Cracking the Code

Ok, it’s been two weeks since I finished reading The Obesity Code by Jason Fung. The first week I intended to implement his program I did two days, including my first fast day, and then ended up spending 6 days with my husband in the hospital and ICU. I was not about to fast during that traumatic experience, as I needed to be alert and fully fueled to advocate for him in the medical system. I did, however, implement two of the recommendations from the book: No snacks (because there was no time for eating snacks between meals in the hospital with all the other chaos and craziness that was going on), and no artificial sweetener.

A week ago on Wednesday, after having been home for a day, I weighed in to find that I was down 5 pounds from my previous weigh-in of 225. So, last Wednesday I started at 220 for this week’s experiment.

Before I jump in, I just want to point out that getting down to 220 was a huge piece of motivation and excitement for me. I haven’t gotten down there since I got back from my vacation in February and had been trying all my usual methods and seeing no results. So that was a great place to find myself after a week of the worst stress and fear and terror of my life.

Here’s how my week went:

  • Wed: Followed Obesity Code regimen: no sugar, no sweeteners, no processed food, no snacks between meals. Upped my fat content eating avocados, olive oil, cheese, and nuts.
  • Thurs: 24-hour fast, 30 minute run (no problems running while fasting)
  • Fri: Regular Obesity Code regimen as described above on Wednesday.
  • Sat: 24-hour fast, 35 minutes of weightlifting
  • Sun: regular eating regimen as described above.
  • Mon: 36-hour fast, 30 minute run
  • Tues: regular eating regimen described above.

This morning’s weight: 216. Down 4 pounds! This is huge. I had been trying for weeks to get down to 217, my “weight I never ever want to be above” using my usual methods with zero success. This is success, finally! Obviously I need to continue my experiment, because losing 5-10 pounds on a new program then stalling out and losing no more is a very common tactic my body uses to frustrate me, so I need to see if this trend will continue or this is the extent of my success here.

Notes on my experiment:

Ditching artificial sweeteners has been a revelation to me. Previously, I was under the impression that the caffeine in coffee, if I drank it without eating any food, would give me a very unpleasant “jittery, weak & lightheaded” feeling that I didn’t like. So I would always make sure I ate something with coffee, or not have it. It turns out that the feeling I was getting wasn’t from the caffeine, it was from the sweetener. I’ve completely ditched all sweeteners – in diet soda, coffee, tea, anything. I can drink coffee now without that awful feeling I used to get if I didn’t have food with it (and sometimes even if I did). Will never go back. I’m learning to drink my coffee and tea without sweetness and it’s going…ok. Can’t say I love it but I love that I can drink it without feeling bad.

Fasting hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared. It turns out that my “all or nothing” personality makes fasting a pretty easy program to follow. I love having to make zero decisions on a fasting day. I never have to agonize over whether I can eat this or that – I already know I will not. I have several hunger-reduction tools I use: Coffee, tea, or my favorite new concoction: sparkling water with a little lemon, salt, and cider vinegar in it does wonders to curb my hunger during a 24-hour fast. Oh and broth, that’s a big one to supply sodium. My husband has been making the broth here at home from scratch.

Further on fasting, though: The 24 hour fasts are definitely going to be what I will stick with. I tried one 36-hour fast and it was a miserable experience, not a thing I intend to repeat. Starting dinner on Sunday night, I fasted until breakfast Tuesday morning. I was fine throughout the day Monday, but uncontrollably hungry Monday night and ended up having a lot of trouble sleeping due to the hunger, which left me feeling grainy and cranky on Tuesday from lack of sleep. I will stick with the 24-hour fasts from now on.

Migraines: I haven’t had one since Friday in the hospital (almost two weeks ago now), and I’m pretty sure that one was due to two days of extreme stress and no sleep. Other than that, it’s been over a week and a half now without a migraine. This is very unusual for me! Dammit.

Constipation: If you are prone to it, fasting will exacerbate it (less input to the system = system slows down). If you are prone to it already, then you have an arsenal of tools for dealing with it, and employing those will help.

I must note for the record that last year around this time I re-started HMR to lose 10 pounds and in the first week I lost a single pound. I continued to slowly and laboriously work my way down until I finally lost those ten pounds but it took me almost 8 weeks to do it, 8 weeks of arduously following a strict diet plan to see very slow, very grudging results. I’ve lost 9 pounds in 2 weeks already. So either this is the solution I’ve been looking for, or any kind of change-up to the system was what my body needs.

Another thing I’ve been thinking: The diet industry has been pushing their “6 small meals a day” advice with the reasoning that if you snack between meals it will keep you from binging on your meals due to hunger. I have found that I do NOT binge, either after fasts or at my 3 meals I eat on regular days, because my body seems to be reducing the amount I can eat during those meals. I.e., my stomach appears to be shrinking by giving it breaks between meals.

So that’s how it went. I’m continuing this week, curious to see if the loss will continue or stall out.

Vacation Detox: Phantom Hunger

Continuing to re-acquaint my body with healthy habits. What I mean by “vacation detox” is that my body grew accustomed to certain things – too much food, too little activity – and now I’m having to readjust.

The first thing I noticed is that I’ve had several “hungry days” in a row now. Hungry days are those days where no matter what you eat, or how much, your body won’t stop sending you the hungry signals – phantom hunger. I know they’re false, but they’re still there. I think they happen because my body gets used to me eating much more than I need, more often than I need, and when I revert back to my regular, healthy patterns it takes some time to convince my body I mean it and I’m not going to feed it cookies or pastries (or cocktails, if I’m being honest) just because it claims hunger. I have a couple of tried-and-true methods for dealing with those signals.

-The best one is a hot beverage. Hot tea, usually, will make my stomach settle down and stop sending the hungry pangs for a while. The weird thing about the pangs is I can get them right after I’ve eaten on a really bad day. The messaging gets completely screwed up by too many days of overeating and I know it, so I have to find ways to distract myself or short-circuit the network.

-Another strategy is to eat, but eat something supportive. A piece of fruit, or a hard-boiled egg usually fit the bill, if it’s been a reasonable amount of time since I last ate.

-Exercise can sometimes do it, a hard workout will often suppress my appetite. This one’s tricky, though, as it can also sometimes backfire and leave me MORE hungry. Also hard to do when I’ve been getting through a cold.

-Worst strategy, but often used: Just gut it out. Accept that my body is telling me it’s starving but I know it’s not, and read a book or do something distracting, and drink a lot of water.

Today’s workout was 30 minutes of quiet cardio. A hard workout despite the name, and my weakened state made it seem that much harder. (Bane of my existence: Chair pose. Why, yoga? It looks so simple but it kills me!) My cold has been receding nicely, much less hacking today. I’m optimistic that I will be able to go for a run tomorrow morning. A short one, of course, I don’t want to push it too much but I need to get back in the swing of it.

I’d definitely be open to hearing your tricks for dealing with phantom hunger. Does anybody else have this issue, and how do you suppress it?

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Your daily penguins

 

Fixing Myself, and Ruminations on the Biggest Loser

I’m coming to the conclusion that the last couple of weeks of depression and exhaustion that I’ve been experiencing were the result of over-training and under-eating. In an effort to counteract that I’ve take the following steps:

  • I picked up some healthy fats yesterday to incorporate into my diet – avocados for my salads, sour cream for my baked potatoes, nuts for…just eating, a very little bit at a time. You have to be careful with nuts!
  • I’m scaling back my workouts. This morning I ran my usual 3.2 mile route. That’s enough for today. Pushing for longer distances was probably more than I needed to do at a time when I’d drastically reduced my intake.

I also ordered some new running shoes, that’s nothing to do with the rest of it, just more of a treat for me and it was time. Running in new shoes is so great, I’m really looking forward to getting them next week and running on clouds for a while!

I’ve been having some further thoughts on the Biggest Loser report that came out earlier this week. And, well, the show in general. I’ve never watched the Biggest Loser, so obviously I’m not in the best place to critique it, but let me just tell you why I’ve never watched it and maybe that will help explain why I find it distasteful.

The Biggest Loser, far as I can tell, is predicated on the principle that fat people should be ashamed of their bodies and work like hell to change them. Further, it appears to be a platform for fat-shaming with a nationally televised reach. The appeal of the show seems to be based solely upon the desire of a national audience to see fat people understand how wrong their bodies are, and be forced to change them. The whole idea of the show assumes the obvious underlying statement that fat people must be humiliated into changing their ways, and the most entertaining way to do that is to set them to compete against one another like animals. To make them into a spectacle. I abhor every single part of this message. As a person who grew up fat, I am disgusted by the very premise of this show. It wounds me viscerally to be reminded that for the first 30 years of my life the only value many could see in me was as a figure of pity, scorn, and to serve as a warning to others.

Add in the complete lack of support and follow-through for the contestants inherent in a reality TV show, and I firmly believe that the show is not about “helping” fat people, it’s about making them into a spectacle for gawking, mockery, and derision. When the contestants inevitably gain back the weight they lost – because they haven’t learned the skills, tools, and behaviors they’d need to keep it off, and they haven’t received any long-term support – the publicity around their failure humiliates them yet again, meanwhile driving ratings for the show up, up, up. Because any publicity is good publicity for the show. But not for the humans upon which it preys.

So there you have it. My uninformed views on a show I haven’t seen and likely never will.

Week 5 Results: Surprise! Meat Puppet is Defective!

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 49 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 37 meal replacements. I burned 4,340 calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~754 calories per day. As you can see, I met and exceeded all of my target goals.

I spent the weekend medieval camping, and despite vast amounts of tasty temptation, I stayed on program every single minute of every single day. You could say I ROCKED IT. I will say it. I rocked it. I am feeling so good about how I handled this weekend with my prepping and my planning. After last weeks astounding physical activity numbers and dismal result on the scale I was expecting that the “check was in the mail,” so to speak, and I’d see a great loss this week. Are you ready for my amazing result??

I was up .7 pounds. I gained.

I’m getting really sick of your shit, body. This meat puppet I use to drive my brain around is defective and I’d like to trade it in on a new one that works now please. If you have never understood the feeling of impotent rage, this is it. To do everything right, to be absolutely immaculate in your execution, and to still fail is the embodiment of situations that inspire impotent rage. I feelz it.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, taking an objective look at the situation, there are three options when one is plateauing:

  • Eat less
  • Eat more
  • Exercise harder

Two of these three options are not feasible for me, as I’m already eating as little as I can get away with, and exercising as hard as I can. So my coach has recommended that I try the other one. I will eat more to try to fuel my body into realizing it is not starving. I will also reel back the exercise a bit because perhaps I am overdoing it there too.

This is so weird to me, you guys. In my thirties, what I am doing now would absolutely work to get me the results I expected. It no longer works. Welcome to my fully wrecked metabolism, courtesy of aging and genetics. I don’t know what works now, but I am going to experiment and find out.

I’ve got nothing but time, and my very own laboratory (body) to experiment with.

According to everything I read, a diet made up of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates should be the gold standard for healthy eating. However I may not have been getting enough of them. So, this week, more fruits and veggies, more of everything. I’m aiming to net in at around 1000 calories per day, so I need to up my caloric intake of healthy foods, and maybe cut back the exercising a bit.

Another thing that actually buttresses my suspicion here that I am not getting enough fuel (despite averaging a total of ~1400 calories per day, netting in at ~700), is that last week I was desperately depressed. I took things that weren’t big deals on their surface and overreacted myself into a deep hole of despair. When does that happen? When things are out of whack. Perhaps I didn’t have enough energy to keep an even keel. I could be wrong. We’ll find out next week I guess.

Vindication! Yes – Bodies Fight to Regain Weight.

Did you guys see this article in the New York Times about the follow-up study on Season 8 competitors of The Biggest Loser?

After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

I sympathize so fiercely with the feelings they’re expressing, and I fully appreciate and understand exactly how frustrating this all is. I read this whole article nodding my head and going, “Finally! I’ve known this all for years! Finally science is validating my experience! I knew it!”

I lived this, and I’m still living this: “The body puts multiple mechanisms in place to get you back to your weight. The only way to maintain weight loss is to be hungry all the time.” Yes, for several years! It’s true! I got through those years with careful food choices and always picking high-satiety and high-water-content foods. But it’s so, so hard.

And now, even knowing that all the things I’ve suspected for years are true, what does it change for me? Nothing. Until they come up with a cure for those of us with messed-up metabolisms, I’m not just going to throw it all away and give up. I can’t.

One of the things that drives me crazy about The Biggest Loser, is that they don’t seem to give the contestants long-term support and tools to build the skills they’d need to even attempt to maintain their weight. The things we do to lose weight are almost always unsustainable long-term. I feel like it’s a moral failing to put people on TV, work them to exhaustion to lose large amounts of weight for the camera, then turn them loose with a hearty handshake and a “Good luck!” What does that prove? Only that yes, if you give up everything else in your life you too can lose weight. It doesn’t show you how to transition to a life that’s worth living. Now THAT’S a show I could watch. Or star in. Whatever.

Bonus Post: Hunger Is The Mind Killer!

I mentioned that the Blitz I’m doing only has minimums, right? No maximums – you can eat as much as you like of everything included on the program – entrees, shakes, fruits and veggies. That’s what I mean when I say I’m “in the box” – the box is the things it’s ok to eat all I want of. And also, “more is better.” Because hunger is anathema to considered, rational decisions. About eating, about goals, and about shopping.

I came across this article today and I just had to share: Hunger Makes You Crave More Than Food

Don’t shop hungry! Hunger makes you acquisitive. If you try to starve yourself and run around hungry all the time you’ll make bad food choices, but also, you’ll end up buying a bunch of binder clips you don’t need! Plus those leggings in the checkout aisle at Ross, the funky jacket that doesn’t go with anything you already own, a bag of gummy worms, and a Snickers bar.

Hunger Is Real

A friend posted this article on Facebook today from the New York Times:

Diet Advice That Ignores Hunger

I have several thoughts on this, I found it to be interesting reading. My first thought is that this trend of articles complaining about how unrealistic it is to lose weight and keep it off obviously consider me and people like me to be freakish outliers. That’s an interesting feeling. I’m here, I’m real, and I’m doing what they say is impossible. So.

My second thought is that it’s all well and good for him to talk about how hard it is and what a strong force hunger plays (this part is absolutely true – you can’t discount hunger as a motivating factor for humans!). But what he fails to do is consider options for handling it. There ARE options for dealing with hunger while still maintaining a healthy weight. I’m living proof. One of those strategies is to focus on eating foods with Low Caloric Density – foods that provide low calories per bite. Here’s my article on that from a couple years back.

I agree with the article’s main premise – hunger is a biological phenomenon that is absolutely an issue in weight control. Health care professionals would do well to consider offering their patients strategies to handle it instead of ignoring hunger as a factor altogether. However there are strategies to handle it. It can be done. I’m living proof.