Oct 012014
 

My brother recently sent me this New York Times article, Always Hungry? Here’s Why. While the article in itself wasn’t new information, I really liked the way they broke down the science and explained it for the readers.

“Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down). Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.”

Yes! This makes so much sense to me. I’ve always wondered why I could be SO GOOD with my calories and yet I don’t see a change on the scale and I feel hungrier than normal. I chalked it up to hormones but really it’s probably WHAT I am eating, when I’m eating it as well as genetics. This became most evident recently when I realized that I have crashes on my rest days.

While this isn’t a new thing for me, I just started making the connection in relation to my rest days. I wondered why some days I felt hungrier–like an insane hunger I couldn’t satisfy–and why some days I had crashes in blood sugar and energy and ended up eating junk. I do not eat enough calories on my rest days. Historically I’ve used exercise as a way to eat more. This makes sense; I burn 500 calories in the gym, that means I’m going to be hungrier and will need to eat more calories to fuel my body. Weight loss/maintenance means I need to create a calorie deficit (at least a few hundred calories a day). So when the rest day comes around and I’m not “earning” those extra calories, I do not eat more.

It sounds logical and correct. But the reality is, I’m eating around 1600-1700 calories on rest days and that isn’t enough for the body to REPAIR itself from my hard workout the day before. So I’m not eating enough and then mid-afternoon I get the blood sugar crash and feel hungry and cranky and I end up eating candy. For some reason when I get that crash it’s sugar I reach for. Then I regret eating the sugar and while it makes me feel a little better, it certainly doesn’t solve the hunger issue.

“The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.”

The solution to this is to eat more calories on my rest days to avoid that crash. But it needs to be the right kind of calories. A few summers ago I realized that eating avocado satisfied that hunger in a way no other foods have really done for me. I’m guess it’s because of the healthy fats:

“One reason we consume so many refined carbohydrates today is because they have been added to processed foods in place of fats — which have been the main target of calorie reduction efforts since the 1970s. Fat has about twice the calories of carbohydrates, but low-fat diets are the least effective of comparable interventions…”

This makes so much sense! The “non-fat” and “low-fat” diet fads may seem healthy on the surface but they really aren’t because the low-fat foods were just pumped with sugar as a substitute. Which probably triggers the blood sugar issues. When I started having a snack of avocado and gluten free toast or avocado and crackers, I saw a huge change. I didn’t need to eat very much–just 1/4 of an avocado would do it for me–and I’d feel full and satisfied for so much longer than any other foods I eat. It’s the fat! It satisfies the body. (This was a great article: 6 Signs You Need to Eat More Fat.)
healthy-fats

There’s hidden sugars in so much of the food we eat. It’s no wonder we’re always hungry. That trigger is sabotaging us. So I eat avocado and eggs and salmon on a fairly regular basis. I feel healthier, I feel fuller longer. It’s good stuff. I can’t remember the last time I ate a white potato. If we do eat potatoes, it’s sweet potatoes and even that isn’t very often. I can’t remember the last time I ate pasta, and even that is gluten-free these days. Finding what works for your body is so crucial.

Now I know that I need to eat more on rest days, and I need to be smarter about what I eat, I need to figure out what that number looks like. The fact is, people who were obese and lost the weight will always have to be more mindful of the food they eat. Check out this article:  Why is it so Hard to Maintain a Reduced Body Weight? for an interesting perspective.

“A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost.

After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” Rosenbaum says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.” Combine that with a body that is now burning fewer calories than expected, he says, “and you’ve created the perfect storm for weight regain. (source)”

I recently got an email from a reader asking me: “Hi! Saw your blog for the first time – WOW! Very inspiring! I need to lose 110 lbs too! Question: How did you break your sugar addiction? That stuff is killing me!” I wasn’t sure how to answer her question honestly. I don’t know that I HAVE overcome my sugar addiction. I find ways to manage it (by not completely denying myself things, but eating it in moderation) but I still struggle. It’s a hard habit to break.

It’s not all bad news, though. I think with trial and error (and perhaps assistance from a registered dietitian) we can figure out what that happy medium is for weight maintenance when your body is fighting against you. What worked before may not work now. I might need to re-evaluate my own diet.

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Sep 302014
 

A friend posted this article on Facebook and I clicked over to read the article–expecting something else entirely. What I read was the complete opposite of what I was expecting and I found myself saying “YES! I feel the same way, too!” several times. Here is that article: 5 Things I Miss About Weighing More Than 300 Pounds. Take a look because it’s a really well-written post.

She listed a few of the things she missed about weighing over 300 pounds. The first was power. I had to laugh because I could relate to that as well. When I was 250+ pounds I, too, was stronger in a lot of ways. My girth made my calves and quads pretty strong because it was supporting my weight but like this author, I could also move heavy furniture or help people move heavy things and it was no big deal.

“Being fat gave me natural physical strength. As a thin person, I have to go out of my way to be strong. Despite daily strength training I’m nowhere near as powerful as I used to be. Once upon a time I could confidently lift a couch into and out of a moving truck (a U-Haul, not a truck in motion — being fat never did give me super powers). Today, I labor under the weight of heavy things.”

I lift weights and I do what I can to build up my strength. While I’ve made leaps and bounds, I’d be lying if I said a really really strong wind couldn’t knock me over. If someone pushed me as a joke, I would seriously stumble and possibly fall (and have a few times) which is such a huge difference from when I was 250 pounds and couldn’t be pushed over. It’s a very strange idea to suddenly feel like you are “frail.”

chicago2

This next observation hit really close to home for me, especially right now with trying to lose the last few pounds before my wedding. It’s about weight fluctuations:

“When I was fat I understood that most weight changes are fleeting and insignificant. At 300 pounds, I wore clothes forgiving enough to accommodate ten pounds lost or gained, so I didn’t think much of it. Sadly, going from a size 6 to an 8 makes me nuts in a way that going from a size 26 to a 28 just never did. I miss the freedom I once had from noticing and obsessing over Every. Single. Pound.”

I admit, I teared up a little bit with that one. She expressed just how I feel (often) and it’s hard for people to understand who haven’t been obese. When the scale starts to tick up and I feel a little down because of those few extra pounds, most people don’t understand why I feel stressed or depressed about it. They say, but you’ve lost so much, it’s not a big deal. Or they say, you can lose that weight in no time! Not true, losing weight at this stage is much harder and WAY slower than it ever was when I was overweight. It takes twice the amount of work and diligence to see even 1 pound gone on the scale.

chicago1

I would also add this to what the author said–clothes fit differently now. When I was over 200 pounds I wore bigger clothes because I was bigger, obviously, but “plus” sized clothing is just built differently. It’s baggier. It’s usually got some elastic in the waist. So you don’t always notice when you go up a bit. Now? When my size 6 jeans start to feel a little tight I feel it immediately. Clothes that I buy at this weight are obviously smaller and form-fitting. When that pesky 5 pounds appears you can see and feel it!

What about this one?

“When I’m lying on my side, the feeling of knee bone on knee bone is enough to keep me up all night. I could write a whole post about how awful it feels to sit on a hard surface with a bony butt. Tail bones and hard seats: never the two should meet. “

Yep, yep, yep. I am so freakin’ bony. Seriously, I thought I was the only one that felt this way and reading that this woman experienced the same exact thing made me sigh with relief a little. I wasn’t alone. When I lay in bed at night, on my side, my knees bug me because they feel like just two knobs rubbing against each other. Russian Twists? Forget about it. I can’t do that exercise unless I have a little padding under my butt (be it a towel or pad at the gym) because it hurts my tailbone so much.

az1

This last observation is something I’ve written about in the past. I had a few surprising twists with friendships and relationships as I was losing my weight. But you don’t expect that it will actually happen…

“Starting and maintaining friendships was easier when I was fat. Women rarely saw me as a rival and were less self-conscious than they are around me today.”

I dated someone who tried to sabotage my weight loss every chance he got. I lost a few friends along the way that just couldn’t be happy for me, for whatever reason. The good news? I also found out just how encouraging and how supportive friends and family can be. They helped me reach my goal and gave me positive feedback that kept me going when it was really hard.

Something else I’d add to this topic…One of the things I miss about 250 pounds is being unaware. I have no idea anymore what it feels like to be carefree, worry-free and easy going when it comes to food. It’s too late to turn back. I already know how many calories are in most foods. I can take a look at something and while the Demon on my shoulder is saying Oh that looks so great EAT THAT! The Angel on my shoulder is reminding me how hard I worked to lose the weight and just how many calories are in that. It kind of takes ALL THE FUN OUT OF IT.

I talk a lot about moderation and not denying myself foods–just being smarter about what I eat and paying attention to portions. But damn, sometimes that SUCKS. Sometimes you do want to eat some ice cream and not regret it!

skinn1

Do I regret losing the weight? Hell no. I’m happier and healthier and living a life closer to my values than I ever did before. I cherish what I can do now. I feel proud of the events I’ve participated in and I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep the weight off for 6 years now. The problem is–there’s no manual for weight loss. Not really. No one tells you the changes you’ll go through, the issues you’ll come across. There aren’t any self-help books out there about how to adjust your brain and thinking after losing a massive amount of weight (I know, I’ve looked). It can be very isolating. I am the only person on the planet that feels like this…Yet, this article spoke to me in ways I didn’t even have on my radar. For that I am so grateful. I’d love to hear what experiences other people have had too!

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