Sunday, July 31, 2016

When fat stopped being my enemy

It's no secret I have been struggling with my weight ever since my youngest daughter was born ten years ago. I just couldn't seem to get back to normal and people were like "oh, you're getting older." and I was like- how come so and so is the same age as me and looks amazing? So, I started the diet and exercise game.
So much fun. I think I started out with South Beach. I did that for a while, lost some weight, got to feeling better, gained it all back. I was really tired and it was clear to me that something was wrong with my body that was not normal to me. My doctor kind of made fun of me a little and also told me I was getting older but tested my thyroid at my request anyway. Guess what? I was right.
My thyroid was not functioning well. So, I went on medication and this was supposed to take care of the problem. It did not. I tried more diets. I got help from a personal trainer. I joined the gym, I worked out every single day for three months. I would work out two to three hours a day.
I lost some weight. I toned up. I looked better. But I couldn't maintain that level of anything. It was just a constant uphill battle for very little overall change. Even the trainers were pessimistic about what I could do. They kind of scoffed at the amount of weight I wanted to lose and behaved as if that was unrealistic. But I wanted my body back. I wanted to be where I was before. Is that so wrong?
So, I tried more diets. I tried the seventeen day diet and talked about it on my blog. I lost about 17 pounds with the 17 day diet and that was awesome but I just could not keep it up. Because I'm weak? Because I don't have the stamina? Not really. Because it made me miserable. And there is only so much low fat, high protein one person can eat before you just want pie. A whole pie.
I would despair because I felt like such a failure. All my grit and stubbornness and determination just did not translate into anything lasting or anything I could keep doing. A person can only eat so much boneless, plain chicken breast before you lose your mind.
Every diet I went on was low fat, low carb. And I would go back to it every time. I would cheat on my cheat day and try to go back to normal. Inevitably I would end up binging a little out of sheer hormonal frustration. I've never been an overeater but this kind of dieting was making me crazy.
When I gave up smoking, one of the ways I coped was to eat a tiny piece of chocolate every time I had a nicotine craving. This was not so bad when I was pregnant but now it morphed into a wicked sugar habit and when I went low fat, I became desperate for sugar. You have not lived until you have tasted and been thoroughly offended by reduced fat sour cream. There is no reason why that abomination should exist.
I tried the smoothie diet. Just lots of fruits and veggies- properly pulverized in kefir yogurt. And more low fat stuff that tastes like crap.
For a while I just wallowed in depression and tried mindful eating and home made pie. I just stopped and tried to just eat like a normal human. If I stopped dieting for one second, I packed on the pounds. I gave up on myself after I tried this horrific fitness class where I was humiliated and mocked on a daily basis. I left crying every day. I would sit in my car after class and weep and feel shitty. Every single day the trainers were mean to me and made fun of me if I couldn't keep up with the rest of the class, if I wasn't fast enough or if my knee pain was preventing me from doing what they wanted me to do. They told me it was normal to puke after class. Newsflash. Working out should not make you throw up.
After three months of humiliation and torture, I quit that class. I couldn't do it. Or more to the point, I just didn't want to. I didn't believe in them and they didn't give a shit about me. I had lost six pounds in three months.
I gained it back in a couple weeks.
I went to a good friend who gave me a diet and exercise routine to follow and working with him was great, and he was really kind and the routine was totally reasonable and the diet was totally reasonable and I did well with it for a couple months before I started to slip, but it boils down to this. I was unhappy. And after I fell off that diet, I never really recovered. I gained more weight than I had ever gained before. The weight that I had been the most afraid of happened. I had to buy the largest clothes I had ever bought and I hated the mirror. I hated looking at myself. I hated shopping. I hated every single thing I put in my mouth and I felt the worst I have ever felt. Much of my ugly weight gain was happening while my mother was gravely ill and I was just not coping. After she died, I thought without the stress of taking care of everything that everything would lessen but you still have to grieve.
I hate to say it but for the most part, I just gave up. I didn't want to give up. But I was sick and tired of failing all the time. That wears on you.
Last October, my best friend started talking about this awesome new diet she was on and I was just like- yay for you. But I was completely pessimistic about anything working for me. I was mildly intrigued but not even interested. But she kept after me. I said "Okay, after I get back from Germany, I will call you and you can tell me what to do."
At that point, she had lost like thirty pounds and I was like- wait a minute- maybe this is something I should pay attention to. I figured the best way to do this was to start in the new year fresh after the holidays.
So, I did.
I read up on this totally weird diet. Keto. High fat, low carb. The science goes like this. Your body can either burn fat or carbohydrates. If you starve it of carbs, it becomes highly efficient and burns fat. Hmmm. That sounded logical. First she told me what I would have to give up. No bread, no pasta, no sugar. Pretty standard for every single diet I have ever been on. Yeah, okay, I wanted to lose weight, I will give all those things up. And check this. No cheat days. No cheating at all. You have to put your body in ketosis to burn the fat and cheating is counteractive. Absolutely no cheating.
My first thought is- I'm going to fail at this because I love sugar and I need it. I mean, why can't I eat just a tiny, tiny piece of chocolate? Just one little mouthful...?
Ok fine.
But guess what? There is an up side to this diet.
There is?
Yes. There is fat.
Okay... what does that mean?
It means bacon. It means cream. It means butter. It means fried stuff. It means cheese. It means full fat sour cream.
Wait-- hold on-- explain that.
I like milk in my morning tea.
I used to put skim milk in there. But I would rather put two percent. My best friend says "Don't put milk in it. Put in heavy whipping cream."
WHAT??? But...are you serious? I thought you said this was a diet... She says to me, you need to consume 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates per day to start out.
So the first day I have bacon and eggs for breakfast. I have a salad with ranch dressing and cheese for lunch and for dinner I have chicken sautéed in olive oil with homemade alfredo sauce and spinach and green beans with real butter on it. I think- no way am I going to lose weight eating like this. And after the first week I lost two pounds.
That was eight months ago. That was 40 pounds ago.
This is literally the only diet I have ever been able to stick to.
I admit that I have cheated, very moderately about four times. And the next day I went right back to the diet and after about a week, I began to function at full capacity again.
Also after the first week-- all my sugar cravings completely disappeared.
After the second week I had more energy than I had in a long time.
After the third week, my skin started to glow.
After the fourth week, my pants started to get loose.
After that I could walk four to five miles at a time without breaking a sweat.
I have gone down four sizes and I'm not even sure how many inches I have lost but all my clothes are looser and everything I wore last summer is something I am swimming in.
All that is great. But the best part is how happy this diet makes me. For the first time, I don't feel deprived or ripped off or like I am suffering. I embraced everything and began to learn to cook gluten free, sugar free yummy treats like chocolate chip cake and lemon tart. I found a good sugar free ice cream and I can always have whipped cream. Butter is my friend again. I have a choice of all kinds of yummy treats that I can eat guilt free and dinners I can completely enjoy.
What's my secret? Slather it in grease and put some butter on it.
I'm not saying this is going to work for everyone. Not at all. But I am relieved to finally have something that works for me. And I am glad that I didn't have to give up. I hit my first goal and my second one is right around the corner. Yes, I had to give some stuff up. But the best part is, I don't mind that at all. The benefits are great and the inconvenience is small. So if you are struggling, hang in there. And I hope very much you find your answers.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The High Jump

When I was thirteen years old, my best friend and I loved to go to this public swimming pool in Clayton called Shaw Park. She lived nearby and we would walk over and spend the day there. There was a kiddie pool and the main swimming pool, which was huge and finally there was a separate pool, not as big but very deep and was just for diving off the platforms-- there were three platforms.

The picture pretty much gives you an idea of the setup. You can see the deep pool and the platforms.

So, I wanted to jump off the platform and I thought rationally I would start with the lowest platform. I climbed the ladder and walked up to edge and peeked over. Now, I had been jumping and diving off diving boards for years and I was not really afraid to do that, but as I stood looking over the edge of this platform, I realized it was higher than anything I had ever jumped off before. I looked over at the two lifeguards on the side of the pool.
One of them was a cute guy wearing a maroon bathing suit. My best friend and I had been googly eyed over this guy for weeks, part of why we wanted to go to the "big deep pool".
I stood there for a while. There were people behind me waiting. I walked back over and saw the people waiting.

"Are you going to go or not?" Someone yelled at me. I tried again, walking to the edge and looking down. At that point, the panic kicked in and my heart started really pounding.
No, no, no. This was too high.

I went back to the ladder and went back down, feeling the flush of humiliation in every step towards the ground. People were probably laughing at me. Look at the skinny, terrified girl. I ran to the safety of the large, crowded pool where I could go back to the anonymity of becoming part of the crowd. My best friend was amused but patient. I don't remember her making fun of me or making me feel bad about it. She was often there to coax me or comfort me. At that time, she was the person who would order from the waitress when we went out to eat on the days when I was too afraid to talk to people I didn't know. She quietly understood my shyness and my fears and never pushed me to do things that I didn't feel I could, but she always encouraged me to try. Sometimes, just standing by me was the most helpful thing.
That summer we climbed up that platform many more times with the same result. She used to go first and confidently jump off and then stand below waiting for me to figure out if I could go.

I chickened out an embarrassing amount of times. I don't even rightly remember how many times I went up, walked slowly to the edge, stood there for what felt like an eternity of seconds and returned to the ladder to go back down.
One day, I stood there and told myself I was going to do it. I told myself I was not allowed to fail. I steeled up, gathered my courage and put on my determined face. I was not going to run away this time. I mean, I think I told myself every time I got up there I was going to do it this time. This time I was going to succeed, this time I was going to be brave, this time was going to be different and every time it wasn't. Every time I couldn't find the courage to overcome that gripping terror that hit me when I looked down. I stood there and stood there and then, magically, I let go. I jumped. My body hung in the air for a brief moment and plunged deep in to the pool. I opened my eyes and looked at the surface far above me and swam hard to reach it. Vividly, I remember breaking through and taking a moment to look around me. The lifeguard telling me to swim to the edge so the next person could jump and me looking over.
There was no applause when I finally jumped.
There was no moment where anyone noticed except my best friend who was there, smiling.
She was the only who noticed that I had climbed Mount Everest and jumped into the pool below.
I think that is how it is for a lot of things. These personal moments that come with conquering something huge while everyone is standing around waiting in line to do something that is not that big a deal to them.
But for me, it means that I was able to fail a bunch of times and not give up on the goal. That diving platform gave me a lot of grit and courage. Sometimes, you have to fail and move on to other things. Sometimes you don't get the chance to climb up the platform again. But that platform always gave me hope that I could try again. That being afraid was not the end of the world, that time would give me courage, that determination would get me through it and that jumping into the air was magical. In life, sometime you have to jump off the mountain and turn that fear into exhilaration. Do the thing that scares you the most. Do the thing that makes your palms sweat and your heart race.
I always come back to the platform when the thing in front of me terrifies me. I will say to myself, you jumped off that platform, this is not a big deal. I will take a deep breath and dig in.