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Day 54 of the 20 lb struggle     

Sarah lost  pounds

Sarah lost 14 pounds

Some days are diamonds. This was not one of them. Until I took Snickers out for his evening walk. That’s when I met my neighbor Sarah walking her dog, Emmy. I hadn’t seen her in three weeks and the difference was remarkable.

“Sarah!” I called out to her. “You look wonderful! You are so skinny. How much weight have you lost?”

“Oh, I have more to go,” she replied.

“But you look great,” I commented as we started walking together. Snickers and Emmy are good friends.  When we get together the dogs understand that it is their job to keep us moving in the direction of their choice. So Sarah and I started to chat as the dogs led us around the neighborhood.

Sarah started her “20 lb struggle” in June and she has lost 14 pounds! She is doing it by exercising regularly, which she says is essential for her, and sticking to her Weight Watchers program.

You might not think that Sarah and I would have much in common since she is much younger than I. But, as we talked about our efforts to lose weight detailing our successes and frustrations it became clear that it was very much the same for both of us. Here are some of the things we talked about.

1)      Exercise: We both agreed that exercise makes us feel good, especially when done regularly.  But, I had a complaint. I felt that my appetite was greater on the days that I exercised. Sarah agreed that she had the same feeling at first but suggested that the problem might not be the exercise but the fact that I am doing it so sporadically. She helped me to understand that to glean the full benefits from exercise it needs to be a regular habit. She often exercises before lunch at work and says that this regular habit has actually helped her to keep her appetite under control.

Emmy and Snickers are friends

Emmy and Snickers are friends

2)      Pride: Pride is usually a good thing.  But what we were talking about was something else entirely. We were talking about those times when you realize that dieting is no longer a struggle.  Your appetite is totally under control. No cravings. No binges. You feel like you’ve “got it.” You are in the groove, swimming in the zone, and you feel a sense of confidence that leads you to believe that losing the rest of the weight will be easy. But you know what they say: “Pride cometh before the fall.” As soon as you let these thoughts into your mind – WATCH OUT! The next thing you know, those cravings that were a thing of the past, can become very much a part of your present.

3)      Diet psychology: We both agreed that what you say to yourself and how you understand the task of losing weight makes all the difference in whether or not you succeed. Many people focus on the food and what they are supposed to eat.  But we felt that having realistic ideas and a positive attitude is what really counts.

“It’s all a head game,” Sarah said. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Rick has learned what works for him

Rick has learned what works for him

Day 45 of the 20 lb struggle.

Rick may be a yo-yo dieter, but he has learned a few things along the way. He’s learned what works for him and what doesn’t. He began as a teenager with a very structured weight loss program at the Diet Center where his main task was simply doing what he was told. Although he didn’t learn a lot about how to control his behavior he did learn a lot about nutrition. “I realized that my family’s meals were not always that healthy.  We ate in restaurants a lot.”

Later, with NutriSystem, Rick went back to what had worked for him before – a diet where food choices were made by someone else. This worked. Twice. But it was clear that Rick wasn’t moving forward. “There just wasn’t any carry-over into real life.”  He lost weight. He gained weight. He lost weight. He gained weight. He seemed no closer to a solution to his long-term weight issue.

He liked WeightWatchers because, now as a more mature man, he was able to make his own choices about what to eat. He learned that “I MUST have carbs, especially starches.” He liked that he could eat what he liked by manipulating other factors such as fiber and exercise.

Now Rick is putting himself on a diet to lose weight before a Christmas cruise. This is the first time that he is starting a diet ONLY 15 lbs. over his ideal weight. How does he plan to do it?

He is making his own choices. “I love Campbell’s Soup at Hand. It makes an easy, calorie-controlled lunch with just a few crackers or some fruit.” He also loves the convenience of Breakstone’s Cottage Doubles which combines cottage cheese and fruit spread. It is his breakfast just about every day. He often stops at the deli counter to pick up some low-fat turkey breast for snacks and he considers what food will be available on the menu before he chooses a restaurant.

“I learned that it is best for me to avoid chocolate. Sometimes I slip up but I found that it is important not to throw in the towel when you fall off the wagon.” What about exercise? “When I want to lose weight I step up the exercise.  That means going more frequently, not working at higher intensity. I just make it a priority.  I don’t let other things interfere.”

I believe that Rick is on his way to breaking the yo-yo cycle.  This is why:

(1)   He is taking responsibility for his food choices. He understands nutrition and what he has to eat in order to lose weight.

(2)   He is aware of the role that exercise plays in his life.

(3)   He understands his food weaknesses (addictions).

(4)   When his weight starts creeping up he looks for an external event to get him motivated and to help him set his goal.

Copyright © 2009 Maxine Schackman

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Rick: weight up

Rick: weight up

Day 44 of the 20 pound struggle.

My son-in-law, Rick, says that he is a yo-yo dieter.

Yo-yo dieting (also known as weight cycling) refers to excessive and extreme food restriction leading to rapid weight loss. Such a diet is impossible to sustain, so eventually the dieter, unable to continue to reject food starts to binge, opening the floodgates to a self-defeating cycle of weight gain, depression and self-criticism….until the next diet.

 Who is not familiar with the yo-yo dieting stories of Oprah Winfrey and Kirstie Alley? High profile celebrities as well as ordinary folks can suffer from yo-yo dieting. Although there is general agreement that this is not a healthy pattern, there is also a lot of confusion about what to do about it.

Rick’s weight problems began as a teenager. “I ate a lot of candy and never made exercise a part of my life,” he told me. BUT. He wanted to look good for the Senior Prom. His mom took him to a Diet Center where they put him on a strict hi-protein, lo-carb diet. “I remember actually having to weigh the protein for each meal.” He took up roller skating and lost about 30 lbs in 3 months. “I felt great! I looked good for graduation and the prom.”

Freshman year at college saw Rick’s weight climb up again. Within a year he had gained 25 of the 30 lbs back. From that point on, Rick says, his weight has fluctuated back and forth about every two years. He has used NutriSystem twice, each time losing 20 – 30 lbs. He has also been successful with WeightWatchers. “I liked being able to make my own choices. I lost 50 lbs in 7 months!”

How does Rick feel about working out at the gym? “I just do what I have to do.” Rick admits that each time he has lost weight there has been some sort of external event that motivated him, e.g., graduation, high school reunion, daughter’s bat-mitzvah, holiday cruise, etc.

Rick today- 15 lbs to lose

Rick today- 15 lbs to lose

Rick is great at losing weight! Once he is focused on his goal, he “does what he has to do” to get there.  If that includes restricting food intake and exercising, well then, so be it.

Rick isn’t so great at keeping the weight off. Why is that?  I have some ideas.

1)  Having a clear, focused goal is important for success in any undertaking.  It is especially important in losing weight. But there is an inherent problem. What will I do after I lose 20 lbs? Will the 20 lb struggle be over? What happens to Rick once the prom is over?

For dieters the question becomes: How can I keep myself motivated when there seems to be no end in sight?

2)  Restricted food intake is part of every weight loss program. After weeks or months of eating what “you have to,” what happens when you can suddenly “eat what you want to?” You don’t need a psychologist to tell you that a common response will be to indulge in all those favorite foods that you have been denied for so long.

The harsh reality is that maintaining weight loss is MUCH MORE difficult and challenging, and waaay less exciting, than taking it off in the first place.    

Copyright© 2009 Maxine Schackman

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