Wednesday, 7 August 2013

But can one really lose weight by just eating mindfully?

Geneen says that it took her a full year to regulate to her natural weight, 80 pounds down from where she began after she stopped dieting and started eating according to her body’s needs. She has remained at this weight for 30 years.

What else is there? Trying another diet, another plan, cutting out another food group, hiring another trainer? I once had a trainer who suggested that I eat a little under 800 calories per day, sticking to his precise meal plan and work out daily for an hour and a half.  I mean, how badly did I really want this? Enough to do what it takes? (How many could stick to this without giving up on the second day? Surely they run stats at these gyms to track the success of trainers’ clients!)

I’m saying that this is not what it takes. I have lost 56 pounds since the birth of my son 6.5 months ago. Let’s say that about 10 of that was baby and placenta, 15 of fluid (they apparently removed 2.5 canisters worth during the C-section, where normally they remove half a canister).  I probably got 10 of it off with Weight Watchers, and the rest has been from eating less and moving more;  eating less is from eating only when I am hungry, stopping when I am satisfied. This may take me a while, say a loss of a pound every few weeks, but how long was it going to take by yoyo-ing? Forever.  And I would never have given up the fight.
Will I look like GI Jane from eating intuitively, walking (with my back and leg problems, I can only walk on flat ground for about 10 minutes, twice a week), playing with my children and a few 8-minute yoga sessions per week? Likely not. Was I going to get there by working out like crazy, restricting my diet on my ‘good’ days, trolling for cheesecake on the ‘bad’ days, getting injured and hopping myself up on green tea supplements? Also likely not.

The dieter in me wants to amp this up a bit, hoping that the application of a little more strictness might produce better, faster results. Like increasing fullness on fewer calories, tricking the body. I could drink a glass of water before a meal, use child-size plates and utensils, bulk up on fibrous foods like raw fruits and vegetables and add soup before, after or during a meal. Apparently there is a supplement called acacia powder that you can sprinkle on all of your food to increase fullness. Some of these might be worthwhile pursuits, I guess, but it’s easy to see where I could get back into old patterns.

We are wired to want what we cannot have. I read a study that said that participants ate more when the packaging for the product they were eating was thrown away, instead of sitting there in front of them; as in they ate more Fig Newtons if the wrapper was not in front of them, and less if the rest of them were sitting on the table in the package. Pretty counter intuitive – usually they say to take a couple, then put the package back in the cupboard so that you won’t be tempted (because of course we cannot be trusted). The participants in this study apparently didn't feel deprived, knowing that they could always have more if they wanted, so they weren't inclined to overeat.

I easily have 20 pounds to lose. It’s not a given that I will achieve it. But I hope and expect that I will regulate to a point somewhere near there within the next year, instead of struggling with these 20 pounds for the next 20 years. That would be awesome, yes?

What’s worth it to me is what I've gained from leaving behind this humongous time-and-energy suck that was my obsession with dieting. Oh, the things I can see, the things I can do! And the energy I have when I address my needs, knowing that I never have to face another hungry, stressful night putting my kids to bed on a ‘fast’ day (that one was horrendous), or worry about what to eat at the upcoming baby shower.  I used to worry that if my husband traveled for work, I wouldn't be able to handle two kids, mostly because I wouldn't have enough energy due to my diet. I would have to go ‘off’ while he was gone, would gain weight while he was away, and he look at me differently when he returned.

Geneen says how you eat is indicative of how you live. If that’s the case, I was frenzied, unbalanced, uptight and often downright irrational. There have been times when I narrowly (OK not so narrowly) missed the garbage bins at the end of the driveway because I was focusing on getting to the DQ drive-thru.

I’m not out of the woods – my postpartum anxiety overtakes me some days, causing mild panic attacks and insomnia. I’m also on a ton of meds for my pain. But here’s what helps:

·         Paying attention to what I feel, that is not related to food. A walk around the house, a warm bath, a cup of tea, a talk with a friend, an ice pack for the pain - many times my appetite is for something other than physical sustenance.

·         Knowing that I can always have what I want when the physical appetite in the heart of my belly cries out for it.

·         Coming back to myself (or as my husband describes it “getting your head out of your ass”). I run through these stories in my head, I listen to The Voice. They are just stories about what you think may happen, about what you think people are saying about you. Turn them off. 

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