Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Brass Tacks of It

So my new attitude of toughness seems to be working.  I lost two pounds last week, and I've been pretty consistent with the daily exercise and smart food choices.  I am expecting another loss this Thursday.  It's hard to get excited though, since I've taken these first steps so many times before.  But, I can't dwell on the past; it's only today that matters, right?   If I truly want to change my body and my life, I can't get hung up on my failures and ... hang ups!   Keep it simple:  develop a plan, and stay focused on it.   Laying out some kind of tangible parameters or schedule has always been good for me.  I like structure, since without it I tend to lose orbit and just float off in all sorts of directions.  Also, if the guidelines aren't too "restrictive" and just seem like common sense living, I probably won't pout and rebel too much.

Here's what I've learned after years of dieting and learning about weight and nutrition:  I do best with several small meals spaced throughout the day, with the majority of calories coming early on.  Very low carb diets
 don't work well for me, as they make me feel queasy, headachey, and weak.  I seem to need a decent amount of  "good fats" too, like those from nuts, olive oil, and avocados, and even butter on occasion is okay.  The answer, therefore, is to avoid simple carbs like white flour, sugar, and starchy veggies, while allowing a modicum of whole grains and all the fruits/vegetables I want.   One plan I tried and had some success with said to have four meals per day, not sooner than 2-1/2 hours apart, and each meal should have at least some lean protein in it.  I found it helpful to think about only eating "meals."  That prevented me from the mindless grazing that can be so insidious to weight loss efforts.   If I have to have a meal, I know I'll wait until I'm actually hungry, too.  When I do eat, the meal should be about the size of my fist.  Using smaller plates helps with portion control.   Drinking water throughout the day is crucial, which fortunately I already do.   So ... no snacking, avoid "white foods," always have lean protein, lots of water, and watch portions.  Oh yeah - and time to knock off the daily glass of wine.  (Dang.)  Maybe once a week, or every other week, I can have a day where I don't have to adhere quite so faithfully to all of those guidelines.  I used to do that when I was on Weight Watchers, and it worked.  I can't/won't be a monk, afterall.

If I can just do those things and manage to exercise for 30 minutes, five days per week, I can become fit and healthy.  Sounds simple enough, don't you think?  That's what I need to do, consistently.  So there it is. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fer Gawd's Sake, Quit'cher Whinin'!

All right - enough self-indulgence.  It is time to do what is necessary.  Just shut up and do it, Irene.  What's your problem, anyway??   (No, don't answer that!  Just re-read the first three sentences!)   Time is running out, and frankly, all this pontification is getting boring.  So c'mon - move!  Move!  Move!  And put down that second piece of toast!

Truly, I think I've spent too much time sympathizing with the petulant little girl inside of me, the one yelling "I don't wanna!" and "It's not my fault!" instead of simply facing reality.  Well you know, kid, things are tough all over.  Now put on your running shoes and get out there!  Time to get tough.   And  so I've been doing for the past week or so.  I'm exercising more consistently lately, thanks in part to my sweetie who has come over to join me in jogs around my neighborhood and G-Ball workouts in the basement.  I'm keeping a closer eye on what and how much I'm eating, too.   Thursdays are my weigh-in days now, so we'll see tomorrow if the numbers are heading south again. If not, I'll just keep going even harder.  I know what to do. 

I had an interesting talk with my hypnosis counselor on Monday.  We get personalized sessions every 4 weeks or so, where we discuss our progress or lack thereof, and then have a 30-minute hypnosis session which is recorded for us to listen to at home.  I began by telling her about my fears and conflicts about weight, basically what I wrote in my last blog entry.  She was surprisingly unsympathetic.  It took me aback a little, though I realized her reaction was exactly what I needed.  I've been in this program for about nine months now, and I only have one more month left.  I'm only down about 15 pounds since I started.  And why?  In reality, have I been thinking and behaving like a thin person does?  Not really, no.  In truth, I stopped going to the weekly group sessions because "I was too busy."   (Actually, I decided they weren't worth the drive down there.)  She also pointed out that a slow metabolism and hormones are no doubt playing a role in all this, and people in my situation need 30 minutes of  vigorous exercise, five times per week, minimum.  That's right.  She's right, and I haven't been doing that - at least not consistently.   Let's face it - living a healthy life takes work, and sometimes it's really hard, not to mention inconvenient. 

I have to make a commitment and stick to it.  I've been giving lip-service to that concept (boy, I'm good at self-delusion.... !), but the actual commitment hasn't been there.  I've broken it just about every time I've hit a bump in the road, or had some reason to "celebrate" something with too much food, drink, or lazing around.  Yes, in the end, it all comes down to me and what I do.  Period.  And so I'll do it.   Today I start with an egg white and an apple for breakfast.  Then later I'm doing two short ab workouts, and in the evening I'll walk my dog.  Every day this week I'll do a different kind of exercise, which is necessary to trick a slow metabolism into revving its engines.  Yes, I do know, and have known, what to do. Time to do it! I can do it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nothing to Fear?

For some people, extra weight is something that crept up along with age and prosperity. They were always normal weight in their youth, never really thought much about eating or diets, and then realized one day that they'd put on 15 - 30 pounds over a number of years. Perhaps the majority of people trying to lose weight fall into that category. For others, however, being overweight - no, being FAT - is as much a part of their identity as eye color. It's what they know; it's what they are. How easy is it to change one's identity?  If you live among people who already know you well, it's near impossible. It makes sense that the first time I was really successful in losing weight was when I went away to college. I dumped my childhood nickname ("Jody") and 35 pounds in the first six weeks of school. Interesting.

It's taken me many years to understand that I'm fearful of losing weight. I've even convinced myself that my body likes carrying extra weight, since it's so hard to make it come off no matter what I do, and incredibly easy to put back on. Sometimes when my efforts are paying off and I can feel myself getting lighter, I experience a strange discomfort. It almost ... hurts? At some level, being overweight has worked for me. Granted, it's a completely dysfunctional coping mechanism, but there it is. Knowing this, I embraced hypnosis as the answer to my weight problem. You've probably heard the saying, "It's not what you're eating; it's what's eating you." True enough. I knew I'd need to change my mind first, and not just about what to eat and when to exercise.

I've tried hypnosis twice now (I'm still doing it, actually). Both times it worked very well in the beginning. I lost about 18 pounds and then stalled - both times. The first time, I blamed the program. I thought it just wasn't effective enough, and then I tried another one which I liked much more, and still do! But it happened again - 18 pounds, and then ... nothing. Of course, in both cases I had regular life and it's exigencies getting in my way as always, but twice ... stalling at 18 pounds? There had to be a reason, and there is. Let me say first, though, that hypnosis is an excellent way to change one's eating habits and attitudes about weight. I think for "normal" dieters, it would work much faster. It is working for me, but it's taken eight months so far to cut through all this mental scar tissue I've built up over my lifetime. I gave up before. This time, I think I may have finally hacked a pathway through.

Anyway, the 18-pound thing: yes, there's something about that stage that trips me up. When I've lost about that much, I start to look and feel different. The waistband and "butt" of my jeans get all loose, and I love it! Yes, it's great! But it's almost like looking over a precipice. More accurately, I get that feeling you get in a roller-coaster car that is just about to reach the apex of its climb. You know this huge fall is coming any second and it's going to make you scream! After the first 20 pounds or so, the not-fat me starts to emerge. So?, you ask. Isn't that what you want? Of course it is. Isn't it?

I had a memorable experience during one of my hypnosis classes a couple years ago. We listened to a process called "Take off your fat suit." We were told to imagine a zipper under our chins, and pull it down, just like unzipping a toddler's snow suit. We envisioned the suit opening up and falling to the ground, and then stepping out of it. Then we were asked to pick it up, put it in a chair, and talk to it. We had to tell it that we didn't need it anymore; we were ready to take it off. And then something happened that I'll never forget: the hypnotist told us to thank it. Thank it - for trying to help us and protect us. With those words, tears spilled out of my eyes (and I am not much of a crier). I couldn't believe how sad and touched I was by that thought. At that moment I was so overwhelmed with sadness and shame. Why? Because that fat suit was only trying to protect me and keep me company - to love me when everyone else rejected it (me). And now I was rejecting it too. Thank you for trying to help me, but it's time to let you go now.

Then, we were asked to think about what we'd like that suit to become, or what we'd like to do with it. For me, the suit rose up and burst into hundreds of sparkling stars, which then transformed into little black dresses. It was an incredibly uplifting moment. And then afterward in discussion, the therapist asked us all what had become of our suits. I happily told my story and everyone smiled compassionately, saying "Awwww . . . !" Then a guy in the group, who was quite overweight and really sick of it, said, "I just picked mine up and stuffed it right into the shredder!!" I gasped in horror, and then we all fell over laughing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Here Comes the Bride - Big, Fat, and Wide ....."

Does anyone else remember singing that as a little kid? You know - we had all those silly mock lyrics: "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese ...."; or "Glory, glory Hallelujah ... teacher hit me with a ru--lah ....." Remember? Well, maybe it was just us Peoria kids.

So - long time, no posts. I've been away from blogging for many reasons. First I was insanely busy, and then when I had more time to write, I didn't feel like writing about my weight problem any more. I really do hate the entire subject and everything that is associated with it. Unfortunately, for a "lifer" like me, "everything that is associated with it," is .... EVERYTHING! There's no escape, not even in my happy land of denial. Sigh. So here I am again, more determined than ever to lose this weight and fix my mind about the whole issue.

The most consistent part of this blog came when C-Man and I were preparing to go to Hawaii in September. Again, I hadn't intended to create a "countdown"-type record to track my weight loss and seek encouragement when I'd started this blog, but it was easy to keep up with, and it did help me stay focused. Upon returning from Hawaii and starting back to school, my blog was pushed to the background, as were any real efforts to lose weight. (Of course, in my mind, I WAS maintaining efforts to keep losing weight. But here I am six months later, ten pounds heavier than when I returned from Hawaii. Crap.) Perhaps the first goal of writing this, which was to explore the causes and fallout of a lifetime so clouded by weight issues, will best be covered after the excess weight is gone. Such ruminations have helped me understand how I've gotten to this point, but they haven't taken me where I want to go. The actual battle still has to be fought, regardless of what set it up. Yeah, it's true. Lose the damn weight first; then think about it. Good plan.

So now I have another motivating tool to utilize: our wedding in October. My C-Man (and best friend!) proposed on Christmas day, and of course I accepted without hesitation. My heart still flutters when I think of that moment, as it is doing right now. :) My sweet fiancee seems to have accepted me for who I am, exactly as I am. I once thought such love and acceptance would make the weight magically drop off. You know - the "curse" would be lifted with True Love's first kiss, yada yada ... . Ok, I didn't literally believe that, but I did sort of think that it would be easier to do what is necessary.

The truth is, motivation has to be created just like everything else - at least long term. And now I have it. If simple knowledge about health, fitness, and longevity aren't enough to prod me into consistent action, there is one thing left that will: Vanity. I want to be a beautiful bride. I want to make my groom (and myself) proud. I want to feel so confident and lovely on my wedding day that my looks are the LAST thing on my mind. I don't want to think about people saying, "Oh, she's so pretty. Too bad she's never gotten hold of her weight problem," .... or .... "Well, she looks all right for a fat 49-year-old." I want to spend the rest of my life looking as great as I'm feeling, which is pretty darned good these days! I also want to surprise my new husband with an eye-popping honeymoon night ensemble. I won't do that with the body I'm currently wearing. Whatever it takes, right?

Here's a picture of a dress style that I like the most so far, but probably in a champagne or blush color - nothing too "bride-y." I love the neckline and simple lace overlay. The styles I like the best all require graceful arms and a trim waist. Whatever I wear, I want to feel so at ease in it that people will look at me and see happiness, not anxiety. The wedding day is set for October 16th, 2010. Today is the 16th of March. That means I've got exactly seven months. How much can I change my body in seven months? Stay tuned. We'll see.