I’ve had a weight problem for most of my life. Unlike most of my fellow large and lovely Americans, I haven’t tried every diet. In fact, (till recently, I’ll explain later) every time I’ve tried actively to lose weight, I’ve done it the “right way”. I’ve made better food choices, counted calories, and increased my activity level. In 2007, I was so successful, I lost over 40lbs and got back down to almost what I weighed in high school (245lbs, mind you). I was still overweight, but I was strong and lean compared to what I was before, and sadly, am again now. Over the last 6 years, I regained and exceeded my highest weight ever by 10lbs.
About 6 months ago, I started to really think about why this happened. Why someone like me, a smart woman with better than average knowledge of nutrition and exercise physiology, has struggled and struggled with her weight just as much, if not more so than other “fat” people. Come on, I know what to do, and I can do it, I’ve done it before. What’s wrong with me?
That’s when I realized, maybe it really is NOT me. Maybe I really am just a product of my environment. Maybe this is not my fault, and not in the “I’m not fat, I’m just big boned” way but, the “I’ve been sold a bill of goods and was blind to it” way.
I think this is a great part of this blog to mention the following – I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer, or sales person. None of this is a recommendation or an endorsement. If I say something worked for me, or didn’t, I mean just that. Everyone is different, and their bodies are conditioned by their environment and react to things differently.
Being the red blooded American I am, I crave freedom of choice. Even when I do something out of what I feel is obligation, I believe I chose to make it an obligation. I could have just as easily f**ked off and went in a completely different, totally dismissive direction.
That’s the rub. That’s when I realized, I chose to be fat. Seriously, don’t look at me that way across cyberspace. I did this to myself. I’ve been making my own choices with respect to diet and exercise since… well, ha-ha, as it so happens, when I started to get REALLY big.
Here’s the best part, why it’s not my fault. I made that choice based on the information I was given. TV tells me where the tasty food is, that I don’t even have to cook! Pizza is healthy because it has all of nutrients you need in one cute little package that tastes amazing. Make sure you get 6-11 servings of carbs a day for optimal health!
The internet is a blessing, and a curse. While it can be abused in so many ways, it can also bring to you a level of enlightenment that just could not be attained when your information came only from a few sources, likely all owned by the same corporation. One might argue that the internet is controlled by some mastermind and I’m still a sheep who’s only “reading what they want me to read” but I don’t buy it (at least not totally). Why?
Google “weight loss”. “Diets”. “Workouts”. “Being Healthy”. Then don’t just Google it, “Bing” it, “Yahoo” it. 10′s of millions of pages. Thousands and thousands of ideas, and plans, and ways to get fit and healthy. That’s not controlling the message, that’s allowing too many messages to exist so the sheep stay confused and give up – give up and go straight for what they’ve heard the most, the longest. I’m 33, if you’re 20 years either way of me, what does that consist of? Buzz words, propaganda, and noise. Food Pyramid (or groups),
“breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, “low fat”, “balanced diet”…
I won’t even dare suggest any of these ideas or statements are wrong. What I do believe may be true? They’re not right for everyone, all the time. If they were, we’d have a lot less people like me waddling around. Why? Because these are simple ideas anyone can follow.
I think if you’re a person who works out 7 days a week, or has a physical job, you might be able to eat bread and pasta every day and still be healthy. In fact, I’m pretty sure I know this is true. Why? Well, you’re burning up the energy you’re putting into your body, just like you’re supposed to. I’m 329lbs (I’ve lost 11lbs recently, I was 340), have a sit-down job, and I am just getting back into going to the gym a few times a week. It’s highly unlikely the amount of carbs I would need to intake to keep my mind and body satisfied could be completely burned up. How can I be so sure? I own a mirror. I’ve lived that life for a long time. Eat a pizza (yes, a pizza, not a slice), drink a couple of beers, and wonder why I have no problem maintaining a 300+ weigh in? Well I don’t, I just didn’t realize till recently that I was making this harder on myself than it has to be.
No one needs to eat a whole pizza, ever. I know that, you know that. So why did my brain let me think it was ok for me to do that (hundreds of times)? It felt good… no, great! It didn’t make me sick, it made me happy. The serotonin kicked in because of my deep, psychological love of melted cheese and pizza crust. I couldn’t stop. Not just pizza either, every time I took the first bite of whatever delicious, terrible for me thing I wanted, it was like falling in love all over again. I never wanted it to end.
This is what I’ve had to accept about myself. I’m an emotional eater, not because I’m depressed, or lonely, or lacking something per se. I’m an emotional eater because I love the way food makes me feel, mentally. To my earlier points, this is completely fine, if my metabolism can keep up with my intake. 340lbs proves it cannot. Maybe someday it will, but not now. Excellent! Now that I know why I was eating 3000 to 4000 calories a day, how do I fix it?
Before you stop reading because you believe I’m going to go on a low carb diet rant, hang with me for a bit longer. Carbs, generalized, are not the enemy. The carbs society has been feeding me, and I’ve grown to love en masse, might be – especially right now.
If you’ve read or heard anything about how the body stores the carbs it cannot burn, you know it’s pretty much a fact that they’re stored as fat. If you can refute this, I’d love to learn your theories but, I think I can safely say it’s going to be hard to disprove. Someone like me is just full of large fat cells just sitting there, waiting to be burned for energy SOMEDAY. My body doesn’t need to burn the stored fat because I keep feeding it more calories than it can handle, and most of those calories are carbs.
Cutting calories should be simple enough, but throw in the blood sugar spikes of a refined carb diet and it can feel impossible. I’d have kept the weight off before if it wasn’t like that. I wouldn’t have gone back to my carb guzzling ways.
Our bodies are highly adaptable. One of those adaptations is fat storage. How do I know this? Well, because humans would have died off completely during extremes of climate change thousands of years ago if we weren’t. Ice ages and droughts would have killed us all off. It’s not just us, look at all the species of animals that’ve made it this far with us! Did you ever notice that squirrels and bunnies are skinny in the spring and fat in the fall? Of course you did. Why? We’re genetically programmed to overeat when food is available, and if we eat enough, we’ll be able to survive when it’s not (like the winter, when plants don’t grow as well, if at all, outside). Unlike our animal friends, we’re not hunter-gatherers anymore.
Before you stop reading because you think I’m going to go on a Paleolithic diet rant, please understand, I like ice cream, and cheese, and popcorn with salt and butter. None of that is food that was available to hunter-gatherers. I’m just acknowledging the fact that there was a time when almost no one was obese the way people are now because their lifestyle – living by the whims of the seasons didn’t allow them to be.
We humans have so many advantages now. Cars, light bulbs, refrigerators, and mass production of food that is distributed in such a way that we can jump in our car to go find it, available at a central location, store it in our home refrigerators, and eat at 2am if we want to because we’re awake and can see where the food is. It’s TOO easy. If it’s easy, and it feels good, why not, right? There begins the cycle.
I saw a funny picture online not too long ago. It had the caption “I don’t like being told what to do, except in the bedroom”. I found it to be amusingly and for me, profoundly correct. I don’t like the government telling me what to eat, or drink, or for that matter, smoke. This is the land of the free, don’t tread on me! If I want to be a fat, alcoholic, cigarette smoker, that’s my right! I’m not on welfare, and I go to work every day, who the heck are you to tell me how to live! What does this paragraph have to do with anything I’ve written before it?
I don’t want to be a smaller, healthier human being because I think it’s what I have to do. It’s what I want to do. I’ve now made it my choice.
So how have I chosen to tackle this weight thing? With all I’ve read, heard, learned, what am I going to do? I think I may have figured it out, for me, for now.
I think I’m going to fast. A little.
Before you stop reading again, I am not about to explain the benefits of eating disorders for the morbidly obese. Anorexia and bulimia are real, horrible diseases of the mind and body that many people suffer from and for. That said, I don’t think anyone’s going to argue I’m not a large enough individual to get by skipping a few meals. I know, at first I thought it was completely counterintuitive too. I’ve always been made to understand if you don’t eat, your metabolism gets screwy and won’t work as effectively. I’m sure that’s true, for a lot of people. In fact, I’ve gently lectured the love of my life a time or two about how horrible it is that he will skip a meal, or even a days worth of meals.
Then I thought about it a bit more. I watched him, not intake any calories except for regular Pepsi for long periods of time, and then finally eat, and not what I’d call “health food”. A bag full of Wendy’s, a 3 course prime rib dinner, the other half of the pizza (I got some cheese bread so I wouldn’t feel I was missing that ½). We’ve been together 6 years straight (and known each other for 8), and he’s not gained or lost more than 10lbs one way or the other. I’ve gained and lost and gained again the same 75-100lbs going through series after series of calorie controlled diets followed by months of not caring what I eat at all or how much.
Wait a minute – that sounds like the seasonal thing you were talking about our ancestors doing – see – you’re full of it. I thought that for a second too but, I think there might be a difference between the caveman running around all day in the summer looking for meat and berries (there’s were the no-low carb thing comes in) and the girl eating pizza and beer whenever she wants, if she’s not depriving herself to make up for the last 3 month of her eating habits.
I did a TON of reading. Stick a fork in me. So I decided what the heck, I might not be able to fast for 6 months, but maybe I can try what the old ball and chain does. Eat a meal a day, give or take, and see how it goes. I’ll even throw a little “low carb” mindfulness in there for the heck of it and watch those too while I’m at it.
I prepared my body for this experiment by doing, what I called “raw before 5”. For 2 weeks, I didn’t eat anything cooked before my evening meal. It forced me to focus on attaining satisfaction from raw veggies and fruits. Have you ever tried uncooked pasta or pizza dough? Not very tasty, and hard to eat.
Guess what I found out? When I didn’t eat bread, and pasta, and potatoes as much, (because they all require some amount of cooking) – I started to want them less. Don’t get me wrong, those french fries smothered in cheese and bacon at the steakhouse last night looked and smelled amazing. Even with them 10 inches from me, I didn’t cave. I didn’t even have to sit on my hands.
And I was starving. Literally. That’s your intro to Phase 2 of this experiment. When we ordered dinner last night, I had not eaten for, 22 hours. It wasn’t supposed to be that long, but I was busy (one of my honey’s famous excuses for skipping meals). I was fine, till I’d ordered food. My mind was then preparing for me to eat, after choosing to not eat for nearly a day.
I used to think I couldn’t go more than a few waking hours without food. I’d get tired, cranky – just generally unhappy. So how exactly is it I just went darn near a day without anything in my stomach but water (TONS AND TONS OF WATER) and some coffee? Not only that, I was in a perfectly fine mood the entire time, and I was not half as tired as I was oh, pick any day you like about a month ago. I doubt I’d have been able to function at work all day if my brain wasn’t getting fuel from somewhere….
Now, I didn’t dream this master plan completely on my own. Part of my research was reading blogs and message boards with information from real people who fast regularly. I also read plenty of material about the dangers of fasting – and the health concerns such as your body depleting muscle for energy. I decided to take a calculated risk. If I eat good protein when I do eat and strength train a bit, I’m betting I can fend off a lot of that potential muscle loss – especially when fat is, well, plentiful on my body. I think my brain will make the right choice as long as I do what I can to promote it doing so.
What are the supposed benefits of fasting anyway? Well, first of all, we all do it. That’s right. From the moment we stop eating before bed till we “break fast” the next day. This is an extention of that. This is the counterintuitive part. We’re told we need to start our metabolism when we wake up by eating. Why? Well, this is just a guess, because we don’t grow our own food, or gather it in the traditional sense, we BUY it. We’re supporting someone else’s lifestyle, and the more we eat and more frequently we do it, the more money they make.
Sounds hokey right? Sounds like a conspriacy theory gone a wry? Tell that to the hundreds of folks who’ve shared online how much better they feel, how much more energy they have by controling their diet with intermittent fasting. Add in the fact that restricting the amount of hours in a day I take in calories has already curbed my cravings for things that are bad for me and resulted in the net caloric deficit required for weight loss. For someone like me, this might just be the solution I’ve been seeking.
There’s a fancy book written all about it. This diet even has a name. “Fast 5″. Google it, or Bing it, or Yahoo it, like I did.
So that’s my story. I’m taking control of the seasons of my body and I’m going to have all in one day. I’ll eat nothing, and then I’ll eat a lot, and then nothing – like my boyfriend does all the time (except I’ll be eating a lot of fresh veggies and chicken).
I’ll keep you posted. There’s a chance I’ve fallen into some horrible unfortunate pit of poor health, exchanging one set of issues for another. It’s also possible this will work for a while. It’s possible I’ll order a pizza next week and eat it all in one sitting. No high horse here. Just another fat chick trying to fix it.