Eight weeks of the Meltdown are done, with five more weigh-ins to go before Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is an important day for me, and not just because it's my favorite holiday. Last year, I started my weight loss journey once again the day after Thanksgiving. At the urging of my doctor, I cut out all refined sugar and flour, and finally began to lose the weight that had piled on when I'd become ill the previous spring. It has lead to many more changes – including determining that I can't eat gluten – but it was an important beginning. Thanksgiving has become a landmark for me, a sort of reminder so that I won't ever go back to how horrible I felt for those months leading up to it.
This past Monday was an important day for me too. Finally, after over 45 weeks of hard work, I reached the 40 pounds lost mark. 40 pounds has been a huge goal for me – it's the amount of weight I gained in less than two months when I first became ill. And while it took me about 7 weeks to gain that amount, it's taken me far, far more to get rid of it. I'm not even averaging a pound a week and there have been many weeks when I haven't seen any loss or even a bit of a gain. Quite simply, it's been very frustrating at times.
We hear quite often that it's reasonable and healthy to lose two pounds a week, but I don't think our weight loss goals tend to be that realistic. Last night, I happened to be flipping through the channels and caught a few moments of The Biggest Loser. One of the male contestants had lost 20 pounds in one week, and 50 pounds in the course of the show. I'm not sure how many weeks they're into – maybe two or three – but that is an absolutely immense amount of weight in such a short time. There was also a female contestant sobbing because she'd only lost two and another in a panic because she'd only lost 7.
I would hope that we'd all realize that the Biggest Loser contestants are in a very controlled, very unusual weight loss situation. The contestants all tend to be morbidly obese, work out insane amounts of time and are medically supervised. But it puts in our heads the idea that we could be – maybe even should be – losing weight more quickly. It can lead us to unhealthy attempts to speed up our own weight loss. It can also lead us to lies about who we are and what we're capable of.
Weight loss isn't a race. Sure, it's fun and helps with accountability to make it a competition and it feels great to hit those goals…but weight doesn't equal happiness or even necessarily health. Some of the skinniest people I know are also probably some of the most unhealthy. So many factors go into weight loss – what we're eating, how much we're exercising, what sort of exercise we're doing, stress levels, hormones – and it's difficult finding the right balance that works for us as individuals. It's a continual learning process, with constant adjustments to be made. Doctors may tells us two pounds a week is reasonable and possible, but that's in general and might not apply to us personally.
I've come to believe that the ultimate goal of any weight loss and exercise program should be improved and continued health. For me, that means what I eat is so important. Exercise is too, of course, but I tend to think we get more hung up on food. And it's not just the calories in that food, but the taste, the texture, the natural nutrients, and the way it satisfies my body and my brain.
Low-fat and non-fat don't have any place in my diet because they just don't satisfy…and lead to me eating more and more. I've always loved those Snackwell's Devils Food cookies – but stopped buying them years ago because I'd eat the entire box before I could stop myself (and then feel horrible about my lack of self-control). Compare that to a piece of good dark chocolate, which satisfies my sweet cravings with one small piece and even adds in a few heart healthy flavonoids, antioxidants and amino acids.
Those rich foods we've been taught to avoid for the past 30 years in favor of low-fat ones? Because they're so rich, our bodies and brains are usually happier with just a little bit. More and more studies are showing that low-fat, non-fat and fake sugared foods trigger our brains to want more and more. And let's not forget that what they replace that sugar and fat with is generally far worse for us than what it's replacing!
Real foods - foods the way God made them – are more filling and contain so much more nutritional value than the processed stuff that makes up the majority of the grocery store. They keep our blood sugar more level, so that we can avoid the physical crashing that leads to more cravings and out of control eating. They're also cheaper, even if they take a bit more prep work. Take a great big salad with some good protein, healthy fats and a variety of toppings…and contrast that with a diet shake. Which one's going to keep you full and going longer? Which one's going to taste better and will your body find more satisfying? Which one is adding true nutritional value to your diet, improving your immune system and your overall health?
Hint: it's not the diet shake. If it were, we wouldn't have had the last 25 years of watching Oprah gain and lose weight to learn from and for comedians to make jokes about.
Finding that balance and choosing to make changes, not just for immediate weight-loss but for a healthier life, is a lifelong battle. I know there are ways I could lose weight more quickly than I am – diet drinks, pills, skipping meals, longer exercise sessions – but I know those aren't health encouraging choices. They're also not choices that are going to last, and they're choices that will come back to cause me harm and more frustration in the future.
This week, I want to know:
What is a realistic goal for you? Do you have any landmarks in your weight-loss journey? And with five weeks to go, what is one lasting change you're hoping to gain from this Meltdown?