Fat Is Not A Feeling – Or Is It?

Supposedly humans only have 7 or 8 basic emotions – happy, sad, surprised, fear, disgust, anger, etc.  Well, ask any woman on a diet, and I’ll guarantee that she has uttered the statement, “I feel fat.”

fat cat

The past few days I have “felt fat”. Sure, I can touch just about any body part and actually feel that I am fat. But what the heck is this complex emotional crud that has crept up on me, and I am urged to identify it as a fat feeling? OK… I’m angry that the scale isn’t moving faster – as if an average of 2 pounds per week isn’t quick enough. My body is still reeling 4 months later from the after effects of a cholecystectomy with continued pain in my liver area (maybe a stress ulcer, maybe “post-cholecystectomy syndrome” meaning you have pain after surgery just deal with it), also gut discomfort, and on and off diarrhea that is finally more off than on. Exercise is still rough. My stamina is crap. OF COURSE IT’S CRAP! I haven’t done anything in a few years. Plus, I’m on a beta-blocker which will make it tougher. Let’s call that emotion disappointment. My winter seasonal affective disorder is kicking in – so add in some depression. Throw in the fact that I’m lonely living in a town that I hate, even after 4½ years. My social support for changing how I eat is great but only consists of my wonderful partner and long distance support from loving family, missed friends, and the online community at 3FC.

Hmmm, so far “feeling fat” for me is anger, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, depression, and physical discomfort. Good God, no wonder this is awful and such a potential threat to my new way of eating and living.

Fat is a feeling now, and it ain’t very pleasant.

Why 250 is a mini-goal

Two-hundred fifty is not just another round number. (Three hundred is much rounder.) When I established my interim goals, the first 30 pounds representing a 10% loss was based on data that show even such a small loss from such a large person can be beneficial to one’s health. The next 3 goals all seemed rational: reach half of my total weight loss; achieve “non-obese” status; finally be at normal weight for height. But the number 250 kept sticking with me, so I wrote it down.

Today reading the 3 Fat Chicks message boards, it hit me! Someone listed things they wanted to do as they lost weight, and one of those was horseback riding. BINGO! I haven’t been able to ride horses in over 10 years because – one has to weigh 250 or less! What else have I wanted to do where 250 was a “weight-limiting” factor?

A dolphin encounter. Hammocks. Segway tours. Zip lines. Helicopter rides (or pay twice as much). Exercise machines of all ilks!

I have so much to look forward to that I had totally forgotten about. No wonder the number 250 was lurking in the back of my mind. Almost there.

cowgirl riding at sunset

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Me

HFCS is thought to be a “baddie” among those trying to lose weight, but it wasn’t until I consciously cut out HFCS that I realized why this compound is so devastatingly harmful for my weight (gains).

high fructose corn syrup

OK – there is no strong scientific data proving these compounds (a varying percentage of fructose linked with other sugars) cause obesity, but there is evidence that HCFS is metabolized quickly to fat and stored in the liver, which could influence cholesterol and insulin metabolism (among who knows what else) and thus result in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

I quit drinking regular soft drinks eons ago (a huge source of HCFS in the American diet), but even as I yo-yo’d along the past almost 20 years, I realized the strong association between sweets and my binging. (Yes, I’m an emotional eater too, but bear with me.) During the last 4 months of eating healthier, I have lost all desire to binge – except the few times when I used protein bars to substitute as quick meals. Looking at the ingredients of these nutritionally “balanced” bars what did I find as the sweetener but HCFS. Hmmmm. I also noted in my record keeping that I always ended up eating 2 of my favorite “lite” yogurts, which contained – yep, HCFS. So, I changed to Brown Cow low fat yogurt – a creamy but higher calorie fruity yogurt that uses cane sugar. Guess what – totally filling after 6 oz.

My scientific training makes me cautious of anecdotal stories – but evidence comes from the highest quality data available combined with accumulated experience. For me, I’m going with cutting out HCFS.  Here is one link that I use as a quick reference for foods that do not use HCFS. You will be amazed at how many “natural” and “healthy” and “diet” foods incorporate this super sweet perfectly unnatural compound.

And, I won’t even getting into the economics and politics of corn subsidies…

5k Run/Walk Commitment

From college athlete to 300-pound, inert, aging, cerebral, arthritic- talk about loss of identity!

As I near my first 50-pounds of weight loss, I have decided at this relatively older age of 55 to reclaim my athletic inclination – although love of sports has never left me. Perusing the 3FC forums, I found a website for a 7-month prep to run a 5k called The Conservative Couch to 5K (3mile) Program. Seven months from now, August will have daily temps easily above 100°. Thus, I have chosen a local 5k run in October when the weather will be perfect. My joints might only allow a run/walk, but this gives my competitive nature something to shoot for beyond beating my targets at various Wii Fit Plus activities.

There, it’s in writing. I’m committed and have a plan in place. Now to find those running shoes that fit or go get fitted at a local running shoe store recommended to me.

Get Moving Tucson

woman walking

Rebelling Against Routine

I hate routines – always have, always will. No matter how strongly I say that I will change something to conform with certain time periods, e.g. getting up by 7, eating before 8, exercising by X a.m., writing so many words or pages in a journal or professionally or for fiction writing, I just will not do it on a schedule.

However, I will get things done, just on my pace. Fascinating that even at a ripe age when I impose a schedule that I am certain am comfortable with, something within me refuses to stick with it. Procrastination reigns supreme. I do get my writing done (usually); I do eat breakfast; I do exercise; just not when I had agreed with me that I would.

Weight loss has been like that for years. I would get around to it, again, when the time was right, when my self was ready. Procrastination – a family trait learned and reinforced. Our family myth is that we are more creative under pressure. Turns out this really isn’t true. I just get a “high” from finally doing what has been put off. It drove the people who worked for me nuts (although the type of job I did seemed to attract procrastinators).  It drives my partner nuts.  Hell, it drives me nuts.

Weight loss procrastination, however, isn’t about the thrill of getting something done – the rush of completing the task is too far down the road. For me, it’s about the fear of failure to maintain, yet again, or maybe even the fear of success.  Sigh, dealing with a new body is always a tough change for me. This time I am trying to do everything I can to bolster my self-efficacy (my capability/confidence) that not only can I lose weight, but I can make long term life style changes and maintain these changes for good.

Extreme Self-confidence

How am I boosting my self-efficacy? Well remembering my own experience in not only loosing weight but maintaining that size 6 for 6 months. (Hey, it was a start!) Seeing how others like me (not like Oprah) have been able to do this most difficult thing and modeling what has worked for them.  Accepting the positive feedback I am getting – not minimizing when people notice my weight loss and remembering this isn’t just about weight but about my health. Constantly trying to learn new skills from those who are successful – thus, the reason for now not doing these behaviors, including the anticipated maintenance, in a vacuum. 3Fat Chicks and other supportive online sites work the best for me right now. I don’t use WW plan; don’t like the OA model (I am not powerless!); not so certain about TOPS. My partner is also losing weight and using the same plan, but she  only has about 10 pounds left. My friends and family are far away but continue to send words of encouragement via phone and Facebook.

I am a rebel with a cause – just trying to stay on track.

Feeling Hunger

After dinner this evening I felt hungry – true physical hunger, not the kind where I’m bored or anxious or needing something to do with my hands. I decided to check my calorie count for the day. Hmmm, only 859 calories in plus 30 minutes of “sweating” on the Wii. Maybe I should pay closer attention to my calories earlier in the day.

On the other hand, it is different to experience hunger and then feed my body fuel. There — all better!

Changes I Have Made (this time)

I have lost hundreds of pounds since I become overweight around age 26, which means I have regained hundreds of pounds also. Now at the age of 55 and through menopause, the ease of weight loss just isn’t so easy any more. Perhaps that’s “a good thing” as Martha Stewart would comment.

One of the most ironic aspects of my life is that my years in health research focused on health behavior, so I know exactly what one should do for successful health behavior change and maintenance. Ah, but the knowing and the doing and the feeling somehow just aren’t the same are they? Or, no one would smoke; we would all wear seat belts; there would be no fire arm accidents, etc.

Back on track… I finally reached the stage of commitment to weight loss and maintenance (after years of dejection from repeated regaining) and, spurned on by a surgery unrelated to weight problems, found the self-confidence that I could act on life-style changes. [Those interested in the Stages of Change Model for voluntary behavior change can read here a brief and very elementary intro about how people successfully modify their behaviors.]

First, I had to identify which behaviors I wanted to change. Weight loss is a goal – not a behavior. There are no less one than gazillion behaviors tied into losing weight.  That’s right, exactly one gazillion. One must identify which behaviors are specific for you before springing into action.  For me, the starting behavior changes are:

  • restricting my calories to 1500kcal/day on average in a week
  • aiming for a balance between protein, fat and carbs
  • spreading out my food intake throughout the day, which means eating breakfast
  • no food after 7pm
  • no red meat
  • no ice cream (the ultimate trigger food for my binging)
  • minimal refined grains and grain products
  • adding at least 3 fresh fruits/vegetables per day
  • shopping only for fresh produce
  • limiting what is in the cupboard/frig to what is acceptable to eat
  • no artificial sweeteners or drinks with artificial sweeteners – sweet stimulates me to eat more sweets
  • monitoring everything calorie that goes into my mouth (I use the Livestrong.com site)
  • charting my weight twice a week
  • being physically active 30 minutes a day, beyond job and household activities

To help me do these things, I enlisted the support of my partner (too many negotiations to go into here) and got her to agree to help in ways that are acceptable to both.  I announced to family and close friends my plans and asked for their support – mainly by not offering me food.  I joined a support group. We rearranged the kitchen and threw out or gave away everything we would not eat. I found substitute behaviors for my late night eating, e.g. drinking hot tea (bought new mugs, fancy water kettle, special teas), made the bath more spa-like for reading in the tub rather than eating in front of the TV. I chose rewards for certain goals reached. Started this silly blog. I also gave myself permission to go off plan for special occasions – to prevent me from  binging because I had “blown it” by eating chocolate or dessert or had a 5 course dinner including red meat for Christmas eve. LIFE GOES ON!

I will continue to revisit my behavior change list, expecting to change caloric intake and activity levels. If something doesn’t work, I will throw it out. I will continue to seek wisdom from those who have succeeded in maintaining weight loss and from those who are on the same journey.

What are your behavior changes and mechanisms for keeping them going?

Peace.