Disorderly Conduct for OctoberFast

Y’all, I’ve finally admitted to myself this week that I have skid row self-discipline. Every night before I go to sleep, I make to-do lists and swear resolutions like a drunk with her head over the toilet. I promise to do the laundry and actually get it all put away on the same day (!) just like that drunk promises to never touch another drop of alcohol. And just like that drunk pops a cork the next day, I’m sitting on the couch on the next day with my feet up, eating popcorn, and watching Game of Thrones while the laundry sits unfolded on the kitchen table.

And, frankly, I’m getting on my own nerves with it.

My house is NEVER ready for company to just drop by. I stop at fast food places for dinner, meanwhile salad ingredients liquify in my refrigerator. I drink WAY too much Diet Coke because I just don’t like to drink water. I still can’t walk for exercise; but, I don’t haul myself to the pool, which I could do. I have such a huge list of things I need and/or want to tackle, I don’t get any of it done.

My boss was talking the other day about something she does – OctoberFast. For the month of October, she gives up one unhealthy thing – like Lent, but in the Fall and without Mardi Gras parades. So, I’m tackling my list by giving up two things: 1. ice cream, and 2. leaving dishes in the sink.

no-ice-cream-for-youNow, for a reasonable person, giving up ice cream might mean no dessert for two nights a month. Not for me! The ridiculous truth is that I eat ice cream at least four times a week. (I told you it was ridiculous.) And I just haven’t made myself give it up; so, I’m doing it for October – 31 days with no ice cream. I’m not giving it up forever, but I can handle 31 days. I can handle a finite period of time without my favorite treat and with a new chore.

My dishwasher died several years ago and I’ve never replaced it. I lived alone for much of that time and it just wasn’t that important to me. Now, however, my sister lives with me and the dishes pile up faster since neither of us are big fans of washing them. I get annoyed with her when she doesn’t wash them when I think it’s her turn; but, the truth is, I don’t do them like I should when it’s my turn, either. I’m currently saving up for a dishwasher; however, it’s unlikely that I’ll have the money for it before the end of the month So, for the 31 days that are October, I will wash the dishes every day and put them away before I go to bed. That’s such a basic adult thing to do, it really looks like that would be a non-issue, doesn’t it? Well, whatever. It is and I’m dealing with it this month.

This October is a time to tackle two places where I display no self-discipline. I’m hopeful that I’ll notice a change in my motivations by the time the month is over. I’d say that I’m looking forward to it, but that’s not really the truth. (Didn’t you hear me? I’m giving up ICE CREAM!) But, I know the process is good for me; so, I’m doing it. I just OctoberFast really is…..er…fast.

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The Wheel

…and why reinventing it is unnecessary.

I am an idiot. Let me just start with that.

The past several months I’ve tried all kinds of different strategies, tricks and ridiculous things to get this weight off again. And, guess what. None of those strategies, tricks or ridiculous things worked. Why? Because I was listening to other people – diet “experts.” See all those diet books in photo at the top? Those are my books. I own them. Those aren’t even all the ones I’ve read. Those are just the ones I own. (Some of them are recipe books, but they contain meal plans or advice on how to build them. Since I’ve used them like diet books, I’m counting them as diet books.) And I’m going to run it down for you. For losing weight, the ONLY two that have had advice that worked for me are Sybil Ferguson’s The Diet Center Program and Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet.  Years ago, I used Bill Phillips’ Body for Life book, which was also helpful; but, not in the long term.

I lost about 60 pounds using the Diet Center Program when I was in college. When I lost weight successfully five years ago, that’s pretty  much what I used then, as well. Rather than keeping a paper food diary, though, I used the LoseIt app. Since I lost 94 pounds, I’d say it was a good combination. Wouldn’t you? So, why in the world, when I decided to get back on track, did I try these other methods?!

The only answer that makes sense to me is that I’m just thick-headed.

Even though I know that only hard work and diligence will make me leaner and fitter, I still buy into the hype and marketing. I still want to believe that there is a Magic Pill or a Get Thin quick fix.  There’s not. There’s just not. Even a whole food, plant based diet may make me healthier; but, unless I stay away from starchy carbs and excess oils, it’s not going to make me leaner.

So, for the last 30 days, I have successfully logged all my food intake, and I mean every morsel. I’ve been weighing and measuring my food again to make sure I know exactly how much I’m eating. Because I had a cast on my foot when I started this, I did not weigh in and I haven’t weighed now. But, in those 30 days, I’ve lost at least two inches around my ribs and at least an inch from around my waist. And that is just from watching what I’m eating and from watching WHEN I eat it.

Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet added some practical advice to The Diet Center Program. Erin (who has never had a weight problem herself; but, who writes with the empathy of someone who really gets it) advocates watching WHEN you’re eating certain foods. As a result, I plan my meals better. If I’m going to have toast, a sandwich, or potatoes, I make sure that in addition to eating a controlled portion, I eat that portion before 3 PM. No starchy foods after 3. (Well, except when my sister and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. I totally chowed on the popcorn. But it’s DISNEY!)

Erin also advocates a periodic cheat meal – not a cheat day, a cheat meal. The idea of a whole day of eating whatever I want scares me from the perspective of a sugar addict; so, I allow myself just the one cheat meal each week, and I usually plan it for several days. I count the calories for that meal in my food diary; but, I eat whatever I want. I’ve had three cheat meals now. I truly ate whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted; however, I’m noticing that I don’t want to blow it out quite so hard. Next week, I’ll still eat whatever I want; but, I’m going to control the portion on it. I believe that I can get the same enjoyment out of that meal without consuming quite so many calories.

I’m really excited about the progress I’ve made in the last 30 days – neither my bra nor my shorts are cutting me in half, and I can bend over to tie my shoes without huffing and puffing.I still have a long way to go; but, I’m finally on track and have been on track long enough that I feel comfortable sharing it with you. I had to throw out all the “great, new ideas” and get back to what I know worked (with a tweak or two). I was failing because I was trying to reinvent the wheel.

Now, I’m rolling along just fine.

Minute. Hour. Day.

I don’t know if we’ve discussed this; but, I’m a Mississippi State fan. #TrueMaroon My parents both graduated from State, where they actually met at a dance. They were introduced at that dance by an MSU cheerleader, as a matter of fact. My sister and I both graduated from State, as well. My sister worked there for many years and my mother taught there for a few semesters. We. Bleed. Maroon.

So, you know that I was ecstatic when the Mississippi State Women’s basketball team was in the Final Four, even though I’m really not much of a basketball fan. I was delirious and hoarse when they won their game against legendary UConn. I was as proud for those young women as I was disappointed for them when they lost the title game to South Carolina. Even with the loss, they have a great deal to be proud of, not least of which how they comported themselves.

After the victory over UConn, I read a quote from the MSU Coach Vic Schaefer. He told his team,

“Win the minute. Win the hour. Win the day.”

I love that on so many levels.

I stopped writing for a long time because I concluded that, basically, I was full of crap. I was telling you about all the things I was going to to, things I was starting; but, things I didn’t follow up on. (More on that tomorrow.) I had all these ideas and thinking that I could force things to work and, I could, for a day or two. Then I failed. Just like I have a million times before. Just like all of us have a million times before.

I was looking at the whole task to be done and easily becoming overwhelmed. I was following the advice of some people who have NEVER had a weight problem; but, who have all these ideas on how to lose weight. I wasn’t listening to myself. I wasn’t doing the things that I know work. I was confusing myself with data and garbage, and getting lost in the process. I lost focus.

When I read that quote, its elegance struck me. How simple! How profound! How perfect! And it doesn’t matter if you’re talking playing basketball, dieting, working, parenting, healing an injury or living. Get the small things right and the big things take care of themselves.

Win the minute. Win the hour. Win the day. 

I need to embroider this on a pillow.

It’s Just a Phase

I saw my orthopedist on Monday. Although he was encouraged by the range of motion in my ankle, he was also discouraged by my reports of continued pain even with moderate use. We discussed my treatment history and my future treatment options including joint fusion which is not something I want to do. I’ve go WAY too many cute pairs of heels to be going that route! I told him my plan to lose weight and remove some of the stress from my ankle. He agreed that this was likely my best option to recover the most use and range of motion from that joint, although he expressed some reservations about it ever regaining pre-injury abilities.

My plan has been vetted by my doctor. Woohoo! It’s a good thing since I’d already started on it!

Like any good plan, mine has several steps to get me to my goal, my Why which I shared with you back on the 4th.. I need a Why. Just Because wasn’t much of a motivator for me in Mrs. Rich’s kindergarten class and it still isn’t; so, identifying that Why was the first step of my plan. The second step is figuring out the How. I shared some thoughts with you on that on the 5th. Implementing the How requires a few phases:

  1. Motivate – I watched several food documentaries again: Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., Fed Up, Food Matters, Hungry for Change, PlantPure Nation and The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue. (I even made my sister/roommate watch a couple of these with me!) Most of these documentaries advocate a whole-foods, plant based diet, essentially a vegan diet without the political connotations. While they are not trying to sell you a product, they are definitely promoting (or selling) a vegan diet ideology. This ideology appeals to me. It may not appeal to you and I don’t think it’s necessary to go this route to get healthier. Most nutritional films differ on how they think you can have better health; however, they all agree on one thing: avoid processed foods.
  2. Cook – To avoid those processed foods, I dusted off the cookbooks, put some beans on to soak and prepared nutritious meals based on a whole-foods, plant-based diet for immediate consumption with plenty to put in the freezer for later. (I had already gone this far by the time I saw my doctor since I knew I wasn’t going to hurt anything with these phases. Where I really needed his advice was on Phase 3.)
  3. Exercise
    1. Cardio – I needed to work up a sweat; but, I was unsure what cardio exercises were safe for me to do. He said that I could swim, use the elliptical machine or ride a bike. He advised against doing anything that would jar or put impact on my ankle. I saw him Monday morning and started back to the gym Monday night where I decided to go with the bike because: 1. my gym doesn’t have a pool (and I don’t think I can get my posterior in my swimsuit), and 2. I am so out of shape that I’d probably last about 30 seconds on an elliptical. So, the bike it was. I went with the cardio program for 30 minutes on Monday and Tuesday. Last night I upped the time to 45 minutes.
    2. Weight training – I will add this into my program next week. I didn’t want to put cardio and weights in at the same time because my beginning fitness level was so low. I knew that if I did both at once I’d be too sore to move and that I’d find reasons not to go back.

I still have not weighed although there is a scale in my bathroom and one at the gym that I could certainly use. I’m sorely tempted to step on them, sure; but, I’m afraid of undoing my Phase 1 motivation. I know myself. If I step on that scale and see what I believe I will see, I am going to have a really hard time not heading straight for Ben and Jerry. I have gained a lot of weight. I know that and, right now, that’s as specific as I have to be. I’m not sticking my head in the sand; but, there is nothing to be gained from my knowing that specific number right now. My job today is to keep looking forward and to keep moving towards better health and a stronger body. To do that, I will keep moving through my planned phases.

Then, someday this year, I’ll be able to look back on this period of being overweight and injured and know that it was just a phase.

 

 

The Whys Have It

Yesterday, I said that part of the reason I stopped caring about my health was that I lost sight of my Why. That’s not a terribly complicated statement or concept; but, lemme tell you, it was a tough one to figure out!

I have tried several times over the last two years to get my head back in the game and to get this weight back off. Each time I start out with guns blazing, taking no prisoners, and showing no mercy. Then I run into my boyfriends Ben and Jerry and all bets are off. (I know people whose weaknesses are wine or chocolate or pasta; but, mine really is ice cream. I’m six. I know. However, no one understands disappointment, boredom, depression, happiness, PMS or Wednesday quite like Ben and Jerry. For me, they are Lex Luthor and they make kryptonite by the pint.) I’m so easily distracted and my efforts so easily derailed. Why?

because-the-why-mattersBecause I lost my Why. Without a reason, a strong enough motivation, I wasn’t choosing the kinds of foods and activities I needed to choose.

My first Why revolved around my son. I went for my annual Big Girl check-up, not feeling like anything was amiss other than that I was tired. At the time, I was working some 90 hours a week trying to get an internet start-up off the ground. Who wouldn’t be tired, right? You know how when you go to the doctor, they weigh you then take your blood pressure (tasks I have always believe were performed in the reverse of optimal order – of course my BP is going to be higher after I see my weight!)? Well, my BP was significantly higher than normal for me and the nurse practitioner would not let me leave until it came down. Hello. You have my attention.

At that moment, I realized that I had started down the road of permanent damage. I knew that I was approaching the time when I would either get healthy or get on a bunch of prescription drugs. With all of the heart-attacks dotting the landscape of my family history, I really began to take seriously the fact that I was headed for heart disease, which 25% of the time initially announces its presence with a fatal heart attack. In addition to the trees of heart attacks in my family landscape, there are quite a few shrubs of diabetes and some boulders of high blood pressure. My high BP that day put me in that landscape for the first time that I was aware of. I realized that if I was going to take charge of my health, I had to do it then since menopause was looming somewhere in the next decade for me. I knew it was time to act and I did. I got serious. I got it done. I got healthy.

Then I got cocky.

My Why was to be alive to see my son become a man, then perhaps a father. My Why involved meeting my potential grandchildren, baking cookies with them, riding bikes, reading stories and playing in the mud. When my son moved across the country, it became more difficult for me to keep my eyes on my Whys. I lost my focus, then I lost my way. (Understand that I’m not blaming my failure on my son for moving away. That would be absurd. I’m just giving a timeline for how and when I got lost.) Having good health for my own sake wasn’t a big enough Why. Sure my clothes were all too small, but I wasn’t sick or anything.

Until I was.

And that gave me my new Why that we’ll discuss tomorrow.

Eye Beam

I say it regularly because I believe it so strongly: maturing is just the process of figuring out what a schmuck you’ve been up to this point. Yeah. So I’ve been doing some, um, maturing lately.

On August 19, 2013, I published a piece called What If You Were Dying?  Take a second to give it a read. I had some good things to say. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

There are several things you need to know about that piece. First, the woman I’m sitting with in the photograph was my precious Aunt Jo. She died of lung cancer after having smoked for some 60-something years. She killed herself with tobacco. Second, all of the statistics I quoted in there are true (as far as any data used to prove a point can be true). Third, it was my opinion at the time that if you are deliberately doing something that is harming your health (whether it’s tobacco or Twinkies), you’re an idiot. And fourth, I’m an idiot.

plankeyeOver the last two years, I have regained at least 60 of the 94 pounds I lost. I say “at least” because, frankly, I’m too embarrassed and disgusted to get on the scales this morning and tell you exactly how many. At my thinnest, I was healthy and generally pain-free. Now, I feel lethargic and have been struggling with a foot and ankle injury for the past six months. I feel like garbage and guess whose fault that is.

Mine.

The weight gain started after a medical procedure – a side-effect of which was weight gain. (Note, I did not ask my doctor about the side effects of the protocol. If I had known about the weight gain, I would not have continued with the procedure. Henceforth, I will ask about side effects and I strongly suggest that you do, too. How else will you make an informed decision about whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh its physical costs?) The fattening started there, but it certainly didn’t stop when the side-effects were no longer in play. By then, I’d fallen off the wagon hard and was making poor food choices, regardless of all the right marketing words on the labels – healthy, low-fat, sugar-free, organic. I was almost exclusively eating processed foods marketed as health foods. Then, I just reverted to eating processed foods of nearly every kind as long as they were vegetarian. Then I even threw that out the window and just started stuffing my face with anything I wanted until, ta-da! I reverted to a seriously overweight woman at risk for many obesity related diseases: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and even arthritis.

I was in a great place physically and I let it go. No, I didn’t let it go. It’s more like I used my spoon still sticky with Phish Food to toss that good health and feelings of well-being and strength out the door. What an idiot! What a schmuck. Why would I do such a stupid thing? I think it’s because I lost track of my Why. Without my Why, I just didn’t care enough to get back to good health.

I reverted to one of the people I’d so smugly started to judge for making poor food choices. Now it’s time to mature, stop being such a schmuck, and get corn dog out of my mouth and the beam out of my eye.

 

 

Day 6 (and not counting as much)

Every time I have quit smoking, the quitting started something like: “It’s been 210 minutes since I had my last cigarette.” “It’s been three days since I last had a cigarette.” “I’m on week 2 with no smokes.” At some point in the process, I would stop counting. For instance, this time, I quit smoking sometime between nine and ten years ago. I can’t really tell you when. It became less important to keep track after awhile … because I wasn’t jonesing for a smoke anymore.

In this sugar rehab, I’m approaching that point. I can tell because although I’d still sell you my sister for a Diet Coke and pack of Oreos, I’d charge you a lot more. I baked a cake for work Saturday night and rather than look at it and whimper that I couldn’t have a piece, I looked at it and knew that it would not get me to my  goal. Thus, the cake was verboten. Period. And I was mostly okay with that.

Really.

I know that I’m not out of the woods, but I’m getting closer to the edge. What a relief! This first week has been really hard – okay, it’s been hideous – and I’m under no illusion that it’s automagically going to get easy; however, I have confidence that it will get easier every day. After all, it already has! I feel more energetic. I’m sleeping SO much better and I’m feeling less surly. (Thank goodness!)

You’ll notice a new tab at the top of the page – The Great Reduction Redux. This is where you’re going to find spreadsheets of my activity, my daily calorie intake and how it balances nutritionally. Several days this week I consumed too few calories. I’m working on that because that is absolutely NOT the right way to go about this.

Of course we lose weight to feel better, to look better and to feel like we look better. But the main focus here should always to be on better health. You don’t get richer by spending money you don’t have and you don’t get healthier by expending nutrient resources you don’t replace. You can get thinner, sure; but not healthier. And, really, what’s the point in being thin if you’re not healthy? Since I can’t think of a good one, I’m going for healthy.