Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Food triggers and binge eating

So in this post I said, "After two months of monitoring this, ruminating on it, Googling it, and generally letting it settle into my brain I have been forced to accept that simply saying that late night eating is my real problem is not sufficient to addressing it -- I have to actually not eat."

As they say, acknowledging a problem is the first step. Not the step, right? There's more to it. Next is addressing it. So, let's address my binge eating at night.

Let's start with a confession: I can easily consume 3 or 4 times as much food as a regular person.

Here's some binge eating I regularly do:

  • When I make a meal, especially pasta, I will eat the equivalent of a whole meal out of the pan as I am preparing it, so that I can also eat a semi-large "meal" and make it look like I am eating normally.
  • Sometimes I will make myself two cheese and mayo sandwiches as a "snack" and eat them both in 3 or 4 bites each. (Note that is like a 1000 calories in 3 minutes.)
  • Sometimes I eat so fast that food packs down into my throat because my esophagus can't get it into my stomach as fast as I'm swallowing it -- I'll have to stop and guzzle water to flush the food into my stomach so I can keep eating.
  • If I am really, really hungry when I eat a meal, I eat so fast that I am already eating a second full helping before I even start to feel like I ate at all.
  • I secret-eat. The eating out of the cooking pan as I prepare is secret eating. In general, that is my secret-eat MO: I eat large portions of the food I am preparing for dinner before it ever gets to the plate, and I will follow up with a few bites every time I go into the kitchen during and after the meal, too.
  • With some foods like pasta, chips or crackers, I will eat them until they are gone. I will even try to stop and I can't. I'll be shoveling it in and even though I am thinking, "I have to stop," I just can't make the fork stop going into my mouth. (NOTE: with this one, I am having a lot of success changing, I have been able to stop or avoid all together lately.... gotta keep that track.)
  • Alcohol. Sometimes I will have a glass of wine after work, before dinner, and it kills my appetite. I sometimes end up drinking all night instead of eating, because the calories from alcohol fool your body into thinking you ate. So then one of two things happens: either, I am just destroyed apocalyptic hung over the next day (which is getting harder and harder on me as I get older) or -- maybe worse -- just before bed, I will tell myself I need to eat something so I'm not crazy hung over tomorrow, and because I'm drunk and have no willpower, I eat some marathon like 2000 calories or total garbage then go immediately pass out. 
There. If you didn't already feel you knew too much about me, there's some really ugly stuff.

So, I've done a lot of reading about binge eating disorder and food addiction. I know that am an emotional eater, and I am starting to be able to recognize the triggers. I eat for stress relief and I eat when I'm bored. 

I have this vivid recollection where I got a subpoena delivered to my door by a cop. That's like every trigger in one package. I fear and distrust police officers. I have a near panic attack when someone knocks on my door without calling first. (I normally will not answer the door if I don't know who it is.) And getting a subpoena played out a whole nightmare scenario. Anyway -- I found myself eating directly out of the refrigerator, actually folding a sandwich in half so I could eat it faster. I don't recall going in the kitchen, or starting to eat. 

"Trigger foods" seem to be a big focus of a lot of the info that is out there about binge eating and food addiction. I find that I have more psychological or emotional triggers than any specific foods that cause me to have a binge. There are certain foods that are my go-to foods, but I think they are very common ones because of their fat-carb-reward loop: pasta, bread, chips (really crackers for me more than chips.) Also, these are foods that are easy to consume large portions of very quickly, and produce the proper dopamine effect that most people experience as "food coma." 

Since I have been approaching my diet, fitness and health goals as a whole lifestyle change, I have been experiencing a lot of success dealing with triggers without binge eating. I find that I have to concentrate really hard sometimes, but I can listen to what my body is telling me versus the urge to gobble down everything I can get in my mouth. When I want to go in the kitchen and "grab a snack," I am able to pay attention and determine if I am actually hungry or not. If I am actually hungry, I'll eat something. If I'm not actually hungry (like when I can feel that my belly is full but I'm still planning a meal in my head,) that is when we're in the danger zone.

So what do we do in the danger zone?
  • I start with water. Drink down a nice big glass of water, fast. I get the visceral satisfaction of swallowing a large portion of something. And water filling your belly does satisfy your hunger pangs long enough for your brain to evaluate if you're really hungry or not. It is also a true fact that your brain has a difficult time differentiating between hunger and thirst, so sometimes you really are just thirsty. Luckily, I also love water, it is my #1 favorite beverage, always has been. So I have a lot of success using water to help me get through triggers.
  • Exercise. This one is new for me, and I discovered it organically. (Another thing I had to discover empirically for myself, couldn't just take everyone's word for it...) I'll feel a hunger pang when I know I should not be hungry (like I already ate...) and I'll grab my free weights and do a couple reps. Next thing I know, I've forgotten all about eating. 
  • Try willpower. As my nutritional health is increasing, I find this one to be a lot easier. Sometimes simply telling myself, "I'm not actually hungry, it's just a trigger," actually works. I'm actually not hungry, because I'm eating enough dietary fiber and vegetables that increase my satisfaction with meals, I am not nutritionally starved so these triggers are more readily identified as merely culprits, not legit hunger.
  • Still can't totally stop? Maybe I am actually hungry. Eat something that is not a binge food. Some grapes or other fruit, or a couple spoonfuls of low fat cottage cheese, or one turkey-cheese roll-up. And immediately drink some water and get the f**k out of the kitchen. This one is a last resort. Stopping binge behavior with food is a slippery slope for the obvious reasons.
I'd like to conclude by saying: the best way to overcome eating triggers is SUCCESS. 

Last night I knew I was going to hit my weight loss goal for the week, because I was already there. All I had to do yesterday was not gain anything and I was set to win this morning. -- And I did it. -- One of my biggest triggers is a self-sabotage I've struggled with forever: I get so close to truly making a lasting change in my weight and health and right when I get to the brink, I fail big. And that justifies a binge, or giving up totally, which reinforces the "why do I bother?..." 

So last night, there I was, right on the brink of making my weekly goal. It's just one sleep away, and I'm already there. All I have to do is just maintain. I ate my healthy salad for dinner and some fresh cherries for a snack after. And then.... every time I go in the kitchen, I'm lookin' in the fridge, "I just need a snack." No. I don't. 

And I got through it with willpower -- I just kept my eyes on the prize: I'm at my goal, I'm not gonna fuck that up just so I can shove a meal I don't need down my throat one time. I did compromise with myself, and I ate some cottage cheese about an hour before bed, and that satisfied me. And when I woke up this morning and got on the scale.... and found not only was I at goal, I was 1 lb. below, I was elated. I did it! It seems silly to have felt that proud of myself for such a small thing, but it really was a big thing. I confronted a lifelong self-destructive patterns and won. Not saying the battle is over, but every success makes me feel more and more like I can do it.

Weight-In Wednesday: lost 3 lbs. and big-boy breakfast

I did it! I made my goal for the week, plus a little. (Which is exactly what I said, "I need to be be at goal or a little ahead, instead of playing catch-up the rest of the time. Those little misses add up to big misses.")

This week's weight goal was 280, and as of this morning I am at 279. SWEET -- saw a 7. This means overall I have lost 3 lbs. this week and 11 lbs. overall since May. And that also means that really, I have lost 10 lbs. twice because in the end of June my weight blimped back up to 290. Gonna aim to not let that happen again.

I've discovered something empirically that I could not accept based on the word of others, even everyone:

I need to restrict my calorie intake at night.

I weight myself every day, twice a day. And, nearly every time I am as much as 3 lbs. lighter in the afternoon than I am first thing in the morning. The only times this has not been true were when I consciously stopped myself from eating into the evening and then my weight in the morning is right at, or just barely a sliver under my weight from the previous afternoon.

After two months of monitoring this, ruminating on it, Googling it, and generally letting it settle into my brain I have been forced to accept that simply saying that late night eating is my real problem is not sufficient to addressing it -- I have to actually not eat.

I use Google Fit to track my activity level and my BMR during the day and when I get home from work any given day I am usually at a 600-1000 calorie deficit for the day, which is right on target. For my overall goal, I am working toward being at a 750 calorie deficit every day with exercise calculated as part of it. That will (mathematically at least) allow me to lose 1.5 lbs per week. So then... I plant my ass in front of the TV and start eating. There are days more than 50% of my calories are consumed at home in the evening. And there are plenty of nights I go way over that.

I have found a couple things that help remedy that. Mostly, shifting a lot of my calories to breakfast makes a big difference. And secondarily to that, eating my greasy carbs at lunch (if I want them) seems to neutralize their negatives and maximize their positives. Yes there are positives such as: me being happy because I get to eat a french fry or a fried fish sandwich once in a while, and the calorie-fat-carb blast in the middle of the day keeps me going through the "late day slump." On the regular my lunch is a salad, but if I want crispy fried chicken on top of it, I have it. Or if there is something irresistible like coleslaw. Mmm. I need to be psychologically satisfied with my meals, too.

Oddly enough, I have to face weird reactions to eating a big breakfast. Where I work, we eat our meals together, in the dining room, with the residents (I work in an assisted living / nursing home.) And I often get comments like, "Well that's a big-boy breakfast isn't it?" Or, "Gee, are you hungry?" (To which I always simply say, "Yep.") (Note I could show up at the table with a 1000 calorie LUNCH on my plate and no one would bat an eyelash, but I eat a full plate of food at breakfast and it's a "big boy breakfast.")

My average breakfast runs around 600 calories. I normally have 2 scrambled eggs, gluten free toast, an apple, half a banana and either oatmeal or yogurt (but not both) and if there is bacon -- obviously, it's bacon. Eating a nice, big breakfast gives me energy through the day, makes it so I can eat a much lower calorie lunch (usually I eat a large salad with whatever protein is being served -- chicken or fish, etc.) and I have the balance of the day for my metabolism to actually use the fat calories instead of store them. My mood throughout the day is also higher and more positive if I had a good breakfast, and I am able to handle stress and demanding situations a lot more readily.

So yes. It is a "big-boy breakfast," because I'm a big boy and I have a lot of work to do. I'm working on not reacting emotionally to criticisms of my weight (which is what commenting on the size of a meal really is.) It's easy to knee-jerk to a defensive reaction, but I do try to save those for the deserving (like the asshole who made a shitty comment to me at an ice cream shop -- yeah I told that guy to go fuck himself, "I have an idea: how about you keep your fucking opinion to yourself where it belongs. What? You thought I came here for a salad maybe? So yeah. Fuck off." .... pretty sure is what I said that time.) But in general I am working on using my Zen on people's opinions / reactions to my weigh and fitness goals the way I do with nearly everything else. I'm making progress, but it's slow going.

At any rate, it's a good week. Lost 3 lbs. Met my exercise, activity, and tracking goals, and I am feeling stronger and healthier. I am going to write a separate entry about the night eating and some goal setting surrounding that. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I'm Getting Stronger

Noticed today that my strength training is getting easier. And my form is getting smoother, and my muscles warm up easier. And I'm starting to feel a difference, especially in my chest and arms; can't see it yet, but you will. Combined with walking to work every day, I'm sleeping better and have more energy.  I've kept to my fitness goals for 2 months now, which is like a month and three weeks longer than ever before. #fitnessgoals #strong

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Monthly recap - lost 8 lbs - new goals

Today is two months (61 days) since I started tracking my weight, diet & exercise again. My current weight as of yesterday is 282 lbs., meaning I have lost 8 lbs. That's good. I'll take that. However, based on my goal of losing 1.5 lbs / wk, I am running behind. I should have lost 13 lbs. by now.

Hold up now! No one needs to jump all over me with t-shirt wisdom about accepting my journey or focusing on the positive of losing 8 lbs. I am very pleased to see my weight going down. And I have been walking every day and strength training at least 3x a week, and I can see positive changes in my body and in my health.

In fact, I was ecstatic to see 282 the other day because it is the lowest number I've seen in years, and I was already struggling with not seeming to be able to get below 283. I'd keep getting back down to 283 then seeing a higher number again the very next day. (Yes, I weigh myself every day, I don't care what they say about it.) I had a couple "regressions" this month -- some late night binge eating and some poor meal choices several days in a row and I actually saw my weight go back up to 290 last week, which was the trigger of one of those binge eating nights. (Also had some unwelcome stresses at work that I worked through with a pizza and a gallon of vanilla ice cream...) Then, after a couple days back on track nutritionally, and a little self control, and the scale started going the other way again. But I still kept getting hung up at or near 283, which was a weight I dropped down to very quickly right at the beginning, so it was already the bar so to speak. On weigh-in day this week I was still at that bar, 283. I was so disappointed, almost as much as the day I stepped on and saw that I was all the way back to ground zero at 290. So I weighed myself the next day, with grim expectations and instead got a jolt of happy adrenaline -- "Oh my god! 282!!" Nice. New bar set.

So I've lost 8 lbs. That's just under 1 lb. a week. That's ok. Losing 1-2 lbs. a week is the only realistic long-term pace. But I know I can do better. I can make my goal of 1.5 lbs. a week. I will be at 190 lbs. by my birthday NEXT summer. Losing 100 lbs in 15 months is possible. I will have to make up the 5 lb. deficit somewhere along the way.  It pushes my calculus up to needing to lose 1.6 lbs a week, or I might have another quick weight drop at some point. Or I could do a challenge this coming month and see if I can drop 12 lbs. That would be 2.7 lbs. a week. In those tiny increments it all looks so doable. If I stretched it over 2 months, that would be a fraction over 2 lbs. a week.

Ok that's talked through. So, let's say new goal: I will make up the 5 lb. deficit in no more than 2 months starting today. Meaning my weight by 9/20/17 should be 264 lbs. If I do it at an even pace, I should be at 273 lbs. by 8/20/17 (the day before my birthday,) which is a 10 lb. loss, or 2.25 lbs a week. I'll need to cut 1129 calories a day below my BMR to do that so.... 1935 calories a day. Ouch. But ok, I might be able to do that.

I also need to more aggressively pursue my fitness goals. Building muscle mass particularly at my age (45 next month) is the key to losing weight. Because my metabolism has changed as I get older, cutting calories and doing some cardio isn't enough. I have been backsliding a little on my strength training. The last two weeks I have gone down to every third day (two rest days) and a couple times it was every fourth day. Not good. I need to step that back up, starting today. Also because it has been disgusting hot and humid (truly it has -- 80% humidity and hazy hot sun) I have also been accepting rides home from work most days, so my walk has been cut in half. Gotta remedy that.

Alright. Time to get back on track.

July 20 - August 20 Goals:

Lose 10 lbs.: restrict calorie intake to 1935/day, lose at a consistent 2.25 lbs. per week
Walk to work every day, regardless of weather and walk home at least 3x a week
Strength training every other day, with one 2-day rest period allowed per week
Make a goal tracker for the wall at home that I check off daily

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Blog relaunch

Almost 2 years since I wrote anything, three since I was serious about it.

So, I'm back. Started tracking my diet and exercise a little over a month ago, May 20th, 2017. At that time I was at least 290 lbs., maybe more. One-hundred pounds (yes, 100 lbs.) over my goal weight.

I've re-calibrated my goals to lose that 100 lbs by my 46th birthday which will be August 21, 2018 -- 15 months from when I started (this time...) That will require me to lose about 1.5 lbs / wk. which equals cutting about 750 calories a day below my BMR (basic metabolic rate, or the calories required to maintain my current weight.)

My current BMR based on my age, weight and activity level is about 2900 calories, so I am trying to stay in the 2100-2200 calorie range for now. I find if I eat less than 2000 calories I end up compensating with something like an entire bag of Doritos the next day, which appears as a 2 lb. jump on the scale the next day.

I've had to accept that I am not going to have some huge weight dump like I did last time. I'm over 40 (will be 45 in a minute) and quite overweight, and very out of shape, and it's slow going to get a train that big, going that fast in one direction to stop and start heading the other way. What I'm hoping is that it will get easier as I go, instead of how it has been in past attempts: big weight drop right away, lots of success and patting myself on the back from all the praise I got from my friends, and then... a plateau that I never got past, followed by a collapse back to my bad, old ways.

I have been walking to work every day, and home from work almost every day, which is 1 mile each way with a pretty steep uphill climb on both ends. I have also been strength training at home, and have stuck to my every-other-day (or two days in a row with 2 rest days) for six weeks now, which is a record for me. I've also been taking the stairs at work with a once-daily allowed elevator trip, and some days I don't use the elevator at all.

I've noticed some improvements right away:

  • I'm sleeping better
  • I find myself looking forward to the walk every morning (sometimes trudging home uphill after work is still a challenge...)
  • My cardio conditioning is coming back -- I don't need any breaks on the morning walk any more (was 2) and only one (was 3) on the way home
  • My Instagram is active again because I see things on my morning walk to take pics of every day
  • I've started to like my strength training routine, which I just allowed to develop organically
  • I'm finding that for some reason, this time around, I feel accountable to myself, and it's working -- I catch myself sliding on some goal (usually the weights workout) and I think, If I don't do it, I'm giving up. And I can't stand that, so I do it.

About this self-accountability thing:

I can't count how many times in my life I've looked back at some failed exercise or fitness attempt and thought to myself, "Well that was [however many years or even decades] ago, imagine if I'd been doing that every day since then..." And then I move on to some other topic that is easier to talk about, like television or my pets. I've finally come around to realizing that it really is my fault. I chose not to do those sit-ups. I chose to eat mayo right out of the jar. I chose to blame locker room bullies for why I am still fat 30 years later. I chose to close my eyes.

My eyes popped open when I saw this picture:


Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Who the fuck is that fat guy?? Oh, shit. That's me in November 2016 (eight months ago.)

Where'd THIS GUY go?? From 2011??


(And I thought I was fat back then....)

That picture for some reason, really put it into perspective. I knew I was gaining weight. The blue shirt I'm wearing in the pic on the right above doesn't even button anymore -- it was loose on me in that pic. It was my favorite shirt, the go-to for a date or the bar. Same for the red v-neck next to it: last time I tried it on, it was tight like spandex and I couldn't pull it all the way over my belly. Also that necklace with the cross perfect in the dip of my clavicle won't go around my neck any more, I couldn't wear it if I wanted to. I am literally not that person any more, and I hate that.

Not saying I hate myself. In fact, I think I have come to love and respect myself way more than I did when either of those "skinny pics" were taken. Back then I thought I was as fat as I truly am now. I thought I was unhappy because of my weight, when the truth of course is the other way around. And I thought that losing weight was going to fix all my other problems, too.

I will now offer all the justifications I have for gaining 100 lbs. (Yes, I was at my goal weight back then, just needed to tone up some saggy places...)

I moved back to Maine in 2012 to care for my ailing mother, and my aging grandmother (whom my mother was no longer able to care for alone.) I was still a wreck from getting dumped by my rebound fling -- which was supposed to be medicine for the end of a horrible 5 year train wreck of a relationship -- and instead just messed me up worse. (For some reason I just fell apart when it did.) I had crash landed here with less than $500 in the bank, no job, and a place to live I couldn't afford. That first winter I really suffered. I was stressed about money constantly, wasn't sleeping, was drinking more and more heavily all the time, and living on restaurant food (burgers, fries and greasy everything.)

The winter of '12-'13 alone, I think I gained 30 lbs. I kinda freaked out about that the following summer, and I was getting my sea legs being back here, so to speak. I bought an elliptical and joined Weight Watchers and lost a dozen pounds. A year went by and I stayed about there, still not happy with my weight or my appearance, and still probably gaining a little, too. I stopped exercising.

Then in 2014 the shit hit the fan. My mother went into the hospital July 3rd, 2014 with her 3rd heart attack and never came out -- she was in either the hospital or a nursing home for 5 months, then died in December. Two months later, in February 2015, my phone rang at 9:30 pm and I was told by a nursing home worker that my grandmother had just died. Three years later I am just starting to be able to see all that in the rear-view.

The first year after it all happened is truthfully a drunk blur. I started drinking every day, getting drunk every day, mixing wine and shots of hard liquor. And when I wasn't getting drunk (or working, I did work...) I was eating my way through it: mac & cheese, Thai and Chinese takeout by the bushel, think nothing of having 4 cheese sandwiches for dinner and still eat a box of Cheez-Its while I watch TV in the recliner. My mother left me a very, very small amount of money (about 20k) and I pretty much ate and drank it. And shopped it. I totally spiraled down into total debauch. By the time I came up for air, I had gained all the weight back and then some. I was hitting 300 lbs.

I turned it around again for a little while, right around the time I met Matthew and we started dating. But it was not for long. Ironically, he and I did something really great and hard to do together, that made me gain weight -- we quit smoking cigarettes. And I packed on 25 lbs. I wouldn't go back, and in fact I gave myself carte blanche to eat my way through quitting. And boy did I. That guy up there in the necklace and the nice tan -- he was a 36 waist and wearing a men's medium. Today I can barely button my 40 waist and everything is XXL again.

OK - actually -- I wore a 38 waist yesterday for the first time in like a year. So, it's working. And since I have been walking every day and eating salads again, my belly is getting smaller. The number on the scale isn't dropping as fast as I'd like, but I am feeling better. And I'm enjoying making healthy changes, which is a first. I feel bogged down and vaguely sick now when I fill up on crackers and dip, instead of secretly telling myself I deserved a treat. Ick.

I don't know what's different this time, but I've changed my mind somehow. It's the same as I felt when we quit smoking this last time -- I just stopped. No patches. No gum (well, I did eat a lot of Altoids.) And no problems, I just stopped smoking, I was ready. I'd changed my mind about it. And that is how I feel about losing weight and getting fit this time -- I am that person now. It might be a while before it shows on the outside, but that's ok. I'm not doing it to get noticed.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weigh-In Wednesday -- lost 2 lbs.

Weigh-In Wednesday -- yes I know it's Friday, it's been a long week, ok?
236 lbs., lost 2 lbs., total lost overall 17 lbs.

Funny because I felt like I went way off the rails again last week. I struggled with some bad patterns still, but I stayed on plan in terms of what I actually ate, so even though I did overeat a few times and I still ate late at night a couple times, it was hummus and wasabi peas, not pizza and cheese sandwiches.

I have had to make a few adjustments to my diet again.
I have to be realistic about myself and how I want to eat.
The dramatic alterations I have made to my diet have actually led me to binge eat a few times because I was so carb-starved, I just lost control and went way overboard,

Food confession: (in case you think I'm kidding, or exaggerating about it being a binge....) one night after a few drinks and having not eaten more than a salad all day I ate 6 Jimmy Dean Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits (yes, six) plus about 3/4 lb. of swiss cheese and 3/4 lb. of sliced turkey rolled up and dipped in hummus, and an entire 2 lb. package of dried mango. Then went straight to bed.

At any rate, that, along with a few other considerations has made me realize I need to re-introduce a modest amount of "bready" carbs into my diet. To that end, I have implemented the following allowances:

  • Pasta, whole wheat or white, twice a week if I want them, 1 serving per time only, measured
  • I like a breakfast sandwich, so I bought English muffins & sausage patties (I always have eggs & cheese already) and will allow ONE a day
  • I need a carby snack at night, I just do. So I bought a box of Saltine crackers, and will allow 10-15 crackers at night, with a dip like hummus or salsa or both
  • Pizza. I have decided that I may have 2 pizzas a month, any kind I want, and I will eat it all in one sitting if I feel like it
I feel like these allowances are going to help me get back on the wagon, The fact that I did them last week and still lost 2 lbs. tells me it's possible. I don't regret dramatically restricting my diet for a few weeks, it really allowed me to feel some success in the form of some dramatic weight drop, which felt really good. And it facilitated me breaking my heavy reliance on high carb foods. And it forced me to be creative in order to get enough food, which in turn led me to try new foods and new combinations of foods. It was positive, even the crash & burn a couple weeks ago ended up being positive because it led me realize I had to find a way to make it work without giving up a few things I really love. And that I really WAS going to do it, not just give up and go back to my old ways like I always have before. I'm gonna do this dammit,