I have been losing weight, fairly consistently, since September, 2012. To date, I have lost 49.6 pounds. The question I get asked, immediately after I proudly announce this fact, is “what kind of diet are you on?”
The fact is, I’m not on a diet. I’m not following South Beach or Atkins or Paleo or any of those, and yet I do pretty much what all these diets say to do: I make my calorie intake less than my energy output.
And what I’ve discovered is that it isn’t the diet with which one must struggle: it’s the brain. More specifically, it’s that voice inside that says “I’m hungry” when what we really are is bored, sad, disappointed, stressed, or happy and content.
For example, I’ve always been an emotional eater. I ate to make myself happy because I associate food, specifically the heavy, sweet, carb- and fat-laden foods of my grandparents and great-grandparents, with a sense of comfort and control. When my life spins out of control, I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. When I’m disgusted with life, I eat. I call it my inner “fuck-it” voice, that says, when everything goes wrong, “fuck it, you’re going to die, you might as well be full and have a nap first.”
So this is what I’ve been doing. I’ve been telling that voice to sod off. Oh, it’s not easy; I wrestle with it daily. Just last night, it won, but only partially, you see, because it may have won the battle but I won the war by not having any food in the house that could sabotage me. The “fuck it” voice whispered in my ear when, after finishing half a delicious Greek-marinated and outdoor-grilled chicken breast, I said “fuck it” and had the other half. If there had been chocolate in the house, I would have been a goner.
But let me back up. During these weeks I have managed to distill the essence of successful dieting, and here it is:
ONE HAS TO BE COMMITTED TO LOSING THE WEIGHT
You can’t be in denial, you can’t give up after the first disappointment with the scales, you can’t say “well, I’m just big boned” or “I have a glandular problem.” My thyroid stopped working years ago and I’ve LOST 49.6 lbs! You have to stop the excuses and start to accept that you will be thinner and that your weight will no longer be part of what defines you. I had a major crisis when that realization dawned on me. I had recycled a few items of clothing that were too large for me to be flattering in any way and I panicked. Seriously panicked. It took me a week of mourning the loss of part of my “self” and then the dawning realization that no one will point and say “see that fat lady over there with the gray hair? Yeah, the guy next to her. His teeshirt is hilarious.” I will no longer be the fat lady. I will be the lady with the short gray hair, part of the nondescript crowd of thin people and yeah, that makes me excited.
I can’t end this, though, without sharing some tips that work for me and are generally just rules for good eating.
- Drink tons of water. Yeah, I hated water too. Get the little bottles of flavoring and use less and less until you stop liking the flavor and just want the water. Once your realize how much better you feel because you are flushing toxins and salts and fats out of your system and that you’re a lot more, uh, “regular,” you’ll learn to love drinking water.
- Stay away from soft drinks and processed foods. I don’t deny myself the occasional white flour, potatoes, rice, and corn products but these are probably once a week instead of a major part of my daily intake.
- Eat breakfast, for goodness sake. After a nice drink of water to get the organs hydrated, I have bacon — yes, bacon (2 slices) — 2 eggs, and whole-grain toast (I personally love Milton’s Craft Bakers Multi-Grain bread). I am most active in the morning/early afternoon, so I make sure I have fuel to keep me going. I also mix up breakfast. Once a month I allow myself the luxury of 2 pancakes with fruit. Sometimes I just have toast or fruit or yogurt and sometimes a couple poached eggs on multigrain bread. It’s my favorite meal of the day, so I like to get creative.
- Talk to a dietician. If you’re over 50, like me, you should be tested for diabetes. Find out how many carbs you’re allowed to have with each meal. No one can live totally carb free, I don’t care what you say. And if you allow yourself to eat carbs, you won’t crave them so badly and thereby set yourself up for failure when you just can’t drive past Coldstone Creamery one more time without stopping.
- Swear off sugary treats and fast food. Learn to love fruits and vegetables. Sometimes my dinner is raw veggies with Marzetti’s Southwestern Ranch Dip.
- Portion control, portion control, portion control. PORTION CONTROL.
- Ignore food on television or learn to look at it dispassionately. What you see on the screen is not what you get on your plate.
- Understand your body’s responses to food. Olives will make me retain water so I read sodium content on everything now. Candy and sweets really do make my tummy hurt. If you suspect you have food allergies or problems with that kind of food (I’ve become lactose intolerant in my middle age, for example), don’t eat it, no matter how much you love it.
- No matter how much you love a food, it can’t love you back. Find a healthy replacement. I’ve traded chocolate cake for ripe mango or a 1/4 cup of sherbet with berries.
- Tell your brain to STFU when it starts to bargain with you.
- Utilize any help that’s out there INCLUDING counseling (dieticians, diet “concierge” services, apps). If you are one step away from considering surgical intervention for your obesity (and I was), pay for counseling before you undergo invasive treatments. I use, and highly recommend, a diet gauge. Specifically this one: EatRegularly. It interfaces nicely with Facebook and requires that you enter your daily weight.
I know there’s more, but that’s it in a nutshell. The beauty of the gauge is that it tracks my weight loss TREND, which is extrapolated from my daily data input. If I spike upwards, I reflect on what I ate, whether I forgot to take my blood pressure medicine (which sometimes accounts for a 3-6 lb. upward fluctuation), and what I can do to correct. Here’s what it looks like:
There are other products out there, but I like this one. My counselor contacts me via Facebook messenger (my preferred mode of contact, although he could call my phone or text me or email me) if he sees that I’m struggling, but I’ve been doing pretty well on my own now. I think the most important part of this process is the fact that I have someone to whom I can express my frustrations when the weight isn’t coming off as fast as I wish it would. We talk, we look at the trend, not the daily numbers, and take deep breaths and regroup, forging ever onward.
This is the last you’ll see of this fat lady.