Monday, August 27, 2012

Answering Comments from the Dark Side Post

I'd like to thank all those who commented on my last post regarding "going over to the dark side". There were some great, insightful comments and much appreciated expressions of concern.

I think that the anguish I expressed was in part due to hormonal issues. At my most recent appointment with the endocrinologist a few weeks ago, she once again reduced my dose of tapazol. I'm now at the lowest dose I can take without going off it completely. This is a very good thing and I was thrilled with the decision to decrease the dose. I have a fantastic doctor who has been lowering my dose in an extremely slow, cautious and measured manner. She's not at all trying to jump the gun. But for about two weeks after the dose was decreased, I felt extremely antsy, nervous and full of angst.

Then there's what seems to be the never-ending peri-menopause saga. Yes, at 56 I'm still getting my period, but it's very irregular now. Last summer, I had lots of hot flashes, to go with the hot summer weather. Once the fall arrived, the hot flashes left and didn't return until a few weeks ago. Now, I'm sitting here drying my brow. All in all, just more hormonal issues to add to the mix.

Of course, my feelings were perhaps not due to hormones at all, but instead due to the fact that I'm starting to work more again after my usual dozy, almost work-free, money-free and lower-stress summer. There's just not a lot of work in my field during the summer and it's always been the time when I recharge my batteries in preparation for a busy fall season.

The run-in I had with one of my colleagues last September has changed me. Some might say that I should just get over it, but certain things, well, no matter how hard you try, they do leave their mark. Just as a total aside, if you're interested in reading an incredible memoir about workplace stress, read Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness by Jan Wong. I will say no more except that I really, really connected with her experience and feelings (minus the death threats of course--but you'll have to read it to find out more!).

Anyway, between the possibility that my body was scrambling to rebalance itself hormonally after the medication reduction, the return of the hot flashes and the stress of having to once again face and work with people I really didn't want to see, I was feeling a lot of angst and that angst was over-projected onto my Fitbit.

Now, I'm feeling somewhat less overwrought and have decided to continue Fitbitting. I have to agree with Debra: I think I've just taken my mindfulness a bit further than I would normally go. The mindfulness is still definitely there and I have not eliminated anything in particular from my diet (diet, as in "what I eat"--my food repertoire). But I do tend to "watch" things more carefully and have greatly reduced what I eat "after" I realize that I'm pretty well full. I have a tendency to have a few apricots, a handful of nuts, maybe a cracker or two that my mouth craves, as opposed to my stomach. These little perfectly healthy extras have decreased greatly.

Yes, I've been "watching" my calories but I'll tell you all one thing: this 1,200 calories a day thing that so many people seem to swear by is--at least as far as I'm concerned--absolutely for the birds. Speaking for myself and no one else, you'll never see me opting for such a low calorie count. Once you get down that low (and I know many people go much lower!), you're setting yourself up for failure. Hey, but that's my opinion and this is my blog. Do whatever your heart desires and I'll do the same.

I appreciate Screaming Fat Girl's advice to not pathologize food tracking. Yes, it's a learning experience. It has indeed shown me how many little extras I was eating. I still love apricots and nuts and the like, I just don't eat quite as many or to satisfy the mouth. I try to stick to satisfying the stomach for the most part. I do not go hungry.

Karen asked, " how do you feel? Deprived? in control? energetic? moody or happy?" Deprived? Not too much. I still eat my 2 pieces of chocolate quite often after supper. In control? I really don't like that idea. Control makes me feel like I'm fighting myself or fighting something that's "wrong" with me. So I won't go near the word "control". Energetic? I think I need a new bed! Seriously, it's on my list of things to get in the next few months. Moody or happy? That has a lot more to do with my work situation and my search for a more meaningful life. Thankfully, it has very little to do with food.

I salute Coramie for dealing with the deep roots of her weight issues and her realization that tracking is not going to solve them. Personally, and despite the fact that my blog is part of the weight-o-sphere" (though no longer a classic weight-loss blog), I think I have a fairly decent relationship with food, all things considered. And for this, I'm extremely thankful.

I so agree with Fat Chick in Lycra that strict calorie counting is a recipe for abandoning real food. That's why I just won't fall for it, hook, line and sinker.

Thank you HikerRD for assuring me that, "Weight change itself is not unethical or something to be philosophically against [...] You're at least being honest with yourself--a major step on the slippery slope! [and advising me to] consider the wise advice you'll, no doubt, receive from your experienced readers!" That's exactly what I'm doing.

Thank you to "Me" for your calorie calculating technique, though I think I'm going to remain loosey-goosey. As for the bodyfat percentage, you're right: you can only detect a real trend over a long period of time. Trying to see a change day over day is just not doable.

And finally, to "hopefulandfree": don't worry. I'm only slightly out of my mind and not all the time, at that! But I do truly appreciate your concern and the concern of all my wonderful e-friends!

And after saying all this: my Fitbit is being a bit testy. I think the battery is malfunctioning and I wasn't able to use it for two days. It worked today and we'll see what tomorrow brings...


  1. I was just coming to comment on that last post, guess I'm a bit slow at times. Didn't have much to say, anyway, but I'm glad you're learning but not driving yourself nuts with it. I suspect you'll know if you really go to the dark side - it feels different - emotional, instead of merely more aware. I think just being aware of those extra almonds, apricots, etc., those cals add up, and quickly. I counted one particuarly snacky night, my munching - a peach or two, some nuts, cheese/crackers, dates, hit 800 all mindless sort-a-bored eating, cut that habit out almost entirely right away. I think that's one of the things that dooms many fat loss attempts, as well as the (in my opinion) highly dangerous 1200 Cal/day.

    As for the work, I have no advice, other than avoid the lady, or learn deep breathing or meditation for tolerating bad people, but I certainly don't know how to do any of that. BTW, as someone working in the field, though I don't know the med/s you're on, if you can do without them, always better. Many barely work better than placebo, always come with side effects. Anyway, sounds like things are looking up, other than the job problem.

    1. *Re emotional vs aware, mostly I mean shame, but even "good" emotions such as elation can be dangerous. To normalize my relationship with food/eating (and I am definitely intuitive eater), I had to learn to not go there, step away, not feel it like that.

      Now that I read the comments for that last post, let me say that I think SFG is very wise. And that people will adapt to very low Cals, but in my opinion, metabolism isn't broken, just disabled, can be repaired.

  2. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for your comments. I always appreciate more wisdom!

    Concerning the thyroid medication: this is absolutely necessary. I am not one for medication but without this medication, I would be extremely hyperthyroid and extremely unwell (this isn't the first time it's happened, so I know the dangerous and unpleasant symptoms very well). For the time being, I cannot go without it.

    As for my toxic colleague, unfortunately, I work in such a small world that totally avoiding her is impossible. BTW, I have been honing my meditation skills since last November. Is it helping? Can't say for sure, but it certainly isn't a bad thing so I keep doing it.

  3. One more comment for Julie: Although I can't cite the research, I sadly do not believe that metabolism is only temporarily affected by dieting. The rigorous measures that most successful weight-loss maintainers must put in place for the rest of their lives seem to point to a permanent drop in metabolism.

    I highly suggest going through the archives of Debra's blog, (the link is on my blogroll), for some excellent discussions of the science of weight loss and maintenance. Although I don't always agree with him, Dr. Sharma is pretty clear eyed about this too

  4. I'd differentiate between metabolism being affected and it being really out of whack. If my neighbor, of similar height and age, has never been obese, maintains and 2500 and me at 2200, (or whatever the absolute numbers may be), that is one thing, but if my other neighbor, of similar size/age can only eat 1000, that's a very different issue.

    I've read some of Debra's blog, her maintenance experience is not very similar to mine. Not sure if we have such different lifestyles nor genetics nor habits, it's been a long time. I count, weigh, measure nothing, I am not white-knuckling or using a whole lot of will power, I am content and comfortable and eat what I like, and as long as I don't overeat, (and that's not as easy as it sounds) I do fine.

    1. I mean, it's been a long time since I read her blog.

      Re: Dr. Sharma, I'd point out that by the time people go to him (or Dr. Berkeley), they probably have tried everything, are desperate. They may be the small fraction that really has medical problems, as opposed to others like me, who ate crap and didn't know jack about appropriate portions, or even that food didn't have to come from a can or box. Not gluttony, just poor training. Lifestyle changes are hard, but many people do it (lose weight, quit smoking, quit drinking, whatevs) on their own, invisible to the medical community, not counted in the stats.

      BTW, those Captcha words are painful.

  5. Since I've kind of checked out of this line of thought these days, I'll be brief and skip the trouble of going to my citations. Julie, you may just be blessed. Your body may not have been as broken as others who deal with weight issues.

    Regarding the post-loss body, a study by Cummings et. al. (you can search my site under "Ghrelin the Gremlin") persuaded me that people post-loss deal with a chronic elevation of that hormone. The work of Rudy Leibel and his colleagues sheds light on Leptin, which is chronically suppressed in post-loss people and triggers all kinds of bodily responses, some metabolic. You can do a search of his name on Dr. Sharma's blog if you're interested.

  6. Yeah, well, to all you smarty pants, and smarty-pants-wannabees, I have only one thing to reply.

    I know nuthin' 'bout nuthin'.

    Well. Now. Hold on. I may have extended my reach, there.

    I DO know that Debra, and Julie, and NewMe all share a ne sais quoi....a suggestion of freshness and lively spontaneity which would seem to preclude the possibility of EVER crossing into (on a permanent basis, that is, more than just a brief vacation of curiosity) THE DARK SIDE.

    Me. On the other hand. THE DARK SIDE never stops whispering promises of sweet love...Okay. It's where I live. It's just that THE DARK SIDE I'm talking about is different from the toy version of THE DARK SIDE mentioned here. My DARK SIDE makes the world of "TRUE BLOOD" look like a...fairy tale (which it sorta is.) My DARK SIDE scoffs at all "medical research", and rolls its eyes at all concepts of "health" that do not recognize "health" as inextricably intertwined with social/material conditions over which individuals have no control. It laughs at the notion that "health" is something or some process INSIDE individuals. Yep. My DARK SIDE is a b*tch. Doesn't mean I'm powerless. Just means that any power I do have regarding "health" outcomes didn't originate with me or with my allegedly virtuous "healthy" choices aka my "personal responsibility"--which I would be more than happy to take credit for if it wasn't a load of bullsh*t. :)

    >>>>>> <--me, stepping off now

  7. Hang on, hopeful and free: I didn't write a post about the social determinants of health. Maybe I should have!

    1. Oh, don't mind me. I'm cranky because my drug dealer---er, care provider---used the old "first one's FREE!" bait and reeled me right in before I had a chance to ponder the potential consequences. Also, in a way, you DID write a post about social determinants, if you look a bit closer at you own words, you'll see dozens of different ways that revealed relationships between your health status, your gender, education level, social stress factors, age, nationality, income, access to technology, food security, employment status, access to medicine and personalized medical expertise, public policy re health costs, economic policies governing eligibility, and so forth---all these and more influence individual health outcomes and are largely discounted by medical researchers and regular folks. And here you thought this was about your individual choice to "track"... I wonder how your fitbit experience would change if only a couple of the aforementioned conditions were altered...It does make one think... :)

  8. Julie, I didn't realize I have captcha. I certainly didn't set it up...

    In response to your later comments, everybody's different. Or perhaps I should say that there are different categories of people.

    Debra's a white knuckler. You say that you're just someone who ate crap, saw the light and "healthy eating" is enough to keep you on track.

    I just see myself as a naturally heavyish person. I've never been slim, but I've never eaten crap either. I'm not going to lose weight by seeing the light and reforming my crap eating ways because that's never been me.

    With respect to Dr. Sharma, I recommend him because he's NOT one of those people who says it's all your own damn fault. He's very critical of the "eat less, move more" model and recognizes that BMI is a load of bull cookies. Furthermore, he doesn't expect everyone to diet down to a weight that is acceptable in our society. He's even said that if you're heavy but your weight stays stable, that might be the best thing for you.

    As for Dr. Berkeley, if others like her (and perhaps worship her), that's just fine. Not me, though. I'll say no more about her.

  9. I agree completely that 1200 calories a day everyday is setting yourself up for failure in many cases. Not only that, but staying so low continually will almost certainly mess with your metabolism over time and make you so efficient that it will become difficult to lose weight without dramatic reduction in food or increases in exercises. It's simply not worth it.

    Since I quit calorie counting (a long time ago), I've been holding in the low to mid 180's. This may be where my set point is, or I may not be eating at a deficit anymore. I don't know and i don't care all that much. All I know is that I eat when I'm hungry and I eat until I'm sated and I don't think about food all of the time. Oh, and I don't weight 380 lbs. anymore either. If I have to say "this" fat to not be food obsessed and to eat in what I feel is a perfectly reasonable fashion in regards to portions and exercise enough for health, then I'm good with that.

    I think we all need to find our place. You're probably still looking for yours, and if the Fitbit helps you, more power to you.

  10. ALSO...crossing the line here into triple dipping potential for creepy intrusion...that Jan Wong book sound really good. Makes me wonder yet again why our cultural discourse labels those kinds of experiences as individual sickness ("depression") instead of recognizing the normal human response to domination, dehumanizing conditions, threats to material survival, and oppressive attempts to "normalize" all of it--as if, HEY! THAT'S JUST LIFE! Anyway, thanks for mentioning her book!!!

  11. NewMe

    Either I've misspoke, or you've misconstrued what I said. There was no "seeing the light". There were a lot of bad habits, including bingeing, late night eating (because I wasn't ALLOWED to eat), and too much of the SAD, which I can't eat too often anymore if I don't want feel like crap, though I can still lose on it, if I eat below maintenance (felt, not counted).

    There is a whole continuum between white-knucklers, and people who just willy-nilly eat ad libitum. Most people, once they're past their 20s, are mindful of how much they're eating, and cut back a little if the scale goes up, because if they get as fat as I was, it's really hard to lose it. It's not all or nothing.

    I've got major issues with food, and it makes me neurotic and crazy to control my food. Though I think that CICO (or ELMM, if you prefer), are what matters for weight, really I think the hormones are what decides what is stored and what is burnt off. Gherlin, leptin, insulin, others I know nothing about, etc. I feel that exercise/activity (and I do a lot of it) are what controls my hormones, allowing me to control the types and amounts of food I eat without suffering.

    And, as SFG says, a body will adapt to 1200 Cal/day, and I don't want to live like that, so I don't go there. But I still have to watch my portions, usually eat less than I'd prefer, which doesn't mean I can never have a cookie or a glass of wine, just not too frequently.

    A lot of those HAES blogs seem to portray anybody who restricts even a little as starving themselves, and it's just not that black and white. Just as I didn't get fat eating too many donuts and Doritos and sitting on the couch, as some like to accuse. Both "sides" in this debate are extreme and exaggerate, but much of the world lives somewhere in the middle.

  12. Last comment, I promise. By now, I no longer am crazy about food. I have recovered from that insanity. If I have to stay mildly overweight, I'd rather do that than return to that bad place. If I "white-knuckled" it a bit more, I could probably lose that last 10-20 pounds, but I'm comfortable and content here. And DONE!

  13. @Julie: I like what you say about "the continuum" and the opposing perspectives (extremes), which portray the individual eating experience(s) as starvation vs. gluttony, or as always riding on a (risky) slippery slope if one attends in a new way to patterns formerly disregarded. Nothing is fixed in stone. Hormones? They must have some sway, but the interrelationships between hormonal drives (influences?) and one's lived experience day to day with social and material conditions (such as the oppression noted in Wong's book) make the influence of "exercise", perhaps, minimal if other so-called "stress" factors are intense (if one faces dire straits, for example, in surviving day to day socially constructed struggles). Still, I'm glad exercise feels so helpful to one such as you, Julie, for you seem so open hearted and willing to go that extra distance to understand different personal "truths". Thanks for commenting on NewMe's blog with such thoughtfulness. I am grateful. My own launch into menopause years made many things more interesting, some things more challenging, some more confusing, and a few much easier. Hormones? Certainly a PART of the whole...equation...picture. :)
    Thanks, hopefulandfree (RNegade)

  14. Well if I could just figure out when my ovaries have decided to Pack It In (or NOT), I think my hormonal rollercoaster would settle down somewhat...
    Suddenly they have come back on-line these past two months: Don't count us out yet, coach!
    Years of yo-yo dieting have lowered my setpoint to around 1400 kCal, which is SO not worth it to me anymore. Just trying to Eat Real Food & be happy w/the (relative) good health that I enjoy these days.
    (Great points BTW hopefulandfree!)

  15. (((hugs)))) to you; the whole menopause thing is front and center with me right now and I am not liking it one bit. I'm being tested with bouts of anxiety too, and sometimes when there's too much going on it can feel like a 30 pound weight on your chest. I'm so glad that you have a doctor that's willing to work with you on such important matters. You're a strong lady and I know you'll figure it all out.

    1. Thanks Ellen! And lots of hugs back at you!

  16. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for the clarification. I understand what you're saying.

    If I may just add one thing: talking about "staying mildly overweight" is probably just the BMI devil talking. What a useless predictor of actual health! I humbly suspect that you are in excellent shape and losing those 15-20 pounds that the BMI tells you you should lose is not only futile but, more importantly, counter-productive to the healthy state you work so hard to maintain!

  17. Wow, what a fun conversation going on over here. Can I just put in a plug *for* food? I think one of the things that's gotten really lost in the carbs vs. fat vs. grehlin vs. leptin vs. willpower stuff is that unless our bodies have the substrates they need to function, some of which can only come from food, we operate at a continual loss--mentally, physically, and emotionally (it's all the same thing). As a nutritionist, I've stopped caring about what people *shouldn't* eat; our bodies can probably tolerate a fair amount of questionable foodstuffs if they are well-nourished in the first place. But if we don't get those building materials in the first place, we are likely to be able to tolerate a lot less. So count and measure all you want, but eat your protein, get your essential fatty acids, take a multivitamin or eat lots of colorful veggies. That way your just restricting energy, not nourishment. Adele

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  19. I saw this one episode of "The Twilight Zone" a long time ago, and, well, never mind that right point is: if by any chance you have become trapped over on THE DARK SIDE, please send us a signal so we can organize a search and rescue party!!! :) Hugs! Hope you are well.

    With Love, hopefulandfree (RNegade)