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Whaledancer's Weight Loss Ramblings

Sunday, 24 July 2005

Is Weight Loss Harder for Older Women?
Topic: Age & Weight Loss

This is in response to the often-asked question of whether being in the 50+ age group keeps you from losing weight as well as younger women:

No, I don't think being 50+ keeps us from losing as well as younger women. Our metabolisms may be slower and our bodies may try harder to hold onto the weight, but I think we have some advantages to offset that.

Maturity - I think this gives us a sense of perspective, an understanding of consequences, and the ability to take responsibility for our actions.

Experience - Many of us have lost weight before and put it back on. Each time we've learned things which may make us more successful this time.

Urgency - It's not like when we were in our 20's and had a whole lifetime in front of us, when we figured we'd start worrying about a healthy lifestyle...sometime. When you reach your 50's, 'sometime' is now. That can be a motivation. Plus, for some of us, our poor habits have started to catch up with us in the form of problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar, and we have to do something about it.

Self-Knowledge - By this age, most of us know ourselves pretty well. We can't fool ourselves as easily, and we have a better idea of what works and what doesn't work for us.

Self-Confidence - We're less subject to peer-pressure than the young folk, and less concerned with what others think of us. If our friends are all drinking beer or eating cheesecake, we can say "No, thank you" with much less self-consciousness.

Realism - Most of us realize that we're not going to look like an airbrushed, anorexic super-model even when we're at our ideal weight, and what's more, we don't really want to. Our goals are more realistic and achievable, and we don't expect that weight loss will completely transform our lives or our personalities.

Grit - Few people reach their 50's without having weathered rough times and gotten through some of life's difficulties. We know that we can, with courage and determination, do things that are difficult to do.

Self-Reliance - We are much more apt to be doing this for ourselves, not to impress or please someone else. This is a more sustainable motive, because it's not dependent on someone else's approval or praise. That isn't to say that support isn't a tremendous benefit. But this is such a difficult and personal quest, we need to be able to find the motivation within ourselves.


Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006 7:06 AM PDT

Monday, 18 July 2005

Miracle Weight Loss Product Really Works!

What if your doctor told you that she had a pill that was guaranteed to enhance your weight loss, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise? ...that it had been extensively researched and proven to be effective by independent scientists at several universities, in large clinical studies, and verified by US government scientists; that it had been shown to have absolutely no harmful side effects when used as directed; that all you had to do to improve your weight loss was to take 8 of these pills a day; and that they were very inexpensive.

Would you do it?

Okay, suppose the instructions on the bottle said: "Take 1 tablet, 8 times a day, with a full glass of water." Would you still be willing to take them regularly, as directed?

Okay, suppose the doctor told you that you could achieve exactly the same effect if you drank the 8 glasses of water, without the pills, would you do it then? Well, WHY NOT?

That's the question I've been asking myself this morning.


Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006 7:10 AM PDT

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Ya Gotta Change
Topic: Making Changes
I think a lot of us start Weight Watchers trying to figure out how we can lose weight without making changes to our lifestyle or menu. We've all seen hundreds of ads that tell us we should be able to do this. "Lose weight while eating all the foods you like." "Eat fettuccini and chocolate and lose weight." "Lose weight effortlessly by taking one little pill a day."

So we start out Weight Watchers, usually on the Flex plan, trying to make our points stretch to accommodate our existing lifestyle. Yes, that same lifestyle that got us fat in the first place.
"I eat fast-food for lunch every day."
"I like to have a couple of beers to unwind when I get home from work."
"I always order a pizza with 3 kinds of meat on Fridays."
"I work full-time and have 3 kids; I don't have time to exercise."
"In my family, we have to have donuts for breakfast on Sundays; it's a family tradition."

So we walk around hungry half the time, in order to save our points for a QuarterPounder or a Krispy Kreme. Or we start eating weird artificial food, like angel-food pumpkin cake with frosting made of fat-free cream cheese and Splenda, or no-crust pizza made with tomato paste and fat-free mozzarella. Or, saints preserve us, macaroni-and-cheese made with skim milk, Pam, and fat-free artificial cheddar-flavored processed cheese food. All so that we can convince ourselves that we can lose weight without making any changes.

After a while we just can't stand being hungry all the time, or we start craving food that isn't made of petrochemical products. So we go on an eating binge. And afterwards we say "What's WRONG with me? I always blow it. I try so hard, and I do so well for a while, and then I louse it up. Why am I such a failure?"

There's nothing wrong with you! Hunger is a very powerful force. We are not meant to be hungry; not for long, anyway. Everything in nature says hunger is bad, and drives us to correct the situation. And as for that pseudo food, we aren't stupid, we know that stuff tastes like wax (at best). We want real food and we don't want to be hungry and after a while, we're going to do what it takes to make that happen. Most people either give up trying to lose weight, or get stuck in an endless cycle of starvation-binge-starvation-binge. Some people, who have very strong will-power, tough it out all the way to their goal weight, and then go back to eating "normally."

But we don't have to fail. We don't have to starve ourselves to lose weight. We don't have to eat mad-scientist food. All we have to do is be willing to make changes. I'm not saying give up pizza for life, I'm saying have the veggie version instead of the meat, and have it once a month instead of once a week. If you don't have time to exercise, change your priorities; heck, drag the kids with you for some whole-family exercise. Take a walk after dinner, maybe. Drop the youth sports in favor of intergenerational, family sports.

Lose the fast food habit. Note, I didn't say "don't ever eat fast food." Just don't have it for lunch every day. I don't believe it's a coincidence that the obesity epidemic in this country parallels the rise of the fast food lunch. If you love fast food, have a once-a-week junk food fix, and pack a lunch the rest of the time. You'll save money, too.

Cook dinner. Yes, I know you come home from work tired and hungry. But with all the pre-washed, pre-chopped foods in the markets today, you can cook dinner in about a half-an-hour. Even if you haven't cooked before, it's not that hard; buy a Weight Watchers cookbook, or try some of the recipes on the message boards. Or throw a boneless, skinless chicken breast on the grill and serve it with steamed vegetables. Cook on the weekends, and reheat it in the microwave on weeknights. Learn to use a crockpot. Your whole family will benefit from the healthier meals, and you may even find that the time preparing and eating dinner becomes a quality social time. A couple in my neighborhood went on Weight Watchers together, and the husband told me what fun they were having cooking together every night.

Probably the best change you can make is to start eating more filling food. Choose foods that fill you up a lot, without costing a lot of calories. I absolutely believe that hunger is the enemy of successful permanent weight loss. If you don't know which foods to choose, you can look up the Glycemic Load of foods as one guide. In general, foods with a high water content are good; so are most vegetables. Foods that are high in fiber tend to fill you up. The Weight Watchers Core food list is a good guide. Foods like this are usually high in nutrients, too, so it's a healthy way to eat. Also, studies show that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and proteins lowers cortisol levels; cortisol is a stress hormone that sets off cravings for sweets (besides increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes).

I'm not saying you need to become a health-food nut. I'm saying that the more of these foods you substitute for the high-fat, high-sugar ones, the less hungry you'll be and the more likely you'll be to sustain your weight loss.

I have a saying that I repeat to myself often: "Permanent weight loss requires permanent change." If a change is going to be permanent, it has to be something you can live with comfortably, so that becomes part of your lifestyle. That means eating foods that taste good, not walking around half-starved all the time, and occasionally enjoying the treats you love, whether it's pizza or creme brule. But the first, most important, change is to abandon the idea that we can eat and exercise the way we always have, and still lose weight.


Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005 11:13 PM PST

Sunday, 22 May 2005

Yoda and Cheating
Topic: Cheating

Whenever I hear someone talk about "cheating" on Weight Watchers, I feel like saying, ala Yoda, "There is no cheating. There is only do, or not do."

In order to lose fat, your calorie intake must be less than your calorie output, by whatever means. It's basic physics. You can no more "cheat" on that than you can disobey a law of physics, like gravity. Although there may be a lot of psychological and physiological factors involved, it comes down to, if your intake is less than your output, you lose fat. If it isn't, you don't.

When you "cheat," you deceive or betray someone. Since you can't deceive a law of physics, it seems to me that means you are only deceiving yourself, and betraying yourself. So the way to avoid cheating on Weight Watchers is to be honest with yourself. Of course, that's one of those things which may be simple, but is not easy.

I don't mean that we need to be 100% perfectly on program all the time. But I do think that being honest with ourselves about what we're doing is important, if we want to succeed at this. I also think that it's a way of showing respect for ourselves.

Sometimes we do the program, sometimes we don't. But let's try to be honest with ourselves about it. I don't know if we betray ourselves when we don't stay on program, but I'm convinced we betray ourselves when we pretend TO OURSELVES that we're on program when we're not.

The reason I've started over on Weight Watchers 3 or 4 times is that I wasn't honest with myself about being on program. Oh, I kept to my target points, and exercised, and even (mostly) drank my water. But I only paid lip service to the part about its being a lifestyle, not a diet. I was dieting. I never made a commitment to myself to keep doing this for life. I never even honestly looked at the fact that I would need to do that in order to maintain a healthy weight. It was always "Good, I lost the weight. Thanks, sayonara." This time (maybe because I'm doing this more for health than just for weight loss), I've at least realized that I can't just go back to eating the old way if I want to maintain. I'm in the process of making that a commitment to myself, but to be honest, I am nervous about it, because "for life" sounds like a long time. It may be something I end up needing to take a day at a time.


Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006 7:15 AM PDT

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

The Points Vs. Satiety Game
Topic: Satiety
There are lots of games you can play with weight loss. One is, How Many of The Foods I’ve Always Eaten Can I Eat and Still Lose Weight? I suspect players of this game may have originated the recipes for mac ‘n cheese made with fat-free cheese, and sugar-free-fat-free-frozen-chocolate-ice-milk. Another popular game is Beat-the-Scale. Players of this game vie to see how much clothing they can remove before weigh-in without getting arrested for indecent exposure. Note: players in the northern latitudes should exercise caution when playing this in the winter months. Advanced players have been known to forgo food and water on weigh-in day.

I have a game I play with weight loss, the Points Vs. Satiety Game. The challenge is to see how full I can get while consuming a minimal number of calories or points. Eating foods like zero-point-veggie-soup, taco soup, roasted mixed veggies, and oatmeal scores high. Foods like Smart Ones Double Fudge Brownie Parfait, BigMacs, and even pretzel sticks score low. A croissant and a 5? oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast both have 5 points. But I score higher at the Points Vs. Satiety Game by choosing the chicken.

The prize for winning at this game is losing weight without being hungry.

Advanced players learn to watch for traps. For instance, a cup of cooked spaghetti or a large (7 oz) baked potato with 2 tablespoons lite sour cream; which scores higher? They both have 4 points, but the potato leaves me feeling fuller, so it scores higher. A cup of brown rice and a cup of white rice both have 4 points, but the brown rice fills you up more. But, surprise, a 4 oz. lean steak may beat them both. Fresh oranges score pretty high, too. A large orange is just 1 point, and that’s going to leave you feeling fuller than 1/4 cup of spaghetti or rice.

If you’d like to play this game, but you’re a beginner, here’s a tip: choose foods from the Core food list (you don’t have to be on Core to do this); they are pre-selected to score high at this game.


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

Friday, 29 April 2005

Are Carrots a "Bad" Snack Food?
Topic: Glycemic Load
Many of you are probably familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI), which ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of glycemic response (i.e. their conversion to glucose within the human body). GI ranks food on a scale of 0 to 100, with higher values given to foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar. Pure glucose would have a GI of 100. GI's of 55 or below are considered low, and 70 or above are considered high.

The GI of a food needs to be considered in relation to how much of it you eat, what the net carbs are. There’s a formula for ranking food which considers both the GI and the net carbs in a food, called the Glycemic Load (GL). GL's of 10 or below are considered low, and 20 or above are considered high.

One large carrot has 5 net carbs. The GI is 47 and the GL is 2. By comparison, 2 cups of popcorn has 10 net carbs. Its GI is 72, and its GL is 7. A cup of brown rice has a GI of 55 and a GL of 23. An apple, the GI is 38 and the GL is 6.

So carrots probably aren’t a bad choice to snack on. Mindless snacking on any food can get you in trouble, and any food can lead to weight gain if you eat enough of it. But you’d have to eat an awful lot of carrots to get there. I do know that back in the old days of WW when there were "free" foods, some people ate so many carrots they turned yellow (really!). But carrots are less apt to set off the rise-and-crash blood sugar problem that high-sugar foods do.


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

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Baggy Skin
Topic: Baggy Skin
Several people have posted questions recently about loose, baggy skin. Will I have it if I lose a lot of weight? Is there any way to avoid it? Will it ever go away? Will I need plastic surgery to correct it?

My first reaction to these questions is to weigh the disadvantages of baggy skin against the disadvantages of obesity.

Baggy skin:
-- is unattractive,
-- it makes you look older and haggard.

Obesity:
-- can lead to heart disease,
-- hypertension,
-- breast, ovarian, prostate, colon cancer,
-- gallstones,
-- degenerative arthritis,
-- high cholesterol,
-- diabetes (with it’s potential complications of blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, circulatory problems --sometimes leading to amputation-- and heart disease).

Hmm, let me see, which would I prefer?

But, assuming those who posed the questions aren’t just looking for an excuse not to lose weight, and assuming they’ve decided it’s worth risking baggy skin in order to be healthy, they still may questions about dealing with the sags and bags. Here are the answers

Q: Will I get baggy skin?
A: Maybe. It depends on several things: how much weight you lose, how quickly you lose it, how old you are, whether you’re a smoker, your genetics.

Q: Is there anything I can do to avoid it?
A: Possibly not, but there are things you can do to help minimize it.
-- Lose the weight slowly, to give your skin a chance to keep up,
-- keep well hydrated (another reason to drink your water),
-- don’t forget to eat your 2 teaspoons of healthy oils per day (which helps you to metabolize vitamins A & E),
-- exercise,
-- eat a balanced, varied, and nutritious diet with plenty of veggies, to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake (and consider taking a daily multiple vitamin with iron),
-- apply moisturizers.

Q: Will it go away?
A: I hope so! Actually, many people have reported that their loose skin tightened up with time (frequently a year or two), but sometimes not completely.


Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Monday, 18 April 2005

The Fork in the Road
Topic: Keeping On Going
We often talk about weight loss as a journey. That’s to remind ourselves that we’re not dieting, we’re making lifelong changes to the way we eat and exercise, and that reaching our goal weight is a milestone, not the destination.

I started to picture our journey as a walk along a road. Our weight loss began when we came to that fork in the road marked "Good Health, this way." It’s not an easy road. There are lots of bumpy patches, detours, and turn-outs along the way. Sometimes it seems like it’s all uphill, though occasionally you come to an easy stretch where you can coast along for a while. But something always comes along to make it challenging again. Sometimes the road winds around tortuously, until you’re sure you’re lost. But there are milestone markers along the way that let you know you’re still making progress.

This road has a lot of forks in it. We know which is the way to Good Health, but sometimes we can’t resist taking the other fork. The ones marked "Comfort" and "Familiar" are especially hard to resist. If we only go a little way down the other road, it’s pretty easy to turn back and get on the right track. But the longer we continue down that easy highway, the harder it is to get back to the road to Good Health. A lot of people give up and just keep going along the well-worn, easy path instead of making the extra effort to get back to the right road.

One thing that makes it easier to travel on the road to Good Health is that you don’t have to keep moving forward all the time. You can take little breaks and time-outs along the way. Actually, the people who try to race down the road seldom make it all the way to Good Health; they usually get burned out. Or when they come to the "goal weight" milestone, they turn around and go back the way they came.

The beginning of this road is pretty heavily trafficked, but as you go along, more and more people turn off on one of the forks. The thing that really makes the journey more enjoyable is the people you meet along the way, especially the friends who stay beside you for the long haul. They’re the ones that give you a hand over the rough spots, and try to ease the weight when your burdens seem too heavy for you keep going, and dust you off when you trip up.

I’m glad you’re beside me on this road.


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

Thursday, 31 March 2005

Weight Watchers' Core Plan, Fears vs. Experience
Topic: Core Plan
Now that I've been on Weight Watcher's Core plan for a few weeks, I'm taking a look at some of the reservations I had about it, and how it's worked for me in practice. Maybe it will help others who can't decide if they'd like to try it.

1. Fear: I'm afraid I'll chafe and rebel at the thought of some foods being "forbidden."

What has happened: When I've wanted something that isn't a core food, I've used some of my 35 Weekly Points Allowance (WPA's*) and had it. Mostly, and surprisingly, I just haven't wanted them.

2. Fear: I can't control how much I eat if I don't count points and measure portions.

What's happened: For the first week or so on Core, I continued to count points (without aiming for a target), while I ate until I was satisfied. Some days I ate more than my Flex target, some days less. I think having been on Flex had changed what I consider a reasonable portion, and that helped. On Core, when I'm hungry, I eat. But I try to be sure that I'm actually hungry, not just bored or having the munchies. If I really, really want to eat when I'm not hungry, I do, but I count WPA's for what I eat, even if it's a Core food, like popcorn. I think that paying attention to actual hunger is a good skill to develop, to do this for life.

3. Fear: 35 points is not enough for the things I cannot, will not, live without, like wine, bread and cheese.

What has happened: I usually only use about half my 35 WPA's. When I want those things I "can't live without," I have them. I just don't want them that often. And a small amount is usually enough. The only time I use all my points is when I go to a social event where it's hard to control the menu.


So far, Core has been very easy. It doesn't feel like I'm dieting. I'm never hungry, because when I feel hungry, I eat. I thought I'd find the foods weird or boring, but I've enjoyed them, and so has my husband. It feels like I'm really giving my body what it wants. One day I can't get enough vegetables, the next day I may want lots of fruit, or meat or carbs. I just go with it. I've been eating lots of beans and legumes, and even learned to like couscous. Sometimes I have a baked sweet potato for breakfast.

I'm losing just slightly faster than I did on Flex, like 3/4 lb per week instead of 1/2 lb per week.

If you've been curious about Core, but hesitant to try it, I'd say, give it a try for two or three weeks. You can always go back to Flex if you don't like it, or find it doesn't work for you. I might go back on Flex sometimes, if I had some special events coming up, or was traveling, but in general I believe I'm a convert to Core.


*On Weight Watchers'; Core Program, you select your foods from a list of healthful, filling foods. You are also given 35 "points" to spend on foods that aren't on the list. The idea is that no foods are forbidden, but some must be limited in quantity. Foods are assigned a point value based on their calorie, fat and fiber content.


Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005 10:30 AM PST

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

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