I have a small confession to make here. I’ve kind of hidden this blog. It’s now tucked away behind a tab and not my home page anymore. Why? Because I need to go back to blogging about weight and I don’t need that to be my homepage. (Not that I think anyone will read this, but I should also say: Trigger warning! If you tend to stress and obsess about your weight please mosey along. I don’t need to bring you down in my stressing and obsessing, OK?)
At the end of January, two things happened at the same time. I completed a month-long elimination diet that I undertook primarily to clear up a non-healing sinus infection. I also got to work on a big, intense, stressful cookbook project that required me to make and eat dozens of rich, fattening, delicious dishes–often multiple times. On top of all the other work/stress going on in my life, I gained 15 pounds from the end of the elimination diet. I was 10 pounds up from a weight I could barely live with as it was but had been basically living with for a couple years.
OK, here’s the numbers. I reached my all-time high weight of 168 at the beginning of June. I know the BMI system is more or less bullshit, but for whatever reason, I decided to check my BMI. I learned I was 1 pound shy of obese. Now I realize BMI is a poor indicator of a person’s health or fitness, but it bothers me. I felt I was on the precipice of something. At 37, I’m legit middle aged, and it feels like this is the time of my life I could slip from chubby-but-healthy into obese-with-disease-red-flags very easily if I wasn’t paying attention.
And you know what? I wasn’t paying attention. Not to my weight. Not my own hunger and fullness signals. Not to the fact that in yoga I was starting to have to shove my own midsection out of the way to twist into poses. Not to the shrinking pool of garments I could squeeze into. Not to the sadness I felt when I saw myself in the mirror. Not to the frequent hangovers resulting from drinking I was doing to turn off the stress and sadness. I was only focused on my assignments, projects, and deadlines.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been following a self-styled wellness and weight loss program. It’s something of a mashup of everything that’s ever worked for me in the past plus one new approach. Let me break it down for you:
I committed to doing this reluctantly. Reluctantly because I know it’s unsustainable to record everything I eat forever. But it’s been a very, very effective weight loss method for me in the past. I realized though I had to be aware of the pitfalls I’ve discovered along the way. Trying to adhere to a 1,200 calorie diet leaves me irritable and distracted. In fact, I didn’t want to impose any calorie limit on myself at all. I never want to feel like I’m truly hungry and can’t eat something because it isn’t in my calorie budget. For me this is about awareness. I want to eliminate unconscious and automatic eating. Writing everything down, neurotic and unsustainable as it is, makes me very aware of my food choices.
Look I know that I have basically put myself on a diet though I vehemently hate diets. Even as I’m tracking what I’m eating, I’m constantly trying to make sure what I eat is in response to my own feelings of hunger and fullness. I have given myself full permission to eat whatever I want–I’m not banning anything from the program here. I just need to check in with myself about why I want to eat something, what is the right amount, and how it makes me feel.
Meal Planning and Home Cooking
I love restaurants, but restaurants are where I’m most likely to eat a 10,000 calorie meal. I need to really pick and choose when I eat out and put things in place to make eating at home the habitual, automatic thing that I do. Meal planning is a big part of this. I need to sit down over the weekend, plan out dinners for the whole week, write them on my calendar, make a shopping list, and go to the store. It sounds so simple, but this one thing may be the most important item on this list!
I’ve always believed that for me daily weigh-ins help. It just prevents me from veering into deep denial territory. I get all the daily small fluctuations and they don’t faze me at all. But it’s that every-morning habit of stepping on the scale that keeps my eyes open to what is going on with me. It can really be a window into my unconscious behaviors–if I do it.
Alcohol and mindless eating go together like margaritas and chips and salsa. Not to mention the fact that drink calories add up fast. I do best when I track and limit the number of drinks I have in a week. I use an app on my phone and I try to limit things to 7 drinks in any given week, 2 drinks on any given night. I also try to abstain two days a week.
I bought myself an unlimited pass for the whole summer at the yoga studio I go to. I’ve been trying to get there four to five times a week. Additionally, I’ve been really trying to hit my 10K steps a day goal on my fitbit. For the moment, that’s the fitness program. I have some vague aspirations of perhaps going back to running in the fall, but for now walking and yoga, my two great loves, seem right.
This is the new thing I’m trying. Mindfulness meditation. I’ve been reading Full Catastrophe Living and trying to focus on being present in my body and attentive to my breath a few minutes each day and especially when I’m in yoga. Stress, and disconnection from my body, seems to trigger a lot of the eating and drinking that’s gotten me into trouble with myself here. The more I can get a handle on that, the healthier I think I will be.
So, after two weeks of this I feel cautiously optimistic. I’ve lost about 5 pounds and feel physically and emotionally better already. I am reminding myself daily if not hourly to focus on how I’m feeling and what I’m doing more than on what I weigh. For better or worse, I want to lose weight. (You cannot imagine how much I wish this weren’t a priority. I have tried everything short of electric shock therapy to make this not important to me.) Simply not gaining more weight would be a good outcome. I don’t want to wake up at 40 and not recognize myself or feel ashamed of how look and uncomfortable in my own body.
Blogging this stuff out seems to help me. If anybody is here reading this please leave me comments if you have them. I’d love to connect with and support any fellow wellness-minded food lovers out there.