Making friends with fat

If you are obese, assuming you don’t have some underlying health problem that glues the flab in place, all weight-loss diets work. You just have to pick one and stay on it, and eventually you will lose weight. Add exercise, and you will lose more weight (or at least inches) and gain muscle. If hunger or slow metabolism are a problem you can take pills for that, too.

Sounds simple, huh? So … what goes wrong? I mean, every time, for almost everyone. I’ve heard that there are people out there who start out really fat and do something about it and end up thin and live happily ever after, in the same way that I’ve heard there are people who start really poor and get rich, and ordinary girls and boys who grow up and marry princes or princesses, even without having to kiss any frogs. But I don’t actually know anyone that’s happened to. And – getting back to my original point – for every success story, there are 10 research projects filled with the stories of people who started out really fat, got thin, and then got even fatter.

Screw the view. Look at my flab! (Source)
Screw the view. Look at my flab! (Source)

The other day I read this post (the key message is in the video) in a blog I follow. I like Nancy’s blog because usually it gives me hope, and it’s full of excellent advice – even if a lot of it is still way beyond my level of ability. But this post made me want to climb into bed and just give up forever. According to the video, my brain has pegged my present truly terrifying weight (which has been pretty much unchanged, bar minor short-term ups and downs, for more than a year) as “normal”, and it will bring all available resources to bear to resist any downward trend – because to my ancient crocodile brain, weight loss = starvation and death.

In my case, this means that every time I experience a period of sustained, rapid weight loss, instead of feeling happy and encouraged, I hear the rumbling of a crocodile growl, and the goblin horde rushes screaming to the crocodile’s defense.

Actual photograph of events inside my gut.
Actual photograph of events inside my gut. (Source)

And then … I … panic. The only way through that panic is candy. Or cake. Or ice cream. Or even just a surfeit of grilled cheese sandwiches – really, it doesn’t matter; the only way through is food, the more starchy and sugary the better – that’s why they call it comfort food. It appeases the crocodile and calms the goblins and allows me to waddle on in the knowledge that nothing too scary has happened. Nothing has changed.

I’ve been fighting this all my life. I’ve seen doctors, who have helpfully told me I need to practice self-discipline or die. I’ve seen shrinks and dietitians, I’ve read books, I’ve made promises to people who love me (and to myself, who doesn’t always love me), I’ve joined clubs and signed up for challenges. I’ve ingested pills and injected hormones. I’ve wept and joked and prayed and pretended I don’t care.

I even started an accountability record on this blog. I kept it up for 10 days before I felt so dang embarrassed to be offering my readers such tedious drivel that I quit. Not the diet – I stuck that out for nearly the 40 days I’d committed to, but gave up around day 38 because I just didn’t get past feeling ghastly and the pounds weren’t budging.

After watching the video on Nancy’s blog, I reminded myself of a decision I made last year. Over more than half a century, I have been, in turn, chubby, plump, overweight, fat, obese and grotesque. Most of that time I’ve either been on diet or been rebelling against having to be on diet or felt bad about failing yet another diet. It’s time to try something different – and at this point I would like to apologize publicly to my poor body for taking so long to figure that out.

Last year, after the Daniel diet failed I promised myself I would never diet again. I set myself free.

This is pretty much how I spent the month Himself and I got acquainted "in the flesh" (as opposed to via email). So of course he had to marry me! (Pic taken from http://shop.jillnealgallery.com/)
The first thing Himself and I acquired together as a couple was a small print of this painting by Jill Neal. It still speaks to me. (Source)

I bet you think this post is about making friends with the fat that’s on my body, right? Something all warm and gooshy about loving myself despite yadda yadda.

Nope. Sorry. Or not sorry, actually, because what I think I maybe, just possibly, might have is good news of a practical, rather than gooshy, nature. At any rate I’m pretty sure it’s good news for me, and you might like it too. Instead of a diet, I’ve been looking for a lifestyle change, and I think I may have found it. I’m sharing it because it seems likely that there are others out there whose bodies work the same way as mine.

And that brings me to my first point. Human bodies are different in terms of what fuel they need, and how they process it. So if someone cites Adam and Eve, or alternatively billions of Chinese agrarians, as proof that humans do best on a diet of mainly rice and vegetables, that’s true. And when someone else cites Paleolithic hunter-gatherers as proof that what we really need is meat and more meat and occasionally berries (but not bugs because one must draw a line somewhere), that’s also true. The trick is to figure out what type of body you have.

It turns out that what my body thrives on appears to be the ketogenic lifestyle. I’m going to share what I’ve learned through research and personal experience in the next few posts; today’s post is really intended to put what I’ll be sharing in context. So, briefly, here are the answers to a few of the most obvious questions.

What does “ketogenic” mean?
It’s a high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate way of eating that forces the body to obtain energy from fat rather than sugar.

In other words, it’s the Atkins diet. Or Paleo.
Somewhat. It’s like Atkins or Paleo on steroids, because a primary goal is to get into ketosis and stay there

That is the opposite of what the food pyramid recommends. Won’t it make you sick? 
There is a growing body of evidence that the grain-based, high carbohydrate diet recommended by the World Health Organization, the US Department of Agriculture and other similar western bodies is in fact potentially deadly. In my own brief experience, switching from carbs to fats has dramatically improved my energy levels, eliminated brain fog and eased chronic pain related to inflammation. I haven’t felt this good in years!

But … high fat. Yuck! And dangerous! Fat makes you fat! It clogs your arteries and gives you heart attacks!
Nope – fat is fuel. Your body would rather run on sugar, because it’s easier to break down – but it runs more efficiently on fat. (That’s especially true of your brain.) And another good thing about fat? Unlike sugar, it’s not addictive!

Surely such an extreme diet is just setting you up for failure?
Well, you’d think so. After a lifetime of giving things up only to be gobsmacked by cravings, it’s hard to believe that I can simply walk away from cakes and candy. I’m not going to pretend I’m never tempted … Right now, in fact, I’d really enjoy a short bout with Messieurs Baskin and Robbins, and if I go out to dinner and someone wafts a hot brownie under my nose I’m probably going to bite it. But what’s different is, most of the time I don’t even think about food. I rarely experience cravings, and those I do feel aren’t that hard to shrug off. That’s why I believe this really could be a lifestyle change, and not just another diet.

How do you know it’s not just a fad?
I don’t. Further, I don’t care. Seems to me one person’s fad may be another person’s lifestyle. What appeals to me about this is the way it makes me feel – energetic, healthy and clear-headed, and getting better every day. Beyond just listening to my own body, I’ve discussed it with my doctor, and I’ve researched it up the wazoo. I’m cautiously optimistic – enough, anyway, to be ready to talk about it.

I have more to tell you, but this is enough for one post. If you’d like to do your own research you’ll find interesting resources here, and here, and … oh, just google “ketosis”. That’s what I did!

Do you have any experience with the ketogenic approach to eating? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The promise

This evening I sat down to write an inspiring but wildly funny post about My Flab And New Strategies For Getting Rid Of It.

This was an important post, because it came at the end of a day of assiduous consumption of everything in the kitchen that didn’t up and run away. I’ve become quite good at the housewife thing just lately, so my kitchen is almost completely clear of things with legs. In other words, not a lot escaped my ravenous maw.

It made me feel miserable.

I pondered the words in my last post, about wanting to “honor” my friend’s memory, and be a better person as inspired by her, and I mocked myself. Words like fat frumpy failure of femininishness came to mind.

The post I wrote was all very funny, of course, ha ha ha, not at all miserable, and then I tried to access a site that I wanted to link to the post and my computer had a fit, and by the time it regained consciousness the entire post was gone. It was one of those rambling exercises in free association that is completely impossible to replicate.

There was only one thing to do, and I did it. I drove the four miles to our nearest convenience store and bought ice cream. In a few minutes, I will take my ice cream and my book and climb into bed and call this miserable day DONE.

But first … there’s something I need to do. I hope it doesn’t make you feel used.

I need to make a promise. The promise is being made to myself, no one else, but I feel a need to make it public. I will probably regret posting this tomorrow, but I hope I will have the courage to leave it up anyway.

My promise is this: from tomorrow, I will begin to introduce new discipline into the way I nurture my body. I will nourish it with food that helps it work well. I will take it for walks as often as I can – I hope daily. And I will put it to bed in time to let it have the rest it needs. Most importantly, I will learn to stop hating, despising and resenting it.

With companions like these, and a place like this to go walking, how can I not learn to love "exercise"?
With companions like these, and such a place right nearby to go walking, how can I not learn to love “exercise”?

I will do this in honor of my friend, who started running to fight cancer and stood her ground for 26 years; who rose before dawn every morning until weeks before she died because time was too precious to waste; and who regarded each day as a gift.

But just to be clear, I’m not doing this for her. I’m doing it for me. She’s my inspiration, but I am my own and sufficient reason.

And I’ll be checking in with you on my progress as I go along, in particular sharing lessons that you might find useful. I hope you’ll stick with me and share your own stories. A change this radical isn’t going to be easy, and it would be good to know I’m not making it alone.

Anybody out there with me?

Body image

Several of the blogs I follow have been talking about body image just lately, and how important it is to have a good one. Here, we have shamelessly rounded thighs, here sexy jiggliness, something sad but hopeful here, and one of the better improvement strategies here. And if you think that I’m dangling all these great posts – that will make you laugh, touch your heart and inspire you – in an effort to distract you from my own contribution to the topic, you’re probably right.

A couple days ago I gave Himself a pretty cool camera. (It was our anniversary, and his birthday’s coming up, and what the heck, he’s a nice guy.) He’s a talented photographer, often reminisces about his time as president of the photographic club at his school, but for all the years we’ve been married he’s been making do with a series of mik-en-druks. It was only recently that I became aware that this was a real but unspoken longing, so I did something about it.

A happy Himself promptly spent several hours bebopping around the house figuring out how it worked. Obviously, that entailed photographing everything that entered his new viewfinder. He was absolutely thrilled by the quality of the images. “Look how clear the detail is, even when I expand the picture to the max!” he exclaimed.

Yeah. That’s some detail there, alrighty…

IMG_0001

So tell me … how the fuck does one have a “positive body image” over that?

I want to blame somebody. Maybe I should sue the chocolate companies – they know that shit is addictive. That’s why even Hershey is a sweet stock on the market – and their so-called chocolate is disgusting. (Sorry, but it really is. Don’t argue with the connoisseur.) If cigarette companies must pay for people who die from smoking, then clearly same penalty should apply to the pushers of chocolate, candy, cookies, cream cakes,  ice cream, cream cheese, artisan bread, real butter, peanut butter … oh good grief, someone stop me, because even with those horrible knees up on my monitor right in front of me as I write this, I want to eat something, and I’m not fantasizing about celery sticks either. Not unless they’re sliced and lightly fried and incorporated into a cream sauce, anyway.

So … what to do? The last post I wrote on the topic of My Fatness ended on an optimistic note – diet and exercise and yadda yadda yadda. It sounded great, but it didn’t go well.

Today I got up onto my bathroom scale and … there was this sort of ouchie noise, and then – I swear I am not making this up – the scale wailed, “I give up! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know! Just Please Stop Standing On Me!” And numbers flashed and glowed and it told me that in 24 hours I’d shed 36.4 pounds. So I got off, pondered a bit, picked it up and shook it a little, and stood on it again.

“Okay, okay, you knew I was lying – how about 16.2 lbs? Maybe 23.4? Too much – right – not convincing – okay – 8 lbs? Just a nice round 8.0 – you can believe that, right?”

Not really. Plus, it said “round” and presented me with a number that is essentially a bulgy torso and a blob. I think that damn scale is trying to mess with my head.

Your turn … Do you have any addictions that nobody else takes seriously? And are they killing you too?

The Big O

The really horrible thing about having an unhealthy involvement with food (there are lots of horrible things, but I’m talking about the really most horrible thing here) is the way it takes over. Every. Single. Aspect. Of my life.

Image

There’s the house I am too tired to keep clean, and the garden I struggle to grow. The puppy I am too weak and slow and awkward to train, and the horse I can’t ride. The glaciers and mountain peaks and secret valleys I can’t reach. The shame of catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror or plate glass window or a stranger’s eyes. The uncrossable gulf between Himself and me. The constant pain in every joint and muscle and fiber, and most especially the ache in my heart.

It’s like having a portal to another universe populated by starveling goblins, in my gut. Every time I eat, or don’t eat, or think about eating (which, by the way, is all the time) the portal opens and another goblin pops through, takes up residence, and adds its muttered/wailed/shrieked “FEED ME!” to the cacophony. Sometimes I can be full to the point of nausea and still feel a grumble of hunger – for protein, if I’ve just eaten sugar; for sugar, if I’ve just eaten protein; for a cheese-and-tomato sandwich or cake or ice cream, pretty much any time.

Yesterday I took myself off to my doctor. Now here’s the thing, I don’t have medical insurance. I’m not allowed to get sick. I don’t go to the doctor unless I really, really need to. But a few months ago I decided that, at 50-something (I honestly never remember without doing a sum in my head and really, who cares? “They” say 50 is the new 40, but I feel 70) it was time I had a full physical. So I hied me to my doctor and she was thorough – she listened to my insides, poked here and prodded there, checked out the rude bits, and tested various bodily fluids. And at the end of it all, she officially declared me to be pretty dang healthy. Not diabetic – in fact she took me off the blood sugar meds I had been taking. Heart chugging along happily. BP more-or-less in the normal range. It was amazing! I had been so sure of bad news I just about floated out of her surgery – praising God and making all sorts of promises regarding lifestyle changes that would enable me to enjoy and fully use this unexpected blessing of good health.

Unfortunately I had completely forgotten to mention to her that I’d been experiencing an annoying pain in my leg that I was pretty sure was sciatica. And even more (that is to say, very-to-the-point-of-kicking-my-own-ass) unfortunately, instead of following through on the great lifestyle changes I’d promised myself, Himself, and God, I did what most of us fatties do when we’re happy: I ate. I celebrated with chocolate and ice cream and sandwiches, and chocolate ice cream sandwiches. I opened my mouth in a loud SHOUT of happiness … and a whole shitload (and I use the word intentionally) of food flew down my gullet … and the portal opened … and a great howling arose from my gut as new goblins arrived for the party.

Sciatica is caused by an inflamed sciatic nerve. In my case, the pain starts in my left butt cheek, continues down the back of my thigh, becomes crippling behind my knee, then takes a short leap to do achey-icey-burney-tingly to the tops of my toes and my instep. It is not a lot of fun. It comes and goes – and was in gone mode during my health exam, which is why I forgot to mention it. It’s caused by pressure on the lower spine, which gets worse if you add more weight. Which, of course, is what I’ve spent the past six celebratory weeks doing.

And this is why, yesterday, I hobbled back to my doctor. I got onto the scale and … Oh holy shit! What happened?

Yes, it was bad. She prescribed a few weeks of anti-inflammatories and ice … and really serious action on weight loss.

But who am I trying to kid? I knew it was bad. I waddle. I lumber. Its a big deal for me to sit on the floor, and an even bigger one to get back up. My huge jeans pinch and squeeze. All my buttoned blouses gape. Walking hurts – and not just the sciatica, either. Exercise? Don’t be ridiculous! Just sweeping my house demands at least one sit-down-and-rest, and usually two.

I’ve never bought into fad diets, but I’ve tried pretty much everything else. The Daniel fast (which is a fast, a spiritual exercise, not a diet – but you do lose weight),  eating only when hungry while giving myself permission to eat what I wanted (oh boy, did that SO not help!), Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, hCG, counting calories, substituting various expensive concoctions for actual food. And they all work. So really, the only thing I haven’t tried is … sticking to it. Which is to say, I’ve tried, and failed, and tried again, and failed, and despaired, and tried again, and failed.

And here I am. The only Big O in my life is in in the word Obese. I was curious to  know the difference between fat, obese, and morbidly obese, so I looked it up in Wikipedia. It turns out there’s a fourth classification – super-obese. With a BMI of 48, that’s where I belong. For now.

Writing this down, putting it out there, is a new effort. I don’t know how public it’ll ever get, since not many people even know about my blog and I don’t plan to tell anyone about this posting. But it’s here, and I’ll follow up with updates as often as I can – maybe even daily. If God, or serendipity, brings you here, I’d be glad to hear from you if you want to share your own Fat-to-Fit story.

And now to action!

  • The diet plan is hCG. It works, and I still have two vials left. I started today and am furiously carboloading. Funny how uncomfortable it is to be too full when you have to cram in a lot of calories!
  • Exercise … Well, I have five potatoes still waiting to be planted. That’s a good opportunity for some bending and stretching. And the house is a bit of a tip … I can tackle just one chore at a time at intervals between working on the current editing deadline, but I’ll try to do each chore by moving as fast as I can.
  • Water … as much as I can hold now, and then a glass every time I pee. That’s not hard to remember!

I’m ready. Set. Go.