Thursday, January 2, 2020

Breaking Silence, Losing Weight

January 2nd is my grandmother's birthday; I always figured it's the WORST day for a birthday: people are exhausted from all the gifts and celebrations and just want to climb into a cave for a few days. But J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday is January 3rd, by which point folks are willing to remember enough to raise a toast to "The Professor!"

I'm sharing this now because a lot of people start the year with a resolution and, for many, that resolution is often to lose weight.

In this past year (just over a year, I'd started changing the way I eat in mid-December of 2018) I've lost a bit over 50 pounds and, having been seriously obese for most of my adult life and continuously for the last 40-plus years, that's kind of a big deal.

What I've learned --and the reason for this post is to share what I've learned-- is that we have LOTS of bad information about how to lose weight and surprisingly little good information about how our bodies work and process food and regulate fat.

So, after years of blithely saying, "I gave up sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, I'm not giving up chocolate," I was assigned a new doctor by Kaiser and she was simply the right person at the right time with a message I could actually hear: she said, "you're really healthy but you've been obese a long time and it's going to eventually catch up with you. Read this book."

I was grudgingly listening, trying to avoid my knee-jerk response, and then I saw the cover of the book on her computer and I realized, "I already OWN that book!"

The book is The Obesity Code and I'd bought the audiobook from Audible (it was probably the Daily Deal one day... and I hadn't listened to it yet) - so I went home and started listening to it, as I worked around the house, as I drove up to Los Angeles, etcetera.

There are a number of things which I found challenging to wrap my brain around: calories aren't the issue, dietary fat is not the issue, and we don't get fat because we overeat: we overeat because we've gotten fat...

That's still hard to wrap my brain around, and sometimes it has more to do with the way an author expresses himself (or herself, as the case may be). A second book that has been very beneficial is Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It; both books are complementary and present a compelling and, for me, effective argument for eating very differently from what the U.S. government food pyramid advocates.

In a nutshell:
1) Sugar is the primary enemy and refined carbohydrates aren't far behind. Both books advocate removing added sugars (and not replacing them with artificial sweeteners as they don't really help and simply prolong the craving and taste for sweets - over time my sense of what is "sweet" has radically changed);
2) Don't "graze" - it's better to eat a few large meals than continually nibble and thus keep the blood insulin elevated;
3) Only eat when you're hungry;
4) Eat whole dairy - whole milk, butter, eggs with the yolks, etcetera;

I was leery of not starting my day with breakfast, in order to tell my body, "it's okay, we're going to eat today, you don't have to go into starvation mode!" since, sadly, I'd put my body into starvation mode in my early 20s, trying to take off the last 20 pounds that I'd gained after having my son (and falling into a pattern of eating from boredom) - I was eating one small meal a day and not losing weight. When I started eating like my boyfriend (breakfast, lunch, early dinner, no evening snacks) I lost weight, despite eating easily three or four times more food.

But, after a year of allowing myself not to eat until I felt hungry, it's working. Some days I have only one meal, some days I have three, most days I have two. It turns out that giving your body a nice long fast overnight is very good for your metabolism and gives the insulin system a rest.

So I've changed the way I eat and, since I didn't completely cut sugars out of my diet, I never had the killer sugar withdrawal headache, and my taste for sugary things has pretty much gradually disappeared. I feel free to eat whatever I want, I just think about it first - so I'll have a little corner of this or a small piece of that, if I want - but I don't have to and THAT freedom is really nice. I'm not thinking of this as a "diet," like I'll go back to the way I used to eat, once I get down to my desired weight. In fact, I don't have a "desired weight" other than to be on the 'under' side of 200 lbs. I figure my body will stabilize at a certain point and I won't be losing weight.

My doctor is very pleased, as you can imagine, and my blood work is happy (it wasn't bad before but it's better now). I feel good and have a lot more energy than I did in the past and THAT is a very nice thing, as an aging human! I haven't weighed this little since some point in the 1980s - and that's a very good thing.

So I encourage you, if you're resolving to lose weight in 2020, consider reading one or both of these books - and may they serve you as well as they've served me.*

*if you follow the link to Amazon and buy the books there, I may earn a few pennies in the process.

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