Weight Therapy #10: Activity

The number-one thing that everybody should agree on (full disclosure: they don’t) is that any movement is better than none.

Image courtesy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

That is, if you walk your dog, push a grocery cart, haul water or run after the school bus, it all works your body and is better than the alternative.

The reason I’m talking about this now is I’m back to my “default” activity I discovered three years ago, the first time I lost all the weight I’m fighting round-two on.

If you’re going for maximum fitness, you will do well to include weight-training (with serious weights that you have to think about) on a regular basis. If you’re going for best use of time for a “cardio” activity, you’ll do intervals on whatever device (bicycle, treadmill, city block) you’ve committed to.

But if what you like is neither of those highly efficient forms of exercise, it still has value.

What is the best form of exercise for you? The one you keep doing.

For me that’s walking. Treadmill walking. The kind of exercise a bunch of people I  respect say will gradually become useless, because my body will adapt and “efficiently” skip seeing it as exercise.

I’ve read some of that research. I’m not disagreeing with their conclusions, but here’s the truth: I am a long way from “efficiency” right now.

So if I ever get so fit that walking can’t get my blood pumping, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now I’m just enjoying how warm it leaves me for barn chores in the evening.

At -40º I’ll take all the help I can get.

Walking does three things for me that are good for my mental health as well as my physical health.

  • It give me a chance to be alone
  • I have a “free” space to read anything I want, or watch a show, guilt- and obligation-free. (This is why I prefer the treadmill.)
  • The repetitious bilateral (left-right-left-right) activity is theorized to strengthen the brain’s integration of both sides (an intriguing theory to me, especially thinking a lot lately about how the left and right sides balance one another in terms of attitude). Basically, the idea is the continual, even activity may help even out some of the inequality that exists within the brain.

Dunno if such “evening” is actually possible, but it’s a cool idea, and adds potential value to a simple activity.

  • And I just plain feel more rooted after walking.

The point is, do what you can. As often as you can. And think about how you feel. This is to take care of yourself, so don’t let it derail that effort.

Image courtesy of abcdz2000 via stock.xchng

If you’re still tired from your previous workout when it’s time for the next one, take a day off.

If you feel more hungry, eat more within your HEP.

Never use exercise as an excuse to eat junk (you’ll never guess the ratio right, speaking statistically), but remember to fuel your body.

Exercise is asking your body to do more. Don’t punish it by then expecting it to subsist on less than it did with less activity.

Weight Therapy #9: Nutritional Typing– the missing piece

So I’m back on the wagon (with my HEP– Healthy Eating plan) after a stretch of stress that just wasn’t going away.

I knuckled down (warned my husband there would be a couple days of withdrawals– I was right), and just started doing what I know works for me: minimal carbs (none of them grains), very little dairy, plenty of protein and good fats.

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“They” say  that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

What is it called when you know what will produce good results, but you don’t do it?

I already knew this works for me. I’ve done it before, and I feel so. much. better. when I eat this way.

But I  get stuck on weird things.

Like: if this is so good for me (and many-many others), why is is there so much futzing and quibble (and sometimes meanness) against low-carb/high-fat?

Part of the problem comes from my everything-is-integrated mind, and some from my training/view of Ultimate Truth.

Granted, my Ultimate-Truth category has gotten smaller and smaller as I’ve gotten older, but it’s one of my default matters, and so it’s my position of  origin that I have to negotiate (away) from.

If something matters enough for me to rearrange my life for it, how can it not-matter to anybody else? I might lose steam…

My awakening of understanding sort of grew out of this concept: You don’t know what you don’t know (until you know it).

I had no idea how much my body craved fat (in a good way) until I’d been mostly-off it for a while then went back on. Let me tell you: I could feel the difference.

But before that point I had no reason to question what I’d been taught.

One of the best/easiest ways to be patient with people who think differently is to assume they just don’t know yet. Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #8: Motivation

There is a joke (that I don’t agree with) that goes like this:

Heart Attack on a Plate!
(Image courtesy of arrowp via stock.xchng)

Did you laugh? Yeah. I don’t think it’s funny either.

Here’s another not-funny one:

Depression in a Box!
(Image courtesy of allergyfre via stock.xchg)

Thing is, even if you’re not ready to accept the growing link between sugar/grains and mental disturbance, I have noticed readable changes in moods after eating stuff like that.  So I don’t play with fire.

I was depressed for two years. I’ve only been back to “normal” for a few months, and I’m still learning what normal means after two years of ‘not being myself’. If I can keep that scarey stuff at arm’s length by paying attention to my food?

I’m motivated.

Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #7: Engage Your Imagination

I think imagination is perhaps the most under-used tool in the modern world.

I have a few ways I try to engage the power of imagination in training my habits.


Image courtesy of Byron Solomon via stock.xchng

This may be less effective for those of you who love all foods and they all love you back, but most people I know have foods they return to even though they aren’t satisfying or actually are negative.

I’ll actually play a whole memory in my head: yes I love the texture, the warmth, the flavor; I may even get a bit of enjoyment out of the memory, but then I’ve got the conclusion of that lump of cornbread hanging out in my belly way. too. long.

Sorry if that’s too weird for you, but the point is your body has a very good memory, and you can use that to your benefit.

Play Pretend

Try these on for size: Picky Toddler and Bank Teller 

Picky Toddler

Most of you reading this have children, and those who don’t have doubtless seen that “comedy” staple where a hapless parent (or other caregiver) is pitted against a resolute toddler whose compressed lips clearly communicate You shall not pass.

When I think of how I went a long. time. as a child without eating lunch (because I wouldn’t eat peanut butter or tuna fish), when I see those little lips pressed together, I’m reminded that I am the only person who decides what goes between my lips.

And that hunger hasn’t killed anybody I know.

If this is all you have the strength for: just avoid the first bite.

I don’t know about you, but I do much better with absolutes. If I’m having no. grains. at. all., saying no to the GF brownies is a lot easier.  If I can justify one bite, I can justify a whole brownie, and I’m so logical I can move from a single brownie to more than that.

Bank Teller

No matter how poor an honest bank teller is, she doesn’t pocket the money she’s handling.

Why? It belongs to someone else. It’s not hers.

This is how we can prepare and share food that isn’t on our HEP (healthy eating plan) with minimal temptation to ourselves.

It requires a mental shift. A level of seriousness that means we’ve committed. We can know what’s not ours.

After my major, unignorable reaction to food at a birthday party last October, I decided I was done with gluten. The reaction was clearly not in my head. Living with gluten-intolerance wasn’t about other people’s comfort level anymore. It was about my safety, and now that was going to trump others’ discomfort.

I continued to buy store-bread and “convenience” food for my family, but no matter how many times I made them something, I never took a nibble.

Made experimenting with Atkins surprisingly easy, btw. Most of what we find “tempting” is highly processed things quickly available when we have a surge of hunger. Since there are fewer GF things that meet that description, I had an easier time managing my environment.


Ultimately this comes down to honesty.

Be honest with yourself. (And if something always makes you sick, your body could be trying to tell you something.)

Picture your goals.

This is kinda hard for a lot of us, because we’re afraid to aim to high, but try it any way. The original Protein Power book includes a mathematical formula for determining your (as in you, the person doing the math) lean body mass.

From there is is easy to extrapolate your own personal weight range, based on healthy body-fat levels for your age and gender.

This is freeing because it removes the super-unrealistic from play.

For example, I’m 5’4″. According to the BMI chart I could weigh 110-140 lbs and still be in the “normal” range. But my best (and temporarily successful) bid for a size-six body did not get me close to 110. And I haven’t been that small since I was 14.

Doing the math, I narrowed that range to 130-139 lbs.  Talk about freeing!

But it also allows me to be ambitious if I want to.  I have a range to work within for my goal, and it is a healthy choice, no self-abuse involved.

Having lived there three years ago, I know what I like about it. I have a favorite dress I’m looking forward to wearing again. And I use my imagination, my memory of the first time I tried it on and was thrilled about how it fit and how it looked.

How I looked.

I liked it. I’m looking forward to that.

Imagination is a tool. Learn how to use it.

Weight Therapy #6: When life gets complicated

This is a tricky one, and the part that I think trips up the most people.

The reason is that when life gets full you have to know your HEP (healthy eating plan) cold. If you don’t it’s too much to keep up with.

Put simply, we can’t actually multitask.

The brain only thinks of one thing at a time, and the effort of learning a new system is too much while you’re whacking moles or stamping out fires.

It feels frivolous, kinda. Do you *really* think food matters right now?! Maybe as fuel, or (if we’re honest) as a soother, but other than that it’s a buzzing fly. An annoyance we wish we could do without.

At least I do.

Even if you’re mature enough not to be using food as a pacifier (my success in that is up and down lately), I found another way I misuse food when in stressful situations.  I use it to fill white space.

You know what I mean?

That “awkward” silence you let hang to punctuate something, or to get someone else to talk.  Only I’m (maybe) not gutsy enough to just look someone in the eye and let them see I’m waiting on them.

But maybe now that I’ve noticed, I’ll do better.

The bottom line (I tell myself) is that times of transition and turmoil are not the times to be in learning mode.

Application and expansion of things already known? Okay, if there’s energy for that.

But my Achilles heel this last week has been reading new things, vaguely theorizing how to apply a new HEP, and that somehow becoming license not to do what I already know to do.

Let me be a cautionary tale for you.

  • Do your homework ahead, even if it’s just learning one healthy recipe a week while everything else remains the same
  • Do what you know works.
    • Fix your environment.
      • Don’t surround yourself with foods you don’t have the energy to say no to.
      • Make it easy to find ingredients for wise meal choices
      • Multiply batches of every good choice. It will make the next smart meal that much easier
    • For me there’s staying home or making the choice not to eat while I’m in town
    • Stick with known entities when you’re stressed. Don’t try a new recipe on  a deadline.
    • Limit yourself to just one/day of whatever quick-and-easy snack that’s available, or I’ll motor through the whole set way too fast, and that’s nothing like balanced nutrition.
    • Write it down, even if you’re embarrassed. Don’t take on so much shame you can’t be honest even with yourself.
    • Take the rest day
  • Stop the slide when you see it.  Don’t make any “last meal” deals with yourself.
    • There’s no such thing — you’ll always get another one. (You know what I mean.)
    • It gives you license to knowingly over-eat, blunting the self-regulation that you’ve made an effort to establish. Don’t make more work for yourself.

Most of all, start again.

Weight Therapy #5: Hunger is(n’t always) the Enemy

Speaking plainly, learning to be unafraid of hunger really helps.

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I don’t know about you, but there is something about hunger that almost always surprises me.

Not when I’m actually “looking” straight at it, but when I’m going along, throughout my normal day, and suddenly get blindsided but a near-panicky awareness that my body’s expecting nourishment. NOW.

And it’s interesting to me how nearly every weight-loss program/advertizement/book crows that “You don’t have to be hungry!”

I don’t believe it.

I do believe you don’t have to be in agony, that you don’t have to be continually and indefinitely raw in your body and mind as you hold off from eating what your body needs for survival.

Hunger is good because it tells your rational self that your body is using all the fuel that you’ve provided it. Hunger is a fair gauge of balancing food in vs. energy out.

But the idea– the desperation– that one shouldn’t *feel* hunger at all is misplaced.

Hunger is like pain; indeed, is a type of pain.

And pain is a way of sending a message. It is communication that needs to be interpreted to maximize its value, but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time.

I don’t have “real” blood sugar issues just like I don’t have “real” (testable/provable) gluten/Celiac issues– what I know is that I have my own type of fragile-ness that I ignore at my peril.

I’ve started reading Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel, and good as it is, my favorite line so far is the assertion

Details are for later.

For me this is validation/permision/relief to not tackle every snippet as it arises, but also the reminder that that later needs a landing place.

My best technique so far is to “batch process” my details.

Making a month-long menu (that’s my old technique), for example, allows me a space to focus and cut back on the number of details I need to pin on any given day.

Image courtesy of Christina Ericsson via stock.xchng

The difference now, is that I need to plan enough to have portable food and not be surprised by a need that is not. new. I have to (and I’m still fine-tuning this) work out portable foods (for example), so that I am ready for the inevitable.

If I can start by remembering, planning that I will need more food (that is, get hungry), then it won’t surprise me. And that is enough to remove most of the anxiety.

I tell myself, This is the feeling of my body reaching into its reserves, and my impulse to eat defensively– to eat “ahead” to avoid being hungry later– diminishes proportionately.

Weight Therapy #4: Getting it *Right*

It’s amazing to me how much being healthy in my mind changes the way I take in information.

When my world feels like it’s falling down around my ears, everyone but me is the expert, and there’s no way I can go wrong doing *anything* different that I’m doing now.

In such a state, the vastly contradictory messages that daily fly at us create a fierce cognitive dissonance that my broken self wears itself out trying to reconcile.

By contrast, the reading I did over the month of July (Scale Down, Living the Low-Carb Life, Protein Power, The UltraMetabolism Diet, The Fat Flush Diet, Never Say DietYes these titles make me squirm, but yes, they all had good content that make them worth mentioning by name.) created a sort of scatter-pattern that left me with a comfortable grouping of behaviors that I have been working at consistently (my food-diary says) since June 27th.

My clustered behaviors:

  • No gluten (already integrated, and the foundation of everything else)
  • Shoot for ~24g protein/meal (an ounce of meat contains 7 g. of protein), 72g/day
  • Minimize grains
  • Using my WW points as a single number to watch how much I’m consuming.
    • With the higher protein demands, this limit brings up the consumption of (zero-points) veggies to edge out the grains naturally
  • Fist-full of vitamins every day. Divided them up into a.m. and p.m. clusters, and I forget the evening ones half the time, but my consistency is improving.
  • Minimize caffeine (which for me means choosing herbal teas– which I choose based on other reading/research I’ve been doing– heavy on the ginger and peppermint.)
  • 45-minute walk (brisk, but not a run) 4-6 days/week (usually on the treadmill with a book or a TV show).
    • reaching 10,000+ steps on a pedometer from a busy day meets the same goal: I don’t do both or I’m dead within 48 hours)
  • Loads of water. To the point where my body *craves* it and I know if I’m behind.
    • One day last week I drank two quart jars before 9 a.m., a pot of peppermint tea before I left the house, another pot of (real) tea while visiting with a friend (we finished two pots between us), a tall glass with dinner and another quart jar with my evening walk.  Realized later that I’d been so scattered in the previous two days I hadn’t kept a water bottle nearby and was seriously behind.
  • Minimal dairy– cheese in one-pot meals, and sometimes raw goat milk from our milk share
  • Sugar self-limits without the grains and dairy– I use fruit or smoothies if my sweet tooth is nagging me

Anyway, yes this is a lot of specific behaviors, but other than the protein and the walking, these don’t actually come into a list that I keep in the forefront of my mind.


It only turned into a list when I sat down to record what I’m actually doing for myself.

If I’d collected all this and tried to do it all from the opposite behaviors I lived four years ago, I’d think I was nuts.

This is the beauty of “growing into” a plan. It’s also the challenge of hearing someone ask you what to do.

I smile and try to think what to say to make the first step seem in-reach.

It’s the sympathetic smile you get from an experienced mom when your infant’s not sleeping through the night.

There are things that are just hard, and if you can do anything at all they are you only get into a rhythm over time.

Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #3: Manage Your Environment: pick your battles

There are two main sides of this:

  • create distance between you and poor choices
  • make the right choices easier/more accessible

Thinking about those two options may give you your own ideas of what you need. (And here are my examples.)

I create my distance by closing doors.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond via freestock.ca

It wasn’t till my first serious  effort to lose weight (summer of ’09) that I realized I have a very poor record when it comes to shutting things. Cupboard doors, chip bags, cracker boxes. And I made the corresponding observation that the easier it was to graze (take a bite here or there), the more I did it.

There were two ways I dealt with this back when I was a 30 and a normal American with Doritos on my shelves.

  • Closing things as soon as I was done with them (made it harder to lie to myself about it being “nothing.” You don’t open a bag for “nothing.”)
  • Pre-portioning a single serving for the week of anything I liked to graze, and taking it out of my HEP allotment before I even started the week
    • This way my “just one chip” a couple times a day was always legit.
      • And this may genuinely matter less to a taller person, but at a bit under 5’4″ I find precision is better than the opposite

Now that my HEP doesn’t allow for gluten-containing things like Doritos, I’ve learned that grazing is not a compulsion. I genuinely have no problem walking by the open bag of pretzels (Just don’t wave it. Please.). And the cool thing about learning this is how it can make saying no to other things seem more in reach.

That said, when simply feeling good about making good decisions ceases to be motivating I’ve still found the best thing I can do to reenforce my good intentions is to close doors.

Get things out of sight.

I made tater-tots for my kids. Trying to get a few of those “fun mom” points. Then the taters sat out to cool. And there were left-overs. And I ate a few, even though I don’t actually like potatoes that much.

They were out, crunchy, grabbable and I was reminded: Get it put away.

I refuse to label mis-eating as Sin. Some Christians do label. I think it’s one of the gray areas covered by grace and up to the individual’s conscience.

That said, I still think the Biblical admonition applies.  We are told to flee temptation.

I don’t think this means running out of the kitchen (necessarily), but I think it firmly presses home the fact that we aren’t required to keep things hard for ourselves, just to prove how tough we are.

Managing your environment means make it easy for yourself.

Especially if you’re the mom, you’re probably choosing what foods come into the house in the first place.

This is no kind of contest where the person who holds out the longest gets a free desert.

Allow your self-discipline training wheels at home.

This is a long ride. Try not to wear yourself out just as you’re getting started.

Weight Therapy #2 — Being Tired and Some Things to Try Anyway

Being tired makes everything hard.

Not only harder. Hard. Difficult.

Two tips about this. Two tiny lessons I try to hold in my head.

  1. Don’t get tired. (i.e., guard your rest like the sacred, irreplaceable treasure it is)
  2. Maintain. Damage control. Whatever you call the mode where you don’t spend your precious resources trying to get ahead. Save that push for when it’s got a better foundation.  For now, just hold the line.
  3. Yeah. One more– remember this will pass. This now feeling is not forever.

And that final assurance is pretty close to the definition of Hope.

What do you do when you’re tired? Do you have a strategy?

 ~ ~ ~

I’m working on a list of low-demand lifestyle choices that have been shown to have a direct impact on health and weight-loss/maintenance.

  • Drink lots of water
    • One idea that’s worked for me is to fill two quart jars with water and leave them where I’ll see them throughout the day (I’m pretty visual, and this is a huge help)
  • Make a consistent bedtime a priority– shoot for 8 hours before you need to got up.
    • And shift your kids’ bedtime, too so it’s no closer than two hours to yours. Odds are if you need more sleep, they do too.
  • Take a good multivitamin– or collection of vitamins. It’s easier than creating perfectly balanced meals
    • Shoot for a full spectrum of B-vitamins, along with magnesium, zinc, E, C and D.  Ask me if you want more details, but for now all I’ll say is that human bodies benefit from these vitamins at level way. higher than the 100% level of RDA.
  • Eat breakfast. Every day.  The more protein in this meal the longer it will last, and (studies show) the fewer calories you’ll eat later in the day.

BONUS  TIP (but not everyone can do it): Go to bed hungry.

It will give your body a longer fast in which to burn available energy (with you being asleep for most of the process), and as a bonus, it will remind/motivate you to eat that really-important breakfast.

(Is your favorite tip here? Did I forget one? Add it in the comments.)

Weight Therapy #1: Saying No to Self

G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, pointed out that sometimes the reason we don’t know where to start talking about a big subject is because it possible to start anywhere.

Sticking to a healthy lifestyle appears to be one of those topics.

Leaving aside what a Healthy Eating Plan looks like (for now), I want to talk about my first tools for maintaining that HEP.

*First of all, it’s best if you remove the word “cheat” from your vocabulary.* Even if your HEP of choice uses it.

I’m pretty open about how I see words affecting our thoughts and behavior, and if you are the sort to “cheat” a lot, you’ll eventually see yourself as  “cheater” and that just doesn’t help your persistence factor.

Instead, think of it as your level of “strictness” as you retrain your approach to food.

You’re not “cheating” when you sleep in on the weekend, you’re just being less-strict with yourself.

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero via stock.xchng

Here’s something I just learned recently: our self-esteem, the way we see ourselves, is strengthened in proportion to the number of times we say no to ourselves.

Think about how you feel when you pass up the cake or ice cream at the birthday party. You feel good about yourself, don’t you? You feel relieved, maybe, and in-control.

Your self-esteem actually went up a notch.

Believe it or not, for the first two weeks back on my HEP that little up-tick was all I needed to stay focused. I still looked longingly at “the good stuff” and felt the urge to consume, but every time I said no to myself I was rewarded with this little surge of Yes! I am the boss of me!

The other thing that helped me say no to the birthday cake (because after all, yummy stuff feels pretty good, too) was asking, Is this [indulgence] worth waiting to reach my goal?

And very few birthday cakes are worth that, really.

I’m calling this series Weight Therapy , because it seems like everything I read about good choices or about motivation loops back around and applies again here.

Because this is where I’m living, and that’s the way my brain makes everything useful.