The Sleep Diet

Yesterday I didn’t post. I came home from work and fell asleep. I didn’t wake until my daughter woke me to say, “Aren’t you going to make dinner?” I did wake, made a quick Boboli pizza with low-fat cheese, and went back to sleep. I didn’t get my exercise in, but neither did I snack through the evening the way I frequently do. One advantage to sleeping is that you can’t be eating while you are asleep.

A quick check on the Internet actually supports this. According to what I am reading, there is “substantial medical evidence suggests some fascinating links between sleep and weight.” (WebMD) Apparently lack of sleep, or even lack of quality sleep, can cause you to gain weight. This makes sooo much sense to me. I thought it was just that being tired led to making poor decisions, but there seems to be more to it than that. Sleep loss can make you feel hungry when you aren’t. I’ve seen that when I pull all-nighters. I always find I get up  and need to eat whenever I work through the night, and mornings where I’ve had less than a few hours sleep I crave fats and proteins (usually causing me to drive to the nearest fast-food breakfast drive-through. More than that, sleep loss actually interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, which causes an increase in fat storage. (WebMD)

There also seems to be a correlation between sleep apnea and being overweight. I’m in the process of getting a sleep-study for my daughter because she is having problems sleeping. As I’ve mentioned before, she also has the same weight issues I do. My sister warned me that the doctors might tell us that her sleeping problems are caused by being overweight, but actually the doctor told me the opposite: Many of her weight problems are caused by not being able to sleep properly. Now I think I should get myself checked out as well.

I don’t know how much it will help, but I would love to wake up and not feel tired, to get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis, and to feel rested. Plus I really like the idea of sleeping off the extra pounds.

Here are a few more resources on the topic:

Clean Plate Club

See how many fries I DIDN'T eat!Went out to dinner with my daughter, tonight. I was worried when I went into the restaurant because I was extremely hungry (which can lead to making bad choices), but overall I think I did well. I was very proud of myself for eating only half the fries on my plate. This is a pretty big deal for me, because I subscribe to the clean plate club, which means if it is on my plate, I eat it…

  • Even if I’m not hungry anymore.
  • Even if I don’t like it.
  • Even if I know it is bad for me.

I also scraped the garlic butter off the steak. That is worth fewer pats on the back because seriously, who puts butter on steak. But I get some credit because I didn’t slather it all over my broccoli.

My meal came with dessert, and I was going to pass, but my daughter wanted the Peanut Butter Pie. I looked up the calories and it was 780 calories; more than her steak and shrimp entrée. She looked at me in surprise and said, “For that little piece of cake?” I suggested that if she didn’t want that many calories she could eat part and leave part. Then I gave her advice that I never heard until I was an adult: It is okay to leave a few bites of whatever you are eating. I give her an awful lot of credit because she left about 3 bites of that pie on the plate, and I’m not sure I could have. I actually find it easier not to have any at all. This whole experience prompted a discussion of why it is so hard to leave food or throw food away.

I would love to blame my parents for this one. My dad especially was  big on finishing what you were served, and kids who cleaned their plate were rewarded and picky eaters were punished. Much as I like this scenario, there were 8 children who lived through my dad’s food fascism and most of my siblings don’t  have the same eating issues I do.

I know some people don’t like leaving food because it is wasteful. That sounds like a pretty good excuse, but I can’t claim this one either. I throw a ton of food away all the time. I have this thing about food that might possibly maybe almost be starting to go bad. When I get my weekly groceries the first thing I do is throw away anything that I didn’t eat from the previous week. This often means a half loaf of bread, a quarter gallon of milk, and anything from the produce or meat aisle gets tossed. So leaving a few french fries on a plate shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Which leaves me with what? I often feel that the food in front of me is the last good food I will ever see. It is an irrational feeling, I know. In my head I can tell myself that there are always more fries tomorrow, or another piece of cake, or whatever, but my stomach (which definitely has a mind of its own) doesn’t always believe it. I feel this even more strongly on holidays and at parties, but it can hit at any point, and so that would explain why I can’t leave my favorite foods. But…

…it still doesn’t explain why I finish off foods I don’t like, or, worse yet, when I keep eating when I am full past bursting. I’ve done this so many times and it is embarrassing to me.

I guess I don’t have a real ending to this post. It is more questions and few answers. The one thing I’m enjoying about this diet this time is that, at least right now, I’m making sure that I really enjoy the foods I’m eating. When you limit how many calories you can have in a day, you really want to appreciate the ones you do choose.

Exercise can be Exhausting…

My goal for week one was to set up a diet I could live with and work into my schedule. I feel fairly successful so far… I mean the tools are there and it is just up to me to use them.

My goal for week two (this week) is to start working exercise into my schedule. This has been a little bit more of a struggle, and for me, exercise will always be the bigger challenge. For one thing, I really don’t like any kinds of exercise. I don’t like sports, working out, or pretty much anything that falls into that category.

I come from a running family, so this fact has always particularly set me apart. My mother, 22 years older than me (and more than 100 pounds lighter) runs every day and races two or more times every month. My sisters run. My brothers run. My brothers-in-law run. They run for fun. They run competitively. They know what their PB (personal best time) is. My niece got a track scholarship to college. Me, I have trouble walking without falling down.

Every once-in-a-while I try running. I really try. I build myself up. I work at it. I never, ever like it. I mean never. So then I think, maybe I should try something else besides running, but honestly, I don’t like any other exercises any better than running.

I’m going to try running again, of course, because it really is the least objectionable, but I have bad ankles so I don’t want to just head out to the road. I have a brother who keeps promising to bring over a treadmill that belongs to one of my sisters, but so far “tomorrow” hasn’t come yet. In the meantime, I’m borrowing a Wii-Fit and Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum from my mother. At least it is something…

First, the Wii-Fit. I’ve tried this once or twice before and it didn’t seem like real exercise, but I thought some of the yoga and strength exercises would be good for my ankles, and it has to be better than what I’m doing now (nothing)! Well, you can’t just exercise. First the doodad has to put you through a fitness test, or, as I like to call it, abject humiliation. The first slap is when it checked my BMI and then I watched my Mii (avatar) blow up and look at its belly in surprise as a voice bellowed, “You’re obese!” Well, thanks, I didn’t know that. Then, it weighed me. It was 20 pounds low, but I think that is because I put the balance board on a rug. Next it wanted me to balance my weight which was, well, ridiculous. The final blow… It calculated my Wii Fit Age as 58. Ok, I’m 44. That sucks!

So after this punch in the gut, they want you to do these exercise. I really did badly then. I thought I was following the instructions, but it kept rating me as very low. About halfway through the workout I realized I had the balance board backward. When I turned the board around, things worked a little better. I did about 20 minutes of “exercise” and then decided to try out the Jillian Michaels game.

Well this was a disaster. There weren’t very clear instructions and after about 3 minutes I wanted to punch her square in the face. Whatever I was doing, wasn’t what she wanted me to be doing. She kept yelling at me, “You came to me!” over the crash of waves and chirping of birds. I gave up after about five minutes. I’ll probably give it another try at some point, but if I need anyone to yell at me, I can always ask my teenage daughter.

Overall, I am exhausted, but not from the actual exercise. Just from everything it took to get the equipment, set it up, and figure out what I was doing. I probably got more exercise running up and down the stairs for fresh batteries (first for the board and five minutes later for the controller) then I did on the actual exercise games, but at least I can say I tried.

Just call me a Wii-tard today.

The Sins of our Mothers

The hardest part of my struggle with weight is watching what I have passed on to my daughter. I have felt myself giving my daughter the same look my own mother has once-upon-a-time given to me. It is a look of regret and guilt. If only I had been a better role model…

My daughter inherited my genetics, which meant she has always “carried extra weight” but I have tried to keep her away from my body dysmorphic issues. When my mother tried to get me to put her on a diet at 10, I shut her down. When she asked, at fourteen, to join Jenny Craig with me, I paid the bill but told her it was totally up to her and didn’t push. And whenever a doctor or clinician has suggested I take a more active role in her diet regimen,  I have resisted. I mean, how hypocritical would that be?

I still remember my first conscious fat thought. I was between sixth and seventh grade and went to visit my grandparents in Florida for a few weeks. When my mother got me off the airplane her first words were “You look like you have been puffed up with air.” My first diet started shortly thereafter, as did an enforced participation in soccer. I can’t say I totally blame my mother for all my eating issues and dislike of organized sports, but there does seem to be some correlation and I really, really wanted to avoid that with my own daughter.

I thought I had spared her the yo-yo dieting and while she could have used to “lose a few,” I protected her from that as much as I could.  It wasn’t until this past year that things with her weight got out of hand. While dealing with emotional issues she was prescribed some heavy-duty meds and it totally wrecked her system. She gained 50 pounds in one year and has stretch marks on her upper arms, thighs, and belly. And while I still try to be positive and help her see herself as the beautiful, special child that she is, I can’t help feeling this is all my fault.

She doesn’t want to keep going the way she is, but I don’t want to resign her to a life of lose ten, gain fifteen. After yesterday’s realization that I wasn’t eating enough I was very focused on what I was eating today. I noticed that after breakfast (and I mean right after) my daughter had a plate of carrots and lettuce. She said the bowl of cereal didn’t fill her up, and then she admitted (guiltily, of course) that she had awoken in the night and been so hungry she had gone down to eat some of the snacks we bought yesterday. And it hit me that she would learn my self-sabotage as easily as she learned my poor eating habits and exercise aversion.

So I sat her down at the livestrong website and got her her own account. The first surprise was that her recommended caloric intake was so much higher than mine. According to the site, at her age, height, and weight, she should be eating 2,800 calories a day in order to lose weight at a healthy pace. Next, when we went through what she ate yesterday, even counting her midnight run to the kitchen, she had eaten only about 1,100, and most of those calories were carbohydrates, not proteins, and not good fats. It is like everything that I am, that I hate in myself, is reflected triple in her. In essence my parenting is having the opposite impact of what I want.

It only makes my resolve stronger. I would give anything… do anything… to protect my child, and I’m starting to see that what I’m doing now, setting up healthy eating habits and focusing more on myself is also a gift I can give my daughter. My beautiful, special, wonderful daughter.


Additional Resources:

I felt I needed extra help with this one. It’s a big issue. I read a lot of articles and most of them say basically the same thing: Your own negative feelings about your own body are passed on, doubly, to your child. Here are some of the better articles I found. Hope they are helpful.

Under-eating – the first self-sabotage

Ok, so today I spent about an hour and a half in the grocery story, buying healthy, pro-diet foods. Lots of veggies, fresh fruits, and low-fat proteins. I really tried to limited my pre-packaged, convenience foods to only a few things, like Freezer Ices and single-serve bags of baked Lays. As my once-upon-a-time mentor Margot used to say, I shopped the perimeter of the store, where the real-food lives.

First, some background: This foray into an actual “grocery store” is rare for me. I generally have my foods delivered, either groceries via Peapod or meals via a local fast-food establishment. Actually trekking to the grocery store myself seemed like an important investment in my new plan and I was shocked on two significant counts:

  • How very, very long it takes to shop. Walking up and down isles, checking expiration dates and nutritional values, waiting on line. Not something I want to get into every week. Plus I had to lug bags and bags of food in through a downpour, and then find room in my cramped kitchen for everything I bought. It was exhausting.
  • How expensive it is. I spent more than double what I would normally spend on groceries. I justify this to myself by saying I will save money by not eating out so very much, but I still had sticker-shock at the register.

I realize as I write this that I must sound like  a self-indulgent princess, but I want to be honest: For someone who thinks as much about food as I do, I realize that I spend very little time or effort on the foods I eat. I like good food, but I have no desire to fetch it, cook or prepare it, or, for that matter, clean up after it.

So after this draining domestic experience, I found myself looking at a fully stocked, Jillian-Michaels-would-be-proud larder and thought to myself, I don’t have anything to eat.

Uh, yeah….

I ended up grabbing foods that didn’t need preparing. Hummus and chips; apple with peanut butter; cottage cheese and carrots. All fine choices individually, but when added up do not make a healthy  food plan. When I first started writing, I thought that this post was going to be about me, the grocery store, and the experience I had there, but as I was typing my food choices into my online diary and I looked at how my calories were spent during the day and even over this past week, I noticed an interesting trend:

Each day I was eating less and less than the day before.

My first day I went over my recommended calories by 588. (Big Red Exclamation Point!!!) The next day I barely squeaked into my desired range. Each day my calories consumed were lower and lower until I hit today and I haven’t eaten even 2/3 of the recommended daily. Not a big deal on a given day, but I realize that I’ve done this before. Many, many times, and it isn’t good. It is the first sign of self-sabotage. One (and by one I mean me) can be so self-disciplined and so regimented about staying on an eating plan that food becomes the enemy. Each day becomes a contest with your own will power about staying on the straight and narrow. And it all works fine until you hit “that day.”

You know that day. The day everything goes wrong in your life. Work is extra stressful, your family is insensitive, your car breaks down, your cat knocks over your favorite plant, and your hot water heater craps out while you have soap in your eyes…and you just can’t take it any more. And you’re hungry. I’m sorry, you’re huuuuuuuungry! (Hear the whine in my voice?) And whatever willpower you had up and walks out on you.

So now I’m looking at myself at 11:00 at night, with 650 calories left to my day and instead of seeing victory, I’m seeing myself get in my own way. Again.

This isn’t about the food because, as I said, the food is there in my fridge. It is about me. And if I’m really making a commitment to this I need to stop getting in my own way. So, I’m going to bed a little bit hungry (because I’m certainly not going to cook something at this late hour) but waking up with a new resolve. Eating all of my calories, making them good, healthy protein and vitamin rich calories, and not empty ones. And making a commitment to food.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

On wanting thin…

refrigeratorWhen I started looking for other weight loss blogs to bolster me and give me a direction, I was shocked (appalled, even) to see the large number of Anna sites. I had heard of “anna” (people who aspire to or desire to be anorexic) but I didn’t think it would be such a big, big part of the web. I mean how many could there be, really? I guess I’m naive…

Reading posts by these girls that are so obsessed with being dangerously thin makes me want to examine my own motivations. But first, a few promises I have made myself:

  1. I’m not going to use this blog to post how many calories I’ve eaten in a day. I have a to keep track so that I don’t trick myself into thinking I’m eating less than I actually am, but this blog has a higher intellectual design for me.
  2. I’m not going to put life off until I lose the weight. I’ve done that before. I will buy new clothes when I lose 10 pounds. I will get my hair styled when I I’ve been good for three weeks. I did that before only to find that if I wait until I’m a certain weight, I’ll never do it. Plus, to paraphrase Popeye, I am what I am. Today and every day.
  3. I’m going to have a realistic expectation. When I was at my thinnest (about size 6) I was 145 pounds. (All the Anna’s out there are crying for me). Some women are very heavy at that weight, but for me it was a pretty good weight. But that was before I hit the big 4- 0 and I’m not sure I can get to that weight again. I’m not sure I should get there again. It was really hard to maintain that weight and while it felt great, size 8 felt great too. In fact, any size in which I can walk into a regular store and buy off the rack sounds pretty good to me.
  4. I’m not going to be a dieting Nazi. Last time I was sooo good. It really made me feel superior to eat all the right things and do all the right things. That is, until I didn’t any more. The problem with feeling superior is that there is a very fine line until you fall into inferior. So I’m just going to do my best… as best I can.
  5. Which brings me to number 5: I’m not going to put off until tomorrow yadda…yadda…yadda. It is a cliché, but it is a true cliché. Every day I waste on shoulda’ woulda’ coulda’ is lost time. And part of the forty thing that I’m only starting to get is I don’t have all the time in the world. I’m not old, but I’m older. I don’t know why I keep forgetting that I’m not a kid anymore, but there is an expiration date on this life of mine and I don’t want to say miss out.

All of these promises have to do with why I want to be thin (or at least thinner than I am now). I think I’m passed the point of wanting to be sexy. I wasn’t sexy at 20, so no amount of weight loss and exercise will do it for me now.

A big thing is the clothes. I mean, I’m not a fashion plate, but I really, really hate the fat clothes.  Why is it that I can’t find a bra that fits me other than white, beige or black. Victoria’s “Secret” is that she doesn’t make bras to fit my size! (Don’t even get me started on that One-Size-Fits-All crap)

Ok, so thin girls get better clothes. What else? Well, there is the huffing and puffing. I just don’t have as much energy lugging an extra 90 pounds around. My nephew weighs about 90 pounds and I can barely lift him! Give you something to think about. When I was thin I could run up and down stairs without thinking about it. Now ever step aches.

A big thing is that I think the extra pounds make me feel my age. Why is forty-four such a big deal? My Mom is 66 and she ran a half-marathon last year. My grandmother walked one when she was in her eighties. I want the energy and umph that comes with being thin.

So, is that it? Better clothes (check) More energy (check) Feeling younger (check)

Ok… I’ll fess up. There is one more thing motivating me. My ego. (I have a pretty big ego). I hate (I mean HATE) to fail at anything. I’m a perfectionist of the highest order. I like to be the best, the brightest, the smartest. Being thin gives me confidence in so many other ares. Plus, I hate being invisible.

Ah…. The naturally fit don’t understand this. How can someone who is over 200 pounds be “invisible.” But it is true. The heavier I get, the less people can see me. I get looked over, passed over, disregarded. Fat people are on the edges of society. The fatter you get, the less important you are, socially, professionally, etc.

Well, I guess that’s all for now. I didn’t think this one would be so long, but there it is.

Update: Food diary

Scratch that paper diary. I just found MyPlate. You type in what  you ate. It calculates the full nutritional values, lets you know how you are doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and provides you nutritional breakdown.

The best part is you just type in the food (even brand names and fast foods) and it calculates the exact amount. I double checked with other sources and the numbers were good.

Best of all, it has an app for my blackberry (one for the iPhone too)

New Wardrobe

“If you always do what you’ve always done….”

Blah, blah, blah. So now I’m doing something that I’ve never done before. I bought myself a new wardrobe (summertime version) at the same time I’m starting a new weight regime. Yes, buying clothes that fit me now, with every intention of losing weight.

Did I win the lottery? No, but I’m not using financial thriftiness to

limit myself this time. It is part of that “bad” cycle I fall into. I’ll buy clothes I like when I’m thinner. For now, I’d rather look good now and know that if I’m thinner, I’ll look better.

I know I’m going to buy new clothes as I lose weight. I’ll also have access to hundreds of outfits I love, but just can’t fit into. But to be successful now, I need to feel good. And to feel good, I need to look good. That means clothes that fit, that flatter, that feel good to wear.

I’m still being practical and buying on the cheap, in the hope that these outfits don’t have to last more than one season. $7 tank tops and $12 shorts at Fashion Bug, rather than double that at Avenue or Lane Bryant. But after spending a couple hundred dollars on shorts (denim,even), tanks, tops, underwear, dress shirts for work, and even a cute sun-dress I fell better waking up in the morning and getting dressed than I have in months.

As I shopped I thought about what I’ve been noticing about the way plus-sized women dress on television. Drop-Dead Diva, while not a really good show, is wonderful for how the lead dresses and thinks about herself. Her clothes fit. She doesn’t wear tents to hide her size, but rather wears fitted clothes that emphasize her assets. I tried to do the same, on my own meager budget.

My only regret is that I don’t have a decent bathing suit. I did try to find one. Really, I tried, but every crappy skirted suit made me look ridiculous. However, I’m not giving up. I will continue to shop for the non-ridiculous bathing suit.

What is “Good” and “Bad” all about?

Good and BadSometimes I am “good” and sometimes I am “bad. Since, in essence, I am a pretty good person all around, it seems strange, from an intellectual perspective, that I define my goodness and badness from only one dimension: my dieting.

I’ve pondered this for many years. I am not really “bad” when I eat the wrong foods or avoid exercise like the plague. Neither am I fundamentally better just because I nibble on rice cakes for weeks on end. A while ago I determined that I wouldn’t use those terms (good and bad) to refer to my dieting choices because it had a negative impact. Unfortunately, like many of my well-meaning resolutions, this one fell by the wayside, despite all my good intentions.

Other terms to use instead:

The problem with ditching any word that is solidly enmeshed in your lexicon is that you need to replace it with something else that is equally effective. For example, most of the time I catch myself and replace “shit” with “shoot,” but in dire situations “shoot” just doesn’t cut it and “shit” pops out. So here are some alternatives I’ve tried, and the reasons that I think they just haven’t stuck:

On/off program – I picked this up from weight watchers, and it isn’t too bad. However, because I associate it with weight watchers, it doesn’t really fit unless I’m doing the whole WW thing. (Going to meetings, drinking water, etc.) Plus, there is something militaristic or institutionalized about it that makes me feel like a lemming.

(un)Successful – Even worse than good and bad if you ask me. I’m very successful, in business, in family. Only my fat ass isn’t that successful! Also, I can be making all the right choices and still not lose any weight (oh, don’t I know that one!)

Working it (or not) – It is always work. Every day is filled with thousands upon thousands of choices and you have to (1) know that you are making a choice and (2) make the right one and (3) not back-slide on your good choices. I mean, it can be exhausting! But working it is too close to “working out” and I can be doing all the food stuff and not the exercise stuff. Still, this is a better choice than most.

Clean (or sober) versus “off the wagon” – OK this one is kind of meant to be funny. Since food is my drug of choice I do often feel like an alcoholic. I’m sober today, but if I don’t watch out I’ll fall off the wagon. Probably not funny to someone battling real alcohol or drug demons, but for me this is as strong an addiction, if not as debilitating. So – not p.c. to use in mixed company, but I find it okay to use with myself.

The truth is, there is a self-judgment. When I’m good, I feel good about myself. When I’m bad, I feel badly. There is a lot of self-loathing and depression wrapped up in how well I’m doing with my weight. Which makes me wonder…

Why do I want to be thin?

To weigh or not to weigh…

Not me on the scaleI just got a scale today. I haven’t had a scale for over a year.  Part of that was not wanting to deal with anything the scale said. Part of that was having this odd relationship with scales my whole life. Seriously! I am a “weigh-in junkie.”

Conventional dieting wisdom is to weigh in once per week. Daily fluctuations can be, I know, disturbing and unrealistic. Every diet I’ve ever been on has warned against daily weighing, but here is what I notice about myself: When I’m being “good” and working at my weight loss issues, I need daily confirmation and validation. I weigh myself every day. Sometimes I can weigh myself several times a day. (OCD anyone?)

The first sign that I’m starting to “be bad” and stray from my program du jour is that I avoid the scale. So the fact that I haven’t had a scale in two years… what does that mean?

Now the question is… which is the cause and which is the effect? Is it bad weigh-ins that cause me to go off program, or is it being off program that causes me to avoid the scale. Obviously it is different for different people. My mother, from whom I inherit my yo-yo dieting skills, plays the “scale game.” This is a version of a shell game in which you weigh in at different times of the day or wearing different clothes in order to get different results.

Me, I’m more pragmatic. I believe that there is a general daily fluctuation of 2-4 pounds. I’m merely looking for that gradual movement in the downward direction. If I’m a pound up or down, I don’t take it too seriously.

If I examine my past behaviors (which are often a very good indication of future behaviors) I see that my life is what often gets in the way. Being on a program is a commitment of time and energy. Whether I spend the time on shopping smarter, cooking better, exercising more, or even (as in this case) blogging and journaling, I am apportioning a part of my psychic and physical self into the efforts of losing or maintaining weight. I’m buying into taking care of me.

What tends to happen is that other things step up and take my attention, my energy, and, of course, my time.  I need to grab something quick because I’m too busy to cook. I need to skip exercise to meet a deadline. My kid needs me. My job needs me. Somehow all these pieces that are taken out of me become the sum of what I am. Then, I stop weighing in either because I’m too rushed and I “forget” or because I know that bad choices will cause a gain I really don’t want to see.

The longer I stay off the scale, the harder it is to get back on. (This past time being the longest and most deliberate). The longer I stay off the scale, the easier it is to continue grabbing the wrong foods and making the wrong choices. Usually it is something besides the scale that causes me to go back on. Pants don’t fit, I get short-of-breath easily, something. Then I’m back on the scale and the pattern repeats.

So now I just accept that I’m a weigh-in junkie. When things are really tense, I can weigh in 3, 4, or more times in a day. Generally, though, I take my weight first thing in the morning, after the bathroom but before my first cup of coffee.