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Posts Tagged ‘emotional eating’

body of truthI’ve decided I’m going to make reading this book a once-a-year activity. Body of Truth is just that helpful. When I read it a year ago before it was even published, I dog-eared pages as I devoured it in just a day or two. I made my husband read it. THIS, this, is what everyone needs to know. I read it again this week in a day, dog-eared more pages, and considered making my husband read it again.

Read my review of the book on Rated Reads.

Now, I was able to keep my review to a reasonable length, but I’m going to write more about the insights I gained by reading Harriet Brown’s book. And I’ll have to split up the info into a few posts so it won’t get weighed down (ha ha). Today I’m just going to address the damage that is done by dieting. And let me tell you, that is one of the takeaways of this book that has me the most furious.

I never considered myself a dieter until the past 7 years or so. I noticed myself gaining when I was nearing 40. But I had actually dieted when I was about 12 by reducing a bit what I ate and not eating desserts. I didn’t keep track of pounds, just slimmed a little of “baby fat,” you could say. And then each time after my three pregnancies I breast-fed, counted calories (stuck to 1800 or so), and kept up my regular exercise. I got back down and a little bit more and was looking nicely trim at 33. I kept it up until, yeah, almost the 40s. Then I saw 10 pounds creep on and got a bit panicked (ha!). Then I happened to move to a new state and put on another 10 pounds, then another 10, then another 10. All of a sudden, I was a lot heavier and was feeling much different than I had before as generally an average-weight, trim-ish person. I dieted first by just really counting calories (and going hungry often) and lost 30, but it only held for a year or maybe two. It came back on, and then I started looking at other options. I did the hCG diet (yes, I know, I never DREAMED I’d be the person to do something drastic like that), but it worked and I at least lost almost 20 pounds and felt a lot better really quickly. That crept back on, and I did it again a year or so later. A couple of years ago, my best friend started doing Atkins, so I tried it. It worked and I did well enough to lose maybe 20 or 25 pounds and feel it was worth the work and sacrifice. My daughter got married, then, last year, and all bets were off. I ate, and I ate, and I ate. I was depressed and stressed and just went straight to food. And what do you know, I am now by far the heaviest I’ve ever been. I went back on Atkins for a few weeks in the fall, then something crazy happened, and then I went back on it this last month, then my grandma died. And I am 20 pounds heavier than my heaviest weight ever before.

So not counting the post-pregnancy “getting back to pre-pregnancy weight” work, I have dieted, lost and gained, at least four main times, plus a few more little times, in the past 8 years. I have been successful. I have been tough. I have focused. And then I’ve either gone back to semi-normal eating (not being hungry) and gained back, or I’ve had some eat-a-lot periods. And what do you know, I’m completely normal. Studies show very low rates of “long-term” success, which is at most watched over 5 years, and almost nothing for rates past that time period (3 years is really even the limit of most “long-term” studies). Evidence also shows that not only do people who diet tend to gain back what they lost, but they gain more on top of that.

So if I had never dieted, I’d most likely just be at my previous “heaviest,” but not the 20 pounds more than that that I am now. I might even be 10 or more pounds below that. And I’d have saved myself a lot of unnecessary work, focus and energy that could have gone to something more productive. I don’t know if you’ve been in this situation or not (likelihood is many of you have been), but this realization absolutely OUTRAGES me.

Brown writes this:

(An) oft-repeated lie about weight and health is that dieting makes us thinner and healthier. At the very least, we consider dieting benign, something that can’t hurt us even if it doesn’t really help. But the truth is, dieting is actually harmful for many of us for all sorts of reasons. And it doesn’t make most of us thinner or healthier. On the contrary.

And she says this: a 2007 investigation (as one example) confirmed that diets don’t work. “The mind-boggling element here is that we’ve known diets don’t work for a long time, and so has the medical establishment.” But still society at large, doctors, individuals … we all think they can work if people just are motivated enough, have enough willpower, work hard enough. And that big fat lie is causing us health problems. Just think: doctors who are all encouraging patients to lose weight may very well be making their patients’ health problems WORSE.

Here are some sobering points Brown tells us:

  • “Dieting nearly always makes people heavier over time. In one study of Finnish twins, the more diets people went on, the higher their risk of becoming overweight and the faster they gained weight later in life.”
  • “Dieters tend to have higher levels of cortisol, sometimes called ‘the stress hormone,’ and free fatty acids, and dieters tend to exhibit diminished executive function, (‘strained bandwidth’), maybe because using so much mental energy thinking, worrying, and negotiating about food choices leaves them too distracted to think about much else” — which in turn actually causes us to gain more weight.
  • Dieting actually has been shown in studies to lead to binge eating. It’s not just psychological, either; physiology on various levels causes us to eat more after dieting, reversing all our work (brain circuitry even changes!).
  • ”An ever-growing body of research suggests that weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting, correlates with higher levels of heart disease, impaired immune function, cardiometabolic risk, insulin resistance, triglycerides, hypertension, and abdominal fat accumulation.”
  • Studies have “found correlations between weight cycling and disordered eating, higher stress, lower well-being, and less confidence about food and eating. In other words, the more loops of the yo-yo you go around, the worse you feel about your weight, your eating, your very self.”
  • Each loop of the cycle then is harder. It’s tougher to drop the weight every go-round. Dieting changes metabolism. “People who have intentionally lost weight generally use about 15 percent fewer calories than non-dieters to perform exactly the same activities, which means they gain weight eating fewer calories than non-dieters.” As one research professor told Brown, “We know there’s some sort of derangement of the metabolic pathways, and that has a cascade effect on everything from the hormones involved with obesity to hunger.”

So people who feel fat or have been told they’re fat and need to lose weight feel “incredible shame.” Our whole culture reinforces that. Doctors reinforce that. And it’s not helping anyone. It’s not helping health; it’s not making anyone motivated; it’s not making us feel good; it’s a wicked prejudice that is still allowed. Feeling the outrage yet?

In the next few blog posts, I’ll focus on some of these last ideas and more.

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As much as I am striving to live a life less focused on appearance (mine or anyone else’s), I am finding myself in a position where I absolutely must diet. And yes, I’d like to look better. Argh. That’s out there. But I have some reasons for losing weight that go beyond how I look. One is just sheer expedience: my weight is the highest it’s ever been (by 15 pounds) and I have 1 pair of pants to wear. I’d really like to get back to wearing my clothes, and I’m just shooting for the larger sizes to begin with.

Then there’s health. I know that my emotional eating of too much sugar is simply bad for me. It’s bad for my cholesterol, which is a family history issue, and it’s bad for other facets of my health. As I get older and my children get older, it strikes me that I’d really like to be sure to be around for all the good stuff that’s coming: more graduations, more marriages, grandchildren. I’ve invested my whole self in parenting, and those joyous events that happen later on down the line are the icing on the cake (do we have metaphors that don’t involve sweets?).

I also know I just feel better all-around when I’m eating a healthier diet. It’s nice to have more energy and to not feel bloated.

my plan for weight lossBut since many diets fail in the long term, my goal right now is to work on the whole me, not just a number on a scale. After my oldest daughter’s wedding last year, I fell into a bit of a depression. I was grieving her “loss” (much as it was joyous and we gained so much, it really was a loss for her to move out permanently and to be “someone else’s” now too). With other things that were going on in my life, it was simply easiest to fall back into well-entrenched habits of eating to soothe myself. Now, I am going to work on more effective ways of really taking care of me. I plan to write in my journal regularly (lost that habit a long time ago: thanks, parenting), try some new fun physical activities and even make my weight loss a matter of prayer. I might even include some help from 12-step programs.

I’m excited about getting into this. I’m also scared and nervous. It’s beyond difficult to drop a habit that could even be called an addiction. But this has to happen. Wish me luck.

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Today is the anniversary of my father’s death — officially (he was on life support for a day or two and then “declared dead”). I think he was really gone very late on the 13th or early the 14th. His brain experienced two big hemorrhages and I’m sure it was really “over” fairly soon. I clearly remember the moment at 9 p.m. that day that I got the call he was unconscious. I know I went into shock myself: I sat down on the couch and was just stiff, cold and shaking.

I was not at all prepared for him to die. He was only 71, and he had worked ridiculously hard (we joked with him that he worked TOO hard) to keep himself healthy by eating well and exercising. I thought for sure he’d be around a good long while. The shock of that unexpected loss took a long while to shake off.

Six years later, I’m accustomed to his being gone. When I think of him, I don’t experience a painful stab in my chest as I did for a long while. Now it’s just a small pang of longing, much less painful. It hits in the same place, right in my heart, but the wound is no longer a gaping hole. It’s scabbed over, enough so that no one else even knows it’s there, I’m sure.

This year brought me another unexpected loss. I saw the loss coming, so I guess saying the loss itself was unexpected isn’t accurate: the grieving period I went through was what took me by surprise. Because who really thinks about the notion of mourning for a beloved child who has grown up and flown from the nest?

My firstborn got married, to an incredible young man who’s just about as incredible as she is. I was thrilled about the union (once I processed the notion of her being married pretty young, which I hadn’t seen coming either, but that’s another story. The very short version: she found a wonderful person, we love him, we love them, and it was right. Plans/expectations are one thing, but life always throws interesting curve balls.).

To say the period of engagement/wedding planning was stressful is almost a cliche. Very few people say their engagements were breezy and stress-free, and, yeah, it was busy and had its bumpy moments. Bringing two families together, planning, coordinating, … it can be tough. But all through it, you know you have this amazing day to look forward to. The reward’s huge. And the wedding day and reception were beautiful, sweet, poignant, fun, full of love and friends and family celebrating together. It was a wonderful memory.

I was thinking I’d need some “recovery” time afterward to wind down from the stress of preparation. It didn’t go quite as I’d hoped, because then my girls were all home from school for the summer and I had precious little time to myself. And my personality, my particular mix of needs, requires a certain amount of alone time, to just process the rest of life, to take a breath.

As it turns out, I realized a month or two ago, I was mourning all summer. But I didn’t really recognize it as such because it wasn’t as clear-cut a “grieving situation” as, say, my dad’s death, and my younger kids kept me so crazy all summer I didn’t get to really think much and just let everything go through my brain, my emotions, my self.

One day in the middle of the summer, I did have a moment where it struck me that I felt the loss of my daughter almost as a death. It was just one day, one morning. We hadn’t seen her in a week or more, hadn’t really had any quality time with her (she lives with her husband about a 45-minute drive away from us, and they live next door to his parents, so they get to be with his family all the time and we make a lot of trips up there to see her; as time has gone on, I’ve been able to decrease the number and frequency of trips a bit so it doesn’t seem like we’re there all the time). And I just said to my husband, “I feel like she’s dead. She’s gone. How strange. It feels like I feel with Dad.” It was so clearly a loss, and it hit me square in the chest, same thing. We saw her the next day, I think, and my husband and I ended up taking her and our 13-year-old to lunch at a salad place, and that one hour being our “old” selves in a familiar environment “like we used to be” before it all changed so much made that feeling go away, or at least recede into the background for a while.

Nearly five months after the wedding, I’m starting to feel a little more myself again. When you’re in mourning, you’re a reduced version of yourself, parts shuttered, shut down, the world seeming a little dimmer. I’ve felt the world brighten up again, I think, and I’m coming back into my own. I was sad for a few months. One consequence, in my arsenal of bad habits, was that I just ate. And ate. I went through quart after quart of ice cream. I must have gained 15 to 20 pounds over the summer. I was swallowing the pain. That last consequence I’m dealing with right now, and making progress: I put myself on a low-carb diet. I was just feeling physically cruddy, and I know all the sugar I was eating was making me feel even cloudier than the grief was. A week and a half in, I’m feeling clearer and physically much better. It’s a gift I’m giving myself: to take care of my body.

So life brings grief in various ways. Death is an “obvious” vehicle for it. But we must mourn all kinds of losses. I’m reminded occasionally, with my 17-year-old, that I mourned the loss of a “normal” child when she was born because of her Down syndrome. There are days that remind me she’s not like the “typical” teen at this stage: she’s not going to be driving (not anytime soon, for sure), she can’t babysit. We have to check on her personal hygiene sometimes, and we have to remind her about appropriate behavior around other people. It’s a loss, and I am reminded more of that now because our family dynamics have changed so much since our oldest got married and moved out.

The reality is we need to be gentle with ourselves when we mourn any loss, and realize that we have to take time to grieve. We must move through it. We also need to realize that others are mourning losses as well that may not be visible to us. Be sensitive to anyone’s mourning periods of any loss. They may breeze through the period of mourning, or they may slog through. I felt “weak” somehow this whole summer because I just wasn’t myself. I felt silly because so many of my friends had children leaving the nest, whether it was for college or for church mission opportunities or some through marriage. They all seemed to be just fine. Why wasn’t I? The truth of the matter is that it didn’t matter how other people fared, when it came to my own feelings. I had to be respectful of how I felt and how I had to work through it. I hope it makes me more sensitive to others through whatever losses they’re grieving.

Life is beautiful. It is bittersweet. It is a hodgepodge of opposites: highs and lows, gains and losses. Despite the pain of grieving, I’m grateful to be on this grand adventure.

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It occurred to me yesterday that I don’t have to use “fat” as an adjective for myself. No one does. It’s another label, and while labels are necessary for products on a shelf, they are dangerous for people. (How about this?: “CAUTION: This label is toxic for your emotional health.”)

caution label

We don’t say someone “is cancerous,” just that they “have cancer.” We are striving to say someone “has Down syndrome” (or some other disability) rather than “is a Down syndrome person.” Because that label does not by any stretch describe the whole person.

So I am not fat. I have fat on my body. Right now, I have more fat than I’d like to, because I’m uncomfortable, and part of the reason I have more fat than I’d like is that I’ve been resorting to emotional eating for a few months, and the quality of some of those foods (sugary) is making my cholesterol a bit higher than I’d like. And those are the facts.

The problem with words is that they often become loaded with associated meanings that weigh them down far more than their original, “true” meaning. Some words even become so weighed down with other associations that they change meaning entirely. This happened with the word “gay.” No longer do we even use that to mean “happy or lively.” We only use it to portray someone as homosexual.

What meanings have become tied to the word “fat”? I’d like to offer these: ugly, disgusting, lazy, shameful, embarrassing, gluttonous, gross. I’m sure you can come up with many more, and they’re all negative. What’s happened is that there is a stigma attached to the word “fat,” and that stigma, rather than “helping” obese people to get healthier through diet and/or exercise, etc. (and that’s a WHOLE OTHER topic entirely), is actually hurting us all. The stigma, the shame and embarrassment of being labeled “fat,” is actually making it even harder for those who would like to make a change in their health to start an exercise program or change a few bad habits in their diets. Shame doesn’t motivate very well or for very long. Researchers Lexie and Lindsay Kite at Beauty Redefined put it this way:

(R)ampant self-loathing, which can be partially attributed to women’s self-comparisons to unrealistic and unattainable body ideals in mass media, may very well encourage women to give up on achieving healthy body weights altogether due to the perception that “healthy” or “average” is unreachable. Studies help to confirm this idea.

It’s actually true that the better you feel about your (whole) self — including your body — the more motivated you are to take care of it in every way. But if you feel shame and all those bad words associated in our culture with “fat,” the less motivated you will be to take care of yourself.

So can we shift the stigma, remove it altogether? Can we snip the associations tied to the word “fat”? It’s going to take some hard work on everyone’s part, but it is possible. Because what we’re “doing” right now — shaming the majority of our population that’s deemed to be overweight — isn’t working. It isn’t working to make anyone feel good about themselves and it isn’t working to get more people exercising, which is truly the goal. Losing weight isn’t really the “magic bullet” we think it is, but more and more we’re learning that being fit is what really counts.

Let’s take the first step toward a healthier and happier society and cut the “fat” talk right now.

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Ever had a problem; been frustrated, angry or a little depressed; felt stuck? Ever had someone tell you, “Well, if you just did this ______, you’d be fine?”

I’ve had people say that to me. And it shuts me up. It doesn’t help me, but it stops me from talking to those people. I don’t know if I’ve ever said it to someone else; I hope I haven’t. I know I’ve thought it. But at least for a long while now, I’ve known better than to say it out loud. And I’ve tried to remind myself of the truth:

Any one of us can have problems and challenges that, compared with someone else, somewhere, can look tiny, easily surmountable. Sometimes it’s helpful to realize others have it worse. If we look at our lives with appreciation and gratitude for the good things we have, it can help. But usually, trying to tell ourselves logically (or have someone else “helpfully” do so) that our problems shouldn’t be such a big deal does squat for our feelings.

Here’s why: we are allowed to feel how we feel. We’re meant to feel. We’re meant to have feelings in response to life situations, whether they’re kind of everyday things or unusual things. We’re meant to have all kinds of feelings all over the spectrum of emotion. And those feelings include “bad” ones. We’re meant to just feel those feelings. And what usually happens is once we allow ourselves to feel them, really feel them, we can move on to other feelings about other life events.

The problem is when we stunt that natural process by telling ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling “so bad” or by having someone else tell us so. It stops us from moving through the feelings, talking or thinking through the ideas and emotions.

Same applies to things we could or should be doing or doing better, not just what we’re feeling. Likely we’re comparing something we’re just naturally not so good at with something that really is easy for someone else, so we feel inadequate. Or we could compare something that’s easy for us with something someone else finds more challenging. And we say those dreaded words: “Just do ___.”

We all not only have a complex mix of weaknesses, strengths, natural talents and acquired skills, but we are at different stages in life. Something that was hard for us 20 years ago might be much easier now. Ditto for those around us. And something that was easy for us a year ago might be harder now because our circumstances are more challenging in other areas or we’re struggling with events that are zapping our emotional strength.

For me, I’m finding that I am feeling a general sadness in one layer of myself/my life because my oldest daughter got married a few weeks ago and moved out. But I hate to say anything to anyone because it just “seems silly.” She lives only an hour’s drive away and we can talk and visit. Every other parent my age has already had children go off to college or serve as missionaries for our church, during which time they’re gone for a solid 18 or 24 months and only generally in contact via email or letter once a week. So I feel ridiculous saying out loud that I’m grieving a little over the “loss” in a way of my first, amazing child. But it does make me sad she’s not around all the time anymore. I miss the daily interaction and talks and jokes and hugs and smiles and everything that was our relationship while I was raising her. Things are changing, have changed. It’s real to me. But I don’t want to say anything to anyone else for fear of being compared, of essentially having my feelings belittled because their “loss” is bigger. Their child is across the country or across the world … or something “bigger.”

I also find that I feel down on myself because I have generally been doing well with eating healthy, cutting out sugar and a lot of carbs, this past 10 months or so. But the past month, since right before my daughter’s wedding and since, I just haven’t had it in me to “diet” properly. I’ve been eating junk, and lots of it, and I feel physically yucky. I feel bad because I had done so well. But I also realize that circumstances are different: I’m “recovering” from all the work and stress of preparing for my daughter’s wedding; my kids are now out of school for the summer and my “alone time” is a lot less; I’m adjusting to the change of our family dynamics, and I’m trying to “play catch-up” for some work and things that got put on hold with all I did for the wedding (because I am not just an awesome mom but very capable in planning things and organizing, and the wedding was awesome too). In short, it takes a lot of work for ME to eat well. And even though I feel yucky physically and would really like to feel better, I have to have the emotional and mental energy to focus on taking care of myself, truly properly. Others might say (and heaven knows plenty of “professionals” and bloggers say) “just do it.” Just stop eating sweets. Just stop emotional eating. Right now, for me, it’s akin to saying, “Just stop smoking. It’s so easy.” I’ve never smoked, but I have certainly heard how hard it is to stop.

I’m trying to allow myself to feel, to validate my own feelings. I’m talking to a few trusted friends who are kind enough to listen and validate as well. I’m also trying to allow myself not to take it too hard that I’ve gained a few pounds and am having a hard time with the junk food. Because I also know that I’ll be fine soon enough and will get back to where I should be. If I’m not there at this very moment, today, it’s OK. I will be soon. And that’ll be OK.

In short, I’m giving myself permission to feel, to not be “my best.” And I strive to do that for others. When they talk about feelings or issues they’re struggling with, I know that even if they sound “easy” for me, they’re not easy for them. I nod, I listen, I hug. I say, to them and to myself, “That is hard. I’m sorry you’re going through that. I love you and care about you.” And it’s true, and that’s really all it takes.

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So I’ve been following the Atkins diet for two months. I wrote in a previous post about how I’ve realized how much I rely on carbohydrates for my regular diet, and how it’s clear I need to reduce my intake for a variety of solid health reasons. Despite how much I do adore bread (whole grain, mind you) and sweets (well, there’s no way to make that sound wholesome, sadly…), I found that I haven’t done too badly adhering to the Atkins diet phase 1. I lost about 10 pounds over the course of almost two months and felt pretty good. It’s possible I even avoided catching a cold thanks to my eating habits (my husband and oldest daughter were sick during that time).

I even managed to go on a cross-country trip for a week and stay on the diet. Yay, me!

My best friend, whose own experience with Atkins gave me a push to try it myself, told me that she’s “taken breaks” from it for short periods of time when she’s gone on vacation or had some other need to do so. I figured I could last through to Thanksgiving and maybe even skip all the carbs during that gluttonous feast and last all the way to Christmas on Atkins phase 1. Hey, if I can make it through a trip, I can make it through anything!

Well, shoot. Not so much.

I got back from my trip, during which I was premenstrual but not too crave-y (surprisingly), and then had my period, which is also a tricky time for dieting. I’d weathered it the previous month and knew I wouldn’t see any decrease in weight for a solid week or more. But I gained a little that week and then waited and waited for my weight to drop a few days past that lovely time of the month. And that scale did not budge.

At the same time, life got (or, rather, stayed) hectic. I’ve had a whole lot on my plate this past month activity- and obligation-wise if not table-wise, and careful dieting is work. It’s work for Atkins because I have to carefully count my carbs and track on my iPad app everything I eat. It’s also extra work because I’ve been cooking a lot of different things for myself than I fix for my family. Finally, with all my obligations and responsibilities, with all the work on the diet, with all of everything in my life (including a hormonal 16-year-old with Down syndrome, which is a topic for another post entirely, but a great stressor, let me tell ya), combined with the lack of satisfaction gained by stepping on the scale and seeing a lower number on a regular basis, I cracked.

A few nights ago, I came home from a workout (hoping it would help me relieve some nervous energy) still exhausted and frustrated, and I sat down and burst out crying, my thoughts and frustrations spilling out in waves to my husband, who wisely sat and listened. I went over everything that I have to do, went over in meticulous detail the ways I’ve been so “good” in my dieting. Even during traveling! I mean, that should earn me extra points, shouldn’t it? But my scale didn’t get the message. I was absolutely ready for a short break from the diet.

Here’s where it just shows the state of mind of a busy mom who’s dieting: I spun in circles articulating aloud to my husband all the things I’d been thinking for days. I told him all my emotions (fear being the predominant one: fear of regaining weight, fear of losing control, fear of losing all that I’d worked so hard to win) and logical reasons for and against taking the “break” for a few days from the diet. Logically, it made some sense because it would free me from worrying about details of my eating habits for a few days until I got past a big responsibility I have tomorrow. It also made sense from my own dieting history because I’d seen how upping my caloric intake or something similar and then going back to reducing it or going back to the more limited diet would give my metabolism a little kick. It helps to mix things up a bit and “confuse” my system. I’ve read about that and experienced it myself. The main problem? Thanksgiving. It’s a mere two weeks away. What’s my state of mind going to be for the holiday where we generally consume turkey and tons of carbs? I can’t “take a break” for a few days, go back to Atkins phase 1 for 10 days, and “take a break” again for a couple of days. It just doesn’t make sense. And I didn’t want to “take a break” for a solid 2 1/2 weeks. But it was pretty much down to either of those two options.

After literally two hours (or more) of talking it over out loud with my husband and absolutely agonizing about it, being frozen with fear, I finally decided to go with the latter option. A longer break it will have to be. And it’s relieved the pressure on me considerably, just making one change in my overall busy life. I feel confident I’ll get back to the rigorous diet in two weeks and continue to take care of myself for the long haul. Because that’s what this is about: it’s truly about the long haul, about reducing my cholesterol levels for the rest of my life (!) by eating fewer grains and sweets. Of course, in the short term, I’d like to see “results” in the way of weight loss, and that’s a powerful motivator when you’re eating a fairly strict diet. You want to SEE something HAPPENING. When it does, you’re good. When it doesn’t, you don’t feel so pumped about the restrictions.

I imagine this is a fine diet plan, but the author's assertion at the beginning turned me off. If he wants more real people to lose weight and have better blood sugar, he'd better understand his patients better.

I imagine this is a fine diet plan, but the author’s assertion at the beginning turned me off. If he wants more real people to lose weight and have better blood sugar, he needs to understand his patients better.

I remember checking out the book The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman from the library and never getting time before it was due to read much but the first 20 pages or so. But his assertion that it’s just “as easy as” starting his proscribed diet struck me as utter hogwash. He said, in essence, the conventional wisdom is that one must be “psychologically ready” to start a diet, but he doesn’t think that is true at all: what’s true is that since most of us are physiologically addicted to sugar, once we just start his diet and get going, we’ll break that addiction and all be hunky-dory.

Nope. False. Absolutely false. It might be true for some people, but I think for many of us, we really, really, truly do need to have a whole set of variables in place to be able to successfully diet. We do need to be emotionally ready. I could say I was solidly un-hooked from sugar after two months on phase 1 of Atkins, but emotionally, I still had plenty of connections to sugar and foods in general. And those don’t go away too easily like the physiological addiction.

Most of my variables are in place to get back to the strict phase 1 of Atkins in a couple of weeks, and I feel confident that doing it for maybe 6 more months total will probably be a good choice for me, after which I’ll eat a diet that contains fruits and occasional grains to maintain my better health. For today, I’m eating a little bread. And that’s OK.

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I love carbohydrates. I absolutely adore them: breads, pasta, starchy veggies, fresh fruits and, yeah, refined sugar. I’ve always known that white sugar (and, well, brown, that amazing kind that not only tastes good as part of a streusel topping or a cookie but entertainingly can hold its shape like a sand castle …) is bad for me. But it’s been, honestly, my one vice. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I do eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, but I indulge overmuch in baked goods and ice cream.

I was raised, though, with the belief that whole grains were a no-brainer. They were, undoubtedly, good for me. My church has always taught its members to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities (natural disasters, emergencies, job loss) by storing food and other necessities, so my parents stored wheat, among other basic items, and I always have since I’ve been on my own. I own a wheat grinder, same as my mom, and we both grind our wheat and bake all kinds of things with our freshly-ground whole-wheat flour. Sounds delightfully down-to-earth and wholesome, doesn’t it?

So not only do I love carbs, I love to create carb-loaded goodies: homemade whole-wheat bread, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cakes, even from-scratch pasta. I enjoy cooking with fresh wholesome ingredients.

My life has been SUSTAINED BY CARBS.

Come to find out that carbs are not just making me heavy as I’ve reached middle age, they’re very likely the cause of my slightly-too-high cholesterol levels. My dad had always had slightly-high cholesterol levels, too, and he was a fanatic about eating healthy and only eating healthy fats and lean meats and fish and nuts with Omega-whatevers. He exercised. He was too thin, really, for most of his adult life. But darn it if those cholesterol levels weren’t low enough. What the heck? Why?

Now the food-and-health trends are leaning towards showing how carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, are doing us all in. I mean, yeah, we’ve always known that refined sugar isn’t good for us. But the idea that it could impact cholesterol levels, for just one thing, didn’t occur to most of us, after the low-fat trends of the previous decade or two.

I wouldn’t have believed it myself except for battling the cholesterol tests every other year or so. Then this year I happened to be on a good diet where I was drinking healthy shakes for some meals and watching carefully the amounts of sugars and carbs I did eat. And lo and behold, I happened to go in for my yearly lab work during that time. When I sat down with my doctor after the results came in, she was astonished. My levels had gone down from about 220 total to 170 or so. I have to say, I was equally amazed. But putting two and two together and then doing some more reading and trying-out of diets, I have come to appreciate that my body needs fewer carbs. DARN IT!

Like I said, I’ve generally eaten pretty healthy. I love to eat a very varied diet, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, all kinds of recipes and styles of cooking, various ethnic foods, etc. I’ve never indulged much in soft drinks; my parents allowed us one small soft drink once a week and that was it. I have never had a soda-pop habit. Ever. Drink my calories? No thanks. I love water. And yeah, I’ve felt a distinct disdain for parents who have given their toddlers soda, even with caffeine. Crazy. I would NEVER have done that to my kids. I’ve seen people with all kinds of horrible diet habits, who eat processed food and fast food like it’s the only kind of nourishment that exists; people who wouldn’t know healthy food if it bit them. And I’ve judged. Yes. I have.

I have felt a little pride in my good eating habits, in my whole grains and vegetables and fruits. I don’t have to make drastic changes. I just have to try to cut back on my sweet tooth. Not a big deal, right?

Now that I’ve realized how sugar is impacting my cholesterol, I feel like the rules have changed. I never saw this coming.

So I decided perhaps Atkins might be a good way to do some changing. And a month in, being on Phase 1 of the program, with no grains and having to count net carbs even in vegetables, for pity’s sake!, I’ve lost 6 pounds and am feeling fine but am starting to really, really want some grains. Bread! Cookies! Rolls! They are calling my name from the kitchen, from the huge canisters of flour that sit on my countertops.

I never thought whole grains, whole wheat in particular, would ever possibly be the bad guy. Just changing that one aspect of my diet seems like a sea change, one I don’t know if I’m prepared to make permanently. It’s devastating! If it’s that hard for me to just change this part of my eating habits, how in the world do people change their entire diets when they’re really eating a ton of stuff that’s bad for their bodies? Disdain aside, I’m feeling more affinity for them.

Atkins it is for me right now. I’m also prone to emotional eating and less motivation during hormonal times of the month, so it’s been a little tough the past week. I’m giving it another week to see if I swing back to being just fine with this trial of Atkins. If I don’t think it’s just the right fit, I might look into Paleo. Or I might just see about not doing an official diet but just trimming my diet down to a very minimal amount of grains but still some.

I’m just in the early stages of a sea change. We’ll see how well I can swim … or surf … or captain my eating-habits boat.

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