Thursday, March 12, 2009

Weight Loss Journey

Part III - The Unfortunate Reality and How it Pertains to Me

Over a decade ago, soon after an immediate family member was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I attended a Type II Diabetes lecture. There, I learned that the disease is very heredity. Soon after the lecture, I schedule an appointment with a nutritionist. I knew I could greatly reduce my risk of developing the disease by keeping my weight at a healthy level. At the time, I was a very healthy 119-lb college student who ate whatever and however much she wanted and had been her entire life. I knew this wasn't going to last because I had put on several pounds in just a few months time. I knew my ability to overeat, without paying a price, was coming to an end. I needed to get the specifics of how I should be eating, how much I could eat for my height, age, sex, etc. I wanted it spelled out for me. I wanted the facts.

I will never forget her or her office. In fact, I'm still reeling from the cold hard facts she spoke and then handed to me, printed out in black, on paper. Her office was cool, small, filled with books and dark. My mood soon become as dark as that office. We sat down to go over my family medical history, current eating and exercise habits. I swallowed hard and just told it how it was at the time, "I eat what I want, whenever I want and I haven't had time to exercise in months. I know this will all catch up to me eventually and I want to know how much I can eat, what I should be avoiding and so on. I want to know, specifically, how to maintain my weight."

She gave me a disapproving stare, turned to a file cabinet, reached in, her fingers quickly sliding to the appropriate folder and grabbed a few handouts from it. I glanced quickly at one of them. It was a weekly menu planner with suggestions. There wasn't much of what I would consider meals on there. At the bottom, I gasped. "1,200 calories? That's it? I thought I could eat 2,000 calories daily in order to maintain my weight."

She pressed her lips together and smiled tightly, "If you want to eat, you have to move. None of us really have the liberty of eating much if we're not going to exercise. And, you're not exercising. So you have no real liberties to eat more than three meals a day, with one or two very small snacks. If you start to exercise, you can add 300-500 hundred more calories to your total, depending on your intensity and length of time. Eating healthy and exercising is a lifestyle. You need to change your lifestyle. Fad diets don't work. Eat healthy foods, in moderation, splurge on a gooey treat only once a week and exercise consistently. Work up a sweat and don't think that a hard workout three times a week justifies overeating. It doesn't. Remember that."

I tried to argue with her. I remember even using the word, "unreasonable." But, she stood her ground. I left that office hating her. Hating her spoken and written truth. For a while, I hung onto those sheets of paper and tried to follow her meal plan (What college student is interested in a meal of chicken breast, steamed veggies and skinny mashed potatoes?). Eventually, I threw them out and began to eat what I wanted once again.

Last summer, when I decided I need to lose weight, her words came to mind again. Now, I linger on them, think about them when I eye a second helping or think about making a batch of cookies. My new motto, "I have every day of the rest of my life to eat." I tell myself, for instance, that there will be another piece of chocolate cake, perhaps even better, another time. It helps to repeat that over and over again to myself when I feel like baking cookies, brownies or even some favorite meals that I love so much, I know I won't be able to have just one helping.

1,200 calories is about where I'm still at. Due to the lack of childcare and DH's job, I can only hit the gym twice a week. I have seen a remarkable difference because, for me, weight training boosts my metabolism. Add a little cardio to that, keep my gym time consistent, throw in a walk along the beach, pushing Lila, once or twice more a week and, so far, I've been able to maintain the 20lb weight loss - though, I'd like to lose an additional five to seven pounds. I doubt it will happen until I can get in more cardio and weight-training time. I'm happy with where I am at now, however.

The reality of knowing how much I can and can't eat is still very difficult to deal with. Trying new foods, cooking, baking and socializing with friends in a food environment are my favorite things to do! I'm being honest with you when I say that food is on my mind all day. From the moment I wake up, until I go to bed, I think about food - upwards to every 15-minutes. It goes something like this in my mind:

What will I make next? If I make that (whatever it may be), will I be able to have only one helping? No, I won't. So, what can I make that I'd be less likely to over-indulge on? I'm hungry. I want a snack. Will a cup a tea fill me up and help me make it through until dinner? I really want that apple. That'd be a good snack. Yeah, with a bit of peanut butter. But, I'm allergic to apples. Well, those fresh, local strawberries look good too. But, I'm allergic to those too. What can I have? I should give up now and just make those damn cookies. No, I can't do that because we have that Hail and Farewell on Sunday and the host makes the best desserts - I'll save my weekly indulgence until then. Tea with honey and milk will do...

The hardest part - not cooking brownies and cookies and such with my girls. I cannot bake often and I cannot have anything enticing in my house. I will eat it. All. When I first started this, my girls felt a little deprived, as I now don't even keep juice in the house. They begged and screamed for their normal snacks. But, you know what? They don't NEED all that stuff. My family medical history is also theirs. They may as well learn to eat healthy along with me! Within two weeks of cutting out the junk, they were eating fruit like candy and had stopped whining. They are happy as larks when we go out to eat; about once a week. Usually, a favorite Indian restaurant in which we let them indulge on juice, ice cream and sweet naan. Sometimes, we'll head to a local Portuguese restaurant and they'll share homemade vegetable soup, french fries, rice and, of course, juice. There's a time and a place for indulging and in our home, we try our best to keep it to a minimum and save it for eating out or get-togethers.

People have asked for tips on weight loss and I think my biggest tip would be this: See a nutritionist. Most insurance companies will pay for the visit. Go over your personal and family medical history, goals and concerns you have. Seeing a nutritionist, in my opinion, is the most sensible way to start a lifestyle change. You'll find out what YOUR body needs and doesn't need. Skip the fad diet. Who really can stay on the Atkin's diet forever? Fact: NO ONE. No one even wants to and when people go off that diet, they gain all their weight back anyway. You may not, like me, like what the nutritionist has to say. You may find yourself angry. The undeniable truth can really tick you off. I've been able to find support by confiding in friends and family members and also, by blogging about it a little bit. Do not despair. You can find your way.


The Dunns said...

Good post. It's so true that the best way to stay healthy for life is to "eat less and move more." But you're right -- it's tough to do. And knowing the right thing to do doesn't mean it will always be easy or it won't be on my mind all the time.

I lost most of my pregnancy weight easily, but I'm still about 10 pounds off my goal. My challenge is portion control and nighttime snacking.

Great job! Thanks for the motivation & reminders!

Tricia said...

I just wanted to also point out that I ALWAYS think about food too, and I am never full. Luckily my metabolism hasn't slowed yet, but I know it's all a matter of time, especially when I start having kids. I'm trying to have better eating habits, and I find eliminating items for a particular time, 2 months or whatever it may be helps, knowing that at the end of my time I can endulge. I lack the self control for portion control, so that never worked for me.

Katie said...

Count me in on the "always thinking about food thing." Totally. And I'm never full either. I am hoping it is just due to breastfeeding....because I am eating WAAAAY too much right now!

kentandjaerin said...

I think you probably saw a Registered Dietician--R.D., right? An R.D.(or diet. tech or at least someone who has been through a Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics program) has the qualifications to really evaluate your diet and health history and give advice . Anyone can call herself a nutritionist without any credentials.
I'm still working on 5 more pounds, but need to work on the toning part of my body since baby Nathan left some stretched out skin that might never get back to normal!

Natalie said...

Jae Rin, yes, I remember that I saw an R.D. I especially remember the pain of having to see my PCP, who then gave me a referral and the only qualified R.D. who my insurance company would cover was at a different clinic than I usually go to and I couldn't find the place, etc. It was painful b/c I was in college and who has time for that?!