Saturday, February 16, 2013
I hit a plateau after an 80 pound weight loss at the end of 2011. I was white knuckling it with the conventional low calorie diet involving lean proteins, whole veggies and fruits and whole grains. The longer I went the more often I included something very unhealthy thinking that the calories were all the same as long as I hit my calorie deficit for the week. My weight loss stalled and I got discouraged. I took "time off" and gained 25 pounds over the course of 2012.
Having to lose the same weight more than once is not new, but it is so disheartening. I did a lot of reading about emotional eating and food addiction trying to figure out why I simply do not have an "enough" switch when it comes to carbs and sugars. In the fall I started working out with my personal trainer again and tried to problem solve to keep myself from regaining all of the weight I had worked so hard to lose.
So many times over the years I have heard people say that alcohol and drug addicts need to live life with never touching their substances again, but unfortunately "food addicts" have to eat. But do we really need to eat everything?? There are things that maybe we should stay away from like it is crack cocaine. (I am not saying that the addictions are at all the same technically speaking, but the behaviors can be very similar.)
We started researching and talking about Paleo, and since it was the new year I was very open to jumpstarting a new program of some sort. I am a great starter!! But reading about Paleo I initially thought it was way too restrictive. No alcohol, no grains, no sugar or artificial sweeteners, no dairy, no legumes - so basically 80% of my default eating was non-Paleo. But looked at a better way, 100% of my binge foods are non-Paleo.
Even during periods of whole grain/and low fat dieting I would combine the flavor of skim milk with low cal crackers and cheeses and eat way too much. Giving up grains I could see, and giving up sugar too because those are all the processed junk foods I have to avoid. But I opened my eyes to seeing that even dairy is a complement food to those and dangerously triggers me to want to put them all together. Even a square of dark chocolate can become 10 squares when an icy glass of milk goes along with it. So it clicked that this program would cut out all my problem foods - and what is left - animal proteins, veggies, fruit, nuts and healthy fats are all pretty much the best things for the human body anyway.
So I decided to give Paleo a 100% try for 30 days and see how I felt. I could assess if there are some undetected gluten allergies that suddenly clear up and I could see if cravings will be dulled over time by detoxing. But the most important factor is keeping my home a safe place with no binge foods on hand. Don't buy it at the grocery store, don't keep it in the house.
As I cleaned out the canned, packaged and frozen processed foods from my inventory I was shocked to see how many bags I filled and took to the food bank. That process took a couple of days as I scanned cook books and online to figure out what staple ingredients I needed to replace all that with. It is an education! When I am gaining weight I find it is because I stop cooking fresh foods and rely almost entirely on packaged processed foods. Paleo is a "cook it or eat it raw" way of eating. No getting around it with ready foods like protein bars, cereal, yogurts, lunchables and the like. It takes planning ahead and that takes a little practice.
Turns out I can cook some really yummy things! And turns out I can lose a lot of weight doing this - 11 pounds in the first 2 weeks! And turns out I LOVE not counting anything - just eat when I am hungry but eat the right things. I don't get to play games with my tracking like rationalizing that a whole bag of popchips isn't really all that much more than a meal's worth of calories so I pretend I can somehow account for it and still lose weight.
I have now lost over 30 pounds on Paleo in 7 weeks, and I am happy that it feels sustainable for me. Other people might well learn that all things in moderation is a healthy eating plan for them, but my circumstances are different. 40 years of doing the same thing with no long term success should tell me something. My "enough" switch is broken (or nonexistent). My default setting for eating when I am not paying attention leads unconciously to the worst possible choices. And beating myself up because I do not have the will power to eat 1 serving of potato chips and leave the open bag in the cupboard for a week was unhelpful.
Paleo takes planning ahead and preparation and that takes a little practice. But it is true that it is only effort until it becomes routine. Give it a try if my challenges are yours too.