Since I last posted about my journey with food, I felt like I was wandering aimlessly and at the end of my rope.
I felt hopeless and helpless when it came to my weight. I had lost 9 lbs. since the beginning of the year but now it seemed the only way to get the scale to move was to starve myself.
I needed support and a plan but which one?!
I was confused by all of the ads. Oprah loves Weight Watchers, Marie Osmond loves Nutrisystem. Even Dr. Oz seemed to have a different health expert every day, tout the benefits of their weight loss plan.
Everyone had advice for losing weight.
Then I began having bouts of nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. I went for blood tests and an ultrasound to see if I had gallstones.
The ultrasound showed no gallstones but the blood work shocked me.
My cholesterol was 233! Thirty-three points higher than recommended!
My crappy diet was coming back to haunt me and it scared me.
Suddenly this was less about losing weight and more about being healthy.
A dear friend had been telling me about a program that she discovered about a year ago called CHIP.
CHIP stands for Complete Health Improvement Program and is sponsored by Rochester Lifestyle Medicine.
I resisted CHIP at first because it is about adopting a whole food, plant-based diet; no meat, no dairy.
It was hard to imagine life with no steak, butter, eggs, and OMG! No cheese or ice cream!
In my mind that meant food with no flavor and that meant SUFFERING!
But I watched my friend change her life over the last year simply by changing her diet and increasing her activity.
She’s lost 25 lbs. and no longer takes medication for fibromyalgia. She’s 65 years old and looks and acts at least 20 years younger!
And she certainly is NOT suffering!
So I checked out CHIP.
The program is based on studies by top researchers around the world like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell. The studies they cite, like the China Study, are not funded by the pharmaceutical companies, the food lobbyists or others with an interest in skewing the results.
The program looked sound and I knew my current lifestyle was leading me down the path to heart disease and likely an early death. It was time to change.
In July, I signed up for CHIP and met 17 other people who were struggling like me.
Twice a week, we learn the truth about the typical American diet and how it contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and more.
They share with us the research about how eating a whole food, planted-based diet can reverse disease.
We look at the difference between the typical American diet and what research has found to be the optimal diet for health.
There is no judgment. No one is telling us we HAVE to change. They simply educate us and we decide the changes we want to make.
Some of us have jumped in and embraced the optimal diet. Others have decided to make a few changes each week.
I could not do this on my own.
I need the support of others who are going through the same thing. We encourage each other and talk about how to handle challenges like eating out or dealing with family and friends who are not supportive of our new lifestyle.
Since July 15th, I have been eating the optimal diet and I can honestly say that I love it!
My fear of eating bland, tasteless food was totally unfounded!
Along with a textbook and a workbook, they also provided us with a cookbook.
I am having a blast trying new foods and have learned how to change recipes to suit my new lifestyle.
And listen to this: as long as I am eating foods that are part of the optimal diet, I can eat as much as I want!
I feel like I should have gained 20 lbs. because of the amount of food I’m eating. But I’m actually losing weight! It’s crazy!
Am I perfect? Of course not. I eat potato chips and taco chips. And I still have a drink a couple times a week. This may change as time goes on but for now, I’m not going to beat myself up.
After one month of eating a plant-based, low fat diet, I have not only lost 4 1/2 lbs but I have lowered my cholesterol by 32 points! And, no more nausea, vomiting or pain.
It wasn’t easy getting here but it’s getting easier every day! I’m eating food that I love and I know is good for me. Physically I feel better and mentally I feel free!
If you’ve been struggling like I have, check out CHIP and see if it’s right for you.
And feel free to reach out with any questions regarding my experience.
To learn more about CHIP, go to Rochester Lifestyle Medicine and click on What Is CHIP?
If you do not live in the Rochester, NY area and would like to find the nearest program, go to Lifestyle Medicine Institute.
Thanks to all those who have shared with me either through Facebook or in person, what has come up for you as a result of me sharing my weight loss journey.
I’m grateful for the honesty and for the opportunity to know that we are in this together.
Here’s my update:
-I have been consistent with my exercise, running or walking 2.5 to 4 miles at least every other day.
-I have drastically reduced my consumption of sugar, flour and meat.
-I have increased the number of vegetables and fruit I eat.
-I am down 9 lbs.
I even went to NYC for a few days and was able to come home without having gained any weight.
I’m glad I’m writing all of this down because the voice in my head has been very active lately and this is how it has been going:
Me: “I lost 9 lbs!”
Voice in my head: “You need to cut down even more so you will lose more, faster. Stop eating sweets and snacks all together, you shouldn’t be eating any of that stuff anyway if you’re really serious about losing weight.”
Me: “But I’m ok with how it’s going…”
VIMH: “You’re not doing good enough! Look at those people on Facebook who are posting pictures of all the weight they’ve lost. And you’ve only lost a measly 9 lbs.! You have at least another 15 lbs. to lose! You might as well give up now, you know you don’t have the willpower and besides wouldn’t some peanut M & M’s taste real good right now, but you can’t have them because you need to lose weight…”
And on and on and on!
Needless to say these thoughts caused a downward spiral as I let them take control.
This felt so familiar.
I could feel that sense of wanting to give up, feeling helpless and hopeless, the feeling that I can never be happy eating food that was good for me and that I will never lose AND keep this weight off.
The next step of this pattern is letting myself have cake to celebrate a birthday, after all it was just one small piece. Then it’s having ice cream 3 nights in a row just because I wanted it.
Suddenly I felt terrible. And I don’t just mean psychologically, I mean physically. I wasn’t sleeping well. I felt bloated.
I felt old. I know I’m getting older but I have never felt old.
Suddenly I realized I had lost track of why I wanted to lose weight in the first place.
After reading Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map a couple of years ago, I started setting my goals with the idea that it is not the goal I’m actually after, it’s the feeling I will have once I reach that goal.
Since then, I have not only reached my goals but I have actually enjoyed getting there.
The reason I want to lose weight is because I want to FEEL better! I want to feel confident and empowered.
I noticed that when I eat good healthy foods that is exactly how I feel, confident and empowered both physically and psychologically.
When I binge on cookies, candy, chips and cake, I feel better, temporarily. Then comes a wave of regret and the after effects of all those carbs which includes mental fogginess, bloating and the path to diabetes.
I’m eating healthy whole foods again. I have more mental clarity and feel happier.
I also like going to bed just a little bit hungry. I sleep better and seem to dream more, which I love!
A lower number on the scale is just a result. The real reason I want to lose weight is to feel happier, more powerful and confident. And I can achieve that right now just by the food choices I make.
How will you feel when you reach your ideal weight? What can you do right now to connect to that feeling?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to a client, “Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just want to be expressed…”
I’ve wasted so much time numbing myself with food because I didn’t want to deal with certain thoughts and emotions.
I use food to help me relax and even celebrate making it through the day. It’s as if it helps me take a deep breath and relax.
Of course, I know better.
When I am in my “I can eat anything I want whenever I want” mode, it isn’t long before I’m numbing my anger, shame, sadness, frustration, boredom, overwhelm etc… and packing on the LB’s.
Then I use even more food to try and feel better. It’s a set up for disaster.
The thing about numbing emotions is that we can’t pick and choose which ones to numb.
When we numb one emotion, we numb them all.
We numb our emotions with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping or today’s most popular numbing activity, being crazy-busy.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says, “…research taught me that there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light… We can’t make a list of all of the “bad” emotions and say, “I’m going to numb these” and then make a list of the positive emotions and say, “I’m going to fully engage in these!”
When I numb myself with food, alcohol or busyness, I feel like my world is painted gray.
It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t really enjoy what I’m eating because if everything I eat is special then nothing is special. Do you get what I mean?
As soon I stopped using food to numb my feelings and dull my thoughts, I began to feel and hear everything that I didn’t want to deal with. It was uncomfortable but I survived.
I started by not judging myself. I began meditating again so I could practice separating who I know myself to be from the thoughts in my head.
Choosing to run away from my thoughts and feelings, comes at a cost.
India Arie’s song, Break The Shell, talks about this. She says, “life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt…” because “we have a choice to live or truly be alive…”
In order to truly be alive, I have to break the shell that I put up to keep the pain away.
Lat Saturday night, we went to a dinner party and the food was amazing! I ate everything I wanted, even a bite of the homemade ooey-gooey, chocolatey, butter and sugar-filled Paula Deen brownies that our hostess made.
I took a bite and savored it. Did I want more?
Hell yes! But I knew that another bite was not going to taste as good as that first bite.
I have a ways to go before I reach my goal but I’m learning that overcoming my issue with food and my weight (and any other issue) starts with looking at what’s going on inside of me, not judging it. Then I can give myself permission to feel it all.
What is your favorite way to numb yourself? What is it you’re not allowing yourself to feel?
When I decided to tackle my weight thing once and for all, I went back and did an “autopsy” to determine why things went sideways in the past.
The last time I got to a weight where I was happy and comfortable, I was following a low carb diet. Not South Beach, Atkins or even paleo but one that included lean meat, fish, poultry and dairy and lots of vegetables, some fruit and grains. I ate carbs like cookies, cake, crackers and bread very rarely.
After about 8 months, I reached my goal weight and kept it off for about a year and a half.
I seem to be good at losing weight but I stink at keeping it off.
Step one in the “autopsy:” Tell the truth.
I used the excuse that I had a bad case of shingles, was basically bedridden for 3 months and the inactivity caused my weight gain.
Not the truth.
My eating habits had started to fall off before I got sick.
I had begun allowing myself a taste of cake here, a spoonful of ice cream there. Then it turned into a cookie here and a candy bar there.
At first the scale didn’t move so I didn’t panic. But then it slowly began to inch up little by little and before long I had put on 6 pounds.
My workouts became intermittent.
I was pushing myself to succeed in my business and volunteering a lot of my time. I was stressed and tired and I began to use food, mainly sweets, to make myself feel better.
I now see that it wasn’t the shingles that caused me to gain weight. It was my lack of self-care that brought on the shingles. And that led to many bags of Doritos trying to take my mind off the pain.
But the main thing I realized was, I got cocky. I thought that I would never go back to being addicted to sugar and carbs.
I even remember saying the words, “I’ll never go back!”
Words that came back to haunt me.
I see now that I lost the fear of the weight coming back. I forgot about the tired, wrung out feeling when I eat too much crap. And didn’t even consider the possibility of not only getting sick but contracting a chronic condition like high blood pressure or a disease like cancer.
I got cocky and the weight came back.
I’ve lived most of my life worrying about what others think and I’ve done a lot of work to break through that. I don’t believe I should live in constant terror and worry about becoming obese.
What I do now believe is that there is nothing wrong with a little healthy fear to keep me on my toes and out of trouble.
This fear includes a healthy respect for things like alcohol and food. It is an awareness that I have to be careful not to let my guard down too much.
I need to set my own limits and be clear where the line is.
I’m back to cutting down on processed carbs and sweets and eating more whole foods. And I’m always paying attention to what makes me feel like I want to eat and drink a bit too much.
That’s working for me right now.
Do you struggle with keeping weight off once you lose it? What have you learned from your past experiences when it comes to losing weight? What do you think about having a “healthy” fear of food?
A few months ago, I decided it was time to take a hard look at my relationship with food. It was time to figure out how to eat without it turning into an internal emotional battle.
I stopped following my “food rules” and noticed the thoughts that ensued:
“What am I doing???”
“I am going to lose control and end up weighing 300lbs!”
“Everyone is going to see that I’ve gained weight and judge me for it.”
“People will think I’m lazy and a loser.”
“Ok, I can do this for the holidays but as soon as they’re over I’m going on a strict diet.”
“I can NOT permit myself to eat any cookies, meatballs, crab dip (insert any food that is not a raw vegetable here).”
After the holidays were over, it turned into:
“OMG! I gained 10 lbs! I’m fat!”
“I look terrible and I need to lose weight!”
“My family loves me no matter what size I am. Who am I kidding, they’re probably as disgusted with me as I am!”
“I just want to hide out at home.”
“I can’t buy any new clothes until I lose weight.”
There they were. The thoughts that have come out of my longtime struggle with food, weight and body image. And I know exactly where these thoughts were created.
They came from people in my past who thought they were being cute by calling me pleasingly plump when I was in that awkward stage right before puberty hit. And the words of the boys on the school bus who knew exactly the right buttons to push by calling me fat and ugly.
As with the many attempts before, I knew if I put myself on a diet, eating or fitness plan it was doomed to fail because I was not doing it for the right reason. I would be losing weight because I was afraid of what others thought, not because it was something I wanted.
Then I thought, “What if these thoughts aren’t true? What if I wasn’t a loser or lazy? What if I’m just me, not what I look like?”
So I asked myself the question, “Who do I know myself to be?” (A question I often ask my clients)
I know myself to be: kind, funny, smart, generous, loving, strong…
Does the size or shape of my body change any of that?
No! Hell NO!
If someone judges me or doesn’t like me for the size or shape of my body, it hurts. But quite honestly, they are not someone I would choose to be friends with anyway.
By replacing negative thoughts of my body with positive ones about the whole me, it not only made it easier to walk into a room full of people, I felt gratitude for the body that has brought me through 54 years and carried and birthed two healthy children.
I would love to say that the angels sang and my eating habits were suddenly transformed.
That didn’t happen. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I inherited my dad’s muscular build and not my mom’s thin beautiful legs. And, I’m likely addicted to carbs.
I have also learned to listen to the shouting in my head rather than pushing it down and hoping it goes away. Now I ask myself, “What am I really looking for these cookies or this bag of peanut M & M’s to do for me?”
I have learned I like the way I feel when I eat healthy, whole foods rather than processed, sugar laden food.
It would be easy but miserable to go back to my automatic routine of forcing myself through a diet, losing weight, keeping it off for a while, rebelling against the diet and then regaining the weight.
Right now, I’m in an unknown space and it’s really uncomfortable. I don’t know what’s around the corner but I do know I am committed to breaking up this pattern of self-abuse.
Are you struggling with the same thing? What are you doing to break through your old patterns? Let me know I’m not alone.
I’ll keep you posted…
I hear people saying that in order to be happy, we just need to do positive affirmations and let go of negativity. I say the exact opposite.
In order to be happy, be sad. Let me explain.
The new movie Inside Out is geared towards children but I think it’s a movie everyone should see, adults included.
Without giving too much away, the movie focuses on a little girl named Reilly and how she deals with her emotions. There are characters that represent the emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear.
In the beginning of the movie, each time Sadness tries to take over, Joy is there to push her away.
I did this for years.
I tried everything to make sadness go away because I thought something was wrong with me if I wasn’t happy all the time. I tried pushing it down, denying it, resisting it. I tried talking myself out of it by doing positive affirmations.
You’ve heard the saying “What we resist, persists?” That is exactly what happened.
Before I knew it, I wasn’t just sad, I was depressed.
There were times when I felt like a deep dark hole was opening up and swallowing me. All I wanted to do was check out of life and sleep.
Then, after a while, I would begin to feel better and come out of it. (Those who have that hole swallow them up and don’t come out, need to seek professional help)
When we resist feeling any emotion, it causes a reaction.
Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, compiled data that showed we cannot numb one emotion without numbing all of our emotions.
Basically, by not allowing ourselves to feel and process our sadness, we are not able to experience true joy.
In our society, it often seems unacceptable to express sadness. We can feel we need to put on a happy face and act like we’ve got it all together.
When we do that, our sadness festers and ends up coming out in other ways. It can manifest itself as depression, illness or destructive behavior such as addiction.
Or we could have an outburst and explode when we have reached our limit.
However, by acknowledging and experiencing our emotions and talking to an empathetic person, we will find that sadness or any emotion leaves as fast as it came.
This is what happened to little Reilly. Once she allowed herself to talk to her parents about her sadness, it opened the door to true connection as well as letting Joy once again be a part of her life.
The real lesson here is that emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. We all have them and all they simply want is to be expressed.
What about those positive affirmations? It is unhealthy and unrealistic to expect ourselves to be happy all the time. If we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, then we can use positive affirmations or gratitude to reconnect with hope and faith. That way we won’t end up wallowing in negativity.
What emotion are you currently not allowing yourself to experience? Who is your go-to person when you need empathy?
If you are open to it, practice allowing difficult feelings, share with an empathy buddy and see what happens. I bet you’ll be amazed at how much happier you will be when you allow your emotions to just be.
How many times have you let yourself be taken advantage of or sucked into someone else’s drama just because you didn’t want to come off as cold or worse, the “b” word?
This was the case with a client who was wondering how to deal with someone in their life who was being self-destructive. She stated that her friend was not only hurting themselves but those around them. Many of their family and friends had gotten so irritated or resentful with how her friend was behaving they stopped having contact with them.
My client didn’t want that to happen to her but she could feel the irritation and resentment beginning to creep in. She did not want to lose the friendship they had built over the years but she also knew she needed to honor herself.
There are two things we can do so that we don’t feel taken advantage of and get sucked into other people’s drama.
- Put a “hedge of protection” around you. In order to not take on the other person’s emotions or negativity, putting up this barrier protects us. But we also have to make it so that our love and compassion can pass through the hedge to them. This is not a physical barrier of any kind it is simply a mental awareness that if we are down in the muck and mire with them then we are no good to anyone.
- Surrender. This does not mean to give up. It means hand them over to their higher power. They are on their path and we are not responsible for the choices they make. Don’t try to change them. If someone is a danger to themselves or others, then by all means, contact the authorities, get them professional help. However, it is not your job to “fix” someone else’s life. You are there to love and support them if they want it but be sure they are driving their life, not you.
A few years ago, I had a friend who often wouldn’t show up when we had made plans. I loved her and I knew this was not her but this was her pattern. Connection was something she struggled with.
This pattern led other people in her life to get angry and stop contacting her. I could feel that beginning with me as well. I realized I could not change her so I knew I had to be the one to change.
I told her that I was not going to show up for any meeting with her unless she confirmed with me the day before. A few times we had a date planned and when I didn’t hear from her, I simply sent her a text telling her that I would not be there and that when she wanted to try again, just let me know.
Because of this, I was able to let go of my resentment and not feel taken advantage of. I chose to honor myself as well as my friend. We now have a great relationship and she lets me know when she can’t make our coffee dates.
What relationships have left you feeling resentful, taken advantage of or gotten sucked into the drama? Right now, how can you practice surrendering and putting up your hedge of protection with those people?
I recently heard an interview with Tim McGraw where he said something that made me angry. He said he always knew he wanted to be somebody.
Does that mean that there are people who aren’t somebody? What does that make them? Nobody?
Chances are we’ve all said or heard this saying and I’m sure Mr. McGraw didn’t set out to tick me off. But I was curious about what got me all riled up.
I notice that I feel the same way when I watch TV shows like the Real Housewives of Wherever and the Kardashians.
Why do we care so much about these people?
It seems to me we are a society obsessed with fame and trying to be somebody.
If fame can’t be achieved by getting on a reality show, then some people try getting on TV by leaking a sex tape, doing some idiotic stunt or, heaven forbid, an act of violence. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
We wonder why so many people in this country have mounting debt. We’re all just trying to keep up with the Kardashians.
As an adult with half a brain, I realize that these shows are anything but reality and are on the air because they make the networks money.
However, children and teens can fall victim to thinking they are a nobody because they cannot live the same lifestyle as the people they watch on TV.
As a volunteer with women in jail, the majority come from abuse and addiction. A lot of them don’t know how to live (or parent their children) because they were never parented.
Are these women somebody? According to Tim McGraw and I dare say our society, I would guess no. It’s too easy to dismiss and forget about those who are struggling to live; the homeless, the mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts.
What is missing from our society and culture that is creating this?
I believe it is because we have forgotten our inherent worthiness. What does that mean?
It means that just by our mere presence on this planet, we are somebody.
Worthiness is something that is born in each of us. It cannot be taken away but we can forget that it is our birthright.
We think that if we are famous and have adoring fans, then we will feel and, therefore be, worthy. Then we will be happy right?
But what if those fans never come? Or what if they come and then go away? This is a set up for disaster.
How many stars have turned to drugs or alcohol when they found themselves no longer relevant?
If we know our true worth, then it doesn’t matter how many followers we have on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Even if we lose them all, we will know that we are still somebody.
How do you measure your self-worth? What can we do as parents and a society to help our children cultivate a healthy self-worth?
What do you need to do to be somebody in your own life?