There is something to be said about having a lot to do. Busy minds and bodies usually produce healthy people. Hubby and I still had so much work ahead of us, I had no time to dwell over my lack of comfort foods. As well, I was warmly surrounded by my community: my dearest friends, my immediate family, my extended circle of loved ones and acquaintances. So as the days turned into weeks, the pounds just kept coming off. Some days were challenging: we were so busy coordinating the renovations to our 100 year old downtown apartment and getting the cottage organized as our temporary full-time home until we could move into our new digs, I was left with very little time to plan and prepare meals. However, meals could not be neglected! The success of any diet program is committing to your body’s nourishment. I had to cook for myself every single day in order to keep on track. And I did!!! I was committed and focused. At the end of my first month, I had lost a little over 20lbs. I was in heaven! My clothes were starting to feel loose and my feet hardly ever swelled anymore. Of course, I still had to wear that extremely sexy Darth Vader look alike mask every night to control my sleep apnea, but I was feeling better. Just twenty pounds lost and I felt like a super-hot and sexy mama!!!
It is around that 20lbs mark that I met for the first time Dr. D, the medical director of the weight management program. Meeting Dr. D was a defining moment in my journey. Dr. D was so kind and so respectful yet displayed a great sense of humour. He put me at ease instantly! He explained his program in great details, the research he was conducting and what the clinic was hoping to achieve with all of us who came to him out of desperation. He even thanked me and all my partners in «crimes of obesity» for the survival of mankind! Truth be told, the reason there are so many of us battling the bulge these days is that the human machine is made for survival. The history of mankind is plagued with famines and droughts. My people, we the Fat Ones who can’t seem to control what we stick in our mouths, we seem to have a gene that permits us to store the goodies in our bodies very efficiently when food is plentiful. All that stored energy is saved to be released in times of need. And to boot, we, the Fat Ones, the saviors of the human race, we do not need much energy to survive on a daily basis: we are like super-efficient, ecofriendly engines! So now that you know, kindly and simply refer to us as «Green Hybrid Super Heroes» because we can definitely make our energy source go a very long way. Ha! That about sums it up LOL!!! In our defense, there has not been a famine or rationed foods in North America since World War II. And since then, we have been storing fat for fuel just in «case». Ok, the fact that our food supply is over the top bountiful and easily accessible is not helping here either. No wonder there is an epidemic of obesity and obesity related illnesses: we have not been given the opportunity to use our super powers! Ah ha! I knew I was not some twisted freak of nature. Roll out the red carpet people because we, the Fat Ones, are the stars here! We have saved humanity! Ok, good for us… Yippee and hurray! Gaining that knowledge was great but it didn’t take away the fact that my morbid obesity was not saving me right now. If anything, it was taking years off my life, a life that I love so much! Hope, however, was part of the program. And understanding for the first time in my life how my body was reacting to the food supply was extremely empowering.
I know I have made many jokes and allusions to my constant food obsession. It is how I tend to cope with things: putting humour in an otherwise very despairing situation. The reality was that what I fed myself on a daily basis was nowhere near what my food obsessed brain wanted me to feed it! There is a HUGE difference between thinking about poutine all day and actually eating one (or 2, or 3). Quite frankly, my morbid obesity was a mystery to me. I ate very well: I cooked nearly all our meals and I was conscious of what I was cooking. I ate tons of vegetables because I really love veggies and I had a very balanced food intake every day. I dreamed of food (and still do) all the time but honestly, I did not indulge that often. Thanks to Dr. D, who explained that my fat cells were just like athletes on steroids, I learned, much to my chagrin that my caloric intake would have to be lower than the average Joe if I ever wanted to lose weight and keep it off. He encouraged me to start the program. Well, I was a little pissed off that he would even suggest that since I had already lost so much weight (I was down about 28lbs by then): dear lord, could he not see this skinny woman sitting across from him in all her glorious sexiness??? I was insulted that he judged me still obese enough to partake in this weight-loss journey! Can you spell DENIAL? Ok fine, I get it… I was still well over 200lbs and no, it was not because of my heavy bones and water retention (DENIAL). I was still morbidly obese and still using a CPAP machine to sleep at night. OK! I hear youuuuuu! And sigh… I will join the program! I get the message. although slightly offended and also discouraged, I was also very relieved to be taken seriously. Truth be told, I was actually quite elated to embark, in a few short weeks, on this new program and say goodbye to a big chunk of me.
There was still about 2 months to go before I would start the program at the clinic. I didn’t know what to do about the «other» diet: should I stop or should I keep going? Dr. D had suggested I stop but I was scared that if I did that, I would not only gain some weight back but I would lose the momentum. So I decided to continue for a while. It was tough but I kept going… I was becoming a pro at making egg whites taste like something a chef would pull off on Chopped and win the competition LOL! And I greeted my 30 pound mark with a lot of yippees, and hurrays. Since I have divulged earlier that I started at 236lbs, you now know that I was celebrating 206lbs. Ohhhhhh so close to 199! And yet, ohhhhhh so far. After weeks of delivering results, the steady progression and weight loss came to a very sudden screeeeeech and halt! Baffling! The body works in mysterious ways… Seemed at that moment in time, it didn’t matter that I ate a ridiculously low number of calories. It didn’t matter either that science stipulates that every 3500 calories deficit results in a one pound loss. It seemed not to matter at all that I was hitting that deficit over and over again every 5-6 days. When Mr. Plateau comes to visit, unannounced, he is like an uninvited guest that just won’t leave! Three weeks he stuck around. Need I remind everyone the weekly cost of that private clinic program? I was D.Y.I.N.G!!! It was 1 lbs down, 2 lbs up. 3lbs down, 2lbs up. Over, and over, and over again. After 3 weeks, I just could not afford to host Mr. Plateau anymore. By then, I also knew I was starting in September with the other clinic (I had a definite date) sooooo I took a huge leap of faith in ME and decided to ride the wave solo until September. I was weighing in at 203.
One must understand the stigma around excess weight. For instance, if an overweight person eats a «diet» style meal in public, that person is perceived as either a closet eater (like really, who is she trying to kid: to be that heavy, she must eat in hiding) or either as a lost cause because obviously the diet is not working. If that same person eats a luscious meal, then «no wonder she is that heavy, look at what she is eating for goodness’ sake! ». It is a never ending plethora of judgement, some silent and some quite vocal. Or comments that seem inappropriate, but for the most part, are not really meant to «hurt» as they are just stating the obvious… Yes, the obvious: because even a dieting overweight person had to contribute at one point or another to the condition he/she is now facing. For instance, upon entering a fashion boutique during a shopping expedition looking to buy my mother-in-law a new top (she wears size «normal»), the young sales clerk nicely pointed out to me that the store didn’t carry anything in my size. You may think these comments are harsh but I have held that same dialogue with myself and I have also passed judgement on others for various reasons INCLUDING other overweight people. Deciding then to stop one program while waiting top start another one was causing me a fair bit of anxiety. Would my peers question everything I would put in my mouth? Would I be subject to their reproaching glances? Would I be able to spare my feelings from my own harsh judgments of myself? Would I lose the momentum? Dear God, I was sure hoping not… Because once (and if ever) I reached my goal weight, I would eventually have to resume normal eating habits. I would have to stop the deficit and return back to regular life. This weight loss moment in my life was meant to be temporary, not forever. So if I ever had a chance to prove to myself that I was not wasting my time, efforts and money in losing weight and that I may be successful one day of keeping it off forever, this little interlude between two weight loss programs was maybe the ultimate test I needed!
And off on my own I went: it was July, right in the middle of barbecue season and hazy, lazy cottage days. The time of year when weekends sometimes sit still and are best enjoyed watching the day go by with a nice cold drink in hand… My first weekend «off» program was liberating and terrifying all at once! That first glass of wine was absolutely blissful! And so was the second and third. Actually, that entire bottle of wine was absolutely divine!!! Getting off the «diet» was like a mini vacation… I had a huge, HUGE steak on the BBQ that weekend too. Oh My! Was it ever tasty! The private clinic weight loss program was so rigorous, I felt a sense of freedom being on my own for several weeks. And at that moment in time, I was extremely uncertain of myself. I had traveled that road many times before and the reward for reaching the destination had always been edible. In the past, after intense deprivation, I had often fallen into the arms of over indulgence. I had very little faith in my abilities to control those crazy and insistent little voices in my brain that kept luring me to a buffet of mouth-watering offerings. However, I knew in my heart that I could not go back to the old me or to my old ways, so I stayed away from bread, potatoes and sweets (not even a Margaritas). And for some strange reason, the downward spiral into gluttony did not happen. What a relief! Sure I had some wine (I think it is what I had missed the most) but kept this vino dependency to weekends only. Not much changed there: I have always been a weekend party animal in the past: my bed time is wayyyy too early during the week to ration my portions of nectar of the gods. My hubby and I are NOT re-corkers LOL! And although I was now eating a bit more than on the private clinic’s meal plan, I was following a regiment of mostly protein-vegetables-fruits (wine is a fruit, just sayin’). For the first time in my life, I did not feel «jipped» when it came to feeding myself. Since the heartburn was completely gone and I no longer needed to pop Zantac™ 2-3 times a day and since my feet no longer resembled little string tied Italian sausage links likes the ones seen hanging in a deli, I was quite aware of the direct impact this weight loss was having on my overall well-being. I was able to rationally opt for the «good for me foods» instead of simply diving into everything for the ephemeral pleasure my taste buds would experience. I had already dumped so much weight (and getting sexier by the minute, need I remind everyone of this fact LOL), I had to remain focused. With my new found inner strength to back me up, I decided to go to war against the old me. Since all previous battles had failed, I had to find a new strategy: like Dr. Phil says all the time regarding a behaviour that does not produce expected result even when repeated over and over and over again: «Soooo, how is that working for you?». Damn Dr. Phil, always on my shoulder with his no non sense and somewhat condescending ways. You are absolutely right Dr. Phil, it had not worked for me. So back to the drawing board I went. And so I started an exercise that to this day has been at the root of my continued success, even if I was not conscious at the time of the powerful and positive impact this mental exercise would have. It started with long and daily inner chats with yours truly over the meaning of food. I had to make the distinction between nourishment and Play Dough!
To completely understand the attraction I had to food and how I would be able to master it in the future, I decided on the first step by making a list of all the food, meals, recipes, restaurants that I really liked. The List was to show no restriction on the type of food: it was not dependent on a food’s nutritional value and foods would be jotted down in no particular order. To make The List, a food item had to be loved: not a «meh» or «just ok»… When a craving smacked me right in the mouth without warning, I would add it to The List. I also decided I would list what I did not like at all such as broccoli (surprise, surprise for those who know me well LOL), baby beef liver and foods that left me indifferent such as green peppers, bananas and cereal. By indifferent I mean that I don’t necessarily mind eat them, I just never actually feel like eating them. Once established, I took The List one step further. For instance, if the item was cucumbers, how did I like them? I like them plain. Not even salt added (I know, I am in absolute shock too… Sour cream or mayo didn’t even come to mind for cucumbers). With this exercise, I discovered I love veggies but more often than none, I prefer them cooked. I also love salad and prefer it with a homemade vinaigrette of shallots, red wine vinegar and olive oil. I am a deep down carnivore that can be vegetarian on a whim but not forever! I have a deep love affair with anything Asian (ohhhh, that’s good and healthy most times) and I love Indian (ok, that is a little richer). As a matter of fact, I have always been attracted by the Cuisines of the world: Mexican, Latino, Italian, French, Spanish, Mediterranean… Ohhh la la what a selection! I have yet to find a culture that leave my taste buds flat. How sick is that? I know people that have yet even tried to venture past KD and canned cream of tomato soup: they are missing out on so much. Here I am drooling over sushi, croissants, paella, sauerkraut and sweetbreads! Yes, I am food obsessed and quite proud of it too! Although I draw the line at fried bugs, even the chocolate covered ones, snake blood, 100 year old eggs and bear. I’ve tasted bear before, once… I’ve tasted the 100 year old egg before as well. Once. Therefore, I feel no need to taste chocolate covered ants, deep fried scorpions on a stick or fermented snake blood and/or venom: my libido is just fine thank you very much and snake blood is absolutely not needed LOL!
That list my dear friends, was the real Ah Ha moment (to quote Oprah) in my entire bulge battling life! I was amazed at how many healthy, good for me things were on this list!!! OMG! Up until now, I thought what I really liked were mainly contraband foods. How enlightening! Yippee and hurray for me: I am not a Pacman Gobbler of everything taboo!!! As the list progressed, I started to divide the food items into 4 categories: 1. very healthy, 2. healthy, 3. could be tricked into being healthy and 4. not so healthy at all even though it is damn good. I was able to create a list of my healthy faves which could be incorporated in my daily life and those that should be consumed as treats only and of course, sparingly. AMAZING!!! In front of my eyes, I had such a powerful tool: a wide array of foods that could be eaten guilt free. I was soooo excited about this revelation: instead of having a list of «Do Not Eat, EVER! », I had a complete list of options that were bang on par with my new lifestyle. I took it one step further and made sure I was specific with the treat foods: they had to be the real deal in deliciousness to be actually pass through the gated community of my mouth! None of the crappy fast food joint poutines for me: no siree! If I was going to dive in a plate full of deep fried potatoes smothered in rich gravy and melted cheese, it had better be hand cut fries with homemade gravy and fresh squeaky cheese curds. The same principles applied for all other things decadently overflowing with deliciousness! And suddenly, eating became uncomplicated… I had broken my own self imposed barriers! Ohhhh, except for a tiny little detail: portion control… Yes, another issue to be discussed in therapy hahaha. Well, let’s tackle one twisted mental issue at a time here ok?
To be continued…