The second 25 pounds

21 12 2015

In April of 2009 I started seeing spots. I bought an electronic home blood pressure cuff and came in at 190/110.  I called the doctor.  They got me in right away.  My weight was the highest I had ever seen on the scale.  My blood sugar was high.  I was a mess.  Over the next year, the doctors ramped up the meds and got me a sleep test and CPAP for apnea.

A year later, my medical stats were improving – but still not great.  I was teaching 2/3 time (each) at three different schools.  My feet were so swollen that I could only wear wide width plastic Crocs. I was miserable, but too tired and stressed to do much about it.

In 2012 I finally made serious efforts to increase my fitness level. I was diagnosed with anemia which helped – knowing there was a medical reason for my exhaustion.  I went down to one full-time job, working online, and quit the classroom jobs.  I had surgery on a fibroid to correct the anemia. I spent a month in Florida walking the beach and reflecting. I started meditating. By the fall of 2014 I was down 25 pounds from my highest weight, I could fit in normal width shoes, and my stress levels had vastly improved.

Until the fall of 2015.  When all of the numbers started to go up again.  And, my doctor gave me the sad face again.  And I realized, it’s time.

I had historically been opposed to calorie counting for two reasons (1) I have an advanced degree in physiology and I know that a calorie is more than a calorie – it’s beyond simple thermodynamics and (2) I am extremely competitive with myself and I’d landed myself in the hospital twice in my 20’s with eating disorder crazy-diet related problems.

But, I didn’t know what else to try – so, I downloaded a calorie counting app (Lose It), and bought a Fitbit Charge HR and Aria scale.  I read a couple of excellent books – Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss and Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. I read up on BMR and the dangers and limitations of very low-calorie diets, and set my calories consumed to 100 above my BMR, which – given my weight – gave me an extensive calorie cushion between my burned and consumed calories.  Still, the first few weeks were discouraging.  I hovered within five pounds – up and down.  But, I was in it for the long haul so I kept going.  A month in, I researched sugar and salt recommendations.  My graduate work was in renal salt regulation so I knew that with functional kidneys, salt wasn’t a major player.  I was wrong – or, maybe my kidneys weren’t as functional as I thought.  Once I set and started adhering to salt and sugar goals, my body finally started kicking off pounds.  And, my salt and sugar goals weren’t even aggressive – they were 1.5 times the RDA.

In time, my taste buds started to change.  Concentrated sugar started to give me a headache and a crash. Food started tasting all around more flavorful.  This wasn’t always good.  I stopped eating much salad because I couldn’t stand the bitterness of the spinach and broccoli – things that had never bothered me in the past. Turkey sandwiches on wheat bread with mustard became my new standard.  Pears, which had always been a favorite, became almost too sweet. Cinnamon-Raisin English muffins became more appealing than brownies.  It didn’t happen overnight, I noticed the change gradually, over a few weeks. A cup of no-sugar-added cocoa became more than enough to calm the chocolate cravings. Food tasted good, but I pretty much stopped craving anything particular.  I was getting enough real, natural, food and plenty of variety, and my body stopped obsessing over whatever it had been obsessing over at the cellular and neurotransmitter level for so many years.  My cells were okay with what I was doing so they started to play along.

When it comes to counting calories, there are a wide range of pro and con opinions – even experts don’t always agree.  But, the general consensus is that food packaging counts, and whole natural packages (apples) are always better than processed packages (apple juice). What counting calories does best is increase awareness.  Day 1 of counting calories I realized the tortilla wrap I used to make my lunch was 210 calories whereas two slices of wheat bread totaled 120.  No more tortillas. A pumpkin donut was 220 calories – fine – but nearly my whole RDA of sugar – not fine. I realized that some things I love – homemade chicken tacos – were both filling and low calorie and I could eat the2015-12-21 08.07.37m as often as I wanted without breaking the calorie bank.  I learned that the more I walked and moved, the more I could eat.  It was mostly common sense – but I had never really thought of it before.

The second 25 pounds took 11 weeks.  I’m now 50 pounds down from my highest weight, and I still have a long road ahead.  There will be plateaus.  There will be setbacks.  But, this is the long haul.  I’m hoping to be back to my college/military weight before I turn 50.  That’s two years out, so it’s a reasonable goal.  Still, even if I don’t make it all the way there – anything I do is better than doing nothing.

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