be in constant conflict. That's my roadblock and what I'm working on the most right now.