Letters I Haven't Written Yet

Weight loss adventures – time to start something new

Week 1 – January 18 – 24 2019

(Note: to refer to the introduction to this posting, please scroll down. It’s just below this week 1 update)

Photo Credit Devine Designs

So I really didn’t choose the right day as my first day for the fast. I had to take a very early train into Lausanne and then Geneva to get some tax papers. I was up at 5 and on the train at 6 and wasn’t allowed to eat until noon. Obviously, that early in the morning, you smell the bread being cooked as you’re walking down the street. And also obviously, at that time in the morning, the entire world smelled of butter croissants. Seriously, I thought I was going to fail on the first day, having to pass at least a dozen bakeries between all the places I had to go to. You know that smell I’m talking about …fresh baked bread, butter…Happiness. All good though, I did avoid it, which was a miracle in itself.  But the whole morning while I was running my errands I could not stop thinking about foooood. It was ridiculous. Once 11:30 hit I had one focus, which was to be seated at a table at noon so I could eat exactly when I was allowed to, and not a minute later. 

The next day was even weirder. There was the usual food obsession, and once more watching the clock until I could actually eat, but there was also the random dreams. I don’t remember all of them, but there was one where I was out in the world solving mysteries with Betty White. Honestly, I’m not really sure if that was a dream or a life goal, because realistically, who doesn’t want to be out in the world solving mysteries with Betty White? Has IF shown me my new life path?

For the next few days I was at home, and supposed to be working on my new novel, but in truth I was either obsessing about when I could eat, or else too tired to do much of anything. Plus I’d get hit with some nasty headaches. None of these are particularly positive side effects. But, according to this article, that’s normal and what happens when you start with this kind of a process. I have to admit it kind of sucked, as it screwed up my sleeping patterns and made me feel like an food obsessed psychopath. 

Through this week, every day got easier and easier. I’m a big breakfast person, but in fact I seemed to adapt to not having breakfast and waiting until lunch for my first meal. And it really did get me thinking about my food habits, and why I eat the way I do, and the way I treat myself in general. Here are some lessons from week 1: 

1 – I eat whether I am hungry or not. I know it’s a first world problem, but there you have it. This process really did show me that very often when I eat, no matter the meal, I’m actually not that hungry. I eat because I love the smell of baked goods, because I’m bored, because the food is there, because I’m binge watching Doctor Who. There really doesn’t have to be a logical reason – I just eat, and often at odd hours, which in this case fall in my fasting time.

2 – I’ve developed some nasty habits. I realised I have some terrible food habits, particularly in the morning. I’ve had to commute for years on the train to get to work – so it was always sleep as much as you can, run to the station, pick up a croissant or two on the way, enjoy it peacefully while commuting to start your day. It’s a super tasty way to do it, but in fact perhaps not the best choice, because often I wasn’t even very hungry, it was just this thing I did. Same thing at night. I’m going to take the train, how about a little chocolate bar to munch on while on the journey? Or an ice cream? 

3 – The impact of so many diets has really had a negative toll not just on my body but also on how I relate to food and how I treat myself. As I mentioned in my intro below, I am, like so many others, particularly adept at dieting and failing. I become obsessed with a diet, follow a very specific and often restrictive plan for a while, and then get irritated and drop it. But when I drop it, the effect is a dramatic mess. I lose any good habits I had picked up along the way, as though I was punishing myself for being so strict in the first place by eating like crazy when I drop the diet. So whether I’m on the diet or I give up on it, I force myself to suffer and feel like shit. I hate myself for a while, and then try again with something else. Not really a way to live, or be healthy.

4 – Rules, simple and easy, are the best way to go. Another funny discovery I have made is that while I have no impulse control, I work well with rules that are part of a system that I understand. For example, as I don’t sleep well, I am often up at all hours, and thus am snacking. Which again isn’t super helpful. However, with the no eating between 8pm and noon rule, while I may be roaming around at night because I can’t sleep, I don’t snack because I actually have a rule for it, and it’ll mess up the system. Because I know the reason behind the rule, I’m working harder to follow it. 

5 – Water is my friend. I don’t drink enough of it, and if I don’t pay conscious attention to how much I drink, I don’t drink any. But I always feel better when I do. Hydrated, but also full. This is really something that needs to become a habit. 

I haven’t had a chance to weight myself as I had to go out of town for a few weeks for a work opportunity that came up suddenly, but I do feel less bloated and my jeans are fitting better. I’ll keep at it another week, see if I can stick to it, knowing that next week I think will be more difficult because I will likely have more social activity in the evenings. Let’s see. I’ll keep you posted. 

Introduction – Let’s do this

Photo from the Harvard Health Blog, June 2018

Me, My Big Ass and I

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. I come from a long line of beautifully thin people, where talks of weight loss, various possible interventions, and fat loss retreats were common topics of conversation for as long as I can remember. And not just amongst the women, as one would generally expect. The men in my family are obsessed with it too. On one hand, it’s amazing, as there’s no shaming or fear when it comes to talking about weight loss, the difficulties around it, or potential ways to get help. That was always easy to talk about. The problem was that it was talked about all the time. And it was always one of the first topics of conversation when someone saw you, or pretty quick after how are you.

Of course nothing was meant to be mean, or unkind. But it is what I understood when the questions were asked, as it is always difficult to have those discussions when you look in the mirror and find yourself wanting. You can just imagine how those conversations went, and the impact all of this has had on me to this day. I’m not here to blame though, or to shout accusations. That’s not the point of this. The point of this is to find a solution, to feel better, to feel healthy, and not feel down about any of this, anymore. And to do that, it’s time to do something about it, consciously, but seriously.

Looking back, I’ve always been one of those people whose weight has yo-yoed up and down. Much of that was linked to a terrible habit, one that hold so many of us hostage. In my case, it’s a habit that started fairly young, though not as young as most. The summer before university, I started to smoke. And of course, whenever I was smoking, I wasn’t particularly hungry. Most people around me smoked too, so it was easy. Of course, me being me, I wasn’t one of those people who smoked few cigarettes day. I went from 2 cigarettes to a pack in 10 seconds flat. At my peak, I was at 2-3 packs a day (in case you were curious, it was basically chain smoking, and it was gross). So of course I wasn’t eating, I was too busy smoking. On and off in that time, for over 15 years, I’d try to reduce, or to stop, because as much as I liked it, of course I knew it was bad. Whenever I did, unconsciously, I’d eat more, and with it, my weight would shoot up. Then I’d start smoking again, my weight would drop, and off we go again.
When I finally did decide to stop once and for all, I knew that I would put on weight. I planned for it. I figured I would let it happen, and then when I was certain a was really over smoking, I would work on losing the weight. What I didn’t take into account was my own delusion when it comes to how much food I eat, and also how difficult it is to lose weight once you’re in your late 30s. Now in my 40s, it’s a pain in the ass.

Of course I have tried all sorts of crazy diets and exercise programs. And I get very enthusiastic about all of them (I am an optimist by nature, after all). However, enthusiasm doesn’t equal success, and in all cases, these were a disaster. I am the poster child of failed weight loss attempts as well as general blindness about my eating habits. How good I am at lying to myself is unbelievably surprising. So what to do?

Intermittent Fasting – scary but doable?

I’m not one for new years resolutions. In general, I think they’re bullshit. But this year, things really do have to change. My knees hurt. I’m tired all the time, but I don’t sleep properly. I snore like Mr Snuffleupagus, I can barely breathe walking up hill. So perhaps not a resolution per se, but an attempt at some kind of lasting change. And one promise. If I fail, don’t feel bad about it, don’t beat myself up about it. Just try again.
I’d heard about intermittent fasting before. It’s been all the rage for a while now, but I have to admit I like eating too much (and lack the discipline) to actually try it. This year though, I’ve decided that I should give it a try. From what I understand, the main point is this: our bodies need a long enough break between meals for our insulin levels to go down so that our fat cells can release stored sugar, to be used as energy. In theory, we can lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down, and so the idea behind intermittent fasting is that it allows insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat (Harvard Health Blog, 2018).

According to healthline, here are the three most popular methods:

(1) The 16/8 method: Basically eating for a period of 8 hours, and fasting for the other 16.
(2) Eat-Stop-Eat: This is a 24 hour fast, where you have a meal, fast for a full day, then break the fast with the same meal the next day. Generally done once or twice a week.
(3) The 5:2 diet: Consume between 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, and eating normally the other days of the week.

By all accounts, each of these methods have you reduce your calorie intake, and as such should cause weight loss as long as you don’t compensate by eating much more during the eating periods.

I’m going to try the 16/8 method. I’ve been told I should also cut out carbs, fizzy drinks etc. Now while I know all of that is true, if I do everything at once, it will be a failure of epic proportions. There’s just no point in trying it all at once. So in my case, I’m going to try the 16/8 method, accompanied with drinking more water (or in my case, just drinking water will be a revolution). Let’s see how it goes.

For more about it, have a look at Health24, Harvard Health Blog, for starters. There’s a lot out there of course, these are just the beginning. A friend of mine has also suggested reading The Obesity Code. I haven’t read it yet, but considering her story, I think I will.

Let’s see how it goes.

Comments (1)

  • Paula

    Good posts! I’ve tried the intermittent fasting and failed, so I applaud you sticking with it! If you have evenings when you know you are going to be tempted, how about sliding your eating window to accommodate that? It would mean starting to eat later in the day, but then you aren’t busting your diet.
    Allowing yourself a day off to eat a couple of hours longer than usual, and then going back to your schedule, might avoid that obstacle of feeling like you broke your diet one day so why not give up?
    Stay strong, Alnaaze – you got this!

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