As many of you who know me on facebook know, I've lost "the weight". My adventure began on March 11, 2016 (or was it the 13th? I lost track) and since that time I've released almost 90 pounds, going from 2x/3x clothes to M clothes with a few items labeled S an a few things in L that I'm not letting go of yet.
It takes a new set of skills to lose weight and keep it off, and it takes consistent engagement with those skills and a commitment to keeping the lines in place.
I'll be open and say that my weight loss has been helped by joining Overeaters Anonymous, getting a sponsor and working the 12 steps and being "abstinent". But if I look at that process through an analytical eye, there are certain things I am doing that can either be done with a 12 step program, or elsewise. Recovery by any other name is just as sweet. Likewise, there are things that I am doing that are not specific to OA (OA doesn't make any comment on specific food plans and whatnot) which I think most people who are successfully losing weight and/or keeping it off do the same.
As with most things, I will take a systems theory approach to my analysis and the skill set I have acquired. My hope is that by breaking it down and sharing it with the world, it might help another human being.
So, the different components (modules, systems...pick your terminology) of weight loss are:
Physical...calories in/calories out. (honest: I didn't exercise while I was losing the majority of my weight. I lift weights now, twice a week, because I love it and I want to be strong. Unless I am climbing a mountain, I'm not that in to cardio...ymmv.)
Physiological: what type of calories are going in and how does YOUR body respond to them? (in other words: get off the sugar. Yes, you.)
Psychological/Spiritual/Relational: What is driving the overeating? How can this drive be released/reduced. Is your over eating driving a wedge between you and God? You and others? Are you over eating to numb your feelings or stuff them down and deny them, even to yourself? Are you controlling others (or attempting to control others)? Are you codependant, resentful, wounded?
The 12 Steps really really help to address the Psychological/Spiritual/Relational aspects of over eating, and I would highly recommend to anyone who struggles with this to dig in to those. Since this program is solid and it exists, I won't re-invent the wheel.
Surrender is VITAL. What happened to me on March 11, 2016? I DIED. I died to the cake, the pie, the bread the cookies. It was a spiritual work of God in my heart. That's the only way I can describe it. I died to the things that were my trigger foods that would lead me into over-eating. At long last I acknowledged that binge eating could be a series of micro-binges, and was not always the magnified dramatic type of binge that gets shown on TLC. Binge eating can be a series of cozy, comfortable habits that don't feel like a binge at all. Because a person can binge on "Just one"..."just one more...". Once I was able to be honest about MY habits and to see them for the excess that they were, instead of justifying myself and how I was eating, I was able to start recovery. I had to let go of trying to have my cake and eat it too....in this case, I had to let go of the cake. A wise friend pointed out to me one time that whenever I started a new diet, the first thing I did was figure out how to make cookies or brownies or cake within the parameters of that diet. I got really good at low carb baking, grain free baking, gluten free baking, baking, baking, baking.
I had to stop baking.
Ok, so lets look for a moment at the physical/physiological aspects of long term weight loss and maintenance and conclude with what that means for the holidays.
A good book that repeats some helpful information to consider is Bright Line Eating. There's nothing new there, and the author borrows heavily from OA concepts. I think what Bright Line Eating delivers is some clear guidelines about food quantities and types which OA does not address. I think those of us with more success in OA are the ones who find a food plan that is similarly strict, and that our definition of abstinence has some "bright lines". Mine does. It is not necessary (IMO) to pay money to join BLE when the same support can be got for free via OA. But if paying money helps you, then by all means, do it. I will say that, for me, the BLE food plan is too strict and restrictive. It would not be a "forever plan" for me. Not enough calories. But I am tall and muscular, and it IS enough calories for my more petite sisters. (The BLE food plan is somewhere in the 1450 calorie range. My own calorie needs have been more or less 1700 calories a day when I count them...some days a bit more, other days a bit less. The excess weight has come off gradually and in a healthy way...but looking back on the last 622 days, it seems an astonishingly fast transformation.)
So...the boundaries (bright lines, if you will)...defining abstinence....that is going to look similar and different for each person. My own personal lines are rather strict:
I don't eat sugar or artificial sweeteners except for Stevia and Truvia (a stevia/erythritol blend). No honey, no molasses, no maple syrup, no white sugar or brown sugar, no aspartame, no splenda...none of that...no coconut sugar or agave nectar. If I take a bite of something at coffee hour and it tastes sweet (why do they put sugar in salad? yes, it happens.) I pass on it.
I don't eat baked goods. No bread, no muffins, cakes, cookies, pies...nothing with that fluffy melt in your mouth mouth feel that these thing afford.
I do eat some gluten free pasta in measured quantities, and I do have corn tortillas from time to time at a restaurant. I don't eat corn chips because I have identified a tendency to munch...more on that later. I do occasionally have french fries if I am at a restaurant and I need a gluten free carb.
About the corn chips: I started out and they were on my OK list of foods, beside the corn tortillas and the potatoes. I was OK with them for a while and then they started creeping up on me and I wanted them more often than prudent. Another bright line I have is that I am utterly willing to let go of ANY FOOD that I see is becoming a problem food for me. Any food. It's just food. If I a desirous to over eat it, out it goes.
And no alcohol. It is a sugar, basically...and for me, it lowers my inhibitions enough to where I am face deep in a pile of food if I drink. "Don't mind, me, one more won't hurt a thing..."
Oh, I forgot to mention: I have food allergies. So, no gluten, no dairy, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no chocolate, no shrimp, no sunflower seeds. I carry an epi pen. yes, I do. So none of those things are on the table for me. I'll be honest: the food allergies help me avoid temptation.
But I do eat carbs: oatmeal, rice, the occasional corn tortilla, beans, fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes. I am not on a low carb diet. In fact, I feel better when I have a balance of carbs, fat and protein. I low carbed for years and never lost the weight (was eating too many calories) and burned out my adrenals in the process.
I'm also not on a low fat diet, but I have learned that I have to measure my fats in order to keep my fat percentage around 35%. I was eating a lot more fat before, since I have a liberal hand when it comes to cooking and portions. So I have learned that even with measuring my fats, I still don't fall into the definition of "low fat"...
The other line I have is on portion sizes and weighing/measuring my food. I had to become willing to use my weighing and measuring tools consistently at first....and I am still willing to use them daily, and I do if I am at home. At this point, some days I count calories and some days I don't. On the days I count calories, I have a bit more flexibility on when I eat...sometimes I end up having some air popped popcorn in order to meet my calorie target at the end of the day. Sometimes I don't. Often those days consist of a series of tried and true meals for which I have already counted the calories in the past and I know they fall within my lines. On the days when I don't count calories, I still measure my protein (4 oz. serving), my fat (1/2 T. serving) and my carbs (1 cup rice, pasta or potato). On the no calorie counting days I have another strict rule: Three meals, no snacks. And at those meals, I eat my normal measured portions, no seconds. I MIGHT have a piece of fruit (included in my meal budget that I eat a bit before dinner to keep my blood sugar from tanking). I know myself well enough to know that I will always need to measure protein, fat and carb foods...the only time I don't measure them is when I am out at a restaurant. I will be honest and say that: The number of places I eat out is countable on about one hand, and I always order the same thing off the menu, so I've looked up the nutrition information on those meals in the past and I insert them into my day, eat and move on. It's about the fuel aspect of food. It's not really about the deliciousness, although it generally does taste good. I don't measure my vegetables strictly. I tend to eat a lot of vegetables to get my meal volume high enough to be satisfying. One cup of pasta and 4 ounces of meat is paltry. Add 2 cups of steamed veggies to that, and it's enough food.
When I'm at a Mexican restaurant and I'm waiting on my meal, it IS hard to not eat the corn chips, especially when I am very hungry, and if I were not very hungry I would not be there to eat a meal. But God gives strength.
So, if you have made it thus far through this rambly mess of a blog post, I want to address the holiday aspect of weight loss and weight maintenance. It IS possible to have a festive occasion, and even have special holiday foods without crossing the lines and making exceptions. I screamed like an angry toddler every day for a week when I was detoxing from sugar, and let me tell ya...I ain't doing that again. No thank you.
I do NOT miss the almost 90 pounds I've released. I do NOT want them to find me again. The pie is not worth it.
So, holidays: Meat...that's easy. Eat some meat. Turkey, roast, whatever. Have some. for my part, what would a holiday menu look like within the lines I have set: meat, rice seasoned with sage/onion/mushrooms, perhaps, or mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce made from scratch sweetened with stevia, pumpkin custard (the crust is a nope...but if you made something with a nut crust that might work if flour stuff is off your list), if you aren't allergic to dairy you could make a sugar free cheesecake...you have more options than I do. Cinnamon apples, kale salad, sauteed green beans...the possibilities for healthy side dishes are almost endless. Many traditional favorites CAN be re-imagined to fall inside your lines.
And so it's meal time, and I eat. I measure the potatoes, I measure the meat. I eat liberally of the veggies. I measure the apples. that is my dessert. I am full and I don't get seconds. And by the time supper comes, I am hungry and I can have another meal.
The day after Thanksgiving breakfast tradition of pie is replaced with putting some sugar fee cranberry sauce in my oatmeal instead of my usual banana. I add cinnamon. It is special.
There's a balance to be created between "this is just an ordinary day" and "this is a feasting day"... and it's possible to make special occasion dishes that fall within the parameters of one's food plan. Because, in the end...it's not about the food.