Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fattism and "Natural States"

Recently, I read an article on “fattism” in the U.K. An obese woman was riding a train and an average weight woman attacked her violently for no other reason than she was overweight. The article itself was scary, but the comments were of greater interest to me.

A comment that particularly caught my eye was one that said that being fat isn’t a normal or natural state. As “evidence” that this was the case, the commenter noted that people weren't grossly overweight or morbidly obese 22,000 years ago. Setting aside the fact that this person has no way of proving the presence or absence of people who were very overweight so long ago, the comment betrayed some interesting myopia.

The question really isn’t whether or not people were obese prior to the dawn of civilization. The important thing to consider is whether or not they would have been if they were exposed to the same circumstances that we are current living in. If people thousands of years ago had been given access to plentiful amounts of highly caloric food that could be acquired without physical effort, you can bet many of them would have been obese. In fact, there’s every likelihood that they would have seen being fat as a good thing as it would have ensured survival and been an indication of one being part of a tribe that had consistent access to food.

The thing that frustrates me about fattism is that people don’t seem to realize that evolution is what has lead so many people to be obese. Fattists act as though obesity is an unnatural state which is incomprehensible through any lens other than one of personal failure. The human brain developed as a result of the consumption of fat. In fact, the brain itself is composed of layers of specialized fatty tissue. Our intelligence and higher functioning would never have developed if our ancestors didn’t have a taste for the fattiest foods available.

Being overweight is not a natural state, but eating everything in sight is a natural act. The behavior that fattists find so reprehensible, a lack of ability to resist available food, is actually the most natural behavior of all. The part of our lives which is unnatural is not our actions in stuffing lots of food into our hungry maws, but the easily available food. It is actually far less natural to be surrounded by food and choose not to eat it than to choose to eat it all. If we approach obesity as the consequence of our biological nature (as it has been shaped by evolution) rather than an unnatural state which only people who have failed to develop habits that "normal" people have acquired, it might be easier to deal with and treat the problem.

Of course, fattists are not interested in logic, evidence, or science. They are only interested in blame and finding a way to feel smugly superior to people who are overweight.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Despite my progress, and continually improving habits, I’m finding myself depressed and disheartened at this stage of the game. This is because I’m making progress, but I’m not looking much better. From a psychological behavioral model viewpoint, this is because I’m no longer being rewarded in a tangible manner for my behavior.

At first, the reward was the achievement itself. Each day that I successfully ate at my caloric goals and exercised was like a mental gold star. Since I started out calorie counting only one day, then added two, then three, and am now at the point where I count everyday, the newness of the experience and the impact of achieving each daily goal lasted for quite some time, but has been blunted now. Success no longer feels like an accomplishment. It’s simply what happens everyday and will continue to happen pretty much to the end of my life (with some modifications).

Given my current lofty weight, viewable progress has been slow in coming. I tend to notice progress in leaps after a month or two rather than in steps after a week or two. I’m also very cognizant of the fact that my stretched out skin is going to sag even when the weight that pulled it into its current shape is reduced. I may not look as good as someone else at my weight because the skin won’t retract fast enough (if ever).

This is a stage which I call “fat without benefits” or “FWB” for short. I think that this is one of the many reasons people often fail at diets. Being fat itself has no benefits, but the actions that lead up to it are gratifying. You have freedom to eat whatever you want and the pleasure of the food you’re consuming both physically and emotionally. You avoid the discomfort and stress of hunger and aren’t having the mental battles that go along with scrutinizing and censoring your food choices.

If you are very overweight, you’re going to spend an appreciable amount of time being in a state of “FWB”. You’ll be getting incremental improvement that is too small to be seen (and possibly too small health-wise to be palpable for quite some time) punctuated by bursts of reward occasionally.

I’m pondering now if this long, tedious slog is going to be harder than the acutely uncomfortable initial phase of a lifestyle change to lose weight. While it’s very hard to get started, it’s difficult in a different way to keep going. The fact that you were sick of being fat is what drove you initially to change your lifestyle, and now that you’ve changed it, you’re still fat and will be for the foreseeable future.

I expect to spend at least 2 years in varying points of this phase given my current weight. That being said, I am not finding the food restrictions or the exercise particularly oppressive or restrictive, but I’m just frustrated and occasionally depressed by the lack of noticeable progress. I guess that this might be a time to turn to a scale so that I can get numerical feedback that will be symbolic of progress, but I’m concerned that the sometimes impatient and compulsive nature of my character might make that a poor option for me. If I have those numbers, I might become frustrated if they aren’t moving as I expect they should. For now, I’m going to just simply be aware of how I feel and try to accept that this will be my reality for awhile and I need to make peace with it as best I can.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Many years ago, my husband had some problems with his throat being too sensitive and sore for a long period of time. His work involves talking a lot every day so he had to expose himself to pain unavoidably on the job. When he came home though, he wanted to reduce the strain on his throat so he asked that we not talk. In fact, he didn’t want to utter a word if he could avoid it and would clap his hands once or twice for yes or no.

Initially, I understood that he wanted to give his throat every chance to heal by resting his voice when he could. However, it didn’t seem to get better as time went on. Time went by, and I was shut out of conversations with him for months. This was very stressful for both of us, but as the more gregarious person, and as someone who had far fewer social interactions at work, this wore on me much harder than him. Eventually, my husband started talking again because the strain on me was too difficult, and it was starting to have an impact on our relationship.

One thing that my husband realized as a result of this was that he was probably making his situation worse by treating his throat with kid gloves, at least past a certain point. By treating it as something that needed to be protected and reducing strain, he was making it weaker, just like a muscle that atrophies. Now, when he has throat problems, he only doesn’t talk for a maximum time of a week then starts talking again to try and “toughen” up his tender throat’s speaking endurance.

I mention this experience because I think many aspects of our biology work in a similar fashion. That is, we have to condition them to tolerate things that are outside of what they are used to. This comes to mind mainly in regards to hunger. When I first started trying to control my eating, the hunger at times nearly drove me mad. It occupied my mind and body and I found it unbearable at times. I think this is because my brain was so unaccustomed to tolerating hunger that it sent very urgent signals to me about this new and strange condition. In essence, I had a sort of “bio-panic” to hunger pangs.

Now, when I get hungry, it’s still very uncomfortable, but it’s probably about 70% as bad as it once was at its worst point, and about 50% of what it was before in general. I think that by tolerating hunger more often and by gradually reducing the amount of food I eat, I’ve trained my brain not to send such panicked and urgent signals to me when I’m hungry. In essence, I'm attempting to condition my body to tolerate hunger just as my husband had to condition his throat to deal with more talking when it was weak.

Don’t get me wrong about this. Being hungry is still a difficult and unpleasant experience for me. It’s supposed to be for everyone because that discomfort drives survival. Those who are sluggish to respond to hunger cues were more likely to die because they didn’t seek nourishment aggressively enough to survive. That being said, I think that people who can maintain a healthy weight have a less urgent biological response to hunger and can resist the urge to eat better than those of us who are quite overweight.

My hope is that my body can be re-trained to send less loud and painful hunger signals. If the hunger signal strength can be turned down to a low enough volume, it will be more bearable and easier to resist eating as time goes by. This is something that I'd hoped for when I started this type of behavioral change, but I had doubts that it'd work. I'm happy to say that it does appear to be working to some extent at this point.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Empowering Lie

Back when I was more out of control with my eating than I currently am, I used to tell myself that I was making choices, not that I was out of control. If I ate ice cream because I was depressed, I told myself that did so by choice with the full knowledge that I was attempting to drown my pain in creamy deliciousness. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was bad for my health and would likely cause me to gain more weight (or at least sustain the fat I already had), but I chose to do it anyway.

I told myself that this type of behavior was me being in control of my eating. This is what I would call an “empowering lie”. By lying and saying I was in control, I felt like I had power. I’m not fat because I can’t fight my urges. I’m fat because I choose to be so. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself that I was choosing to “be bad” when I overate or ate poorly.

Of course, no one chooses to be fat. That’s where the rub is on this control scenario. Choosing to drown your pain in food or to act on cravings or compulsions is not you being in control unless you are embracing the full implication of the choice. We make the choice dismissing the consequences, denying them, or mentally mitigating their impact. The final one of those is the easiest to do if you’re already fat. You aren’t likely to make yourself look much worse, even with a few more pounds.

Here’s the bottom line. It’s not a choice if you only have one option. If you can’t say no or if you can’t resist your cravings or impulses, it’s not a choice between, “yes, I will eat poorly this time,” or “no, I will eat properly this time.” Saying that you choose “yes” the majority of the time isn’t a choice because you almost certainly can’t say “no”, at least not most of the time. You have to be capable of saying “no” for there to be a choice and to actually be in control.

The scary thing for me is that I’m unclear on how I made the transition from choosing to eat to choosing not to eat. I don’t know what process allows me to say “no” now and not before. This scares me more than I can express. If I don’t know how I got here this time (or last time), I don’t know how I’ll get back if I get lost.

To me, this is the turning point for all people who lose weight as compared to those who try and fail. The fact that the birth of this capacity to truly make a choice about what and how much you eat is hard to recreate, stimulate or induce is frightening. It’s the critical yet elusive element in weight loss success.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mentally Dealing with Plateaus

When I was in college, I had an experience that many people do during their years of hard study. I would often get sick during vacations, but remain well during the time periods when classes and tests were going on. This pattern was so common that it would be hard to reach any conclusion but my body was holding sickness at bay until my schedule was a little clearer.

This experience, one that my husband and others have shared as well, demonstrates the power that our minds have over our bodies. The placebo effect similarly shows that we have considerably more control over our health and well-being than we generally realize.

Recently, this thought has been on my mind as I’ve been reading a popular weight loss forum and several people have lamented, quite understandably, that they’re frustrated with doing everything right and not advancing much or at all in their weight loss. There are some women who literally have dieted for months with no or minimal loss. Part of this is, I'm sure, individual chemistry and the plateau effect. I strongly believe that plateaus are caused by our bodies desire to rest in a state of homeostasis rather than to keep losing weight. Also, from an evolutionary viewpoint, hanging onto body fat is more desirable than losing it because those who had the greatest fat stores survived the best through lean times.

While part of the problem these women are having is absolutely biological, I sometimes wonder if it may also be psychological. In particular, I’ve pondered whether or not their minds are controlling their bodies to some extent. Just as my mind used to make my body wait to get sick in college, I wonder if these women’s minds are making their body’s hang on to weight.

I’m not suggesting that this is a conscious choice. In fact, I often feel that our conscious desires have far less of an impact on our bodies than our unconscious ones. I never said, “I can’t get sick now because I need to study for tests and take tests.” It just happened of its own accord.

In particular, with weight loss, I wonder if the psychological need to remain overweight combined with a desire to fail on some level enforce a long and difficult stall in weight loss. I’ve said before that I don’t think one can be truly successful losing weight until one is “ready” psychologically to face it. That readiness is different for each person, but it incorporates elements such as having sufficient motivation, lacking hard stress, and dealing with the factors that push you to take comfort in food. These are all very hard things to come to terms with, and I’m not even sure that I’ve done so completely. I just know I’ve done so enough to get on the path to losing weight.

I also want to make sure that when I use a phrase like “a(n unconscious) desire to fail” that it is understood that I do not mean that in a pejorative sense. I’ve failed plenty before and I’m sure part of that was my unconscious desire to fail as well. It’s not only failure based on a fear of change, but also fear of losing pleasure and comfort. If you find food to be a means of anesthetizing you in times of emotional or physical difficulty, you may want to fail in order to have an excuse to return to your “drug” of choice. Pain is a potent motivator to continue to pursue destructive behavior, and a lot of overweight people are in significant pain both emotionally and physically.

At any rate, I want to keep this in mind should I start to falter or struggle in my weight loss endeavors. If I find I’m on a plateau, I want to think about these types of things in order to help me break through the barrier mentally as well as physically.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Perfect Control

Today while I was out walking for a bit of exercise, I was pondering my control issues and compulsive eating. A few days ago (on a non-counting day), I found myself standing in the kitchen over an open container of mini pretzels scarfing down about 6 of them. That was preceded by the consumption of about 10 Cheez-its from another container.

I'll grant that I had a minimal lunch and may actually have been hungry, but that wasn't the way to deal with it. I consumed a string of small quantities of various snacking foods when I should have had a planned snack with better nutritional balance and more substance. I probably put away 300 calories on bits of junk that I just popped into my mouth while walking around the kitchen.

As I was out walking about, I was thinking about self-control and how I always feel like I need more of it, at least in regards to food. That being said, I think that everyone has self-control issues on some front. Some people drink more than they should. Others find themselves sleeping with people and regretting it later. Many people buy things they don't need and/or can't afford or gamble. And some eat things they shouldn't.

The main difference between compulsive eaters and people who sleep with people and regret it or buy junk that they don't need is that eaters display the consequences of their lack of control for the world to see. Debt and V.D. aren't visible to the naked eye. That being said, I'm not looking for an excuse here. I'm just considering the fact that lacking perfect control isn't all that uncommon among most humans. Therefore, there's no need to beat myself up or deride myself for slipping into bad behavior.

I had a talk with my husband about this point this morning, and he told me that I should focus on my success rather than preoccupy myself with this point that I'm not pleased with. I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, and it has rarely served me well. I'm not sure if this is one of those situations where I expect too much of myself (perfect control) or if this is a point that I should be putting more mental energy into dealing with.

In regards to self-control, I will say that I have considerable control in many areas of my life. I have never drunk alcohol and never had any temptation to do so. This is largely because my father is an alcoholic, but also I just don't see the appeal. I also have always been good at not wasting money and save a considerable portion of my income. In school, I was exceptionally disciplined in my studies and got great grades. I never had to cram for tests because I kept up on homework and required reading and attended my classes. In many areas that other people show poor self-control, I have had very good control. But, then there's food.

Maybe the reason that I expect perfect control over my eating is that I've had such good control in other areas of my life. Maybe I have poor control with food because I generally have such good control elsewhere. I don't know, but it's something I'll have to think about.

Success is the Norm

When I first started this blog, I was motivated to talk about my calorie counting endeavors by the fact that each day when I met a goal was a distinctly different experience from the norm for me. Now, success is the norm and I'm finding that saying, "did well today" to be rather boring. It's the sort of boring that is good, mind you, but still boring. I probably won't be doing anymore reports on days I calorie count unless there's a reason to say something from now on.

Another issue is the time it takes to blog on the progress of calorie counting days is becoming harder to find. Three days a week is more than I can give up now that I'm stepping up my walking and trying to spend less time in front of the computer.

That being said, I'm still having problems eating as well as I'd like to on the whole. Mainly, I am not happy with how I'll pepper some of the early evening hours with snacking on small things rather than planning out something to eat properly. This isn't a matter of calories so much as a matter of behavior though.

In order to address this, I'm going to push myself to start to use Fitday's calorie counting calculator instead of my little notepad. The reason for this is that it's a hassle looking up items and adding them in as compared to marking them down quickly. I also want to track more details of the types of food I'm eating. I must say that I'm not a fan of the fussiness part of all of this, and may eventually fail to use it.

Right now, Fitday's multiple options for all sorts of things is a bit overwhelming. It's impressive, but a bit much to have to constantly enter. I want to lose weight, but I don't want to become so mired in the process that I don't have time for other things. Part of me thinks that becoming too deeply involved in the weight loss methodology is a bad thing because it consumes your life. I don't want to turn into one of those people who live their weight loss programs to the extent that it becomes cult-like or like a hobby. I fear that doing this will make it hard to return to a normal life at the end.

Part of me also thinks that perhaps this is simply what people have to do. If you're a food addict (and many obese people are), perhaps you have to live with a program. At any rate, I am torn at this point about how deeply to dive into the pond of weight loss culture. For now, I'm getting in up to my ankles and seeing if I can manage that part.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Looking For Protection

There was an article recently in psychology today which said that children who are abused are far more likely to grow up obese than children who are not. The article addressed physical and sexual abuse, neither of which I suffered as a child. I did suffer emotional abuse on an almost daily basis from my mother who may have had a bipolar disorder, and at the very least, suffered from depression.

It's always been my feeling that gaining a lot of weight has been like putting on an exterior "armor" against emotional pain for me. When you're a small child and bigger people are attacking you, you take comfort in food and use it to make yourself feel more protected. It wasn't until I was in my junior year of college and I was given the support of one of my professors (who I worked for as part of a work-study program) that I started to lose weight. In many ways, she was like the mother/emotionally healthy older sister that I never had.

After college, I became very emotionally detached from my parents. Though I lived in the same house as them, I rarely communicated with them and hid a substantial portion of my life from them. When I got a boyfriend, I only shared what was going on with my sister. My parents were kept in the dark until the moment I "ran away" with him to live in another state across the U.S. from them. I think the main reason that I could maintain my weight loss after leaving the supportive environment at college was that I'd built a wall of secrecy between them and myself, and become so emotionally detached.

Fast forward to how I found myself regaining the weight. Picking up and moving to another state doesn't sound like that big of a deal, especially when you're with someone you love. And one thing I can say is that my future husband loved me and I loved him with a passion. In some ways, this directly led to the problems to come as our insistence on being together as quickly as possible led to some problems.

Moving to another place is immensely stressful when you have no support network to speak of in that place. My soon-to-be husband had worked abroad for a year and just gotten home and his family didn't want him to live with them, let alone both him and a complete stranger (to them) who he was in love with. They disapproved of our haste in getting together and wanted him to first get a job and his own place to live before I came to be with him. We had to live with his best friend's family. What was worse was that I had no friends in the area and the job I took was less than satisfying. In my home state, I had a hard, low-paying job, but it was interesting and pushed me to learn new things in my field.

My soon-to-be in-laws rejected me on many levels and I subsequently developed a difficult relationship with them. I never talked to them about it, but I think they didn't believe my husband and I would work out. What is more, they were very self-involved people who never made me feel welcome and had expectations of me that I was unaware of (in particular, I was supposed to show a certain deference to them out of respect rather than treat them as equals). When I visited, they talked amongst themselves and never asked me any questions. They'd answer me if I talked to them, but I often felt the sense that I was invading a private party when we visited them. At one point, I was left in their house with my husband's brother and sister and her husband while my husband went off to a store with his father and when I went to the bathroom, everyone else just left the house and went off without me without saying a word. It was incredibly rude and an indication of how little regard they had for me.

What was worse was the fact that my husband was too immature to realize that I needed support and that forcing me to interact with his family several times a week was emotionally destructive to me. He continually pushed us to be around them by going over on weekends so he could watch football with his father, eating dinner with them at least once a week, and dropping by to pick up our mail which he insisted be delivered to them rather than to the address we were living at. If I had had friends or even family in the area that I could have gone to while he was with his parents, it would have been different, but there was nowhere to go.

What was more, my husband was pushing me to go with him and get along with them. When I tried to have a conversation about all of the forced contact with them being a problem for me because they clearly did not like me, he said that he would resent me if I didn't allow him to have the relationship he needed and wanted with his family. To be fair to him, he had lived with his family up until his early 20's and was away from them during a year abroad. He probably needed to reestablish his bond with them, but it was killing me and I started to eat and gain weight. I was not only seeking comfort, but protection. I'm sure I gained at least 70 pounds in the year we lived in his home state. Fortunately, my husband learned from that experience and no longer puts me in this position.

This time around, I'm trying to keep what happened in mind. When you're emotionally sensitive and predisposed to eat for comfort, any situation where you have no control and a lot of negative stimuli can easily set off your impulse to protect and comfort yourself with food. I've mentioned before that I have a deadline and a big change ahead in my life and I'm braced for the psychological impact this might have on me this time. Having suffered the consequences once, I know what may come.

I've spent about twenty years in a destructive cycle of overeating since my problems were re-initiated by the issues with my in-laws. I've come a long way in terms of maturity and my husband has as well. He very much regrets what he did before and I can say with certainty that it is one of the very few times that he has put his needs in front of mine in a way that was destructive to me. He lacked the insight to know the effect of what he was doing and I lacked the self-esteem to assert my needs. It's also possible that something else would have triggered my overeating again at some point if that had not. It's not as if that inclination didn't exist before for many years.

To this day, I still feel a lot of anger and resentment toward how I was treated by my in-laws. Despite being overweight, I had a good network of friends back in my home area and people liked me. I never failed at anything I tried to do and I was never roundly rejected by anyone who got to know me after high school (as opposed to strangers on the street who mocked me and called out to me). The way in which I was dismissed and rejected out of hand still fills me with hostility even now, and I wish I could simply forgive and forget. It's like a wound that just won't heal. The truth is that my husband's parents reactivated (and continue to activate) all of my fat girl "call to arms" responses that I have developed because strangers abuse me openly. I can feel the desire to put up a barrier to protect myself when I remember what happened, and I think that's something that needs to be dealt with if I want to increase the chances of not regaining weight once I manage to lose it again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"All Woman"

I’ve mentioned before that my mother used to try and shame my sister and I into losing weight because she wanted daughters who were beautiful enough to boast about, and that she was more critical of our weight issues than of her own. She treated our being overweight as if it was somehow worse than her being overweight despite the fact that she was just as heavy if not heavier than my sister and I during many of our teenage and young adult years.

One of the ways my mother justified her fat as better than our fat was by talking about her body as if the quality of her obesity was superior to ours. She once related a story about going to the doctor and being checked out which was part of the web of lies she wove to convince herself that her flab was not so bad. She said that the doctor, who was a long time family physician (and a smoker), remarked while examining her that he had thought all fat people were soft and mushy, but was surprised that my mother’s body felt relatively solid. Supposedly, he said, “you’re all woman,” to which she replied, “doc!” The idea was supposed to be that firm fat was fit fat.

I don't know if that story was true. My mother was and still is a borderline compulsive liar who will make up whatever she has to to support her worldview or to attempt to validate another lie when challenged. I do know that it is possible to have hard fat and soft fat though and it’s something that I’ve been noticing as of late.

Despite my mother’s intention of promoting her fleshy body as fitter than my sister’s and mine, the truth is that firm fat is worse than soft fat. Firm fat is the result of skin being stretched out more by expanded fat cells. Softer fat comes from the cells being shrunken and the skin being looser. I’ve noticed as I lose weight that certain parts of my body are getting squishier as things are slackening up and the flesh is not as tight. I can tell which areas of my body aren’t losing the weight as fast by how firm the area feels. Right now, those areas are my belly and behind.

At any rate, I welcome the lack of firmness in my flesh for the time being. Unlike my mother, I'm not interested in fooling myself into believing that my fat is fit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

4-Month Progress

I've been at this now for 1/3 of a year and I want to note the progress I've made in concrete terms so that I can look back after 4 more months and see how far I've come. It's so easy to look at how far I have to go that I think it's important to see how far I've come. Here are the improvements I've made in 4 months:
  • I initially could not walk for 5 minutes without great back pain and a sense of being out of breath. I had to sit down often to keep walking and walked slowly. I can now walk for up to 15 minutes, sometimes longer, without sitting due to back problems, and I can often walk and stand for as long as 45 minutes with only one brief rest. I walk much faster, though not as fast as most people, and don't feel the need to rest because I'm out of breath. My longest sojourn out and about on my feet (but still needing to sit down because of my bad back) has been two hours at this point.
  • Shirts that were comfortably loose on me before are now so large that I feel like I'm swimming in them. Shirts that were uncomfortably snug before that I rarely wore now fit properly and comfortably.
  • My pants are much looser and longer. Though I've hemmed the ones that are too long, they are starting to bag at the thighs and hips even though they are stretchy pants. Pants that I couldn't get on at all before fit tightly now.
  • My hands and feet don't swell up as much overnight and look as puffy. When my hands are cold, my wedding ring is too loose to fit without slipping off because I've lost weight in my fingers.
  • My forearms are visibly thinner and I'm finally starting to see a loss in my lower calves such that my "cankles" aren't so pronounced or pudgy.
  • When I sit down, I notice that my body shape is starting to show some definition rather than looking like just a blob of spare tires. It's not much, but it's a start.
  • My face is definitely a little thinner and younger looking, though my double chin (which was never very pronounced for someone of my weight) is about the same.
  • I used to be afraid to have to walk around, even for a short time because of pain. I no longer have that fear for the first time in years. While I still need to sit down, I know I'm not going to be in agony after a brief period of time.
  • I don't have sugar cravings and severe blood sugar fluctuations driving my eating. I believe I've broken my physiological sugar dependency through portion control and changes in diet.
  • I feel fuller faster and with less food. Half as much food makes me feel just as full as twice as much did 4 months ago. I'm certain my stomach has shrunk due to gradual portion alterations.
I still have a terribly long way to go and still find myself eating compulsively and when under stress. The main difference is that I eat much less when I do this (and don't do it for such a prolonged period of time), but it's still a point that needs to be worked on. The scary part is that the food is often in my mouth before I even realize that I'm acting on emotional eating urges or a compulsion. I think it's hunger at the time, but recognize after the fact that it is not.

At the moment, this compulsive eating is more of a concern for me than fighting off hunger and failing. At least the hunger is real and understandable as giving your body fewer calories than it needs to sustain itself will result in real hunger. The compulsive eating is absolutely unproductive and part of an urge to take comfort in food.

This comfort is not an illusion, but it is a destructive and temporary solution to emotional distress. It's the aspect of my eating which caused me to regain all the weight I lost after so much hard work in college. If I don't conquer this, I'm doomed for a repeat next time I undergo a severe change in my life.

My deadline for having to face changing my work is, at the minimum 2 years and 2 months away, and at the maximum 2.5 years away. Seeing the time ebb away is a little scary for me because I'm uncertain that I can maintain my current rate of progress through time due to natural slowdowns in weight loss and limits on my time to increase physical activity. If the rate of loss remained as steady as it has so far, I wouldn't worry at all as I think I'm on track, but I guess I'll have to worry about crossing that bridge when I get to it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday: October 17, 2009

There's not much to say about this Saturday. Things went smoother than ever before in terms of coping with hunger. I ate pretty healthily and came out at about 1430 calories for the day. I'm wondering what I'm going to do when I'm through with the whole wheat sweet potato bread I've been eating for breakfast on counting days. It's about as healthy and satisfying as things get, but I think I have very little left. I'll either have to bake again, or go back to whole wheat toast.

It seems that my body has adjusted to having between 1400-1500 calories such that I'm not struggling so hard with hunger. I'm still hungry, but it's not making me quite as crazy. I'm slightly concerned that the adjustment may mean my body may not burn calories so readily, but I'm not going to worry too much about that. I'm just going to be happy to have a low calorie day where I wasn't being driven crazy by a gnawing pain in the gut.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Good Intentions

While a lot of people think it's their prerogative to mock, shame, and abuse fat people, there are some people who think it's their duty to try and help people who are overweight. A lot of those people are acting from a sense of needing to control other people's lives or a need to elevate themselves above the fat person. Mothers who rag on their daughters about their weight or husband's who make comments to their wives suggesting they don't really need another piece of pizza.

While my mother used to harass me about my weight (while being obese herself), I'm pleased to say that my husband has never done so. Except for one incident, he has never said anything that could be construed as critical of my weight during our entire long marriage and he regrets having said that one thing. That one incident, just for the record, came about when I had some problems with my knees and difficulty walking. He said something to the effect that I wouldn't be hobbling around if I did something about my problem.

I'm a very sensitive person, so I was crushed by what he said and started to push myself hard to lose weight. In fact, I pushed myself so hard that I seriously damaged my back and hurt my knees even more. After this period of time, my husband realized that I'd deal with my weight when (and if) I was ready and that there was nothing that anyone could do to speed the process along. He also realized that there were some things that he had done early on in our marriage that had unintentionally contributed to my regaining weight after losing so much. This is a longer story than I'm ready to tell at this time, but suffice it to say that I didn't find myself putting on extra padding until I needed protection from something.

Besides my husband, whose intentions I'm sure were good, but who was ignorant of the damage that could be caused by what he was doing, I have come across other people who had no business talking about my body who had good intentions in doing so. One of the weirdest ones for me occurred while I was walking home from work one night.

At that time, my back pain was so bad that I couldn't walk very far without stopping to rest my back. I had to walk about 10 minutes to get home and had to stop twice because of pain. A tall, thin, blond man who looked about 28 years old said hello to me just after I got up and started walking again. I smiled and said hello back, thinking he was just being friendly. He said, "you don't remember me, do you?" I said that I did not and left open the possibility that I had met him before and didn't recall him. I've met a lot of different people in my line of work and it wasn't inconceivable that we met some time ago and I forgot him.

I told him that I did not remember him and continued to try and be friendly. He then went on to say that he and I had met at a gym that he was a member of and that I had been trying to lose weight at that time and that I should "keep trying" and that he knew "I could do it." At this point, my face probably turned very dark because I have never been a member of any fitness club in my life, let alone in the area he mentioned. I told him that he had mistaken me for someone else and that we had not met before and I tried to disengage myself from talking to him further.

Of course, I was visibly upset and he knew it. A perfect stranger had walked up to another perfect stranger and offered words about her weight. I'm used to perfect strangers making fun of me, but not having this type of conversation. I felt as though my privacy had been violated in some way. I guess that's because I had been openly friendly toward him whereas I'd never be friendly to strangers who commented on my weight before.

He walked away ahead of me, something which was easy to do given my difficulties moving well, but then turned back and tried to apologize. At first, he tried again to be encouraging about my losing weight in addition to apologizing and I asked him to please leave me alone and started to cry. He went to walk away again but then came back and apologized again and all he did was make the whole unbearable and humiliating experience longer for me. I became more and more upset and he suggested that I take it out on him by hitting him with the umbrella I was carrying. I told him that I didn't want to hit him and I just wanted him to go away and leave me alone.

He dogged me nearly all of the way home (and I was in terrible pain trying to walk with my bad back as quickly as possible to escape him), but not because he wanted to help me. He felt incredibly guilty for upsetting me and wanted somehow to balance the scales by apologizing or insisting that I hurt him back. By the time I got home, I was nearly hysterical and told him that I was going to call my husband out to meet me if he didn't leave me alone. He then said I should call my husband so that he could hit him.

In the end, I came home completely out of control and emotionally wrecked. The embarrassment over about a span of 7 minutes of painful walking was unbearable and it was all the worse because he meant well. I wish he hadn't been so selfish when he had realized that he'd messed up. If he'd have just left me alone when I told him we didn't know each other, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as bad, but his need to assuage his guilt came before my need to be spared any further humiliation.

The bottom line is that even well-meaning people can hurt you. When it comes to matters of weight, everyone would be best off just leaving fat people alone to deal with their problems as they choose.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Opening Up for Comments

I've decided to enable comments for this blog and to give people a chance to show they aren't going to abuse me for it. I'm going to moderate comments and see how it goes. If I get too many jerks looking to deride, insult, or fight with me, I'll disable them again, but I feel a bit more confident in my ability to deal with them for the time being.

Thanks to the handful of readers I have who have followed and have had patience with my insistence on a monologue up to this point. :-)

Thursday: October 15, 2009

As I was going through the day being careful about what I was eating and dutifully writing it all down, I had a craving for pancakes. I knew I couldn't spend any calories on the luxury of pancakes on a day when I was being careful and I dealt with the craving by telling myself, "tomorrow, I can have them for breakfast."

Yes, I do allow myself pancakes on occasion. However, I only eat two of them about the size of my palm with about a pat of butter and reduced calorie syrup. Still, with a small cup of coffee, and slow eating where I'm tasting and enjoying the texture of every bite, this is just fine. I deal with the portion issue by making all of the pancakes that the amount of batter allows, cooling them on a rack, wrapping them in packets of two in foil, and heating them in the toaster oven when I want them. That not only allows great portion control, but means it's easy to have them any time without hassle. They come out of the toaster oven as good as fresh.

My point is that any time I really want something, but know I can't really accommodate them in the day's calorie totals, I tell myself that I can have it tomorrow. Sometimes I don't want the thing I craved anymore and sometimes I do. The important point is that when I eat it, it's at a controlled moment and as part of the meal plan for the entire day. By waiting, I am also better to limit portions effectively since I'm not acting on an impulse.

I don't want to undermine the difficulty of reaching this stage in my approach to food. It took me a long time and a lot of mental energy to get to the point where I could manage this. In the beginning, telling myself "tomorrow" was mainly based on the fact that I wasn't counting calories on Friday (well, I'm still not, but I'm being very careful without counting on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). That "tomorrow" meant I could indulge if I really wanted to. This was my emotional "trap door" for escaping the feeling that I was seriously confined by a "diet". That early exercise in behavior modification has transmuted into a newer, more profound control over my eating on non-counting days.

Getting to today though, the total was 1445 and it was pretty good. I had sweet potato bread with low calorie margarine, coffee, chef's salad, tomato soup (homemade), rice crackers, a persimmon, chicken, onion soup, hot chocolate, and a couple of tiny treats - a chocolate wafer about half the size of a KitKat finger and a tiny, tiny cake (40 calories for the morsel). It almost felt like a lot of food, though there were times when I was really, really hungry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday: October 13, 2009 (late posting)

Today, I finally got around to working on my ever-lengthening pants. I had to take them up 3 inches in order to get them to the proper length again. I don't know how much flab used to hold up those pants, but I do find it encouraging. That being said, I hate hemming pants, especially since I have to do it by hand.

My first restricted Tuesday went quite well. I ended the day around 1390 even though I allowed myself up to 1500. It just ended up being all the food I needed. That being said, I'm not doing particularly well today (Wednesday). I'm not feeling very well and a blood vessel burst in my left eye. This is the second time this has happened this year and I feel stressed by that. I know what it happens, and it's no danger. I've been to a doctor about it before and it happens as you get older. It tends to happen to me more often if I rub my eyes a lot, and I've been rubbing them lately. I need to stop doing that.

At any rate, the stress I felt about this sent me eating two small pieces of a breakfast pumpkin quick bread that I made for my husband. The bread isn't too bad for you as it has no frosting and is made with half sugar and half Splenda to reduce the calories, but I'm sure there are more than enough calories in it to send today's total a bit on the high side. I'm more annoyed that I spent the calories on something which wasn't healthy. I should have had some fruit or vegetables rather than something relatively nutritionally suspect. I don't think I'll end up overeating, but I won't have made much progress.

I'm not going to beat myself up over this as there's no point. Short of sticking my finger down my throat, it's not like I can undo what has happened. I'll just have to try and do better next time I feel stressed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Memory I'd Like to Repeat

I have a specific memory of something that happened to me when I had lost an appreciable amount of weight for the first time. I had probably lost about 150 lbs. and looking dramatically different (better), about a year out of college. Most people who knew me had seen the slow process of losing all of that weight, but people who graduated ahead of me in college did not see the transition (which occurred in the final year of college).

I had a friend from college who hadn't seen me during the time period when I had lost most of the weight and we met up at my house after a long absence from one another. When I opened the door and she saw me for the first time, her eyes were as wide as saucers and she ran up and hugged me. Her reaction was so positive and the experience so profound that I have never forgotten that moment.

This particular friend had her own weight issues. She wasn't anywhere near as fat as me, but she probably carried about 20-30 extra pounds and was shorter than I so it had a more profound effect on her appearance. After I lost all of that weight, she soon started to seriously try and lose weight herself and had success for a time. She was one of those people who, while I'm sure she was happy for me initially, started to feel bad about herself because she no longer could look at me and feel better about herself.

I know that last sentence sounds very cynical, but I have a reason for feeling that way. I got back in contact with her some years later, and she asked me if I had gained the weight back or not. Asking this question in and of itself seemed a bit rude, but we did know each other pretty well for a time. I lied and said that I had not because I didn't want to admit it. Her response was a tepid positive one which clearly conveyed her disappointment.

At any rate, I am anxious to one day relive the moment when she walked through that door and saw my transformation. I want someone who hasn't seen me for awhile to regard me with the same awe that she did after a few years apart. I'm not sure if there is someone who might be in the same situation (knowing me at my fattest and being away from me for a long while such that there will be a dramatic difference), but I'd like that sort of memory to add to the collection of good weight loss memories.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Matters of Size

Recently, I watched an old episode of Saturday Night Live from the days when Dan Akroyd and John Belushi were part of the cast. I saw many of these episodes in re-runs when I was a kid in the days when you couldn't record T.V. programs unless you had a VCR and enough tapes around to waste on things like SNL. There are plenty of things that I didn't notice then that I'm noticing now. One of them was how incredibly thin both Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman were. Both of these women had eating disorders (bulimia in Radner's case). Jane Curtain was the only woman who had something resembling a real body, but even she was quite thin.

There was one of the "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, Pepsi, Pepsi" skits in the episode that I was watching and I was noting the atmospheric parts of the skit. Since the show is now a part of the increasingly distant past, I often try to note the hairstyles, clothes, and set details for things which indicate the flavor of the time.

One of the things I noticed was that the grill that Dan Akroyd was using in his role as the cook was real and he was using pre-made burger patties and plastic-wrapped cheese slices. The other thing I noticed was how small the burgers looked when they were served and how the cheese slices, which I believe were almost certainly 1 ounce Kraft slices, loomed rather large on top of the smallish hamburgers. Since the patties were perfectly round and flat, I'd also wager that someone just bought them frozen for use as a prop on the show. That means that these were considered a normal burger size at that time.

One of the things I have realized since starting to modify my eating habits is how restaurants have distorted our view of what constitutes a serving size. Seeing those small burgers being served on SNL only 30 years ago goes a long way toward explaining how we got to where we are today in terms of the dramatic increase in obese and overweight people.

The portion size ballooning has been based on the economic interests of restaurants and their employees. The main expense of running a restaurant is not from the food itself, but from the people who prepare and serve it and the investment in equipment and space rental. Giving people bigger servings gives them the perception of value for the experience. For a marginal increase in food purchase expense, they can greatly increase the prices and subsequently make a higher profit while attracting value-minded people who want to get a substantial meal for the expense and effort of going to a restaurant.

If you read comments by waiters and waitresses, they actually want people to order as much as possible so that they get a bigger tip. The last thing they want is for a couple or group to order and split appetizers, desserts, and entrees to reduce calories because the total bill is lower, but their time spent doing the job is the same. If you try to reduce calories by splitting your huge order, you are often treated badly or given worse service by resentful service staff.

I think people used to regard the value of going to a restaurant differently than they do now. People used to be happy just to go to one as a rare and special experience with differently prepared food. Now, they are going to restaurants more often and instead of cooking and shopping. They want to eat more so that they get value for their money, but the portions are so epically large that they're overeating. What is more, they get a distorted view of what one serving should look like from repeated exposure to over-sized portions. At this point in time, any restaurant that attempted to offer reasonable serving sizes would be seen as skimping and lose business.

I don't know that there is a solution to this problem aside from education and encouraging restaurants of all types to at least offer smaller portion options. I think that what is commonly see as the "child's" menu portions may actually be what we're supposed to be eating as adults to stay at a healthy weight. That's rather a scary thought.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Hard

It's hard to feel good about yourself when everyone around you seems intent on making you feel bad about yourself.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday: October 10, 2009

Today, I had what I consider to be my first "Russian doll" moment. That is, I could see an overall reduction in size rather than just specific areas shrinking. It's like the somewhat smaller doll inside the largest doll of the nested Russian dolls (though I'm not getting any shorter...yet). It's not a huge, dramatic difference, but both my husband and I noticed it. There are a lot more smaller dolls to peel away to, but it's going to take time.

On the calorie counting front, I did exceptionally well with some huge hunger battling between 6:00-8:00 pm. I had yogurt orange bread and coffee, the world's least-stacked ham, cheese, and avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread, tomato soup, a persimmon, rice, chicken, onions, and a sugar-free hot chocolate. Even though I "allowed" myself 1500 calories, I landed at 1408. Not snacking is what allowed this, but it was pretty rough.

The fight to not eat something (and almost certainly the lower calorie count) was assisted by the rare consumption of a take-out meal for dinner. My husband was bringing dinner home and I had to wait for him to bring it. Every time I wanted to snack on something, I focused on the fact that I'd rather have a "perfect" dinner with an intact appetite than spoil it by eating something an hour or two before the meal. It also helped to take a 35-minute walk while I waited.

I've only recently read about "calorie cycling" on weight loss blogs and forums, but it's something which I've been aware of since the days when I followed a low carb support group. People who were following low carb or Atkins diet and were plateauing in their weight loss would find that they'd suddenly lose more if they slipped up and ate more or more carbs. That is, eating low calorie day-in and day-out isn't necessarily the best way to go.

The way I've been handling my eating is a natural form of calorie cycling since I eat somewhat more on days that I don't count. I didn't realize this helped you make progress by preventing your body from going into starvation mode or adjusting to lower calories as its new set point. It does encourage me to keep following the plan as it currently is rather than to count every day. I can't say that bothers me as I still hate counting.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday: October 8, 2009 (late posting)

I'm starting to have serious issues with my pants. They're now so baggy and long that they're wrapping around the heels of my shoes. I'm going to have to break out the needle and thread and do some hemming of the baggier ones. Based on various observations, I'd say I've easily lost 30 lbs. by now, probably more. Since I'm not weighing myself, it's always a ballpark estimate, and I'm still okay with that. I think I may actually consider weighing myself when I hit the point where I think the average household scale won't break on me. :-p

I'm going to step up my game on the calorie counting front. I'm adding in a third day (Tuesday) to the rotation and adding another 100 calories to the days when I count. I realize that the higher the calories, the slower I'll lose, but I also know that it'll also make it easier to do this more often and prime me for the future. Even before I started the calorie counting one day a week, I knew that I would be increasing the calorie allowances as I added in more days of strict counting.

The high figure I'll be allowing when all is said and done is 1600 a day, everyday, with a hope of going lower if it can be managed emotionally and physically. The average person who engages in light activity needs about 2000 calories to maintain their weight. At my estimated current weight, I believe that I would need 2500 calories a day to maintain (and that's estimating my weight somewhat low, so it might be more). At 1600, I would lose 2 lbs. a week with diminishing returns as I lose more weight and the amount of calories required to maintain my body mass starts to drop if I was at or under 1600 everyday. I hope to offset the slowdown by exercising more as more weight comes off and I can move more easily. Right now, I have a recumbent bike that I bought to exercise with, but my belly is so big that it's very hard to use as my thighs have to heft the weight of my stomach to move.

I've done some rough calculations and with a goal weight of 150 lbs. (this would be sufficient for me, though probably still considered "too fat" by some people's standards), I would be able to continue to lose weight at 1400 calories per day in the distant future. I figure that, as I approach a lower point, I'll consider reducing the numbers downward. For now though, I'm going up to 3 days at 1500 starting from now.

All of this math and faffing about is the reason that I resist calorie counting and dieting. It's tedious and irritating, but I've found it more bearable because I started so slowly. In fact, I frankly am desiring more structure on the days between Saturday and Thursday as I feel like I'm overdoing it in the gap between the days and need another "reset" point in between.

As for this Thursday, it went pretty well. The total for the day was 1485 and that included sweet potato bread and coffee for breakfast, tuna on pepper crackers and a persimmon for lunch, hot cocoa, rice crackers, a carrot, and a banana smoothie as snacks, and a portion of a pork chop (all fat trimmed), a tiny amount of rice, and steamed pumpkin for dinner. Despite feeling like I ate a lot, I still suffered some hard hunger pangs. My body can't be fooled when it's not getting as many calories as it wants, and I'm going to have to keep fighting that.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dealing With Hunger

One of the blogs I follow is "Half the Woman I Used to Be", and she recently blogged about how she's still struggling with overeating. I know exactly how she feels and what she's going through. I've had the same fight with myself and am actually having one right now as I compose this post. I ate a snack about 2 hours ago and I have to wait about 4.5 more hours to eat dinner due to work scheduling. I have another planned snack, but I really should wait longer before I have it so that I'm not ravenous by dinner time and finding myself starting to eat things I shouldn't.

There are several things I do to help me through this when I have a small meal and then feel hungry anyway. Generally, I don't write about this sort of thing because I have my doubts that what works for me will work for others. Someone used to say, "your body, your science experiment". I think every body responds differently and most people already know what other people have tried and don't need more tips. That being said, I'm going to share what I do and think anyway because it can't hurt and I was going to write a gigantic comment on "SimplyGorgeous's" blog and it just seemed ridiculous to write such a long one when I could do a blog post in a format which was more readable.

In this battle, here is what I do (usually a combination of all of these):

1. Distract myself by getting into a situation which takes my attention and physical effort - housework, take a walk, give myself a task to accomplish which has a set duration. This gives my body time to recognize that I have enough food or allows my blood sugar to quiet down. I've noticed that I go to bed hungry sometimes, but wake up feeling okay. I think that a lot of hunger pangs are blood sugar fluctuations (which can be caused by eating choices, stress, or fatigue) and if you just get your mind off of it long enough, the extreme urge will quiet down.

2. Tell yourself again and again that the hunger you feel is a delayed lepton response. Your body tells you you need food, but you really don't. This is a battle of using your psychology to vanquish the biology. I remind myself that the food is there and I can have it soon, but not right now. I'm not going to suffer any serious problems if I just wait.

3. Try to visualize the fact that if my urge to consume food is "eating me up", then it'll have no choice but to start working on fat cells if I don't give it what it wants. I guess it's like treating my body like a kid who demands to stay up late when he has to get up early for school the next day. I figure that if I let him go to bed when he wants enough times, he'll eventually be so tired everyday that he'll go to bed early for his own benefit. If I don't give into my body's demands, it'll eventually be better off consuming existing body fat.

4. Drink a hot liquid of any sort which isn't densely caloric - tea is usually my first choice, but I'll have a sugar-free flavored coffee or hot chocolate if I need something more gratifying. The calorie investment on such things is not so great (usually about 50-75) and if it stops me from eating 200-300 calories of real food, it's worth it.

5. Consume more of my calories at meals in fats and less in carbs. Fat improves feelings of satiety and doesn't mess up your blood sugar.

6. Map the day's meals and calories so that I know what I can eat and when I can eat it. Know just how long I have between meals and hang on to the fact that I can deal with hunger at a given time. It's easier to not eat for an hour or two hours if I know that I will be able to eat. At the hardest times, I can do a countdown to the next meal.

The mapping for me breaks down generally to:

Breakfast: 300 calories (at 9:00 am)
Lunch: 400 calories (at 1:00 pm)
Snack: 200 calories (at 4:00 pm)
Dinner: 500 calories (between 8:00-11:00 pm)
(1400 calories)

Sometimes I'll break this differently into two snacks if dinner is too far off, or I'll simply add in 100-200 more calories around 7:00 pm if dinner is very late and accept that 1600 is an okay number (or reduce calories consumed at dinner). That's what I have to do this evening. I had a snack at 4:00 pm, dinner won't be until 10:00 pm so I figure that I need to hang in there until 7:00 pm (which is tough since I'm getting a headache from not eating, but I only have to wait one more hour).

7. The usual stuff - suck on a sugar-free herbal cough drop or candy, brush my teeth, etc. This is an attempt to fool my body into thinking it's actually getting food when it's really getting the oral experience. It really has nothing to do with true hunger pangs, but it sometimes works.

8. Look in a mirror. This is my least common way of dealing with the situation and my most hated one. I don't want to motivate myself by looking at myself and feeling bad about how I look, but sometimes it works. I have to remind myself that I built this body by giving in to urges that I shouldn't have given in to and now I have to spend some time and immense mental energy resisting those urges if I want to build a better body. Frankly, sometimes I apologize to my body for what I've done to it and promise it that I'll do better by it from now. It's a promise I don't want to break, and hope to be rewarded with better health if I keep that promise.

The main thing I'm trying to learn to do is accept that I'm going to feel hungry. Hunger is part of the process. It's difficult because the gnawing feeling and the biological push to eat make me really, really uncomfortable, but you have to get used to the discomfort if you want to succeed. It does get a little easier, but it never gets easy. In fact, it always stinks. It's really, really hard and tiring fighting this internal battle.

That being said, when I started doing this 3 months ago, it was unbearably difficult, and now it is closer to being bearable. And what I do sometimes, though less often than before, is simply fail. I don't fail and overeat badly, but I do fail and not gain any ground on my goals (or gain such a small amount that it wouldn't show for weeks if I continued on the same path). And I try to keep that failure in mind during the next (all too frequent battle). Failure isn't preferable, but it is understandable. It's part of the process.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thinking Yourself Thin

There's a school of thought which is trying to teach people that they can lose weight by simply visualizing themselves as being thinner. The idea is that you imagine yourself as a thin person and you'll get the body you want no matter what you eat. You should do things like imagine yourself in a slinky dress with a body to match, or with great legs or a flat stomach and it'll happen. You're also supposed to stop hating yourself and your relationship with food as a part of this process.

Since I've been fat since I was a kid, I can't even begin to really imagine myself thin. At my thinnest as an adult, I wasn't thin. Even if I could imagine myself as a thin person, I'm not sure that I believe this works as advertised. I believe it may work in a round-about way, but not in a direct fashion.

The way in which I think this type of thing may help people is that feeling happier with yourself likely reduces stress which both reduces insulin production and makes you less likely to eat compulsively to deal with self-loathing and stress. A positive self-image goes a long way toward helping people leave behind their self-destructive behaviors and start to embrace more productive ones.

Part of me thinks that this type of idea has a positive impact because anything which helps people, even a small number of them, is constructive. That being said, I can't help but think that this is someone selling people an easy answer and encouraging what one could call "magical thinking". You can make yourself feel better and give yourself the inner strength to adopt a healthier lifestyle through thinking positively. You can't magically make body fat vanish by thinking it away.

I'm actually a pretty strong believer in building the reality you want through directing your energies toward your goal. That being said, I don't think it's a process that you can push by thought alone. I think the thoughts carry through to actions, attitudes, and personality changes. And I also think that it's important to couple that change in thinking with efforts to repair the damage that has been crippling you and driving your destructive behavior. You can't do it by thought alone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Over the last two days, I've had what I consider to be intense tussles with "PME" - premenstrual eating. I didn't even realize that my constant hunger was likely fueled by my period coming in a few days, but I have noticed this pattern after the fact several times only to forget about it when it rolls back around the next month.

I must say that I feel it's a battle I lost, though not with many casualties. Mainly, I succumbed to the urge to eat tiny snacks too frequently throughout the day. I'm not fooling myself. The road to losing the war is littered with fat cells bloated by too many small indulgences. It doesn't take more than a handful of pretzels and 25-calorie candies to do in any progress I might make. At worst, I probably broke even on those days. At best, I may have come in marginally under the wire.

I'm not too troubled by the calories involved, though I'd like to do better. Mainly, I'm bothered by the lack of a sense of control that I felt as I gave in to my urges. I'm also irritated at myself for not realizing the pattern when it sets in. It doesn't help that my period is irregular so the timing is frequently different each month, but that's really no excuse. The ravenous feelings I have and the urges I'm fighting are much stronger at those points in time than at others and they make me feel like a failure, even when I haven't failed by any objective measure.

I think I'm going to have to come up with a strategy for dealing with these times. The first step must be awareness of the timing of these days. The second step should probably be that any day I find myself drawn too often to snacking or nibbling or simply being even hungrier than usual, I need to start writing down everything I eat. I've mentioned before that I hate calorie counting and that's why I'm slowing folding in more of it rather than doing it every day, but until I get a handle on this, I can't think of any other way to take control of my premenstrual eating.

All That Water

A long while ago, I read an article about a female competitive eater. She, like many people who gorge themselves in eating contests, was quite thin. The article talked about how she was able to eat so much in those contests considering that she couldn't possibly have a large capacity stomach and remain so thin.

In regard to her eating habits, this young woman said that the truth was that she ate very little. In fact, she worked at Burger King and only ate one meal a day much of the time and that was generally just a hamburger. Occasionally, she would also have fries, but it didn't put weight on her because she didn't eat very much. The secret to her slender physique and success at competitive eating was in what she drank, not what she ate. She said that she drank huge amounts of soda in order to keep her stomach size large without eating a lot of food. She said that fat people actually couldn't eat as much as her because the fat around their bellies made it harder for their stomachs to stretch.

Today, for some reason, I was thinking about the fact that I drink 16 oz. of diet soda with lunch sometimes to make me feel fuller. I was wondering if this may end up being counterproductive in the end. Am I filling my stomach, or just continuing to stretch it so I don't feel fuller in the future? I was also thinking about the fact that people who lose weight are told to drink tons of water and that all of that may be keeping their stomachs stretched as well.

It would seem that drinking smaller amounts of liquid throughout the day would be a better approach than putting away large amounts. Your stomach does naturally expand and contract through time based on how much you are eating and this will affect how full you feel (this is why gastric bypass surgery works). If you want to naturally and slowly shrink your stomach, it would seem to be beneficial to watch the quantity and frequency of the consumption of liquids as well as that of solids.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Micro-changes, Macro-results (eventually)

Today, I made a big serving of chicken and pasta salad for lunch knowing that I could justify eating the whole thing if I wanted to. I did the math, and the calories weren't in the stratosphere. About 3 months ago, I probably would have eaten it all figuring that it was "allowed", but due to changes in my thinking, I cut it in half and ate half and saved the rest for lunch tomorrow.

This seemingly simple move would not have been within my capacity to make before I started the process I have been working on. I'm not only talking about the way in which I've gradually been paring down my serving sizes, but also about how I approach food from a mental viewpoint. Even now, I had the desire to eat it all, and had to fight back that urge (though the battle is getting easier).

I've been making adjustments to my thinking in ways I consider to be "micro-changes". That is, I'm dealing with hundreds of adjustments and considerations with how I handle my eating each week. These are mental changes for the most part, and it's a bit like flipping a switch into the "on" or "off" position. In the beginning, when asked the question, "eat this?", I'd often turn the switch on and eat it. I have been endeavoring to turn it off more and more until this becomes second nature.

This is a process which I have some experience with already. When I first got married, I had some serious temper issues as a result of my mothers verbal abuse role modeling and my fat anger. My husband is a very calm person who rarely gets angry and either did nothing serious to warrant my outburst or didn't deserve anger of the intensity and duration that I was heaping on him. My anger was very destructive not only to our relationship, but also to his psyche. It was imperative to me that I not hurt him or our marriage with my inability to control my temper.

The important thing to keep in mind when I talk about dealing with my temper was that I was not trying to suppress my feelings, but to handle them in a more controlled and productive manner. It was OK to get angry, but it wasn't OK to heap vitriol on my husband when I was angry. At first, the blazing fury of my anger kept escaping me and I would act as I always did. Since I had already decided to change the behavior, I always felt the weight of my failure and apologized to my husband for what I'd done. I didn't apologize for having the feelings, but for how I acted on them.

As time went by, this process started to have noticeable effects on how I acted when I got angry. I apologized sooner for my outbursts and the intensity and duration of my anger decreased through time. Inch by inch, I fought for and gained control of my emotional expression. At some point, my anger started coming out closer and closer to calm expressions of frustration. Now, I have extremely good control and have an angry outburst very rarely, and never with abusive intensity or prolonged duration. Those micro-changes through years (probably about a decade or so) have brought me to the state I am at today, which is one where I am in very much better control than I could have ever dreamed of.

When it comes to food, I'm hoping to accomplish the same thing. I want to make micro changes to food choices, frequency of eating, and portion sizes. I want to slowly make the adjustments mentally such that one day I find myself naturally and almost effortlessly eating properly. It's a much more complex process than dealing with my temper, but it's not so dissimilar in that both of these things are biological in origin and hard to control.

So far, I've found that the process I've been undergoing has helped reduce the intensity and frequency of cravings and the desire to eat compulsively (or emotionally), but those feelings are still there. It helps to remember how I failed so often in the early stages of changing my temperamental responses because I know that even when I fail, the process has a good chance of succeeding. I just have to keep working at it and not beat myself up about the times when things don't go perfectly or as well as I'd like them to go.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday: October 3, 2009 (late posting)

Last night, I noticed another change in my body which was encouraging. I noticed that my belly apron is hanging a little higher. This sounds gross, but it's hard to talk about your bodily changes without discussing such things, but there is air getting to places that weren't getting any exposure before. This, and a successful Saturday total made for a generally good day on the weight loss front.

I have adopted the use of reduced calorie margarine in my eating patterns with some reluctance. I don't want to eat butter because it is so dense in calories, but find that adding a fat-based spread to my breakfast keeps me sated longer. I'm partial to having small pieces of quick breads made with whole wheat flour and mashed fruit (bananas or apples) or vegetables (pumpkin or sweet potato) with little or no sugar in them for breakfast and they see me through much better if I lightly spread them with a fat. Note that I have to make such things myself in order to have control over the sugar content and to be sure it's truly whole wheat flour and not some mix of white and wheat. Given the choice of extended satiety and 35 added calories of margarine or 70 added calories of butter, I'm taking the low road (as it were).

I realize that I can avoid this issue entirely by eating yogurt or oatmeal, but I know my tastes and limits. If I hate what I'm eating, I'm almost certainly going to fail in changing my lifestyle. It's not that I hate either yogurt or oatmeal, but rather that I can't stomach eating them all of the time. I'd rather figure out a way to eat various enjoyable (but nutritious) things and stay sufficiently low calorie as well. Margarine, like diet sodas, is an evil I'll endure for awhile. That being said, I don't eat it everyday.

My daily total was 1410 for Saturday and the menu plan was similar to that on Thursday - sweet potato bread with margarine and coffee for breakfast, chef's salad for lunch, banana smoothie and crackers for a snack, and chicken with vegetable soup for dinner.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Serious Self-Loathing and Sex

Occasionally, I'll see a fat girl on T.V., either fictional or a celebrity, who is sassy and self-confident. Most of the time, such women are black. Part of me thinks that these women represent a type of confidence that is worth aspiring to, and part of me thinks that they're not doing other fat girls any favors.

The part that believes they're not doing us any favors is concerned with two aspects. One is that I'm uncertain of the deep sincerity and conviction of their feelings of confidence. Is it really possible to feel that comfortable with yourself at a weight which may be harming your health and certainly is frowned upon by society? It all feels like an act, and it's one I can't even begin to relate to.

The other part of me that feels this isn't helping us is that this image of "I'm fat and I love me, so deal with it," is that it feeds the fires of fat haters who latch onto fat acceptance as a sign of the decay of Western civilization. It's grist for the mill, sauce for the goose, fuel for their fires, etc. While I am in absolutely no way advocating self-loathing or discouraging acceptance of one's imperfections, brassy advertising of being completely happy with one's very fat self seems to be headed too far. The in-between point, where overweight people neither feel a hyper-inflated sense of confidence nor a sense of serious self-loathing would seem to be the resting point.

This issue is on my mind because last night I had a profound sense of crushing self-loathing. I used to have this sense much more often, but it has decreased in frequency as I've gotten older and my standards for my wished-for appearance have gotten less high. That is, I am old enough not to expect to ever be beautiful so I hate the way I am just a bit less.

That being said, an issue came up last night which I try to suppress, and which is very personal. That issue is that my husband does not have intercourse with me. He hasn't for years, and I attribute this to the difficulty of doing so at my current size. It's not that we don't have sexual contact. He's willing to do anything else in terms of touching me and is extremely physically loving and affectionate all of the time. And when I say "all of the time", I mean it with no exaggeration. He hugs me and kisses me at least a half dozen times a day and touches me by tracing his hands over my skin (usually my thighs and buttocks) every night when we lie in bed, sometimes for as long as an hour. He also tells me he loves me several times a day, every day, and says he loves my body whenever I make disparaging remarks about it.

My husband in no way shows any revulsion or lack of desire to touch me and is willing to do whatever he can to make me sexually happy, but we don't have intercourse. He says that this is a confidence issue, and I don't doubt that he has a confidence issue, but I'm also convinced that his problem is directly related to mine. That is, if it weren't so awkward and difficult to have intercourse, he'd be able to manage. It's not that there aren't other ways to have fun, but rather that this issue is directly tied to my body's state in a way that makes me hate myself even more. I feel like this is yet another victim of my eating disorder.

At this point, I'm trying to be patient, but last night I had a huge bout of self-loathing as a result of this. I was angry at my husband at first for not trying, and then turned that anger on myself and blamed myself for everything. I'm still in completely blaming and deeply hating myself mode, but it's slowly starting to fade away. Last night, I truly was a "screaming fat girl" as my inner voice was literally howling in self-disgust and pain.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday: October 1, 2009

One of the hardest points about being very overweight and working on dealing with your problem is that progress seems so tiny. If you weigh over 300 lbs, losing 1 lb. is such a drop in the bucket as a percentage of your body weight that you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. These last few days, I've had the distinct sense of moving at a snail's pace.

I want to feel better and look better, but I don't feel like I'm getting far on either of those fronts. I've been at this relatively informally since around mid-June and more formally since mid-July and I've definitely made very noticeable progress. However, I don't really feel any better about how I look and that's because I still look very, very fat. I'm not even sure if anyone other than my husband and I can tell that the tires around my body have deflated somewhat and that my flab is less bulgy.

Though I find this disheartening, I don't find it discouraging. As I've mentioned before, I'm not itching to go back to eating more or indulging in foods I am currently avoiding. I feel like a marathon runner who is anxious to get to the finish line but knows she's only halfway through the first mile. The process isn't troubling me so much as the distance from the goal. Also, and I haven't mentioned this before because it's more revealing than I wanted to put out there when I started this blog, but I have a deadline. There is a major life change in my future and I don't want to go into it at this weight. The change will require me to find a new job and I feel that I cannot find a new employer at my current weight.

Getting to Thursday, I had a pretty good day of it with a total around 1450. My main problem was that I'd planned ground pork burgers (thoroughly mixed with vegetables as part of their composition) for dinner and hoped more fat would drain off of the burgers as they cooked than did. I may have underestimated the calories on the burger, but I tried to make a good guess of it. The burger was pretty small. Nutrition-wise though, I did very well with oatmeal for breakfast, a chef's salad for lunch, a banana smoothie and tomato soup for snacks, and the previously mentioned burger with broccoli and a baked potato for dinner. Even if I vastly underestimated, my total still wouldn't be too bad.