That Weight Struggle – Environment

249433_pSome mornings I wake up and my first thought…well, my second thought is Bel-Vita Biscuits. That first thought is always coffee. The biscuits, really cookies, are sometimes a before a long run indulgence. The problem is that I want to eat them, dipped in coffee, just about every morning. Thankfully, I can most often skip the temptation.

Some afternoons I walk in the door…from wherever I’ve been, and immediately my body says, “hungry…let’s eat!” I doesn’t matter if I’ve just eaten. Like today. I attended a lunch meeting put on by our local homelessness commission. It was a good lunch and I ate my fill. My body does not need more fuel right now! And yet, the desire to eat upon walking in the door is palpable.

These are the feelings described in the quote I shared the other day (see The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight). The feelings are not weakness in will power, or moral failings, but rather my body trying to get me to gain back my lost weight. So what can I do? What can you do if you face a similar struggle?

First. Notice it. Yes, notice those triggers towards unconscious eating. You might still choose to eat, but at least you are aware.

Second. Change the environment. According to Stephan Guyenet, “if we change our environment, we can change the cues we send to the non conscious brain, aligning its motivations with our goals of leanness and health.” (The Hungry Brain, 223). He describes changes we can make as a nation and changes we can make as individuals.

One great environmental tricks to not make unhealthy food so readily available. Sometimes its as simple as keeping it out of sight. We have fresh fruit on the counter. The Bel-Vita Biscuits and other snacks are kept in a drawer, out of site. Keeping them out of site works, because I only want these things first thing in the morning. The rest of the day is truly “out of site, out of mind.” The truly tempting food should be kept out of the house. For instance, we no longer buy ice cream to eat at home. It’s too tempting. So a few times a year, we go out for ice cream. On Memorial Day I treated myself to a Rocky Road Ice Cream Cone. It was delicious! It’ll be a few weeks or even months before I have another one. If a half gallon of Rocky Road was in the freezer, I’d probably be eating it right now!

Third. Are you thirsty? Sometimes our bodies just want water. It’s that simple. So have a drink of some good, plain, healthy water and wait awhile. The desire to eat may go away.

Fourth. This logically falls under environment but it’s my list! Change your surroundings. If you’re like me, you might eat lots more when you’re alone at home. I work at home most afternoons and I’ve discovered this is prime time to scavenge for something to eat (which is why its good not to have unhealthy food in the house). This is why I sometimes choose to run in the afternoon. Or some afternoons, I find work to do outside of the house, interacting with people. Find your triggers…and change them if you can.

And last. Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself that you are valued. You are worth the effort. You are loved. Especially tell yourself this when that other kind of self-talk happens. You know what I’m talking about. We are often too good a verbally abusing ourselves. How often have you said something to yourself that you’d never say to another person? Today, choose kindness, love, and forgiveness. As you experience giving these things to yourself, you just might notice them more around you as well.

What environmental struggle do you need help with?

 

The Greatest Fruit – John 15:9-17

This is similar to my sermon for May 6, 2018. 

What does good fruit taste like? I can remember enjoying fruit when I was a kid. But somehow, along the way, I lost my desire to eat fresh fruit. I didn’t avoid it, it just wasn’t something that tasted especially good. It was easy to choose something else.

What tasted better than nice, fresh fruit? Other sweet things. Candy…well, chocolate candy to be exact. Cakes. Cookies. Muffins. Ice Cream. And an ice-cold Diet Coke to wash it down. I was eating a lot of sugar (and fat). I was even eating sugar that I didn’t recognize…in my cereal, pasta sauce (when I was too busy or lazy to make my own), canned soups, breads, just about anything that was processed.

Is it any surprise that I was obese? Like many I’d tried diet after diet. I’d lost weight and gained weight and continued the lose gain lose gain cycle for years…most of my adult life actually. At the same time, I knew that adult onset diabetes ran in my family (both sides) and that I was at high risk for contracting this lifestyle disease. But knowing something and doing something about it are two completely different things.

In 2012 I decided to try once again to do something. This time I added running to the mix! I did lose weight…about 30 pounds…then 40 pounds…then it started to creep back up…then I lost a bit more and with great struggles maintained a 30-pound loss for a few years. Meanwhile I had gotten the running/racing bug and knew that I would improve if I lost more weight. Heck, I was still over 200 pounds. I needed to lose more weight!

I also recognized that the way I was doing things wasn’t working. It was a major struggle to live on a restricted calorie diet and run at the same time. I decided to embark on an experiment. I knew that sugar was a potential problem for my health. So, I decided that I would quit eating sugar…refined sugar…sugar that was added into almost every processed for you could buy. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. It is everywhere.

Shopping is interesting when you’ve given up sugar. You see a container, think “that looks interesting,” read the label, and put it back. I had to start buying (and eating) unprocessed…real food. It didn’t take long for the pounds to start coming off…up to a loss of 80 pounds. It didn’t happen overnight but over a couple years. Eventually (April, 2015) I had my last Diet Coke and thus my last taste of artificial sweetener.

My unexpected discovery was that once again fruit tasted wonderful. Without the masking effects of processed or fake sugar, the real sweetness of real fruit emerged. It’s like God’s wonderful gift of the best candy.

Fruit. Last week I spoke about fruitfulness and fruitlessness and being pruned and the uncomfortableness of it all. We took solace in the promise that we are not discarded…cut off branches. We know this because we have the promise from Jesus that he lives in us. He invites us to live in him and in our living in him we become fruitful. Discarded Vines? A sermon on John 15:1-8

As last week’s lesson continues, Jesus clearly identifies the fruit as love.

“As the Father has loved me, so I have love you; abide in my love” (15:7). Live in my love and I promise that you will experience great joy. This love is so important to our well-being that Jesus commands us is to love one another.

Be fruitful.

Live in my love.

Love one another.

You will experience great joy in this.

Wonderful promises.
But why then is it so incredibly hard to love? Why is it so much easier to find fault with others? To find fault with ourselves? To focus on all that is wrong? Why is it so difficult to know that God loves us, not so that we can someday experience joy in the future, but so that we can experience God’s loving presence today?

Distractions.
Distractions are like the added sugar. They seem important, they seem helpful, they lead us to what seems to be satisfying. They mask the essence of the real fruit which is God’s love for us. They make the love we are invited to share in the world taste bland…incomplete…boring even.

So what distractions keep us from fully experiencing God’s love and thus not fully loving our neighbor in return?

  • A specific way to follow Jesus?
  • Worry…last week talked about the decline of our congregation. How is this a distraction?
  • Fear…maybe the same as worry…but a bit more pronounced. It can stop us in our tracks…it can cause us to make poor choices
  • Anger…we have an over abundance of this today…often because of the exploitation of fear and worry…making others the recipients of our collective wrath.
  • Frustration…little things and big things. Being impatient with ourselves and with others.
  • Hunger…a need to fill an emptiness is way more than food. Many hunger for real community. The church is supposed to be the place to find and experience this community. Sadly we (the church) are not connecting with those who yearn for this. So that the church is dying while others are dying because they don’t have what we are supposed to offer. I wish I knew how to fix this. But I do know the answer is found in loving one another.

We are easily distracted. Sadly these distractions cause us to lose two things:

First, our understanding that God loves us and has chosen us.

Second, our ability to truly love one another…

And without these things our joy can never be complete. That fruit almost never tastes as rich and sweet and awesome as it really is. Almost never…because we always get glimpses. Just think of that last time you experienced great joy. What was happening? Who was there? Sometimes it’s an experience of someone else’s joy that moves us…like joy is contagious.

These distractions don’t have to have the final say. That’s what Jesus is telling his disciples, what he is telling us. To live in him is to live intentionally. To cultivate practices that help us to get past those things that distract us.

Practices like prayer…maybe disconnecting from the noise will help us to see one another as worthy of love.

Practices like caring for others. It’s amazing how we can see our own situations differently when we quit thinking solely about ourselves.

And above all loving one another…loving one another in our community and outside of it, is where we get to taste that wonderfully sweet fruit…and experience the joy of Jesus in and among us. It’s not always easy, heck it’s almost never easy, but it is oh so worth the effort. That fruit of love is the greatest.

Slow & Steady – Racing Weight Week 4

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A friend gave me a bike so I’m getting used to this in between runs!

In completing 4 weeks of a more focused effort on losing those last few pounds, I’ve remembered a few things.

Weight loss is not fast, nor is it easy.
Unfortunately many of us expect both. The weight loss industry perpetuates this lie with adds that promise quick results…for a fee. Fad diets also promise quick results, but are often unhealthy or unrealistic. I’ve tried many fad diets over the years. I’ve also given Weight Watchers hundreds of $$$$ over the years. But neither approach resulted in long term, healthy weight loss.

In much reading over the years…and with much experimentation, I’ve concluded that the best approach to weight loss is to expect slow progress while focusing on a sustainable, enjoyable, healthy lifestyle.

What does this mean for me?
Regular, vigorous exercise. Eating healthy, which includes:

  • The occasional use of a food diary. It is important to check food quantities as well as quality on occasion. It’s amazing how portions can slowly grow, while unhealthy food is consumed more and more.
  • A conscious choice to eat a wide variety of healthy food. Sometimes people will say, “I can’t eat carbs.” So, they won’t eat something healthy, like fruit. I ask them, “how many people have you seen become obese by eating too many apples or too much watermelon?” A good piece of advice that I’ve seen in many places is to eat the rainbow. I love rainbows! And I love eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetable.
  • Cutting back on unhealthy, processed, calorie dense food. If I were to stray into fad diet territory I would do it here and say, just cut this crap out entirely. But this is not realistic. So if you have a favorite processed something my advice is to make it a very special treat and only eat it occasionally. Go back to the previous point…if you’re hungry eating an apple and natural peanut butter will be more filling and better for you than say, a bag of Doritos or a cookie. Something I discovered is that when all the processed sugar is gone, real fruit tastes wonderful. Try it!
  • Eating enough. If you are constantly hungry, you won’t succeed…and you will easily overeat when crappy food is place before you.
  • Last, think of it as a life style and enjoy yourself, which means don’t deprive yourself as social events.

Slow is ok
I discovered these tips while very slowly losing 80+ pounds. If you can focus on the journey and enjoy what you are doing each day, you’ll be able to look back at your success. I probably lost about 30 pounds a year, over a few years. Now that I’m trying to tackle those last pounds I need to remind myself of my own tips!

How Was the 4 Week Focus?
After 4 weeks of my renewed focus I lost 5.6 pounds. As I reported last week my other gauge of % body fat is off in that my scale now thinks I’m a bit dehydrated (which I’m not), so it had an increase in this number…but I don’t believe it and will write on that later. And, I had at least one day (sometimes 2) each week of social eating and drinking.

Now the intensive focus will end, but I will continue to eat healthy…because that is what I do. As my training miles increase, I will increase carbs in my diet. When I feel that maybe I’m out of control, I’ll use the food diary…because it is a helpful tool for the occasional check. I’ll report back periodically.

Last, if you are looking for some good advice I recommend a couple books by Matt Fitzgerald, Racing Weight and The Endurance Diet. I read these recently (after losing my 80 pounds) and was pleased to read that I had done mostly what he recommended. They are great resources.

You can read the previous entries on this series here:  Racing Weight – Getting ThereOOPS – Racing Weight, Week 1Ummm – Racing Weight Week 2Really?!?! Racing Weight Week 3

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A few years ago…

Is it the sugar? Or even the artificial sugar? One anecdotal story

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We all know there is much conflicting advice on what, or even how, to eat. High carbs or low carbs, high fat or low fat, high protein or low protein, and don’t forget whether or not to eat gluten. Eating has been so complicated!

 

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A few years ago at Huntington Beach. Bandit is riding in the basket.

I am not a nutritionist, or medical professional of any kind. I am – or was – a professional dieter. That’s right, I’ve probably tried too many to count diets over the years. I’ve lost weight and gained it back again as soon as I returned to my regular eating. In retrospect I see three challenges that I faced:

 

  1. I was addicted to Diet Coke. Seriously. For years I drank the stuff in lieu of water. Ironically, I drank caffeine free Diet Coke at home thinking it was healthier.
  2. I’ve always tried to be active, but my activity rarely helped me to lose or maintain a healthy weight. And when I was consumed by my new career and let exercise fall by the wayside my weight ballooned.
  3. Adult onset diabetes runs in my family (both sides) and I’ve always had the fear  of giving myself this disease.
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My daughter, Megan, and I at our first 5k (time of 36:16), July 4, 2012. She’s lots lot of weight too!

When I hit my late 40s my weight had risen to a very unhealthy 243 pounds for my 5’7″ frame. I wasn’t happy but was sure slow at doing anything about it. Then one day my son and I were hiking…I was huffing and puffing when two women passed us while running and chatting their way up the trail. I decided then that I was going to try  again to get fit and running seemed easier than hiking up a mountain.

 

I started running in 30 second spurts. And I started another diet, this time trying lo-carbs only to quickly discover that lo carb eating and running don’t go well together. I realized that healthy carbs were important! I even began eating oatmeal which I’ve never liked, but didn’t really change much else (except to count calories). The weight started to come off and I continued to run. I probably lost almost 40 pounds int eh two years leading up to my first marathon.

That marathon was two years ago, and to my unpleasant surprise I gained wait as the running distances increased. I probably weighed around 210 for that first marathon and ran it in just under six hours. For the next 7 months I struggled with my weight (up and down within a 10 pound range). There was nothing that I seemed to be able to do to get those pounds to go away and yet I had no problem getting them to come back on. Ha! Maybe you or someone you know has had a similar experience. It was incredibly frustrating.

The one good thing that happened in my diet during this time is that I cut way back on the Diet Coke, only drinking it when we were eating out. Eventually it no longer tasted good and I had my last Diet Coke (or anything artificially sweetened in April of 2015).

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My husband, Scott, and I halfway into a 20 mile training run in August 2015 (he was kind enough to accompany me on his bike)

In May of 2015 I joined a running group and started training for my second marathon. I didn’t want to gain weight like I did the previous year. I also knew from experience that I would have days (or weeks) when I would be incredibly hungry. So I decided to embark on an experiment: to eat whatever I want as long as it didn’t have added sugar or was processed in such a way that the ingredients list included a bunch of words I couldn’t pronounce. (exceptions to this are below!)

 

This new way of eating was both easy and hard. The easy part was in not stressing over how much or when I could eat. I just ate when I was hungry. The hard part was in discovering that just about everything has added sugar so finding a quick snack was a challenge…until I settled upon fresh fruit and nuts as my go-tos. I read somewhere that we should “eat the rainbow,” as in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and its been fun doing this. I was also flexible in my eating, so that if a special occasion called for birthday cake or some other treat I ate it and enjoyed it. This is not a diet in the sense of calorie restriction, but rather diet as in eating healthy, eating abundantly, and eating food that really tastes good.

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Now my husband and my two adult children run. This is the four of us at Boogie Nights in Ventura a couple months ago

Has it worked? This morning I weighed 163 for a total weight loss of 80 pounds. For a runner I still have more to lose, but as an every day 53 year old woman, I’m pretty happy with my weight. I figure that my body will stop losing weight when its done losing weight! In all it’s taken me about four years to get here…so some really slow weight loss and I’m good with that!

 

So what are those exceptions to the no added sugar and processed food diet? Food for running…gels and fluids for long runs basically. And I have a favorite breakfast biscuit/cookie and it has sugar so I only indulge in this treat on the mornings I will be running. It works great!

If you too struggle with weight, it’s certainly worth the experiment.