Thursday, November 25, 2010

Expanding My Blog Reading...and Happy Thanksgiving (US)

This "no-weight loss blogs" diet is not easy. Yes friends, I was addicted. I am still somewhat addicted but fighting hard.

There are still a few blogs that I consider "officially" part of the weight-loss universe that I am still visiting, but many fewer and much less often. As usual, I want you to remember that I wish you well, no matter what you're doing or not doing. Just treat yourself with love and respect--no matter how hard that may sometimes seem.

Now, every good diet deserves something enjoyable in return and so I offer you this blog: Weightless, a blog about loving oneself, one's body, one's life. I am also putting it on my blogroll. Go and visit and tell me whether you like it or it pushes your buttons. I'd like to know!

Oh, and happy US Thanksgiving! Enjoy being with your family and friends. Enjoy the food you eat. If you don't like it, don't eat it; if you do like it, take your time and savour every bite.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Odd Gift


I just checked my e-mail and found a coupon for a hamburger, fries and pop from a small Canadian fastfood chain. It was sent to me by someone I've known for years. She termed it a small, early Hannukah gift (the Jewish festival of lights that takes place around Christmas time but has no relation whatsoever to Christmas, BTW).

This woman is a really kind person, but she has serious psychological issues and suffers from a clear case of paranoia (they enter her house and move things around; they poisoned her dog; they make trouble for her at work; they are trying to control her life...). Since we don't live in the same city, I don't have to interact with her a lot.

I'm not implying that her psychological problems are the reason she sent me this coupon, it's just that that kind of coupon is the last thing in the world I would either want to give or receive as a gift.

I suppose she doesn't know me that well, though we've known each other for 37 years (good grief!).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Cleaning the Blood Splatter

Oh, hi! Nice to see you. Careful when you come in though: as you can see there's a lot of blood splatter on the wall and a bit on the floor. I wouldn't want you to track it out when you leave. I'm cleaning as fast as I can.

"Why all the blood?" you ask.

Let me explain with a story.

As you probably know, I have an artificial hip. The outcome of my first hip replacement was terrible and I started seeking out help on the Internet. I found two "hip boards"--self-help sites that provided me with lots of support and information. Some of the information was worthwhile, but some was not.

A number of people on the sites warned fellow hippies off doing yoga. The objective of yoga, in a very general sense, is to create "space" so the joints can move more freely. This is a great idea if you have normal, natural joints that are moving correctly and held in place by healthy muscles and ligaments. A healthy joint does not dislocate, unless an accident occurs.

On the other hand, dislocation can be a distinct possibility with an artificial joint. It's not all that common, but much more common than if you have a natural joint. And when there's too much space, well that just screams "come dislocate me"!

So I studiously avoided yoga, though I had greatly enjoyed doing it at several points earlier in my life.

One day, and despite my fear, I started doing yoga again because my back was falling apart and I really needed help. Not just any kind of yoga, though. I found a very skilled yoga therapist who specialized in working with people who had all kinds of physical problems. Over the past four years, she has found creative, unconventional ways to keep me as healthy as possible. She has been a godsend. I honestly don't think that my fragile orthopedic state would be as "good" as it is without her invaluable help.

Moral of the story: I didn't listen to the naysayers on the hip boards, and went out and found someone to help me who knew what she was doing.

So let's get back to all this blood on the wall.

I've been banging my head. Big time. And it hurts and no, I'm not going to do it anymore after this post is over.

Yesterday, while visiting one of the many weight blogs I read, I came upon yet another person who stated that all intuitive eating had done for her was make her gain weight. Ergo, it's a bad idea.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Ouch.

OK, friends. If you think eating mindfully means gorging, go right ahead. Keep listening to the ignorant and frightened people amongst us. Just don't call it intuitive eating, cause it's not. And it's certainly not mindful. If you think mindful/intuitive eating is eating until you're sick to your stomach, you've got a serious problem listening to your body's signals...which is--surprise, surprise--just what mindful eating is all about.

Geez, this wall is bloody.

Recently, I sent an e-mail to a blogging buddy of mine (you know who you are!) asking her to help me keep a promise to myself to go cold turkey and stop reading a blog that was making my blood boil, my BP rise and the walls of my house rather bloody. I have kept that promise, and don't even read the comments that blogger sometimes posts on other blogs.

Now, I have to go even further though and eliminate many more blogs from my daily bloggy diet. While I will continue to eat dark chocolate in small, "medicinal" doses and allow myself to sample all the wonders the world of real food has to offer (that means never letting an Eggbeater cross my doorstep), I am hereby eliminating diet blogs from my diet.

Go ahead and say "good riddance" if you want. That's fine. I won't be reading your blog to see you say it.

And with that, good luck to you all. Do whatever works for you, although I have serious doubts about how many of you will ever "succeed" (yes, there are always exceptions to the rule--I didn't say there weren't).

I'll continue to blog, albeit sporadically. Anyone who wants to drop by is welcome.

The walls and the floor are clean now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That "Other Medical Issue"...

Just got a call from my doctor's office. That "other medical issue" that I mentioned in my last post seems to be totally unimportant. I'll be dropping off a urine sample some time this week, but it's probably of no consequence at all.


Gratitude statement: I'm grateful for my wonderful GP (and her great Chicago accent)!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Was Right

I don't like to talk very much about my own life here on this blog, probably because medical problems make it hard for me to change very much about my physical condition. But I'm going to make an exception today and get a few things off my chest.

I have always said that I was born with "poor architecture". That's the term I've always used. When you build a structure and one part is "off" the whole structure becomes unstable and that, sadly, is my story: shallow hip sockets, knees that are far from straight, a spine that's been failing since I was in my twenties. I walk as much as I can and do a highly modified version of yoga but when the architecture's off, you just can't make much progress. For the past 25 years or so, I've just been staving off disaster. For me, success is getting up in the morning without being in terrible pain, just minor pain that lasts all day. Usually, I'm successful, but when things go off the rails--and they have on several memorable and horrible occasions--the experience is totally frightening.

Last week, I had an appointment with an "advanced practice physiotherapist" who basically screens patients before they are allowed to meet with the surgeon I want to consult about my knee. She was totally amazing. I spent about two hours at the hospital being questioned, put through my paces and x-rayed. Her conclusion: bad architecture. That was the term she used. Apparently, just as I thought, my kneecap is literally out in left field, rather than sitting straight as it should. This means that the more I do exercise involving my knee (bicycle or elliptical), the faster I will totally destroy what's left of my kneecap...Exercise is the worst thing I can do.

A few minutes into the examination, the physio said that she thought I was a "Dr. C. special". Apparently, there's a doctor here in my city who's devoted his life's work to studying wonky kneecaps like mine. It's a more common problem amongst women than men (lucky me), although I could have it much worse. At least my kneecap isn't disclocating, as often happens to certain women. She felt that I should see Dr. C., rather than the surgeon I had originally wanted to see (who'd come highly recommended by a health care professional I trust).

The physio also said up front that if I have the surgery done, the recovery is long and painful. I wouldn't be able to walk on the operated leg at all for two months although I would have to do a lot of non-weight bearing physiotherapy during that period, plus even more once I was given the OK to start walking again. I'm not afraid of the work involved in recovery, but I'm terrified of something going wrong during the surgery, as happened to me with my hip.

So as things stand right now, I have an appointment with the surgeon on Dec. 17. I'm thinking of getting my husband to go with me, as a second set of ears. We'll see what the surgeon has to say. He might not even think that I'm a good candidate for the surgery, but at least I'll find out.

I may have another medical issue cropping up too, but it's way too early to speculate. I'm waiting to hear from my GP on the results of a test. "Never a dull moment," as my husband says.

Gratitude statement: I'm grateful for good, universal health care in my country.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fat and Muscle

Though there is clearly a relationship between "calories in and calories out", this equation is a vast oversimplification of the weight gain or loss conundrum and the source of much grief.

Wayne Westcott, PhD. in this article says the following:

The most popular and straightforward way to produce a negative calorie balance is to diet. Eating 500 fewer calories per day results in a pound of fat loss per week. Still, even though dieting works reasonably well as a weight loss strategy, it has serious drawbacks.

Here’s one of them. When we reduce our calorie consumption most of the additional energy comes from stored fat, however, some of the additional energy comes from protein stores which results in muscle loss. Very low calorie diets (600-900 calories per day) may produce almost as much muscle loss as fat loss, which generates an additional problem. The reduction in muscle mass causes a corresponding decrease in metabolic rate, making further fat loss even more difficult.

Good grief! News flash!!! Calorie reduction makes you lose...muscle, not just fat. But should this worry us at all? After all, the number on the scale is still lower. And as we all know, the scale has the final word. Or not, as this article points out:
This brings us to the scale's sneakiest attribute. It doesn't just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, water, internal organs and all. When you lose "weight," that doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost fat. In fact, the scale has no way of telling you what you've lost (or gained). Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even when you're just sitting around. That's one reason why a fit, active person is able to eat considerably more food than the dieter who is unwittingly destroying muscle tissue.

Robin Landis, author of "Body Fueling," compares fat and muscles to feathers and gold. One pound of fat is like a big fluffy, lumpy bunch of feathers, and one pound of muscle is small and valuable like a piece of gold. Obviously, you want to lose the dumpy, bulky feathers and keep the sleek beautiful gold. The problem with the scale is that it doesn't differentiate between the two. It can't tell you how much of your total body weight is lean tissue and how much is fat. There are several other measuring techniques that can accomplish this, although they vary in convenience, accuracy, and cost [...] The best measurement tool of all turns out to be your very own eyes. How do you look? How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? Are your rings looser? Do your muscles feel firmer? These are the true measurements of success. If you are exercising and eating right, don't be discouraged by a small gain on the scale.
Reminds me of the fat slim girl I once knew. It was me. My thyroid went out of whack a few months after the birth of my first child. I was losing weight steadily and of course very happy about that. I wasn't eating any more or less than usual, but I was breastfeeding and assumed that that was why my weight loss seemed so unusually effortless. Despite weight loss, heart palpitations, and easy bowel movements (you can feed me on a steady diet of prunes and I can still be constipated), it wasn't until the day when I noticed how my hand was shaking as I wrote out a deposit slip at the bank (yes, children, there was a time when you had to do strange things like that) that I realized that something was seriously wrong.

I immediately went to the doctor, tests were done and Grave's disease was diagnosed. My thyroid was hyperactive. The endrocrinologist explained that my weight loss was actually muscle loss. With a simple test, he showed me how physically weak I had become. My thrilling weight loss was a mirage. As soon as I went on medication, my body started rebuilding muscle and the weight went back up.

Let's go back to the above quote and concentrate on the following statement: Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even when you're just sitting around.

The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, the more fat you lose. So going on a severely calorie-restricted diet, in particular if it doesn't have a significant exercise component, is a self-defeating proposition. I'll get back to the exercise in a minute, because this too is much more complicated than it may seem at first glance. But first, let's go on to further bad news: women have a naturally higher fat to muscle ratio than men. See this article. Fat is normal and necessary to a woman's fertility. Indeed, many elite women athletes as well as fashion models, who both carry very little fat on their bodies, often lose their periods and have fertility problems. Yes, there are also fertility problems associated with obesity, but often overweight and fertility issues come together as partner symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (another story completely).

So from the starting gate, women are disadvantaged in the weight loss sweepstakes as compared to men in that they naturally carry more fat than their Y-chromosomed friends. And then, to add insult to injury, women seem to be prone to going on crazy diets based on severe caloric limitation, lose even more muscle and have even more trouble losing weight and what is even more important, maintaining weight loss.

So what's a woman to do?

As I see it, there truly is no simple answer although the first thing is probably to stop extreme dieting. It just doesn't work in the long run and in fact works against the possibility of sustainable weight loss, due to muscle loss and a slow-down of one's metabolism.

This article, published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition starts by citing two studies that show that "Weight loss through dieting alone has been shown to result in a dramatic and sustained reduction in resting metabolism." The first article cited reports a drop of 22% in RMR [resting metabolic rate]. The second article's conclusion is chilling:

Maintenance of a reduced or elevated body weight is associated with compensatory changes in energy expenditure, which oppose the maintenance of a body weight that is different from the usual weight. These compensatory changes may account for the poor long-term efficacy of treatments for obesity.

Coming back to the initial article, it concludes that:
In summary, the addition of high volume aggressive resistance training to a VLCD was associated with a significant weight loss while preserving LBW and RMR. The preservation of LBW and RMR during the consumption of a VLCD did not occur with a standard treatment control aerobic training program. These results indicate that high volume resistance training may be beneficial for patients who use a VLCD to lose large amounts of weight at least for periods up to 12 weeks. Future clinical studies need to determine its efficacy in long term weight loss programs and the maintenance of this weight loss for extended periods of time.
In other words, a person must engage in more than aerobic exercise to preserve LBW (lean body weight) and stop the RMR (resting metabolic rate) from dropping. The study showed that "high volume, aggressive resistance training was necessary, especially for people on a very low calorie diets (VLCD) in order to maintain FFM (fat free mass) and keep their metabolism from falling.

I would say that one of the most important things I've learned since starting to reflect on food, nutrition, and weight loss/gain/maintenance is the central role of exercise--and more specifically weight training. I would encourage everyone to find exercise that works for them and certainly do not want to discourage anyone from aerobic exercise. But I think the jury is definitely in when it comes to weight loss and exercise: weight training should definitely take centre stage IF and ONLY IF you can take your eyes off the scale and concentrate on building more muscle. Yes, dress/pants size counts...perhaps a lot more than we want to accept.

Gratitude statement: I am grateful to have met Fayrohz; very, very grateful.