As of this morning, I have lost thirty pounds since last July. It’s a nice round number that feels like a huge accomplishment. At the trial this weekend, it seemed that after every run someone came up to me and quietly said “so how much weight have you lost?” Discussing weight is such a taboo subject among women that they all said it in the same subdued tone that implied perhaps I’d only lost weight because I was ill. I think it would have been easier for everyone if I’d just put a sign on my back that said “yes, thirty pounds.”
Anyway, the second question was mostly “what are you doing?” It’s a question I’ve asked many time myself over the years. The answer that sticks out in my mind was a very sharp “I stopped eating” (from a woman who had lost more than sixty pounds, such that I didn’t recognize her until I left the room and heard her speaking in the next room, even though I had just talked with her–an interesting commentary on how your focus changes your perspective). I knew not eating wouldn’t work for me (I’ve tried the protein-powder fasting, back when it was trendy–never again), so I didn’t follow up.
Anyway, I’ve gone with actual scientific research. There’s a lot of it out there these days, since the government is actually concerned about what it commonly called the “obesity epidemic.” (One caused, in my opinion, by a lot of the government’s own food policies, but that’s a rathole I don’t want to vanish down right now.)
Here’s the research, quick summary: data matters. It’s important to track input (what you eat) fanatically. It’s important to exercise regularly. Definitions of “regularly” vary from daily to three-or-four-times-a-week, and the amount of exercise recommended also varies, but the general consensus is that walking is good for you, running might not be (knee problems abound in the fatter sectors), and that aiming for a half-hour a day or more is good, but more than an hour a day might leave you hungrier (maybe). It matters what time of day you eat; earlier is better. Breakfast is a good thing because it gets your metabolism into gear, even if you eat a very light breakfast. Looking further afield, once you get your heart rate up by exercising, it stays up all day.
So what have I done with all of this?
I am recording everything I eat, even when I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to myself (no one else sees my records) that I ate a Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cone (330 empty–possibly actually deleterious–calories). (Yes, I am aware that’s not real food. I have loved them since childhood, and one a month (or less) isn’t going to kill me.) I have found that, when I do my last check before dinner, that self-honesty keeps me from going overboard on dinner.
I am recording, with my Fitbit every single step I take. One of the joys of the Fitbit web site, for me, is that it combines the data on what I ate with how much I walked and lets me know if I have more calories to spend. If I’m hungry at dinnertime, this often gets me out of my chair and out with the dogs for a quick mile walk just so I can use a bit more olive oil when I cook. I aim for over 11,000 steps a day.
I spoke with the nutritionist last summer, and in addition to confirming that I was mostly eating very sensibly–although I was advised to eat somewhat less carbohydrate (especially juice and breads)–she said one thing that has stuck with me: “yes, you will be hungry; sometimes you just have to power through that.” Now, I’ve tried all kind of weight loss groups and every single one of them has said “you shouldn’t feel hungry if you’re following the diet correctly.” Bullshit. At least, for me it’s bullshit. I am pretty much hungry all the time. I’ve decided that the right response to that is “so fucking what?” and then I go eat something that satisfies the urge to chew (I eat a lot of carrots and apples), write it down, drink a glass of water, and take the dogs for a walk.
Finally, I’ve been reading a lot of serious stuff about our food supply and about food processing. I have come reluctantly to the conclusion that food manufacturers, with profit motive in mind, want to sell more food, and thus have an interest in creating addictive foods. I now cook more for myself pretty much every meal. There isn’t a truly healthy choice ready made, despite a lot of pretty packaging. I have simplified the cooking; I eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch (oatmeal, yogurt, fruit for breakfast, lots and lots of vegetables (carrots, apples, peppers, etc.), salad dressing, a slice of toast, and a little protein (cheese, chicken) for lunch); soup or chili (made in huge batches and frozen) for dinner. Jay and I go out for dinner once a week or so and I figure out what I’m going to eat before I get there and I don’t open the menu if I can avoid it.
I also try to remind myself, every morning, that this is about my knees. I really don’t want to end up having to replace my knee joints. Expensive, time consuming, annoying, possibly not successful. Not a good idea if I can avoid it! My knees already feel so much better: I walked (according to the Fitbit) more than 21 miles over the weekend (at the agility trial) and this morning it only took one Tylenol to make my knees feel just fine.