Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Depriving yourself

I have been on and off diets for the past 33 years.  As soon as I hit puberty, I became mega concerned about the girth of my hips, the size of my thighs and my boobs that were cascading out of every bra my mother got for me.  I learned how to lose weight by starving myself.  When I was about 15 (or so), I started on Weight Watchers, where I learned to eat "three vegetables, two fruits, three fats, etc."  I went from a girls' size 14 to a women's size 10, where I fought to get into a Junior's size 9 (or 7, if I was lucky).  I had a pretty decent metabolism, I could eat most anything, go on 10-day diet, lose weight, and return to my normal eating habits.  The one diet I hated the most had us eating tuna with no mayo and beets.  I think there were other things in the diet, but it was so disgusting that I remember it most vividly.  In the 1990s, Atkins Diet became super popular, but I like my carbs too much so that was never for me.  This has been my life cycle.  Find a new diet, starve myself, lose weight, gain it back.  Repeat.  I used to exclaim to everyone how proud I am to be a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers, an accomplishment I achieved in 2003.

All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
Ecclesiastes 6:7 (ASV)

This is me, my senior year of high school.  The picture on the left was taken prior to my senior prom and the one on the right was taken on a visit to my grandparents' house in Florida.  I was very self-conscious of my appearance, thus the ruffle on the bathing suit and the "to the neck" lace on my prom dress.

Today, I proclaim that every diet I have ever been on, including Weight Watchers, did nothing to help me.  Nothing.  A lifetime of looking in the mirror, not being happy with what you see, starving yourself to lose weight, fixating on the numbers on the scale ... until eventually you just don't care.  That's largely how I let myself get to the point I was in 2013.  I couldn't see that anything I was doing or could do would result in a change.  I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat.  Ice cream, cookies and cake comforted me and were easy fixes to being hungry. As I got older, the weight did not come off from depriving myself.  In 2014, it took six weeks of doing things my own way to say, "I need help."  That's when I hired a personal trainer who tried to teach me the right way of doing things, but I was not a cooperative client.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 (ESV)

Through the years, I battled with my weight. Yo-yo dieting never helped.

It was a cognitive shift for me that really made me "click."  A week of crying after my trainer Mike died, getting to know a new trainer and having to make the decision to keep doing things my way or listen to the expert.  "If you want to lose weight, this is what you need to do," Dmitriy said.  And when I said, "I am not going to do that.  I know how to eat,"  I was on the receiving end of a difficult conversation when he told me, "The only way I'm going to be able to help you is if you do this..."  (I write about Mike here:  Mike Made Me Do It.  And Dmitriy here:  Dmitriy Made It Happen.)

The top left picture was taken while I was on Weight Watchers (again) and had lost over 20 lbs.  I was feeling good about myself at that point.  When I hurt my knee in the summer, all of the efforts I had made were lost and I gained all the weight back and then some.  At that point, I just did not care.

So what do I do?  I keep track of what I eat, within a certain calorie range - and I divide the calories into carbohydrates, protein and fat.  I have had to LEARN what foods are too high in carbs or too high in fat that I really should avoid or use up my quota too quickly.  I have had to practice, fail, and relearn.  I try to plan family meals at least the night before so I'm not scrambling to figure out what's for dinner when I get home from work.  Last week we were going to have pasta.  I had some homemade sauce in the freezer, so all I had to do was thaw that, boil pasta for the family and cook spaghetti squash for me.  Pressed for time, I didn't get to cook the squash, so I opted for some pasta.  One serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, which is 200 calories and 42 grams of carbs.  That is 28% of my entire carb allowance for one day, add spaghetti sauce and you're just about done for the day.  This is a crazy way to use my carbs.  What did I learn?  Tonight, when I did not have time to cook the spaghetti squash, I substituted zucchini instead and liked it oh so much better!  (Speaking of carbs...a slice of whole wheat bread is 90 calories and 17 grams of carbs - not a lot better, but at least the fiber will help satisfy your hunger a little.)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Proverbs 19:20

What I have learned is that depriving myself only frustrates me, makes me feel like I am sacrificing instead of living, and prevents me from keeping true to my goals for the long term.  I am not in this to lose 10 lbs. and gain it back.  I am in this to be healthy, to feel better, and to be fit.  I have to drop my arrogance and say, "I don't know.  I am learning."  The thing is, at this point my overall nutrition is pretty good and mostly balanced, so if I have a bad day, or if I eat a slice of pizza, my body is not going to hold onto every calorie and say, "Tracey is starving me, let's keep this yummy pizza and make her gain 10 lbs."  It does not work that way. 

Depriving yourself will not make you reach your goals and will not result in any sustained improvement.  You have to be willing to rethink dieting and weight loss.  Start calling it nutrition.  I posted this link on a previous blog entry, and I think it's worth reposting. has a great article, detailing practical guidelines for losing weight.  The article is called, "How to lose weight."  This is very similar to the nutrition plan I have, only my macros are spread out more equally. 

However, if you continue to make poor nutritional choices, you will not see the results you want.  You do have to change your eating habits, but you should not feel like you are starving, or that you are on a diet.  If I am hungry, I eat.  Now that I am riding my bike so much, I find my hunger increases significantly after a ride.  Cycling consumes a lot of calories, so I have given myself permission to eat more than my typical allotted calories (sometimes I eat a lot more).  I also have become a bit of a fanatic about the scale.  I don't get on it every day, but at least once a week.  It's a good way to measure if my eating habits are aligned or if I need to adjust them.

With the holiday weekend approaching, I know I am going to eat more than I usually do and I will probably not follow my macros to the letter.  This weekend is meant to be enjoyed, so I am ok with that.  I no longer live to eat, so I won't be eating cookies and chips hand over fist.  Truth is, I prefer fresh fruits and vegetables...and PEANUT BUTTER!  Oh how I love peanut butter.

If you are trying to lose weight, stop starving yourself.  Start thinking differently about your eating habits.  Stop dieting.  Start thinking about nutrition.