Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I had breakfast around 7:30: a coffee and a lovely piece of ciabatta bread with some strawberry jam. By mid-morning, I'd also drunk three glasses of water while surfing the net, doing some bill payments, making a few phone calls and writing my previous post on the wonderful Tensor band that's entered my life. Aside from the fact that I was shirking my responsibility to work on a small translation, all was well.
Then suddenly, I felt very afraid. I was hungry, genuinely hungry. Not hungry like I hadn't eaten for 24 hours (Yom Kippur, anyone?), but honestly, truly hungry, maybe a 6.5 out of 10 on the hunger scale. And with that hunger came fear. I WAS AFRAID TO EAT, even though I had every right to eat.
I started this blog in January after discovering Paul McKenna and his book, "I Can Make You Thin". It's all based on four golden rules:
1. Eat when you're hungry.
2. Eat whatever you want.
3. Eat conciously.
4. Stop when you're full.
Over the past five months, I have lost some weight. Not tons, but enough that people have noticed. The rules do work, but at least as far as I'm concerned, it's not all that easy. Witness this morning.
I really had to make a conscious effort to acknowledge my hunger, ask myself what I wanted to eat, eat this food and then tell myself that I didn't need anymore and stop. It was quite a process.
I realized that I needed protein, since I hadn't had any yet. I ate a piece of feta cheese and topped it off with a small bowl of blueberries. And stopped. I could have gone on. I could have probably eaten a full lunch, though it was only about 11 a.m. But I stopped. And instead of being ravenous at noon, I ended up not eating until 1:30 p.m. At that point I was really hungry and had a real lunch. I'm now drinking a cup of tea and feeling full.
I don't have any solution to this fear except to recognize it and try to deal with it as calmly as possible. Though some people seem to slough off the fear (and the weight!) very quickly with the McKenna system, that's not the case for me. I think that I'm like most people who've spent their entire adult life fearing food and denying hunger. The longer you've lived this way, the more the habit is ingrained.
Losing weight is a physical act, a mathematical equation of energy ingested and energy expended. But it's also in our heads: if we don't stop fearing hunger, we won't be able stop when we're full either.
Ignoring your hunger is the greatest danger of dieting. The trick is to learn to recognize real hunger and learn to recognize physical satiety. Easier said than done? Yup, but I urge you to keep trying!
P.S. Eat when you're hungry! LOL
As you know, Friday was my birthday. The big 53. Actually, I felt less trepidation about this birthday than I have in a long time. Things seem to be getting better this year around.
We had a lovely supper at a neighbourhood French restaurant. By the time we got there and were served the bread, we were all ravenous. I had a largish slice of pumpernickel, and dunked it in oil and balsamic vinegar. It was absolutely yummy, but after sharing a wonderful asparagus, lettuce and goat cheese salad with my older son, the peppercorn steak was just too enormous for words. I ate the veggies and a small piece of steak and brought the rest home. It made a great lunch the next day.
Of course, my husband had another gift for me: a book that has recently gotten rave reviews, The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. I'll probably read it this summer. If it's good, you'll hear all about it. Younger son gave me a box of chocolates, and for the first time in a long time, I did not shrink back in horror. It was one of those rather expensive, small boxes so there weren't many in it. I think I've had four since Friday, hubby and kids have had 2-3 each and there are two left. This is good. They taste great, but I haven't pigged out. Older son gave me another book. Lots of great summer reading.
But now, let me tell you about the REALLY fantastic gift I found for myself--a gift that keeps on giving and will probably be re-imbursed by my husband's insurance: the lovely tensor band you see in the above photo!!
Actually this tensor band doesn't even belong to me. My yoga teacher has loaned it to me to try out. I wore it on several long walks this past weekend and then while on the elliptical trainer on Sunday and again yesterday. Normally, after a minute (I kid you not) on the elliptical trainer, my knee feels twice the size and complains for several days afterwards. With the tensor band, I was able to do 10 minutes the first time and 12 minutes yesterday and I felt amazing. In fact, even after I take it off, my knee continues to feel normal for hours afterward. Ten minutes of the elliptical trainer may not seem like much at all, but it's huge for me. The rest of my body could easily do twice as much, but I'm intentionally taking things slowly. I will do another 12 or so minutes tomorrow. My goal is to do the machine every second day and hopefully bring my time up to 15 minutes by next week. I would love to do 20-30 minutes at least three times a week, but I really have to work up slowly.
It feels totally exhilarating to break a sweat.
I will be seeing the sports medicine doctor tomorrow to discuss the band and see if I should have something made to measure (this one is not terribly comfortable since it's made for someone with much longer legs than mine). I think that with a doctor's prescription, the insurance should pay for the band. I think it would also be a good idea to take x-rays and see what the state of the union is in that knee. I probably shouldn't be wearing the band at all times and should be doing further strengthening exercises without it. I need to clarify these things with the doctor.
I am thrilled with my discovery. I couldn't have asked for a better gift!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Tomorrow, May 22, is my birthday. I wasn't sure if I would mention it or not, but I just have to tell you about the gift my husband just gave me (a bit early, but I think he just couldn't wait!).
And here it is:...A really cool, slinky black T-shirt with a picture of President Obama and the slogan "Yes We Can". So now you know where I align on the political spectrum!
I'm really pleased with this gift. It's not huge (actually I got the big gift for our anniversary on May 3rd--a gorgeous pair of amber earrings) but it shows how well he knows me and what I like. He was in New York at a conference recently and that's where he picked up the earrings and the T-shirt. That's my guy!!
And we're going out to a great little French restaurant near our house for my birthday dinner once everyone's home from work and school.
I'm sure we'll have fun!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The word that really struck me reading his post today was SUSTAINABILITY. I think it's the perfect companion to moderation, which I discussed in a recent post.
In our physical and psychological journeys, we're all looking for a way to make a real change, a change that will last...in other words, a sustainable change. Personally, I believe the best road for most people to sustainability is moderation, not trying to violently cut things/food/attitudes out of our lives as if they were cancerous.
Repeat after me (yes, I'm trying to follow my own advice too!):
I came across a comment posted on a site created by people who have lost massive amounts of weight and are dedicated to keeping the weight off. Nothing wrong there, far from it. One of the site regulars (who also has her own website) stated that since she is not an obsessive exerciser, she must keep her caloric intake down to 1200-1400 calories daily in order to maintain her weight loss. She was very matter of fact about this. Though not surprised, I felt quite shaken by her admission. It's no wonder 95% of people gain all the weight back and more. Such constant caloric limitation is actually a recognized torture technique, or, to use a more Orwellian phrase, "an enhanced interrogation technique".
That's where the CIA comes in.
I found an excellent, heart-breaking post of childhood obesity here that links to this article on CIA interrogation techniques. Our diet culture does not work because we have been reduced to torturing ourselves on a constant, daily basis.
In a sense, I wonder if there really is a workable solution for those of us who have been overweight for many years.
I do think that people are capable of overcoming behaviours like binge eating, or subsisting on a constant diet of junk food. It's a tremendous challenge, but we know that with proper psychological help and support, these behaviours can be overcome.
But what of those who eat healthy foods, in reasonable quantities? I think there are many of us out there who, in an effort to lose 15 or 20 pounds have deregulated our systems to the point where our bodies have decided that virtually ANY food (OK, not dressing-free lettuce) can be turned into fat. In other words, has dieting screwed up our metabolisms to the point where normal eating inevitably leads to weight gain? Must we submit ourselves to life-long torture to first lose and then keep the weight off?
I don't know.
But let's end on a somewhat happier note.
I have to come back to intuitive eating. So subtle and difficult for inveterate dieters, but probably the only way to at least make peace with our bodies.
I think it does all start with proper nutrition (that's my mom talking): a diet based on, at least as much as possible, unprocessed, real foods. I don't believe in eliminating "bad" foods. That's like taking all the colour out of life and living in a cardboard box. You don't "need" a painting on your wall, but it's good for your soul. Having a piece of chocolate to end your meal is not a bad thing. Having three bars of cheap, processed pseudo-chocolate that you picked up cheap at Walmart because you want to forget how your crappy husband is treating you is certainly not a healthy thing. There's a big difference between these two chocolate experiences.
Enjoying what you eat and not feeling that you need to stuff yourself--that's another pillar of sound eating.
Getting your body moving, not beating it up, just moving it--pillar number three.
And saying to Kirstie Allie "thanks, but no thanks."
Have a good day, everyone!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I've talked a lot about fighting/listening to your body, so today I'd just like to take a few minutes to muse on the role exercise plays in the weight-loss battle.
First, don't get me wrong, I think exercise is a wonderful thing. And I admit to some serious envy, since my arthritic knee seriously limits the kinds of exercise I can do to burn energy (cue violins, tears and sad music). But I have noticed that you have to have LOTS of free time to keep up the kind of exercise regimen that many of my weight-loss sisters are on. Weight lifting, running, cycling--good grief, where do they find the time? It's all fine and dandy, but I get the impression that these people have way more time to get sweaty and out of breath than most working stiffs.
It all comes down to moderation. I think there's something wacky in the American mindset (and probably in the Canadian and British mindsets too) which leads people to go overboard in what they do. It might have its roots in Puritanism gone wild, but people either restrict themselves totally or stuff themselves silly. They either spend their days on the couch watching soaps or build their worlds around exercise. I really don't think it's the same in the rest of the Western world.
Whatever happened to moderate eating (yes, dear, you can have a sweet if you really want it)? And for pity's sake, whatever happened to making exercise just a part of your life, rather than the focus of your life? I am lucky to live in a big city with excellent public transit. I don't have to take the car to get a litre of milk. And I can choose (as I am about to this morning), to take a 30-minute walk to the clinic to get a blood test done, rather than taking my car. I can also take the subway, which will still give me a 10-minute walk. I'm lucky to have the day off today, but if I were working in town, I could also choose to take the subway rather than my car to get to work. In so much of North America, this simple choice does not exist.
In recent days, I've been beating myself up psychologically over the fact that I'm not doing enough EXERCISE. I have put the word in caps intentionally. And just as I have consciously chosen to stop putting myself in a diet straight jacket (hard as this approach may be), I will also have to start getting out of the mental straight jacket that tells me that without a world-class programme of exercise, I am not serious about my health. OK, I'm being a bit over the top, but that's the vibe that I'm getting.
Wouldn't it be nice to move to Europe, where portions are normal sized, there is less junk food and public transit more plentiful (not to mention a whole array of wonderful foreign languages to savour)? I guess multi-cultural, relatively transit-friendly Toronto will have to do for me right now!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
"Ms. Success", as we'll call her, talked about being an anomaly in her post. She had just finished a week of intense exercise and spotless eating, only to find that her scale registered a 1/2 pound weight gain. Doing the math should have led to a weight loss and not a gain. She thinks she's an anomaly. I think not.
The mathematics and biology of weight loss or gain are so much more complicated than the weight loss industry would have us believe. We are told that it's all quite simple: ingest fewer calories, expend more energy and voilà!, you will lose weight. Do the contrary, and suffer the ugly, depressing consequences. And this is true, but only to a certain extent. And I think it becomes less and less true, the more you change your body composition.
Initial weight loss is fast and is often composed of mostly water loss. Then comes the long slog downwards (and sometimes sideways and often even upwards). The more weight one has to lose, the more the initial losses will look spectacular, but we all get to the point where a pound a week becomes a disappointment (for me, a pound every two months makes me deliriously happy, but I guess I'm an "anomaly" lol).
Add exercise to the mix and weight loss becomes even less clear. If you are taking your exercise seriously, you will be building muscle, which weighs more than fat. So you have to start calculating the percentage of fat in your body, rather than just your weight loss.
Then there's water retention, the bane of all women.
And of course, there's your body's overwhelming desire to conserve fat. It's the unfortunate relic we carry around from the Stone Age. Women need to fat to be fertile. In the days when having enough food to eat was far from guaranteed (and this is still the case in much of the Third World, let's not forget), our bodies were constantly and desperately trying to hold on to fat to tide us over during the lean times. The more we starve ourselves, the more the body will hold on to its fat.
Fundamental research is not sexy. It's much easier and more profitable to devise Lean Cuisine meals than it is to understand what's going on in the body that yields a 1/2 pound gain after following and exceeding all the rules of weight loss. Aren't there any scientists out there looking at that?
So I just want to shake Ms. Success back into reality. She's done a great job. She should continue to eat well and exercise. And she should get that 1/2 pound bogey-man off her shoulder.
On Thursday, I saw the orthotist, who gave me a sturdier 1/4" lift (the only I was using in my shoes was being squished down when I walked) and told me to call next week. I also saw my acupuncturist (they're in the same office), who prescribed some horribly expensive (natural) anti-inflammatories, which I've been taking since Thursday night.
Yesterday, my yoga therapist and I did some knee exercises and I felt fine afterwards.
This morning, my knee feels its usual "puffy" and uncomfortable self.
I feel a bit down, since I'm nowhere closer to being able to exercise.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I just came across these words while surfing mindlessly. I'm on a loooong break at work. Nothing else to do.
BTW, people in Regina, Saskatchewan are really nice. And if you ever go there, check out a fab restaurant, the Bodega.
And finally, I can't wait to go home tonight...
That's all, folks.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
To all you moms out there, and to all of you who have (or had) a mom: Happy Mother's Day!
This is dedicated to my mom, Bessie, who passed away on Nov. 11, 2000. Love ya, Mom.
My favourite "seeing eye dogs" on the Internet are Google and Youtube. I'm probably a techno-peasant compared to many out there, but that's what I use.
So, where have I been going?
Recently, I've been on a fat acceptance blog kick. You might think that's strange, considering I started this blog as part of my personal quest to lose weight. But I have to tell you, there are some brilliant women out there who can tell us all a thing or two about our relationship to food. If you're interested, here are a few blogs of interest:
Big Fat Deal
Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder
I'm interested in these blogs because I'm so personally anti-diet. My heart breaks for the women out there who beat themselves up over everything they put in their mouthes. I really think that the more you beat yourself up, the less chance there is that you will ever make a permanent, healthy change to your relationship with food and ultimately to your weight.
From time to time, I also spend a weird hour or so cruising the anorexia videos on youtube. Most are tragic cries for understanding, stories of losing loved ones or of almost losing oneself. When I was about 15, I went on my first diet, which consisted of only ingesting liquids one day a week and being incredibly "careful" about what I ate the rest of the week. I lost about 15 pounds and of course gained it all back and more. There's a bit of the anorexic in many of us.
Then there are the more conventional weight loss blogs. I've got to make a blog roll soon--as soon as I get my resident IT person to show me how (lol). There are some lovely, brilliant women (and even some men...) out there!
I've got to start googling "intuitive eating" ASAP. For me, that's the middle road, the one that I am working on following.
Friday, May 8, 2009
On the technical side, her scale (a monster dial and arrow scale) yields the same results as my new, sleek electronic scale. My old scale saddles me with an extra two pounds. Yahoo to that too!
Do I have Paul McKenna to thank for this? Yes, at least to a certain extent. I'm not grrreat at "intuitive eating", which is a more generic way of describing the McKenna method, but I think it's starting to make a profound difference in the way I view food in general. So thank you, Paul!
Another piece of heartening news: My acupuncturist/naturopath shares office space with a woman who makes custom orthotics named Heather. I have an appointment with Heather next week and we'll discuss the best route to take with my knee. She'll do a full bio-mechanical analysis of my legs and feet and hopefully she'll be able to measure me for a knee brace that will keep my knee tracking properly while I exercise. I'm very excited about this. Adding a few sessions of the elliptical trainer every week will make a world of difference.
And to top off today's news, I walked 2.7 kms after my appointment.
I'm a happy camper.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Unless you're named Mother Theresa, or have walked on water recently, it is impossible to live up to all these rules.
Repeat after me: impossible.
You will trip up. And if the minimum level you have set for yourself if utter, unfailing and daily perfection, even the slightest mistake (OMG, a cookie!) can potentially send you into a tailspin. The world is black or white, all or nothing, you are "good" or "bad". Thus, since you are unable to do it all, you can't do it at all and you give up or worse, you just continue gaining weight, perhaps even faster than before.
Perfectionism is soul-destroying. In French, they say "le mieux est l'ennemi du bien", which literally means "the better is the enemy of the good". Here are two more colloquial translations, one rather hoity-toity, the other more down to earth:
"Striving to better, oft we mar what is well."
"Leave well enough alone."
Giving up because you cannot attain perfection leaves you with nothing. In the weight-loss world, the only "winners" are those who suffer from an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. The only champions are those who starve themselves to death. I'm not implying, nor do I think, that anyone reading this wants to become anorexic or bulimic. However, many of us who are overweight share with the moribly thin that overriding desire to be perfect. We have trouble seeing a healthy, middle way.
All these thoughts really bubbled up in my mind after reading this excellent Globe and Mail article, published on Tuesday, May 5th.
When it comes to losing weight - or preventing weight gain - it's the small changes that make the biggest difference. Making small changes to diet and exercise that you barely notice has a much greater impact on weight control than drastic changes that can't be sustained.
It's called a "small steps approach" and mounting scientific evidence suggests it worksThe words that really strike a chord with me in the above quote are "drastic changes that can't be sustained". It's another way of saying that diets don't work. A diet is a set of rules written in stone. A lifestyle change, on the other hand, enables you to gradually opt for better, healthier choices while recognizing that you are human, not a machine. Here's another way of phrasing it: If I never typed the letter "e" again, my computer would not blow up in frustration. I certainly would!
So let's look on the bright side. Here are some lifestyle changes that I've made this year that are sustainable and healthy:
1. I do drink more water. Up until this year, I drank very little water. Unless I was incredibly hot and thirsty, I never drank a glass of water. Now, I drink at least four a day, usually six. Enough? Probably not, but what an improvement!
2. I walk more and more. Now that I am once again physically able to walk a fair distance, I often take public transit rather than my car if my assignment is in the downtown core. Obviously, I have to drive to assignments in the suburbs or out of town. I wear my pedometer pretty much every day. I don't get to 10,000 steps ever day, but I know that I walk more because the pedometer is a great source of encouragement. When I started, 10,000 steps seemed daunting. Now, it's a piece of cake.
3. I eat more consciously and more slowly, though this is a work in progress.
4. I am more aware of the "full" signal, though once again, I'm still very much on the learning curve.
5. I am making a concerted effort to not be afraid of food. Nothing is off limits. Why should I stuff myself if I know that when I'm actually hungry, I can have it, whatever it is?
I encourage you to think about some sustainable changes that you are making in your life.
My only hope is that we are all able to make these sustainable changes and choices and be the happier, healthier people that we are meant to be!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Will I stay at this new weight for another two months?
Only the shadow knows...
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I live in Toronto, which was hit by SARS back in 2003. Several dozen people here died a terrible death. To the outside world, it looked like our city was under siege, but as someone who lived here at that time, I can say that life went on absolutely as usual, except for healthcare workers, or those who had caught the disease after having been in China, or been in contact with someone who had the disease. I don't mean to sound flippant about it, because it was a horrible disease, but the vast majority of Torontonians went about their business as if nothing had happened.
This time around, it's Mexico that's the centre of the outbreak. Here in Canada, we've had fewer than 100 mild cases and no deaths. However, officials are saying that this virus can mutate quickly and turn into something a lot more vicious. It might also abate over the summer and then come back with a fury in the fall.
Right now, I'm not feeling too worried, however hubby and I did go out to the grocery store yesterday to start stocking up on water and non-perishables. We can't bring ourselves to buy things like Spam, which I would only eat under the most dire of circumstances, but we bought things like beans, which we can use to make chili once the alert is over; some granola bars, which the kids can eat from time to time as a snack; crackers; tuna; canned fruit, etc.
How about you?
When you're in love, the object of your affections can do no wrong. He (or she) is perfect in that he meets all your needs to a T. Everything he says is brilliant, helpful, insightful, understanding. You make the time to see him, even if normally you would be too tired or too busy. You will go that extra mile, because he is so wonderful.
Then, suddenly or gradually, he loses that patina of perfection. He watches stupid TV shows or watches too much TV. His taste in clothing or food makes you wince. He is much less attentive than you had originally thought.
After a few weeks, months or years, one or both of you end(s) the relationship. It doesn't have to be a terrible ending, full of sturm und drang. It may just peter out. There's nothing great holding the two of you together anymore and it's time to move on.
I know that I personally can relate to this scenario, though not with my husband. Today we're celebrating our 17th anniversary and although he's out at an antiquarian book fair and I'm here at home on the computer; although I think NFL football is violent and boring; although I never have come to appreciate science-fiction despite 20 years of science-fiction conventions and parties; although, although...I know that we go well together, that we love each other, that we're jointly devoted to our children's well-being, that he has always taken care of me through thick and thin, that he can often read my mind after 20 years of close observation...I'm glad I'm married to him and I can take the bad and the good, because the good far outweighs the bad.
But let's get back to diets:
In contrast to relationships that bend and adjust (at least to a certain extent) to the needs and wants of the couple, a diet remains rigid and unswerving in what it demands of us. In fact, as we all know, no matter how hard we adhere to the "loving" rules of the diet, we eventually stop losing weight quite so fast, or even hit plateaus where the weight remains the same no matter how hard we try. We have to work even harder, cut down the calories even more, ramp up the exercise to even higher levels. We become a slave to our lover and our lover constantly asks more and more of us to achieve the same--if not a lesser--result.
The diet becomes a controlling, abusive lover. It abuses us psychologically, and if we become bulimic or anorexic, it becomes a dangerous, physical abuser.
And so we stop dieting and regain the weight so much faster than we lost it. And the search for a new diet-love starts again and the cycle repeats itself.
I admit that I had an intense honeymoon phase with the Paul McKenna programme. It lasted about two months. However, although I have stopped losing weight, I am still assimilating the method's ideas and attitudes and remain fully convinced that at least for myself, diets are not the solution. I will never again cut certain foods out of my diet (in the sense of what I eat, not a slimming regimen) completely. I will never again separate my carbs from my proteins, or limit myself to only fruit until noon, or any one of the crazy things that I tried over the years.
All these rules have left me scarred and frightened of eating and of food. I'm certainly having trouble ridding myself of these fears and listening to my body. But I'm trying. That's all I can do.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Although I can't be as "pure" as Sally, especially when it comes to TV, I totally agree with her views on counting (be it points, calories, etc.). slow weight loss and being kind to yourself. And she also makes it very clear that whatever works for you is what you should be doing.
Anyway, give her a read. She's worth it!