Friday, September 16, 2011

Ideas are like Parents: Toxic or Not, sometimes they are just trying to help get you somewhere.

I love my mom, in fact, I just got a phone call from her.  She was so excited about a product she thought of... unfortunately, I had to burst her bubble.  She said, "We have to get a meeting with Spanx and present this to them.  We have to get in touch with them.... "  I stopped her right there.  "Mom, I work for Spanx, I am in touch with them every day, what product have you thought of?"

She starts to explain to me this brilliant invention of hers....... and, unfortunately, I have to break the news to her that it's already in testing.  I've already suggested it to them last year at Summit.  "But, but..."  Mom, they are working on that exact idea.  I will try to get the samples that were pulled from the collection last year if you'd like to try it and help them refine the product.  I'm even going to sign her up for the wear test, since I hadn't done this yet for her.  (I've signed up 100's of folks to wear test, but I didn't sign mom up because we never talked about it.)

I often have these brilliant ideas that fall flat on their bum when I do a little internet research.  I don't like to think of them as failure though, nothing is a failure if you learn something from it.  If you learn that it's already out there and possibly being done better, all you've done is confirmed that your idea has already been thought of and this idea is not special.  It's not that it's not special, it's just that you have to keep on thinking.  You have to keep on being creative and learning from your ideas, mistakes, failures and all.  They are not lost, they are just the steps to get you there.

This is what I like to think about past attempts at losing weight.  They are the steps to get you to commit to permanent changes.  You tried this diet or that diet, but obviously DIETS are not the way. It's not the diet that will allow you to lose weight, it's you.  It's learning what does and does not work for YOU.  It's learning how to be healthy ALL of the time, not just SOME of the time.  It's hard.  I spent 3 hours last night resisting the urge to bake cookies.  I tried to think of who I could make cookies for and tried to justify my urge to bake.  It's like the urge to drink for some people, I have the urge to bake.  I cook (meals) pretty healthy, but that undying urge to bake is just intrinsic. Back to mom here, and family of origin, and sister who is a Culinary Instructor of the Baking Arts.... Love them, but their careers are killing me!  I still want to make those chocolate chip cookies, it's gnawing at me, who wants cookies?  But I know if I make them, I will be tempted to eat them. At least one, and one is not one but two, and two is a glass of milk and then... well, do I really want to spend an extra hour at the gym for two cookies and a glass of milk?

Reminds me of that children's story, "If you give a mouse a cookie."  It's a cycle that doesn't stop.  The addiction to sugar and fat is strong, but I am convincing myself every day that my willpower is stronger.  Just as with each idea for an invention I get, I write it down, I research it, and I move on when I realize it's already been done.  If it hasn't, I sit on it, keep researching it, keep refining it, and when I think it's ready to move forward (some day) I will act.  You have to be ready to make the commitment to yourself, your ideas, bad and good, be ready to abandon the bad and move forward with the good, and eventually, success will find you. Are you ready to be successful in your weight loss journey?

It takes a lot of work to get where you want to go when you are afraid to give up what you love, what you're used to, or what you think is special.  What's special is being able to see the root of the problem and learn coping mechanisms in dispelling those nagging, pervasive desires to do what you know won't work.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Self Defeating Behaviors

My Top 3 Problem foods:

# 1 - Cheese Puffs
# 2 - Cheese Cake
# 3 - Ice Cream... yes, dear friend, I love you, but I must leave you.

Even to this day, after I've eliminated so many bad foods from my diet, there are some that I slip up and let back in.  These three are the worse of the worst.

Friday, I attended a seminar for continuing education requirements for my licensure.  I will write about that in depth soon, but one of the main points I took away from the seminar was that obesity must be treated like an addiction.  Just as an alcoholic must pledge to not have a drink, an obese or formally obese person must pledge to choose healthy foods instead of unhealthy foods.

I often rejected this mentality in my mind about addiction, saying that alcoholics can choose not to drink, but I can't choose not to eat.  It's not that, it's choosing to eat what is healthy, rather than choosing to eat what is unhealthy.  The addict's mentality of "I want what I want when I want it*" must be stopped.  I make choices every day, and if I make poor choices, I will continue to struggle to maintain my weight loss.  If I choose not to move my body in the form of exercise, I am choosing to not be successful in maintaining my weight loss.

I must continually work on my input and output, every day I'm a recovering addict, I am recovering from allowing food to comfort me when my life isn't going the way I'd like and I choose to eat ice cream and/or cheesecake and/or cheese puffs, when I know that there are much better choices I could have made. Identifying why I made those choices has been a struggle, but I realize now that I can no longer be self-defeating in indulging in my addiction just because I can.  I must make a conscious effort as a recovering food addict each day to identify my triggers.  It's about control, I can't control other people in my life, but I can control what I eat.  If I allow others to make me feel bad, then use food to make me feel better, I am allowing my addiction to food control my emotions.

I must eat to live, and there is always a healthy choice available to me.  I can no longer allow the "I want what I want when I want it" mentality to rule me.  If I am going to continue to be successful every day in recovering from food addiction, then I must live like a recovering alcoholic each day.  Salty, sweet, and fatty foods will not fill the void in me.  The power of choosing good, healthy foods and exercising every day makes me feel good about myself, and that will provide the filling of being full... Having a "full cup" and Dr. Connie Stapleton would say!

* This is something, verbatim, Dr. Stapleton repeated in the seminar.  I can't take credit for it, but I will definitely be referring to it when I am tempted by my addiction to food.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Group Therapy & Reprogramming your cravings

Let's be honest, the words "group therapy" aren't particularly appealing to most people.  My bariatric clinic's group therapy is more of an educational group run by the dietitian and nurse at the hospital, and it is not what I would consider therapy at all.  It's a support group that is usually a conversation dominated by one or two regular group members.  It's not for therapeutic purposes but rather, a support meeting.  I find the meetings are usually unstructured, chatty conversation about whatever people want to talk about. The group I'm working on is designed to address specific topics related to lifestyle changes necessary for weight loss, a 12 week program related to our personal relationship with food.  The root of the problem is about our ability to stop using food for emotional comforts, like job and personal relationship stressors. The reason we maintain excess fat is that we need to reconstruct our ability to make the best choice every day, no matter what emotional triggers arise. Understanding why you make unhealthy choices is the first step, but what you do to change the thought patterns that lead to those choices, and how you take control of your relationship with food is centered in your ability to create permanent changes in positive self talk, emotional support, and develop healthy behaviors that deter from emotional reliance on food.

I still struggle every day with my choices, and what ends up happening is I make good choices for breakfast and lunch, and then by dinner time, I am frustrated and tired and I want to take the easy way out. I've not been good about logging food in a journal, but at some point, you have to do this.  You have to bite the bullet and make a concerted effort to log all your food intake.  I did this religiously in the beginning, but now, more than ever, I really see that I have to commit pen to paper and be honest with myself.  Even when I screw up my diet plan because I just HAD to have ice cream... Ice cream, my weakness. The hardest part is being honest and consistent with the food journaling. It's hard to admit that I ate something I knew wasn't on the plan, but recently I've become better at it using Noom, an app for my phone. It's been a HUGE help in looking at where I am emotionally eating, how I feel when I eat, and where I am making the best food choices. Oddly enough, I make the best food choices when I am NOT at home!

When I realize that my home kitchen has become ridden with high calorie, non-nutritious foods, I purge the pantry.  Getting rid of everything that isn't on the plan is the best way to start over.  I maintained my 75 lb. loss pre-surgery, but sometimes I wasn't sure how other than the amount of exercising I did offset what I was eating.  Whenever I purged the pantry though, I found it was so much easier to lose another 5 lbs.  
Right now, I have about 30 lbs. I would like to lose and maintain and I know the only way I will be able to lose it and keep it off is if I stay consistent. Permanently eliminating all those high fat, high carb, and sugary foods that got me here in the first place is the only way to go. I've gotten this far and was very consistent for two years, it's just been recently I have slacked. Mostly, I've slacked because of stress, but I can't let a stressful situation take over my ability to control what I put in my mouth. I have more self control than that, I won't let stress get the best of me!

We have to relearn our eating behaviors. One of the things I did to prepare for surgery was to work on eating small meals, very slowly. Tiny bites, no more than 1/2 c. of food per meal. It helped to show me just how much food I would be able to eat post-surgery. Surgery can only change your stomach's size, we all have to learn to stop eating for emotional reasons.  Yesterday, I found myself craving cheese puffs.  What did I do?  Before I got home from work, I stopped and got those dang cheese puffs, and what did I do?  I ate every last cheese puff in the grab bag.  Ugh!  I felt worse after eating them than I did before.  Lesson learned, next time, I will come home and I will eat some carrots and hummus, looks just like a cheese puff, only more nutritious and better for me!  I will remember how I felt next time I want cheese puffs and tell myself I crave carrots and hummus! I consider myself reprogrammed! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Size misconception

This has been a topic on my mind for years, and I often think about my size, especially now that I am smaller.  When I was a 3x, I would try to squeeze in those tight dresses, and when I was a 2x, I wanted to get into that Extra Large.  Working at XXI and for Spanx, I have noticed other women have correct sizing issues.  It's a sensitive subject, but more often than I'd like to admit, I've dealt with customers who insisted they were a size they were not.  Most recently, I picked up a body con dress in the store that was a Large, but it looked bigger than normal.  At closer inspection, it seemed like a customer who was not a size 10 tried it on and had stretch it out noticeably.  Empathy for this customer settled in, as with another Spanx customer story an associate relayed to me.  Apparently, an obese customer who was probably a dress size 22/24, had picked up the Slim Cognito full slip in an XL and was in the dressing room trying to get it on.

I will admit, there were moments as an extremely obese person, that I tried to squeeze myself into shapewear that was not my size.  I sometimes cried when it was so tight that I couldn't breathe and had a hard time taking it off.  My heart really goes out to anyone in this position.  The size misconception, the letter on a label, can really reek havoc on you when you desire so much to look and feel slimmer.  Partly, this distortion is due to fashion industry marketing on waifish models who starve themselves to fit into tiny outfits, but it's also our own self perception, or misperception.  When I was large, I thought myself smaller.  I really believed that if I thought smaller, I would be smaller.  It wasn't until I started to really lose weight back in 2004 that I noticed the difference in my width, the inches that were disappearing and the slow, slooowww movement of the scale.  In the 4 years that I put my nose to the grindstone and lost those first 75 pounds without the help of the LapBand, I saw those dress sizes drop from a 28 to a 26 to a 24 and eventually down to a 20.  Then it halted.  I kept working out the same, but the scale didn't move. For nearly 3 years, I maintained this incredibly loss but my body refused to burn any more fat.

The frustration finally got to me.  I'd begged my parents to help me pay for surgery since a Freshman at LSU, and finally, just days before I turned 30, the begging came to an end.  I sat down with my mom one night and said I just can't take this anymore.  I've worked so hard to get to a healthy weight and it won't happen.  Within the week, I went to another educational session at a different doctor than the first two I'd been to, and saw him for the initial appointment. After presenting him with my psychological case history (ok, written by me, but I do have a master's degree in Counseling) detailing my efforts to lose weight, a clean bill of health (I had previously been Dx with insulin resistance, but the 75 lbs cleared that up and I had no other health issues), I was surprised by his eagerness to schedule my surgery.  4 weeks.... I was shocked.  It was only 2 weeks before my 30th birthday, and I had plans to fly to Brazil for New Year's.  It was a Brazilian foodie vacation, because just as I got back I had to start the two week liquid diet. I managed to lose 13 pounds pre-surgery though, which was almost twice what he'd asked me to lose.

All went well.  It took me nearly 14 months to get to my "goal weight" for my doctor of 175.  I was determined that I wanted to be 145 lbs though, I had that number stuck in my head and I was determined, no one was stopping me.... until....

I was reading a forum and saw a post by a woman who was stuck on a certain weight, that weight was 92 lbs or her 5'2 frame.  She described this obsession with great detail and I realized that 145 pounds was way too thin for me on my 5'7.5" frame.  Just as I got down to 160 lbs, I got sick.  It wasn't a healthy 160 lbs, it was a, "Your band is too tight, you can't kept anything down" we need to unfill.  This unfill stabilized me around 175 for about 8 months, then the stress of a new job set in and my stomach clamped up and I didn't eat for days.  I couldn't even get water to stay down.  I had moody, cranky, nutrition deprived headaches, and I was not pleasant to be around.  I had the band completely emptied and I bounced up to 190 lbs.

Today, the scale says 185 lbs.  I've managed, with an empty band, to lose about 5 lbs. in the last month.  Stress has subsided now, though I know I need a fill.  I get hungry more often, so I eat more smaller meals and I don't always make the wisest food choices.  Noom, an app for my phone has certainly helped me keep better track in order to lose these 5 lbs, and I would like to get back down to a health 160 lbs. for my wedding next year.  I'm positive that if I continue to walk, do pilates and yoga, and keep up with my weight training routine, I will take off those pounds.  This time, I am doing it the calculated, measured way as I did in during the initial post surgery weight loss.  I refuse to be a bariatric regainer, but rather a bariatric rebounder.

As for everyone out there who refuses to accept themselves as the size they are, I believe they will continue to struggle to get to and maintain that healthy weight.  You have to except yourself as you are before you can become what you want to be.  Spanx won't make your size 24 body a size 6.  Even now, as a size 12-14, I'm finding all my size medium samples aren't quite fitting the way they should.  Definitely more incentive to stay a-movin' and a-shakin' on the slow and steady path to success.  While I once said, "I want to be a size 6 when I get married," these realizations have brought me to the conclusion that I will look find in a size 8 or 10 wedding gown.  The bonus - I'm making my wedding dress, so there won't be a size label to cut out of my dress to fool myself into thinking I am something I am not, but losing those last 20 or so pounds again and working to maintain my successes daily is what is truly important in the long run. If the label really bothers you, cut it out. It's not worth the agony to fret over a letter on a tag or reaching an unrealistic number on the scale.

I'm not perfect, no one is.  Neither or our bodies.... but being realistic and precise about what we eat while working on why we eat what we shouldn't eat and correcting that behavior is the meaning of this journey.  It is a journey we take every day, and each day I try to grade my success.  Today, I was 90% successful, tomorrow I will aim to be 110% successful. Sunday, I may be only 75% successful, but I will make up for it by continually evaluating my successes and failures and maintaining my commitment to myself.  I am the only person I am doing this for, it is for my health, and if I lie to myself about it, who can I trust to keep the commitment?  The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself.