By popular demand:
I had got to the point where I had given up on losing weight. I had resigned myself to a bitterness that I would always be big, and that fat was morally equal to skinny, so anything negative to be said about being big, was automatically fat shaming and was therefore coming from a horrible person. But, as I began to see the toll that the excess weight was having on my body, I knew I needed to do something. I was 272 lbs at my heaviest, and I blamed absolutely everything but my own behaviour. But, I was ready for a change. This is so key to weight loss. You have to be ready. You can’t make someone else be ready.
I had a few friends who had been very successful with weight loss through gastric bypass surgery, and I thought that was my only hope. So, feeling out of options, I went to my doctor, who had been trying to get me to lose weight for years. She was glad that I had come to her, but she said “This is major abdominal surgery that will affect you for the rest of your life. There can be serious consequences. I am not going to put you under the knife unless it is your only option. We talked a lot about diet and exercise. She diagnosed me with binge eating disorder and ADHD. Much of my eating, especially late at night, was far more psychological than physical. She placed me on an ADHD medication that is also successful at curbing compulsive eating. She told me that I needed to eat more vegetables. She said I can eat as many carrots and celery sticks as I want. She also said “And I want you to move. Every day. I want you to sweat. You don’t need an expensive gym membership. Just find a video on TV and work out in your living room for a half hour.”
It was late spring. It’s always easy to lose weight in the nice weather. There are so many fresh and local fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to go for a walk. In fact, most of the exercise that I did was yard work- mowing, sawing, carrying logs, shovelling clay. I tried to spend an hour outside every day. I had a back injury in May, so some things were hard. My sister helped with some mowing (thanks Lisa!).
I discovered that I didn’t like raw vegetables. Salads were a very specific thing growing up, and the idea of choking down oily lettuce is very unappealing to me. So, I ate cooked veggies- stir frys and soups. I learned Lebanese cooking from a client. To quote my sister- “fatoush does not give you a fat tush”.
I needed to take the religion out of food. Many words in our culture around food are religious. Words like cheat, indulge, sinful and guilty pleasure were taken out of my vocabulary. Food is never “good” or “bad” (unless it is spoiled). There are foods that are more in line with my goals, and there are foods that are less in line with my goals. No food is evil. So, I cut nothing out. I still eat bread, butter, pizza, cupcakes. I just eat fewer of those types of foods. I eat at restaurants less. I eat less processed foods and more fresh foods. I shop at the Farmer’s Market. I cook in bulk. I spend less on food now than I ever did.
I needed to address my fear of starving. I was homeless as a teen on three brief occasions, and lived on my own from age 16 on. I was working part time, and in high school full time, but I was also subsidized by the government. Being hungry was something that I experienced a lot as a teen. I needed to learn that I was going to be okay if I was a little peckish, instead of compulsively shoving the quickest carb down my gullet to stave of hunger. I learned how to fast. Only once I made 54 hours, because I needed to prove to myself that I was not going to die. After that, I only fast from dusk to dusk at the full and new moon, and on my 8 Holy days. Every day, I fast for 16 hours, under the recommendation of my friend, Dr. Wendi Roscoe. I am not a morning person, so if I can get a few extra minutes of sleep, it is golden! So I have black tea for breakfast. I have a good lunch about noon, with lots of plants and some protein. And then I eat my dinner between 7:30 and 8pm. That’s good for me. I cut out late night eating. If I am peckish after 8pm, I have a cup of peppermint tea. If I am hungry after 10pm, I go to bed.
I think of food now as a budget. I can budget money, why can’t I budget food? I have a budget of 1200 calories a day, with 300 overdraft. Going over 1500 is debt. If I know I have an event coming up where I would like to enjoy something expensive, I save up a bit, maybe having a lighter lunch so that I can enjoy a cupcake.
I only have alcohol on weekends, and limit myself to 3 servings throughout the entire weekend. A serving of wine is 200 calories, for 125 mL. Most of us pour glasses that is 2 or 3 servings at a time. I also started drinking better wine.
I am trained as a scientist, so I need data to be able to track progress. I weigh myself daily (except for my monthly cycle). For the most part, the scale tends to move in the right direction, even if a few 10ths of a pound a day. If the scale goes in the other direction, I do not punish myself or feel guilty. I ask, “what decisions have I been making over the past few days that are contributing to this?” Did I eat a lot of salt? Not drink water? Have I had enough fibre? Am I regular? I can usually find a cause. Then I ask myself “How can I make better decisions today?” I can’t change the past. I accept it, and I choose to work within my goals today. I should be better at keeping track of my food intake, but I’m not. I find that, if I have not been focusing on making high quality decisions, and the scale goes too much in the wrong direction, 5lbs is a lot easier to fix than 20. I also write down my weight on a calendar that hangs in the bathroom every day. I may feel stuck one week, but looking at the progression over several months can be a powerful motivation.
As of today I weigh 212 lbs- 60 lbs down from my heaviest. My knees, ankles and hips feel better. I can climb the stairs without getting winded. I can do my muggle job more effectively by squeezing into smaller spaces, and I haven’t had a back injury since May. I can shop in some “normal” stores, so I can buy clothes off the rack that are not overpriced “specialty clothes”. I feel sexier than I have in a long time. I like my body. I am actually considering attending group sports events, where as in the past I was too ashamed to.
I have plateaued a bit. but I am also not exercising as much with the weather changing. Truth is, I actually HATE exercise. It needs to feel like I am not wasting my time. That’s why yard work is so good for me. But in the winter, there is less to do. Yes, shovelling is good exercise, but it doesn’t snow every day. And when it gets really cold, it doesn’t snow at all. A friend of mine has a business called “The Casual Athlete” where he makes exercise accessible for the non-athletic types. I am going to set up a consult with him in the next two months to learn how I can better incorporate exercise into my daily life. There are some home renos that I want to do over the winter that may keep me active. But, budget will determine how many of those I can get done before spring.
My goal is to hit ONE-derland (under 200 lbs) before the end of the year. 12 lbs in under 7 weeks is reasonable. Total weight loss goal is 104 lbs, which will take me to 168lbs, or what I weighed on my very first prenatal check up with my now 17 year old daughter. I can’t call it baby weight when my baby is almost old enough to vote.
So, in conclusion, when asked how I lost the weight- When I was ready, under the supervision of my doctor, I ate more plants, but consumed less food over all, and I moved more.