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Whaledancer's Weight Loss Ramblings

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Dabbling at Weight Loss
Someone posted on the Weight-Watchers' board, "I started Weight Watchers online early in January...have dabbled with the program, staying on program until evening...not losing weight...having a problem making the leap full time on program. I need to know what it is that keeps you on program. I think it will help. It is on my mind all day, everyday."

My response:
My first reaction was, it’s so much effort being on program part-time, why not do it full-time and reap the benefits? But then I realized that even small changes make a positive difference. The exercise will improve your health, and it sounds like you’re no longer gaining. But apparently doing it halfway isn’t working for weight loss (well, it was worth a try, huh?).

The mechanics of how I stay on program are easier to identify than what made the difference mentally. Mainly, when I’m tempted to go off program, I go to the Weight Watchers’ board and read the posts. Sometimes, trying to answer questions like this one helps me to re-focus on why I’m doing this. Sometimes I read the official Weight Watchers articles. I also try to arrange things to make it easier to stay on program, by keeping my trigger foods out of the house, making sure we have ingredients for Weight Watchers-friendly meals on hand, stocking up on healthy snacks. I try to keep some of the zero-points veggie soup made up. And I try new recipes that sound good, so I don’t feel deprived, or like I’m eating "diet food."

The WHY is harder. I watched my sister sort of diet for years, until she got diabetes, and then continue to halfway diet, until she died of complications from diabetes and weight. So I if I was going to do it, I wouldn’t mess around. But even my sister’s death wasn’t enough to make me want to change the way I ate. I think it’s because it’s so big a part of my identity, being a "foodie" and proud of it. I love to eat different cuisines, cook creatively, talk about food, read cookbooks, even go grocery shopping. I saw weight loss as something I had to do occasionally, so that I could go back to eating "normally." Whenever someone talked about "changing your relationship with food," I heard it as being asked to give up something precious to me. Since I don’t equate being fat with being ugly, I never seriously objected to looking fat (in fact, I kind of liked being curvy and cushy); and it seemed to fit my foodie image.

What started me on this weight loss effort was a high blood sugar test; it looked like I might be growing insulin resistant. So it was more about being healthy than about being thin. But I was still planning on making only temporary changes, at first just for 12 weeks, and then just until I reached goal weight. But along the way, something’s changed in how I’m looking at it.

Part of it stems from coming to this Weight Watchers board and being inspired by other people’s stories. Part of it is that I’m enjoying some of the changes that have come with being 50 pounds lighter, like being able to move better. Part of it is because it’s getting harder to lose the weight, and it’s coming off so slowly, that I hate the thought of wasting all the effort I’ve put into it.

But it’s also because I’ve begun to realize that I don’t have to give up being who I am. I don’t have to start thinking that fat makes people look ugly, just because I get thin. I don’t have to eliminate the foods I love from my life (in fact, I can appreciate them more by having them infrequently, because I really pay attention to them now). I am not going to morph into someone who likes fat-free cheese and diet sodas. I can be even more creative in the kitchen by coming up with dishes that are both tasty and healthy. I can change some of my behavior without changing who I am.

I can’t say how well this will work in the long term. I still have so much to learn, about not turning to food to help get me through the crises in my life, about how to manage eating out in restaurants, about how to manage family holiday food traditions, about being more physically active, about how to make these changes permanent without devoting my life to it, about achieving balance. But at least now I’m WILLING to learn those things. I can’t say I won’t ever gain weight again, because I’m not perfect, and I expect I’ll make some mistakes along the way. But I do plan to continue doing what I need to do for my health.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

The Fullness Factor
Topic: Satiety
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks, but somehow the thoughts just don’t want to gel. It’s about the way I think about the foods I eat, and how that’s changed since I started WW.

See, I love a bargain. So, right from the start, I’ve looked for points bargains. Krispy Kreme donut for 5 points? Not interested. Give me half a cup of fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt for 2 points. It’s such a bargain. Lean Cuisine chicken chow mein, lunch for only 4 points, a bargain. Forty-eight pretzel sticks, only 2 points, a bargain.

The problem is, chocolate frozen yogurt, Lean Cuisine chicken chow mein, and pretzel sticks don’t fill you up very much. And they made me feel like I was on a diet. Because I was often hungry, I began filling in around the corners with vegetables. Zero-point vegetable soup (a REAL bargain) along with my Lean Cuisine. Baby carrots. Maybe, egad, even an apple. And I began to notice that I wasn’t as hungry when I ate those.

Now, one reason I was looking for all those point bargains was so that I could eat a more “normal” dinner. Read: with rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, a little serving of veggies, and a piece of meat. But because I was hungry, the veggie servings started to get larger, and pretty soon it was two different veggies (because how much cabbage can you eat at one sitting, really?). And sometimes it was corn or a sweet potato instead of pasta or potatoes. And I noticed I wasn’t nearly as hungry when I did that. Even the next day.

Slowly, my idea of what constitutes a bargain has changed. It’s not just about how few points a food has. It’s about how full you get for the points you spend on it. A bowl of salad is very low points, and makes you feel like you’re eating something, but it doesn’t fill me up. Same for a sugar-free Jello cup. A baked sweet potato or a yogurt cup may have more points, but when I eat them, they fill me up more.

Now my idea of a bargain is how full I can feel for how few points. I think of it as the “fullness factor” of the food. By that definition, baked sweet potatoes are a great bargain. I never liked brown rice all that much, but I started eating it because it left me feeling fuller, i.e., it has a higher fullness factor. And now I find I like the taste. I used to begrudge the points I had to spend on milk in order to get in my daily servings. But milk really fills me up a lot for the points, so now it seems like a real bargain.

I’ve started experimenting with new foods to try to find ones that have a high fullness factor. Like I’ve started to eat couscous pretty often. Beans. I’ve always liked beans, but they seemed pretty high in points. But they have a very high fullness factor, so now I think they’re a bargain.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the foods with a high fullness factor tend to be whole foods, that is, less processed. And often (but not always) they’re high in fiber. Sometimes, adding a teaspoon of olive oil (or other fat) to a food will increase its fullness factor. For me, a baked potato with a tablespoon of lite sour cream has a much higher fullness factor than one without. That makes it worth the extra points.

Finally, I noticed that many of the foods on the Core food list are the same ones I’ve found to have a high fullness factor. Ding! The light bulb comes on. I’m guessing that that’s how people can be on Core without overeating: those foods fill them up. I think I’m edging toward trying Core, but I’m not quite ready yet. But I have been browsing the Core food list for ideas, and while I’m still on Flex, I’m spending a lot more of points on Core foods. I think I will keep adding more Core foods in place of non-Core ones, partly because it works, partly so that the transition won’t seem so drastic, and partly to get DH used to the idea that this is “normal” eating.

I find I have a lot fewer of those “hungry days”; you know, where you eat everything in sight, but you’re still hungry. And it doesn’t feel like being “on a diet,” somehow, but more like just eating a healthy diet. And it seems more like, not only something I COULD do for a lifetime, but even something I might WANT to.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Advantages of Losing Weight Slowly
Topic: Slow Weight Loss
There are advantages to losing weight slowly (like about a pound or less a week), especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. Here are some that I’ve been thinking about.

1. There is time before you reach your goal weight for your new eating patterns to become ingrained habits. This enhances the probability of your success in maintaining your new weight.

2. Your body also has more time to adjust to the new regime. The human body is designed to withstand periods of famine. I believe that those of us who been overweight since (at least) puberty come from genetic strains that are particularly efficient at this. Our bodies view the typical diet as a long famine, and when the famine is over, they "recover" quickly. But by feeding our bodies with just barely less than they need to maintain, over a long period the body may come to regard the smaller quantities as the new norm.

3. Your body shrinks more slowly, so you don’t suffer from the saggy-baggy effect quite as much.

4. When you spend a long reaching your goal weight, you learn some useful things that you can use to achieve lifetime success. You learn how to deal with holiday and other special-occasion meals. You learn how to keep going when you don’t want to. You learn ways of keeping food boredom at bay. You learn ways of dealing with stress and loneliness and boredom and all those other emotions without turning to food. You learn how to get back on track when you’ve slacked off. You learn ways of dealing with the internal blocks that your mind and emotions throw up to sabotage your success. If you haven’t learned all these things by the time you hit goal, there will come a time when you gain back the weight, and then you have another chance to learn the crucial ones you missed. But when you lose slowly, you’ve got more time to learn all those things this time through.

5. You get more wear out of your intermediate sized clothes before they get too big for you. This might even encourage you to buy more of them, so you look better along the way.

6. It requires a great deal of determination to stick with the program over a long period of time. This might not seem like an advantage, but it means that those who make it to their goal weight slowly have that same determination to use as a tool to help keep the weight off.

7. All that time and effort you’ve invested in losing the weight can act as an incentive to keep the weight off. When something costs you more, you value it more. And when you lose slowly, your weight loss has cost you more.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 17 January 2005

In response to 'Despondent About Losing Weight'
I won't say that I know how you feel, being despondent about needing to lose a lot of weight, but I certainly started out kicking and screaming. I had just been told I was pre-diabetic, because I had just tested slightly elevated for blood sugar. I HATED the idea of changing my eating habits. I love to eat and I felt like I was being robbed of one of the great joys of my life. I decided to give it 12 weeks, because I figured I could take just about anything for 12 weeks. I would decide then whether I wanted to go on. I actually gave it about 16 weeks. By that time my blood sugar was normal. I decided that losing the weight was the best thing I could do to prevent insulin resistance, but the diet I was on seemed restrictive and I wasn't following it as carefully as I needed to. I hit a 4-week plateau.

That was when I joined Weight Watchers online. My plan was to get to my goal weight, so that I could then go back to eating the way I always had. I told myself that I wouldn't wait until I had to lose 80 pounds next time. The plan was, that when I was 10 or 15 pounds over goal, I'd diet again.

Weight Watchers just works for me. I won't say it's always easy, but it gets easier. I've been losing pretty steadily, with slight fluctuations. But the real change has been in my attitude. Now, I'm not planning on there being a "next time." I feel that this is something I can do for the rest of my life. And I know that I need to. I like how it feels to be thinner, but more than that, I like how I feel eating a healthier diet. I don't have heartburn all the time, for one thing.

I realize that I'm not going to have to go the rest of my life without eating another piece of brie or creme brule or Big Mac. But I don't want them often. It's okay for them to be an occasional treat. And I actually enjoy them more now that they're a special treat. There are some changes I do plan to make when I start maintenance (like regular whole-grain bread instead of reduced calorie), but I don't want to go back to the way I used to eat.

If someone had told me at the beginning that I could actually enjoy eating this way, I either wouldn't have believed it, or the idea would have horrified me. But I realize now I'm not going to morph into someone who says "Mmmm, I just love fat-free cheddar." It's more that what I enjoy now is cooking really good-tasting meals that are, by the way, healthy.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 9 June 2005 3:52 PM PDT

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Weight Loss Time Travel
...or how my weight loss journey became a journey through time and space.

I find that as I reach different milestones along my weight loss journey, I remember where I was in my life, and what I was doing, the last time I was that weight. I mostly associate it with vacations we took, because that was when I bought new clothes, and as I fit back into those clothes I remember where I wore them. It was also when we took pictures.

At 210 lbs, I was happy to be able to fit back into the quick-dry underwear I bought for Africa. At 200 I was able to wear the jacket with the faint mustard stain from the banger I bought off a street cart in London. Now my souvenir sweatshirt from our visit to the friendly whales in Laguna San Ignascio fits again. I’m just getting back into the clothes I bought for Belize (although they’re so lightweight, by the time it’s warm enough to wear them, I expect/hope they’ll be too big). Then I think there’s a gap until the next clothing size milestone, which would be my honeymoon clothes (and wedding dress). Beyond that, I didn’t save many clothes, because they were so dated, and because I never expected to be able to wear a medium again. I do, however, have a "souvenir of Heron Island" windbreaker; when I can wear that again, I will be where I want to be.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 29 November 2004

The Doctor's Appointment
Finally had my next doctor’s appointment today, trying to get a diagnoses for my illness. He ordered a whole battery of tests, including several for some rare and quite unpleasant cancers, as well as some more common cancers, hepatitis, HIV, and a bunch of auto-immune diseases. He seems to think it is likely to be an auto-immune disease, such as lupus. Now, my instinct and intellect both tell me that it probably isn’t one of those nasty cancers, but my fear hasn’t quite gotten the message. Not to mention that now I’m hoping that it’s "only" an incurable auto-immune disease. There doesn’t seem to be much good news in this picture, except for the possibility of finally getting a diagnosis.

What I feel like doing is curling up under a blanket, and eating comfort foods. What I AM doing is drinking water and coming on this board. I did discover this afternoon that I have not yet evolved to the point that carrot sticks count as a comfort food. <>

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 20 November 2004

Pretend You Have the Resolve
Topic: Lost Motivation
This was in response to someone who posted (in part) "I don't know how this happens, but I woke up this morning and my resolve is wavering. Suddenly, losing weight doesn't seem to be that important any more. In fact, it seems almost an unnecessary bother. Now, somewhere inside me I know this isn't true, but I can't seem to reach that place. Some days this is just such a tedious journey!!!"

You've got it right. Staying on program, losing weight is HARD, and it gets tedious. It's a lot of work, and you have to think about it, and it takes time, energy, and attention that would it would more fun to spend otherwise. And sometimes you just don't want to do it.

When you don't have the resolve, when you've lost the belief that it will be worth it, pretend as if you did. Even though it seems pointless, even though you don't feel you're worth the effort, even though you're hating everything about Weight Watchers, do it anyway. Because you know those feelings are temporary. Because you know that if you just grit your teeth and keep going, the motivation will creep back.

When you started this, you had determination. Sometimes determination erodes. But you've said it yourself, you're "too old, too arthritic, too damn smart to keep doing this."

Maybe it would help to think about what brought you back here and what you wanted out of it. Or maybe not. Maybe it would help to review the Weight Watchers'; "Tools for Living" and "Winning Outcomes." Or maybe not. Sometimes you just have to tough it out. Sometimes you get so fed up you need a vacation from being on program. Maybe you'll give up completely and find yourself hauling your sorry behind back here again, 10 pounds heavier, and saying "The line is drawn AGAIN." Or maybe not.

I think you'll stick with it, even though it sucks right now. And I think in a few days things will look different.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005 11:01 PM PST

Friday, 19 November 2004

The Search for Willpower
Topic: Willpower
Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't off program. I knew this dinner at a friend's was coming up and that there would be yummy, tempting snackies there, so I saved my WPA's [Weekly Points Allowance*] all week. That's not what bothers me. The problem is that I couldn't seem to enjoy them in moderation. My friend had thoughtfully put out some raw veggies and grapes, in addition to the cheeses and dip, so I had healthy alternatives available. But there was this blue-cheese-and-roasted-pecan cheese spread that practically made me swoon (not to mention the big hunk of brie). I didn't want to savor a little of that spread on my broccoli floweret. I wanted to take it into a corner by myself, with a spoon. I didn't, because of social pressures, but if I had been alone, I swear I would have polished it off and licked the bowl.

The thing that worries me is what this means for my "lifetime" success. This gluttonous response to some foods is part of what made me fat, and it doesn't seem to have changed. Oh, sure, I don't have to let them into my house, but I can't avoid encountering these rich foods forever; they're out there, and sometimes I will be faced with them. I hate the idea of never enjoying them at all, but will I ever be satisfied with just a taste? Or will this always be a struggle for me?

This time I was able to do a controlled binge. I planned for it and counted the points afterward. It's just that I'm not comfortable about that out-of-control feeling I had, as if I were powerless to stop going back for more, when I wanted to. Ideally, I'd like to be able to enjoy --really savor-- a small amount of something yummy like that, and then STOP. If I could just figure out WHY that's so hard for me, maybe I could change my pattern.

*On Weight Watchers? Flex Plan, foods are assigned a point value based on their calorie, fat, and fiber content. You have a daily points target, plus a "Weekly Points Allowance" which you can use all at once, or throughout the week.

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 8:42 PM PDT

Monday, 1 November 2004

Gorg, the Dreaded Scale Monster
Topic: Facing the Scales
I have this image of the scales as one of those diabolical, dictatorial monsters from a 1950's sci fi horror flick, and us as the poor subject beings paying weekly homage. We cringe in fear as we approach: will it be reward or punishment?

Sometimes we have done everything the evil Scale Master demands of us, followed the dietary laws, avoided the proscribed foods, worked until we sweated, laid our sacrifices at his feet, and even saved some of our weekly points (because we've heard he likes them), and he STILL doesn't smile upon us. Or worse, zaps us with his dreaded Weight-Gain Ray.

We stumble away, crushed. "What, what have I done wrong?" we cry, "How have I displeased the mighty scale?", little realizing that it simply pleases his sadistic, capricious nature to toy with us. We tear our hair and fall into despair.

Or sometimes we approach in trepidation, trying to conceal the guilty secret of pleasurable indiscretions, but knowing that the Scale Master sees all, knows all. And when, inexplicably, he rewards us anyway, we hastily back away, bowing, not wanting to question this boon.

I am ready to cast aside the shackles of this tyranny! No longer will I allow this arbitrary, implacable enemy to define my sense of self-worth! I will not allow the Scale Master to punish or reward me. I will break free and stand alone. I will seek satisfaction from within, I will not offer up my food choices as sacrifices to the Almighty Scale, but will enjoy them for their own sake. I will take control of my own eating and exercise, for the sake of my own health, not to satisfy the evil whims of the Scale Master. If I have stayed on program, I will be happy, no matter what the Scale Master does. I DEFY YOU, EVIL TYRANT! Who is with me?

Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006 5:21 PM PDT

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