Drop the weight…it is all about the tools…and the work

The one thing that we, as a society, have in common is that we are an overweight society as defined by the medical community and socially. After losing 140 pounds I too am currently considered overweight as my weight is just a few pounds north of what a 5’3″ individual “should weigh”. Factor in BMI and the labels are misleading. It is mostly annoying but it is not something I obsess about anymore.

What I do commit to is to stay in my weight range. For me that is roughly a 5-10 pound weight range. By defining my high, it keeps me honest in my efforts. When I start to creep towards the top of my range I pull back on my calories and improve the quality of my food choices. It really is that easy…now.

Before you can get to a point of managing your weight within a small range you first have to find your “right weight”. This is where the hard work exists. This is the hard work you owe it to yourself to do. In order to lose the weight you have to employ tools to change your body mass. I call them tools because they will help you lose the extra weight you are carrying around but they do not do the work for you; YOU have to do the work.

During my 30 years of working at losing weight I tried numerous tools but nothing ever “stuck”. The weight would be lost but then like clockwork regained easier than it was lost and amounting to more than was lost. Frustrating does not even begin to describe it. In my case there were a few things at play that would be notable as I finally succeeded at losing and then keeping the weight off; here is what I offer:

  • Find a tool that is right for you. Diets are tools, not end-all’s. Find a tool that you can live with for the full time-frame that it will take to lose the weight. This is critical because if you cannot tolerate the tool for the entire weight-loss time frame, this will become your first fail-point. This is why diets like the “Cabbage Soup Diet” do not work. It is not sustainable over the long-haul.
  • Do the work. The tool simply handles the science of weight loss by managing the calories in/out calculation that will lower your weight. You still have work to do beyond following the regimen as developed. What the tool cannot do is make you active or train your brain. This is the additional work you have to do.
    • Activity – Activity does not have to be defined as anything more than moving more than you do today. Walking is the easiest of these activities for most of us and only requires you to go a little further than the day before until you can walk for a solid 30-minutes a day. Start by walking to the end of your driveway, then to the end of the block, then half way around the block and then all the way around the block. Yes you have to do 30-minutes a day as it helps beyond a calories burn. Moving your body helps your brain process what is tangled up inside, it helps your circulation, not only of blood flow but your organs as well. I find that taking a walk after a meal serves me best as it seems to move the food along my digestives track more smoothly than sitting after a meal.
    • Mental – The tools ONLY manage the process. They do not change your mental state. That is the work you have to do. By assuming the directions of the tool you start the process of training your brain in establishing habits that after weeks or months of reputation will become second-nature. Second-nature does not mean that you will automatically want an apple more than a cookie; but you will think twice. The real work is finding alternatives to eating. When we think of food as fuel we can then start to identify why we eat outside of needing to fuel our bodies. Are you eating because you are sad, happy, tired, angry, etc.? in order to identify these states of being you simply have to ask yourself when you feel a craving come on, “What am I feeling in this moment? Am I hungry or _______________(enter state of being)?”. When you can identify your mental state you can then make the decision to eat or satisfy the emotion with another option. Identifying those options are also work as you have to find what works for you. For me running is satisfying to my brain and staves off hunger. I also find that writing is a great tool to help get it out of my brain and onto paper. Getting it out of my brain is the work; clearing my thought process.

Find your tools and do the work, it really is that simple. The hard part is identifying those tools so the work can be done. You have to find what works for you which is not what works for everyone else. There are a million ways to lose the weight but finding what will work for your body type and metabolism is an exercise in trial and error. Here are a few of my favorites and why they do/don’t work:

  • Nutrisystem – This one may have been my favorite as all you have to do is order your food, it comes to the door and then when you are ready to eat you pick a prepackaged meal and eat. Done. The drawback to Nutrisystem is that when you stop eating the prepackaged meals you easily gain the weight back. The issue here is that there is little work for you to do and eating cookies, pasta and breads upon transitioning from Nutrisystem will not sustain your weight-loss. The ingredients that make their cookies, pasta and breads are altered to allow weight-loss despite the choice. To succeed at this diet you really have to follow their transition or maintenance program to the letter to identify what “real-foods” you can eat to stay the same weight. Nutrisystem does not make money transitioning you to real-food, and hence this is the issue.
  • Weight Watchers – This was my first diet and I was on this one more than any through my years of dieting. Weight Watchers works because you are eating real-foods and learning how to weigh, measure and count those foods to your body type. The key here is sustaining this regimen. The good news is that it IS sustainable.
  • MyFitnessPal app – This is the one I STILL use today! It is easy to use and does not require special foods or point-calculations. It requires you log everything you eat and to identify with those macros that you choose based on your goals. I like it because it educates you while you lose the weight. By paying attention to your weekly trends you will start identify what eating regimens create the greatest result. Is your body more reactive to low-carb, high-protein or keeping to a specific calorie count? MyFitnessPal is a great tool for a multitude of plans as well therefore making it versatile when finding what works for you.

Whatever your choice you owe it to yourself to find your right size for the sake of your long-term health. My life at this new lower weight is immensely different than the life I lived for 30-years overweight to morbidly obese. I am healthier, have more energy and find it 10x easier to move about this world. My only regret is that I didn’t find my tool sooner. I spent millions on diets, personal trainers and gym memberships never understanding why I could not “beat” this weight. Ultimately my tool would be gastric bypass as mine was a metabolism and hunger issue that could not be resolved with a diet. By resorting to such an extreme it allowed me to have a tool that would restrict my ability to eat large amounts of food and would change my metabolism to allow me to lose the large amount of weight required without relegating myself to a low calorie limit for a lifetime. I still do the work every single day as the surgery only created the tool but the work; activity and mental health, well that would be my long-term effort.

Find what works for you and own it. These are the mechanics of weight-loss. Next up; learning to love yourself where you are today…now that is work!

Living life healthier…L.

Bariatric Boomerang

Today is my monthly session at Celebration Health to speak to the Bariatric Info Group. As I have reported before I like to sit in the very back of the room, where I sat for the first time four years ago. I am always in awe of the courage in the room; the 27 ppl sitting here looking for the answer to a problem that they cannot solve on their own. I will stand up in front of them and tell them why I made the decision to have Gastric Bypass almost four years ago and hope that my image and my pitch will inspire them to do the same.

…and what this room of courageous people cannot know is that I am still working at this every single day! I am currently on a carb binge that is shameful and addictive. Carbs have had to become my diet because of complications from this years procedures. But now I am healed and should be back exercising and following a healthy diet…but…I am not.

So here I am sitting in the room hoping to find the inspiration I need to be a boomerang of Bariatric protocol. Integrity is key, I cannot stand here and purport success and yet go home and eat a bowl of pasta. But I will. Who knew it could be so hard to start again. It’s an amazing reality to be faced with starting over again after thinking you had mastered something. While you may have mastered it in the truest form of knowledge the habits are only maintained through consistent practices.

The message that offer is honest and transparent because I will offer nothing less. I tell them that I sat where they were four years ago so nervous about my pending decision. I tell them that I did it and they can too. But then I tell them that I am still struggling. I admit to them that last night my night ended with a bowl of Lucky Charms. Yes for someone that cannot tolerate sugar that is an awful choice. I tell them that the reason Gastric Bypass is still my choice is because of the reaction from my body after eating Lucky Charms. I was sweating, sick, shaking; not exactly the luck of the Irish but what I had coming to me.

I still belong here, I will always be a Bariatric patient. I will always be a student of Bariatric and by sitting in the back of this room I am once again “Always Starting” because I decided four years ago I was never “giving up”.

Life as I live it…one-day-at-a-time…L.

Eat Through It…

There was a time that everything could be solved with ice cream and cookies, macaroni and cheese if I needed something warm and the oh so wonderful and oxymoronic DIET Coke! Those days are 3.5 years behind me but the work is still in front of me as I continue to stave off cravings and the “want” that a pan of baked macaroni and cheese can elicit in me.

Food became a solace for me as a child as I would sneak cookies out of the house for my friends, as a teenager I would beg my mom to pick me up a Reeses Cup from the store and as an adult I would fill my own pantry with every single food I was not able to indulge in as a child. There are certain foods that bring me right back to my childhood, much the same way a song from my past can take me right back. Here are a few that you will NEVER find in my home today:

  • “The Rooster” for 15 years of my life the only cereal my mother ever bought was Corn Flakes (enter vomit emoji)!!! I can still see that box sitting on top of the fridge. Actually it might have been sitting there for years, they surely tasted like it!!
  • “Big 60” the horror!! Most kids grew up on Oreos, while we were lucky if my mom was feeling generous enough to buy my Dad and I a fresh pack of Big 60’s from Winn Dixie, the Beef People (enter eye roll emoji).
  • “Ice Milk” had me duped for years! Every night we would each get a bowl of ice milk. I savored every bite and would scrape the bowl to get every drop left…not knowing what I was really missing in not having Ice CREAM! Never fear Ben and Jerry and I made up for lost time!
  • Last but not least, 15 years of PB&J sandwiches for lunch every single day with a thermos of Kool-aid was my lunch box fare. I didn’t mind it except that she would put my pencils in my lunch box and therefore my pencils smelled of PB&J…it’s the small things people.

My mother was very health conscious long before it was trendy! She would not eat breakfast or lunch, only dinner and would exercise every single day. For this reason when she went shopping every week she would only buy dinners and for breakfast Corn Flakes and a loaf of bread for PB&J for lunches and that was it. I remember being hungry for much of my teenage years because by that time I could not stomach a bowl of corn flakes nor was I bringing PB&J to high school. When I would get home at the end of a long day, I was STARVING! The first time I remember shame surrounding food was after making a HUGE pot of white rice that I had heaped an enormous helping of in a bowl and then somehow managed to lock myself out of the house. Don’t ask why the heck I went outside after making my rice but I did. Needless to say I had to wait until my Mom or Dad got home to get back in because there were no cell phones and so I was stuck. When we entered the house and my mom saw the amount of rice I prepared she was floored. Who was that for? Why did I make so much? Who was going to eat all of that? YIKES! (Enter the onset of eating in private to hide what I was eating.)

As an adult eating became a centerpiece for everything I would do. I loved eating out and would as often as I could. I could eat amounts of food that to a “normal” person would make them sick; but not I. It was my happy place, my sad place, my desperate place and all places for my heart, soul and mind to resolve its matters. My weight started creeping up around 15 years old and that creep would continue for 30 years. At 45 years old I was 274 lbs on a 5’3″ frame. This was truth, this was my reality, this was my every day, this was life as I knew it.

The reality of this tale is that while I admittedly LOVE food this addiction (let’s call it what it was/is) was my way of coping with everything in my life. The good stuff was celebrated with food the bad stuff was resolved with food; there were foods for all occasions, emotions and stresses. What was eating me inside was consuming my life mentally, physically and spiritually. The problem is I could not point to what “it” was that was eating me inside out and so instead I would control the symptom rather than the cause. I would go on diet after diet after diet my entire life trying to solve the symptom of a problem that did not have a name. It was only in my final failure at Nutrisystem (a fantastic plan by the way!) that I realized I had to get to the bottom of this mystery and figure out what “it” was if I was ever going to STOP eating!

I found Randie, my second therapist in my life, just around the corner from work and so she became my lunch date a few times a week. I have blogged about Randie previously; she was the one that would call me out on my BS and finally get to the bottomless pit that was my gut. I remember going in to see her one day where she asked “how was the week” and what she was looking for was a recap of how my week went mentally, how I was handling the work at hand…but my reaction (because again everything revolved around food) was “well today I had a Slurpee and Doritos”, (enter angry emoji) I thought Randie was going to lose her mind…ha-ha! It makes me smile thinking about it. She said, “oh okay, so you want to talk about Slurpee’s and Doritos? Is that what this hour should be about…really Lori, it’s never been about a Slurpee or a bag of Doritos…it’s about you, so why don’t we start over”. That day, that interaction has never left me and you know what, we found “it” finally, we got down to the bottom of the pit and it was through this discovery and healing that I was ready to take on the final and last diet and forever be free of the weight!

You see with all addiction; food, alcohol, drugs, etc. it’s not about the substance; it’s about the root cause for the substance dependency. I remember watching the show Intervention on A&E and thinking to myself as I would listen to the journey of an alcoholic or drug addict that I felt the exact same way but my “drug of choice” was food. Socially acceptable, available around every corner…FOOD was the most dangerous substance anyone could abuse! It’s worth noting as well that you don’t need to be a food addict to abuse foods; every single one of us has stuffed our faces in a moment of stress, sadness, happiness, etc.

It’s fair to challenge you as I conclude to ask yourself “What is eating me?”. Is it work, home, children, past lives, self worth…what is “it”? You have to find the “it” to have resolve. You have to take your power back by controlling the cravings through doing what you KNOW how to do regardless of whether you want to or not.

OWN “IT” before it owns you! #Word