Archive for May, 2012

Leveling Off?

May 31, 2012

After my brother’s death I had a lot of problems with food. It took me almost two months to make it back onto solid food, and I had lost nearly 20 lbs. Of course, as I know from previous failed starvation diet attempts simply depriving the body of food is a terrible way to lose weight and keep it off. I was expecting to gain approximately 2lbs for every pound I lost… and maybe that still will happen, but I hope not.

I took it easy getting back into food. The first foods I was able to eat were really crap high sodium soups like Lipton cup of soup. I gained five pounds of water retention almost right away. From there I worked my way up to soft foods like mushed up avocado… or to make it sound better “hurray for guacamole!”

Aside from the soups which had some noodles once I was off those I have more or less managed to stick with a paleo diet. Although I’ve decided not to worry about it too much when I eat out. I may have to re-think this if I eat out more frequently.

I gave myself two weeks to adjust to real food before deciding to actually start monitoring myself for any kind of weight loss. My weight did bounce around all over the place in the first week and started to stabilize in the second week. I realize a week is probably not enough time, but I need a starting point so I drew an arbitrary line in the sand on Monday.

And there it is: 225 lbs.

That is just over 10 lbs down in total. So it looks like I gained back half of my starvation diet weight.

This number feels odd to me right now. A year ago this would have been one of my heaviest weights of the past two years and would have me feeling bad about myself. But, coming down from 237.8 the comparatively lower 225 lbs feels good.

My clothes have returned to fitting, whereas at 237.8 I was beginning to feel like I would need to buy new sizes.

It also means I have met several rewards that I need to give myself:

1 lb – manicure – done!

2 lbs – lip / eye wax – done!

5 lbs – movie rental – done!

10 lbs – pedicure – need to do.

What About Exercise?

May 24, 2012

Diet and exercise.

Healthy Eating and Active Living.

They are almost always paired together. But, there is increasing evidence that it is diet, not exercise that plays the key role in weight loss.

I encountered this idea the first time I hired a personal trainer. At some point the trainer said something to the effect that weight loss was 80% diet and 20% exercise. More recently I’ve started to see numerous articles published citing that it is diet, not exercise that is key to weight loss.

MSNBC: Diet, not exercise plays a key role in weight loss.
Time Magazine: Why exercise won’t make you thin
Mayo Clinic: Better to cut calories or exercise more?
Guardian: Why exercise won’t make you thin

As this idea gets unpacked a familiar food-politics theme emerges: the role of the food industry in our health and nutrition. More specifically what the food industry will do to protect their profits at the expense of the health of the public.

Here are some more articles on this topic:

University of California Berkley: Lecture, Dr. Marion Nestle How The Food Industry Influences Diet and Health
How The Food Industry Influences Diet and Health (book)

One of the best examples I have seen recently of food-politics promoting exercise over nutrition is Coca-Cola Canada’s partnership with participACTION and sponsorship of  Sogo Active. This campaign promotes getting youth active.  It has great examples of programs that get youth active, but it completely fails to mention that drinking Coke is really bad for your health.

This is not to say that exercise is not important. Exercise does some pretty important things like: strengthens bones and muscles, improves mental health and mood, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

I will credit my reasonably active lifestyle with the fact that although I am in an obese BMI range I have not faced any serious health problems, or even minor health problems. Except for the fact that I am fat, I’m healthy. The fact that I’m healthy, and reasonably active led me to my own conclusions about the role of exercise in weight loss.

Each time I have tried to lose weight in the past I have included exercise as a key component of that weight loss. And, I have generally been more successful at getting myself active than I have at being mindful about what I am eating and how it is effecting me. My general assumption was that I don’t eat a lot of junk food (I think), and if I’m exercising everyday and eating reasonably ‘good’ foods then I should be able to lose weight.

Sadly, this has never, in ten years proved true. My assumption at this point for why this hasn’t works are two-fold.

First, I don’t think I have taken a close enough look at what it means to have a healthy relationship with food. To truly make a food lifestyle change. I’ll come back to this in other entries.

Second, I think that I am proving case in point that while exercise is good for my health, and is likely the reason I am as healthy as I am, it is not having any significant impact on my weight.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to give myself permission to shun all physical activity. I will however, be placing much more emphasis on learning to eat well, in a way that makes me happy, healthy and facilitates weight loss. I will not be putting a significant amount of emphasis on if I made it to this gym each morning.

Why Paleo?

May 17, 2012

I’ve mentioned the Paleo Diet in the last few entries without explaining why I’m trying it. If you want information that will tell you why it is awesome, or that it will help you shed pounds or feel better, increase muscle mass and cure your long term illnesses then you are looking for a different blog.

The reason I am interested in this diet is mostly pragmatic. I’m not supposed to eat dairy or gluten. The Paleo diet suggests you don’t eat dairy or grains… and a few other things. So, this is not about trying to strictly follow an ideological diet that I believe will produce particular tangible results for me. Instead it is about finding a food philosophy that other people are likely to recognize and publish recipes for, so that I can use their hard recipe work to make healthy meals for myself.

Food Acceptance and Food Allergies

May 10, 2012

When I first started thinking about this journey again the biggest question in my mind was what can I do differently this time that will help me succeed when I have failed so many times before. It was at this point that I came across the Fat Nutritionist. A friend of mine who also struggles with personal health and fitness issues introduced me to the blog via Facebook and I was hooked.

Instead of talking about what food you should and should not eat, she starts with going back to the basics of teaching yourself to eat again. Her main theory is that people who are over or under weight, have at some point, developed an unhealthy relationship with food. We have disconnected food from our body’s signals. We are no longer able to intuitively manage our relationship with food in a healthy way. So, instead of staring from a place of discussing what you should eat (and shouldn’t) she starts with instilling good eating habits.

The first and most important of her habits is permission. She has a few long entries on the subject of permission, I suggest you head over there to read them if you are interested. In a nutshell what it boils down to is the idea that so long as you are punishing yourself for what you are eating you are cultivating a negative relationship to food. Permission means acknowledging that you are giving yourself the permission to have the craving and satisfy the craving. You are not powerless over the chips, and you do not have to punish yourself for eating the chips.

From the concept of permission she works through a number of eating lessons that can help a develop a self-awareness of what I am eating, when I am eating it and why I am eating it.

All of this sounds really good, and I began to implement some of it. Specifically acknowledging and accepting my cravings, trying to be aware of my level of hunger or fullness and scheduling regular meal times.

I was also keenly aware that I fell into many of the traps she identified. Things like “the last supper syndrome” , blaming and shaming my food habits and more. So, I was thinking of joining one of her regular eating groups to get a handle on my eating.

There is however one complication: food allergies.

I have one anaphylaxis allergy – Pork

One long-time food allergy – Dairy

One newly diagnosed food intolerance – Gluten

Avoiding pork has never been much of an issue for me. Even once I started eating meat again after years of being vegan my meat is generally fish, chicken and sometimes beef.

Dairy has been more challenging. Because it is a non-life threatening allergy that generally just comes with a lot of discomfort and some ugly digestive side effects I sometimes allow dairy to slip into my diet. Sometimes cheesecake tastes good enough to take the pain.

A few years ago I was noticing even when I was not including dairy and was specifically avoiding it I was having similar digestive problems. At the worst a bad dairy attack can make me feel like I have a flu for up to 48 hours. And without the dairy I was still feeling the same. I eventually brought it up with my doctor who after some referrals for tests and nutrition tells me I’m also gluten intolerant. This is not good. Bread and Pasta are two of the great loves of my life.

So, I find myself in this odd space between trying to accept my food and food cravings while feeling resentful and limited in what I can actually eat and feel well. Enter the Paleo Diet.

Revisiting the plan

May 3, 2012

Before the grief there was a plan slowly starting to form.

While I am comfortable being a woman of size, I am not happy with my current size and it is beginning to effect my quality of life. I am not interested in becoming stick thin again or inviting the health and psychological problems of trying to get there.

The challenge I had put before myself was to lose weight and size slowly and incrementally. I wanted to do it this way so that I could:

  • Be evaluative of each step and when I felt good and wanted to stop,
  • Ensure that the slow approach would keep the weight that I lost off,
  • Not pressure myself to lose X lbs in Y time frame and beat myself up when that didn’t happen,
  • Truly evaluate what works for my body,
  • Explore what nutrition means to me, what tastes good to eat and what feels good in my body.

There were three main tools I had set up to try to achieve this.

1. Weight loss rewards

I have never been a rewards person, but I think this may have been a mistake. There is part of me that thinks that achieving a goal should be reward enough. However, my track record tells me that this is not enough for me. So, I set up a chart with a goal of a 20 lb weight loss. I set rewards at 1, 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 lbs. The idea was to keep myself motivated and then evaluate at 20 lbs. Decide if I felt up to going for another 20 or if I wanted to simply try to maintain for some time. In this way the parameters were either weight loss that was not constricted by time, or time for maintenance with no weight loss expectation.

2. Self acceptance monitoring

This is harder to articulate as a tool. Although I am not comfortable with my current size I am comfortable being a woman of size. I like curves, breasts, hips, tummy and softness. I am also generally happy with my life and the parts that I am not happy with I feel that I can do something to change. Part of the slow incremental weight loss needs to be a mindfulness to keep an eye on my positive sense of self.

Wading into the weight loss challenge is a good way to turn negative. To start to degrade my body and my self. Some would see it as self empowerment, but I find this is only true while success is happening. If success is not a straight road – which it rarely is – then it is easy to slide into self depreciation. Once the downward cycle begins then it is hard to appreciate any success. Small success are no longer enough, it becomes a game of the long goal in the distance that is never achieved.

To help with self-acceptance I am making sure that I keep subscribing to Plus Model Magazine, which is where I get many of my images and keep reading size acceptance blogs.

3. Paleo Diet

Through various failed diets I have realized that I do need some guidance for what I put into my body and that guidance has to be more than calorie-based. I came to the idea of trying the paleo diet not from a weight loss perspective but from the ability to help me manage some of my food allergies and still eat a well balanced diet. It also promotes local food and seasonal food as well, and helps me increase my protein intake which I know is needed.