The new reality

Down half a pound this week, which is basically within the margin of error and/or negligible. So this is my new weight, I guess. After gaining 9 pounds in a week last time, I’ve basically come to a conclusion:

I don’t know shit about weight management.

The longer I’ve been working at this (and we’re up to, uh, about 15 years now?) the less I seem to know. The things that worked initially no longer work for me, and the things I used to do I can’t anymore. So I don’t bloody know.

Laurie made a point last week that is, maybe, a ray of light. She pointed out that I completely changed my way of eating, and didn’t gain anything. Which, if you factor out the weight-suppressing medicine I was on for the last four months, it’s true – my weight now and the weight I was at prior to starting (then stopping 2 weeks ago) that drug is exactly the same (maybe down half a pound). So in the end, the Obesity Code rules are at least helping me to eat in a way that I enjoy more and feels less deprived, which on its own is a good change in my life. Regardless of my body and it’s ongoing lifelong constant rebellion against my brain and what I want.

The eleven pounds I thought I had lost following the OC program were actually due to the medication I was on. That’s been quite a blow, as I thought I had found something that worked for me, finally. I had, it just wasn’t what I thought it was, and it’s something I can’t do long-term (take a drug that causes me more migraines). I don’t want to talk about weight and diet right now.

That’s a First!

Guys, I want to tell you something but I want to make sure you’re sitting down first, and also that you don’t freak out but instead just laugh like I am. I had my weekly weigh-in this morning. Are you ready?

I gained 9 pounds this week.

RIGHT?!

That’s crazy! How is that even possible? How much of Cake Mountain did I shovel into my face to make that happen?!

It’s definitely a record! In my life, I’ve never gained 9 pounds in a single week, and honestly there’s just no math that makes it a feasible result. I have changed NOTHING in how I ate this week vs the last 3 or 4 months. Nothing.Yes we had a three-day-weekend but I didn’t go on a full-scale cheesecake rebellion or anything. I didn’t do anything different.

I got off the scale and got back on again a time or two just to double-check and yes, I have indeed gained 9 pounds this week.

You know what changed? I went off a medication I’d been on for a while. That’s the only change in my life, and the reason was to reduce migraines – the medication was causing migraines that I couldn’t stop with my Rx medications for them.

You know what else? This completely vindicates the basic premise of the Obesity Code book: it’s not about calories in vs calories out, it’s about chemistry and hormones. I drastically changed my chemistry this week and my body reacted boldly and swiftly.

Wow. I have no idea what’s next. I have no idea if my body will settle back down or this is my new weight now.

Limiting Damage from Dysfunctional Coping Mechanisms

If you’re like me you might have been indulging in some dysfunctional coping mechanisms that last few weeks. You know what I’m talking about, right? Eating, drinking, impulse buying, avoiding exercise…

Well, those are mine. The bad news is that with the holidays fully upon us the emotional situations that bring on the need to cope are likely to only intensify. Your family is not going to stop arguing about the current US political situation just because it’s December and the Christmas spirit should dominate. They’re going to get worse, and we’re going to want to hide in a cave, eat chocolate candy, and buy sparkly things on Amazon while sipping a fruity cocktail and blasting the new Metallica album in our earbuds.

Or maybe that’s just me.

This post isn’t about changing all that and causing you to suddenly switch to a perfect food and exercise program this week. It’s about limiting the damage, because sometimes that’s the best we can do. So I’m only going to talk about limiting the damage, focusing on the dysfunctional coping mechanisms I myself am familiar with (for example, if smoking is your problem I have no idea how that feels so I wouldn’t even try to offer any suggestions but check out WebMD, maybe something they have is useful).

Eating Too Much

Yep, big one. Mine and everyone else’s. Eating releases dopamine. In short – eating comforts mammals. Evolutionarily, that’s an advantage. Real-world modern today, not so much. My best advice is to swap out the less-supportive foods you might want to binge on, with something that will do less damage. Remember, this article is just about limiting the damage. So, if your go-to is chips, switch to popcorn. Try some Skinny Pop, it’s tasty and only about 40 calories per cup. You can eat a LOT of it without causing too much damage. Or make some popcorn at home, light on the butter and salt.

If sweet is your thing, go to your grocery store and grab a bag or two of grapes, green or red or black, doesn’t matter. Wash those up and eat the whole bag if you want. Same thing with baby carrots. We can all admit that we’re not eating for the gourmet experience right now, we’re shoveling food in because it feels good, so look for foods you can eat in bulk with good texture: Broccoli spears, carrots, grapes, berries, slice up some apples. Honestly, if you just need to be putting something in your mouth, you can eat all the fruits and veggies you want without causing too much damage.

And dump some of the junk. If it’s not around you can’t use it/eat it.

Drinking Too Much

First of all, I’m not going to tell you to stop drinking. I’m not your mom, and this ain’t AA. If drinking a bit too much is what you need to do to get by for a while, let’s just limit the damage and sort out the rest later.

Light beer. Ugh, I know, it’s not as awesome as Guinness or local craft brews. But let’s be honest, are you really drinking for the nuanced flavor profile and deep complexity, or are you drinking because things look shitty and you need a little fuzziness around the edges to cope? If you’re drinking to cope, make it something less damaging. If beer is your thing, pick up some light beer, just to get through for a while.

Wine. It’s gonna be a better option than sugary cocktails, hands down. Dryer varieties have fewer calories, so skip the dessert wines (again, we’re not drinking for the flavor, let’s all admit it).

On the Rocks. Get right down to business. A shot of vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, or whatever your spirit may be, is going to have about 65 calories per serving (shot). If taking the edge off is what’s important, have a straight up shot or two and call it good.

Mixers. Stick to low-cal mixers like diet soda or diet tonic, light cranberry juice, light juices in general (they exist, you just have to know to look for them), lemon or lime juice, or club soda.

Dilute. I’ve been adding water to my wine to reduce the caloric load and also slow myself down. It’s perfectly legitimate to dilute your drink with sparkling water or club soda. It’s also helped me avoid several headaches.

Water round. Drink non-alcoholic beverages every other time. Get yourself some flavored sparkling waters so you can feel fancy while you’re doing it. This will also help you to avoid hangovers so that you can continue to be a productive member of what’s left of society.

Shopping/Impulse Buying

I’ve been buying too much stuff – it’s so easy when you can stay home in your sweats and bring the world to your doorstep. Again – I’m suggesting ways to limit the damage.

Coupons. Check out Honey, a browser extension that scours the internet, then automatically applies the best coupon code at checkout wherever you are shopping. It’s not going to stop you from shopping, but it will apply discounts to limit the damage to your bank account.

Try Pinterest. The thing about Pinterest is that you can curate your own little world of things you like without actually purchasing them. You still have them, there, in your virtual world, if you want to look at them. I’m not sure how useful this would be, but it’s worth a shot.

Return policies. Most companies allow you to return stuff once you’ve received it. If you find yourself drowning in things you’ve bought recently and maybe shouldn’t have, it’s not too late once you’ve received it, although you may take a hit on the postage.

Donate. You can set the amount (make it something you can afford), and you still get the high of shopping for something and purchasing it.

Delay. I’ve got tons of shopping carts floating out there on the internet with things I put in and then waited a day to see if I really wanted them. I like putting stuff in online shopping carts. It feels like buying! It’s fun! Look at all this pretty stuff! And then I wait a day to see if I really, really want the thing more than I want money. Usually not.

Not Exercising

It’s weird that not exercising is a coping mechanism, but it can feel really pointless to expend the energy to improve our bodies when it seems like everything is going to hell in a handbasket. And of course, that’s when it will often do the most good. I personally have been having trouble mustering the energy to do the kinds of workouts I know I should be doing right now – HIIT, strength training, metabolic conditioning. Those are hard workouts that seem like so much effort.  So what I’ve been doing is pulling up my favorite trainer’s YouTube channel and just browsing until something that seems doable comes up. Right now punching things seems good, so I’ve been doing kickboxing workouts almost exclusively the last week. Punching feels good right now, especially when I envision certain faces in front of my fist. Cathartic.

Maybe what you need right now is some yoga, to center yourself and focus on breathing for a bit.

Maybe what you need is to go for a walk and get some sunshine. Maybe you don’t have any equipment but moving your body sounds like a good idea. Maybe burning really hard is how you need to clear your head.

And hey – feel free to zombie-walk your way through a workout. Nothing says you can’t just do the parts you like. Nothing says you have to be enthusiastic. Sometimes I start a video thinking, “Eh, I’m not feeling it, but I’ll humor her and if it gets too much I’ll just half-ass it.” And I do. But sometimes I start to enjoy the feeling of moving and I build some enthusiasm as I go.

In Conclusion…

You don’t have to start a diet and exercise program right now, dear lord no you don’t! But you can limit the damage of some of the dysfunctional coping mechanisms you may be indulging in, until you’re ready to take more drastic measures. So here I am, in the same boat, doing my best to limit the damage along with you. I don’t think anything here is rocket science, I think that sometimes it helps to have a list of things presented, though, so you can pick one or two to focus on. Feel free to just pick one or two. It’s enough.

Also, a Facebook break does wonders for the mind. Give it some thought. A day or a few days can really help with the sense of helplessness and catastrophe some of us are feeling.

Meds and Weight Gain: Thought Experiment (Hopefully)

Hey guys! I didn’t post results last week because I’m maintaining now. In the future. Forever. Henceforth posting “Yep, staying the same!” every week is probably off.

That being said….something has come up to disrupt my flow. Sort of.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I suffer from chronic migraines, have since I was in my early 20s. I’ve tried dozens of preventative regimens, I know my triggers, I have an army of pharmaceutical soldiers for when they strike, and yet still they plague me. Recently I met with my doctor yet again about on-going skirmishes in this battle and she recommended we try a new/different preventative medication, which my neurologist could prescribe.

To say I was hesitant is an understatement. All of the other things I’ve tried I had to discontinue due to being a special snowflake side effects that made continuing either dangerous or very uncomfortable, ranging from “blacking out in the bathroom for 2-3 minutes and scaring the hell out of my husband with concomitant ambulance trip and ER visit” to “suicidal ideation” to “weird bone and joint pain.”

But. That tantalizing possibility of less pain hanging around out there makes me willing to try…just…one…more…time. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we only have to keep trying these drugs with off-label migraine uses until they come up with something specifically for migraines, and my hopes and fears are currently fixated on the CGRP drugs currently in human testing, making them a year or two away from being approved. But until then…

I started the new drug on Friday last week. So far I haven’t had any real problems, no depression, passing out, weird pains – so far so good. One weird thing though, that may or may not be related, is that my weight shot up about 4 pounds since I started and nothing else in my diet or exercise program has changed. That’s a thing I pay attention to. So far we’re still in “swing range” for my body, but since I weigh every day I know that to go up, up, up without any down motion over a 5 day period is not normal for my body.

That’s where the thought experiment comes in. What if weight gain is a side effect for me on this drug? So far it’s only a few pounds, but what if it continues? Obviously I can’t tell yet whether it is preventing migraines because I’ve only been on it for 5 days so far, but let’s say for the purpose of argument that it DOES work and suddenly I no longer have to get 1-3 migraines a week.

For that, yes, absolutely, 4 pounds, no problem here. Happy to trade it.

But what if this is only the beginning? How would I feel if it was 10 or 20 pounds, or, god forbid, 30 or more? What’s the cutoff to the amount I’m willing to accept for an absence of that chronic, debilitating pain? At what point do I shut it down and go back to regular migraines, and declare this yet another loser to side effect bingo?

I have to take into account how central weight management has been to me and how hard I’ve worked for it the last 13 years. Am I willing to trade all that for a reduction in agony? How much of a mental hurdle will that be for me, to know that for as long as I want to experience a pain-free existence, I’d have to maintain a weight that makes me unhappy.

I don’t have any of the answers yet, and a lot of it will depend on 1) how well this drug works vs 2) how much weight we’re talking about here. But it’s probably something I should figure out, if the results I’m seeing on my scale are going to continue in an upwards trajectory.

Maintenance “Swing Range” Numbers

This week in class we’re talking about Emotional Eating – you know, that thing you do where you feel sad, or lonely, or angry, or stressed, and you eat a whole box of cookies and ice cream mindlessly due to that uncomfortable feeling?

Well, emotional eating is not my problem. Oh, I assure you, I have eating problems, but not that one in particular. My problems run more to social eating, opportunistic eating, and portion control. So this module about emotional eating isn’t doing much for me, other than a good reminder. But any time the teacher asks what our particular foods are that we run to for comfort and soothing, I got nothing. Everybody has different reasons for their eating issues, I just happen to have this one under control (although it took years of work). These days when I need comfort I can usually find a non-food method, or eat something that’s allowable under my program (fresh, ripe stone fruits right now are rocking my world).

So instead of talking about that, I’ll give you a snapshot of how my week went on the scale. Last week, it went:

  • Monday: Baseline weight for the week (up 3 pounds from before trip)
  • Tuesday: -4
  • Wednesday: +3
  • Thursday: -2.5
  • Friday: +2.5
  • Saturday: +.5
  • Sunday: -2
  • Monday: +1.5
  • Monday afternoon before leaving for class: +5 (!!!)

This is why it’s generally not a good idea to weigh yourself every day once you’re in maintenance. Once a week is sufficient, because these swings are the opposite of motivational. I mean, yeah, it’s great when you’re down 4 one day, but when you’re up 3 the next and you didn’t go on a binge…it’s kind of infuriating. What’s even more frustrating is on none of those days did I step outside my program. I was doing everything perfectly, and I got wild, ridiculous swings. THIS IS NORMAL FOR MAINTAINING. People think that when you’re maintaining a stable weight you actually have a stable weight. This is not true.

Oh, and last night at class, when I did my official weigh in? Down 5 pounds for the week. Totally unexpected after that mid-afternoon check-in! I’ll take it (although there’s a little voice in my head pointing out that with such a large loss there’s a good chance I’ll have some of it come back next week because it wasn’t “real.” Thanks brain!). Three of that was just my body re-adjusting after the cruise, the rest is solid progress – I’m down 12.6 officially, less than 8 to go to my stretch goal!

What’s your normal day-to-day “swing range” in maintenance? Four to five pounds seems to be mine. Frustrating, but at least I know about it and that it’s nothing to freak out about. Theoretically.

Cruising and Weight Management

I just got back from a cruise, a first time endeavor for me and my husband. We did ten days in the Mediterranean, starting in Athens and ending in Barcelona, with a couple of days at each end in those cities, and arrived home late Sunday night.

Here’s what I learned:

-There are healthy options on a cruise, but they are sometimes very hard to find, and some of the menu descriptions can be deceiving, so ask. For example, I learned the hard way that “crisp” can mean deep fried. Ugh. You’re welcome.

-You’re better off doing the seated dining where it’s an option, because a buffet is an invitation to overindulgence. (buffets are my natural enemy in the wild, and I avoid them at all costs whenever possible).

-Food is available 24/7. That doesn’t mean you need to eat it 24/7.

-The quickest way to eat regrettably, and inflate your cruise tab, is alcohol. As always. This is the same on land or sea.

-Air France has the worst airplane food I’ve ever encountered on an international flight, hands down. I wasn’t expecting that!

Anyway, as I mentioned before I left, I didn’t want to gain a pound a day like my pal Rick Steves says can be common on a cruise (aieee!). Nightmare scenario for me!

Here were the strategies I employed:

  1. Don’t snack between meals. This had an unintended consequence for me, unfortunately, because when you eat lunch at noon or 1 and your dinner seating isn’t until 8:15, that’s a very long gap between meals. I normally try to eat every 2-3 hours, and this caused me some headaches I probably didn’t need to have. Due to the complete upending of my usual routine inherent in any travel, sometimes the first sign I’d have that I was hungry was a splitting headache. NO BUENO. Were I to do it again, I would plan in some healthy snacks every few hours, by stockpiling fruit from the breakfast buffet (which I started doing eventually but not at first).
  2. Load up on lean meats and veggies for dinner. Most meal options come with veggies, but also you can order sides of extra veggies. One night lobster was a menu option – YES PLEASE!
  3. Dessert was always a fruit plate. And a fruit plate was always an option on the dessert menu. I took the view of, which of these options would leave me feeling the best? Almost every time it was fruit plate.
  4. SO MUCH WALKING. I definitely got more walking on the days we didn’t book excursions from the boat, because we ended up walking off the boat and exploring the port city all on foot. But, even some (not all, but some!) excursions netted us up to 8 miles of walking, which was a surprise!. (Personal high was about 12 miles the day we explored Athens, all on foot!)
  5. Eat the local delicacy when on shore. Life can’t be all boiled chicken and broccoli, my friends! Pizza in Naples, tapas in Spain, daube provencal in Arles. The walking will take care of it!

I’ve lately been focusing my mindset on fueling my body in the way it wants to be fueled, and that means avoiding sugar. Protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates work best for me, but things like desserts that are pure sugar will leave me feeling sluggish and bloated for sure, so when it came time to choose dessert, it was usually pretty easy for me to pick the thing that would help me feel my best. Somebody in our dinner group commented one evening that I was “being so good” with my dessert selections, and I could honestly say that I just liked fruit better than the other options. I wasn’t trying consciously to be on a diet, I just want to not feel crappy while I’m on vacation!

So…you may be wondering…how did this all work out for me?

Well, last night I went to my class and weighed in up 3.2 pounds, so that doesn’t sound very great, does it?

Unless you know, like I do, that my body always freaks out when I take an inter-continental flight, and that it would take a day or two to settle down.

This morning I weighed in down 3.5 pounds from yesterday. So that means I had a net change of just about nothing. That was my goal. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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.