Weight Loss

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Are Different

I am still reading "The End of Overeating" and it is quite fascinating. The premise is pretty simple--that the food industry has contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in the US by creating "hyperpalatable" foods that (some of) our brains basically can't resist--and most of the book is describing the science behind it, which those in research and development within the food industry most likely weren't even aware of, at least at first.

One thing this book states over and over is that people who have a tendency towards obesity have different brains than those who tend to be thin. This is both genetic and environmental, and it can be enhanced by childhood experience, i.e. eating a lot of these hyperpalatable foods as a kid, learning eating habits from our parents, etc. One interesting thing about the book is that he writes from a first-person perspective; the author is in the entire book, which makes the whole thing seem a lot less judgmental of "us fat people". He describes the development of several foods, like Oreos, Cinnabons, and certain milkshakes, going through the characteristics of each one that make them so hard to resist. I realized through reading this that all of these things are things I, too, find impossible to resist, and so I simply never eat them, or buy them. If they are around, I know I will eat them. But even so, avoiding these strongly triggering foods hasn't meant that I don't still overeat, or that I no longer have a weight problem.

But, I don't drink milkshakes, because I don't go to places that sell them. Just the idea of going through a drive-through or into a restaurant that sells them (the good ones) is enough to stop me. Okay, there is an exception: I will go to Burgerville USA (in Oregon) and have a shake while I am driving a long distance. There are lots of subconscious cues and triggers that make it very hard for me to resist it in this circumstance.

I think it has been several years since I bought a package of Oreos. I can't resist them. I haven't had a Cinnabon in at least 5 years, because HELLO! And I've changed more things too. I almost never watch TV, because the commercials are too triggering for me. We do watch some shows on DVD, without commercials. Even so, some of the shows themselves contain a lot of food triggers. I rarely go out to eat anymore, because even though I eat a lot less than I used to, I still eat too much, and it's better and cheaper to cook at home. Also, my hubby is a great cook and likes making dinner. We go out for breakfast once a week, because I love breakfast so much. That's about it, and it's a vast improvement from a few years ago.

Our brains are different. That is one thing that the past year of my 2 1/2 years post op has really taught me. There are people who can sit in front of a whole plate of Oreos, and if they aren't hungry they won't eat any. If they want a snack, they might eat a couple, but not the whole plate. Many others of us aren't like that. Even if we are full, we will eat them until they are gone. Period.

Having surgery did what I wanted it to do: it took away my physical hunger, which was real. It left me with all the other reasons that I was overweight, including compulsive overeating and emotionally conditioned eating. This past year has really opened my eyes to this reality.

This book doesn't make the food industry into the big excuse for obesity. It simply shows how the foods that were developed because consumers like them and buy them and can't resist them have contributed to our drive to eat highly caloric foods, too much of them, and too often. It's one more key to understanding how to get control of our eating, our weight, and our lives. It also points to one of the reasons that WLS is not a magic bullet, and without attention to all of our habits that contribute to the problem, we will not reach and stay at our goal long-term.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The End of Overeating?

My weight is coming down a bit. I've been able to be a bit more intentional about my eating lately, which surely has helped. Oddly, I've taken the last 2 weeks off from running because my right Achilles tendon was sore. Last night was the first time I had run in over 2 weeks, and my weight was already down 2 pounds by then. It's encouraging, but I want to see more movement than this.

I am reading a new book called "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler. It's a promising title...too promising, of course, but the premise is basically that America's overeating problem is (at least partly) caused by the manipulation by the food industry of the proportions of sugar, salt and fat in foods we commonly eat. The author argues that certain proportions of these basic ingredients trigger our brains to eat beyond our satiety. The book seeks to explain how we lose control over our eating, and promises to reveal how we can regain it. (I am thinking the answer will be in preparing more of our own foods, from scratch.) It is interesting. I'm not sure it's going to tell me a lot that I didn't already know, but even reading about overeating helps me be more conscious about what I do, so even that helps.

From the outset, this book reiterates what recent research has confirmed over and over: that we gain weight because we eat too much. It's such a simple idea, but we have fought the idea for a long time. I fought it, before I had WLS. Now I realize that I did eat more than I realized, even if the amount I ate might not cause another person to gain weight. It wasn't massive amounts, but it doesn't take much of a calorie excess to cause a lot of weight gain over time.

The book also talks in the beginning about the "setpoint" theory, that our bodies naturally maintain a certain weight range and somehow that setpoint gets messed up in people who are overweight. In fact, the author states, the setpoint, or homeostasis range, is only one factor in our weight. A lot of other things happen that override our body's weight homeostasis, and when we gain a lot of weight and then try to lose it, our setpoint often gets moved a little higher than it was before. We've all noticed that in our yo-yo cycles in the past. We blame it on dieting. It might be the actual weight gain that causes it, not the diet that revealed that changed setpoint.

I'm still fighting this seeming "setpoint" that I have reached of about 170 pounds. My body seems to want to stay here. Interestingly, it's exactly where my surgeon said I would land. But I could easily stand to lose another 20 lbs, and even 10 would make me happy. As tempting as it is to try to get there quickly through a "diet", I am resisting this urge, partly because I was always a terrible dieter, and partly because I want a more lasting weight loss. So I still work on this every day.

On the school front...I have 10 1/2 months left and I am very happy about that. The hardest part is behind me. It's nice to realize that by this time next year I will be graduated and will already have taken (and hopefully passed) my boards. We are finishing up our bioethics class next week. It's been a very interesting class. Then we will take Law and Medicine in July. Meanwhile, we are working about 30 hours/week in the OR. Tonight I am on from 3-11, which should be in OB rather than the OR--placing labor epidurals and providing anesthesia for C-sections. I enjoy OB anesthesia, and I also enjoy not getting up at 5am.

I am thinking of making an appointment to see the surgeon sometime this summer, just to check in and make sure everything is okay. I don't know if I need a fill or not. Sometimes I think I do, sometimes I don't. Since it's been over a year since my last appointment, I should go in either way.

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Food Junkie

I never used to believe in food addiction. I didn't understand how anyone could be addicted to something you need to live. Isn't that like being an oxygen addict, or a water addict?

Well, no, I am realizing. It is not. We don't become addicted to the stuff we actually need to live, like whole grains and protein. Too bad! It is not very different from becoming addicted to gambling, or sex, or anything that produces a "high" in your brain. We actually aren't addicted to the food (or sex or gambling), we are addicted to our own brain chemicals that make us feel good. It is a pattern that we learn from childhood, for most of us. That is what tends to make it addictive: early on, we learned that certain foods make us feel good, comforted, loved. Our parents gave them to us to reward us, or we would eat them when we heard our parents fighting in the other room, or we observed other family members compulsively overeating and learned the behavior. Early on, eating certain things became associated with positive feelings, and they become our most powerful coping mechanism.

I know this isn't news to anyone reading this who has had WLS, or who has ever had a weight problem.

I am doing my own recovery work, unrelated (so I thought) to my eating, because I am married to a man with addictions. I'm learning that it was no mistake that I married an addict--wonderful person though he is. I was raised by parents who were at least food addicts, and I don't mean that in the sense of people who claim to be "addicted" to chocolate or Coach purses or Carmex. I realized when I first started goint to Al-Anon that the families people were describing were alcoholic families, and they were exactly like mine, except no one in my family drank or did drugs. They did, however, have an exceptionally unhealthy relationship with food, so much so that I believe they acted like any other addicts, and we all learned to respond to the addiction like any other codependent does. It sounds crazy if you haven't lived it. But I am certain that some of my readers have experienced the very same thing.

It has been through working my own recovery that I have realized how much I use food to cope with stress. STILL. Now that the blush of new WLS has worn off, 2 1/2 years after surgery, I don't have that "high" to keep me strictly adhering to my food plan. Like I described before, my days go pretty much according to plan, but I get home and I am "hungry" and foraging. Where I used to be able to listen to my stomach and stop if I wasn't physically hungry, now I am finding that to be much harder. I can actually notice now that eating sugar calms my anxiety and stress, something I didn't used to really be aware of. It is scary to observe this happening, and feel powerless to stop it.

I am undecided on how I want to try to get a handle on this. I feel pretty sure that I am not going to get to my goal weight (or really lose any more weight at all) if I don't get some better way to handle life than overeating. If it weren't for my band, I would be eating much more than I do now, and would have regained more than the 5 pounds I do have. I know the usual strategies, like exercising more, drinking tea, journaling, seeing a counselor etc. But I feel like this problem is much more core to who I am as a person than these simple behavior changes. I feel like something much deeper has to change if I am going to have a lasting way of maintaining my weight. It may involve going to OA meetings, although frankly OA scares me, with their Gray Sheets and eating soberly. And I don't know what their relationship with bariatric patients is like: are they accepting? Surely there must be many WLSers in OA meetings. I will probably just start by talking to our counselor about this and getting an idea from there on how I want to deal with this problem in a real and lasting way.

How have you all dealt with these kinds of issues? Any suggestions?