Reliable Change

flower openingI recently attended a writer’s workshop, where the subject of how we change came up. The essence of a romance novel is the change the main characters undergo, from living a small, safe, predicable life at the beginning of the book to living a life based on love instead of security at the end of the book. Along the way, change is a tough, scary business, at best.

I’ve needed to make a change. My weight has kept going up. I don’t overeat by any normal standards, but my metabolism is wicked efficient, apparently. Nothing I’ve tried has worked–not running, not working out, not calorie restriction, not acupuncture, yoga, not nothing, not no how–and yet, when I back off the vigilance at all, the pounds come flying on.

Transformation1Something my sister said a few years ago, when she was a group leader for a weight loss program, has stuck with me: “It’s hard to lose weight, it’s hard to keep it off, but it’s also hard to be overweight.”

Is it EVER. People don’t see you, they see your spare tire. They don’t hug you, they hug your flub. They don’t measure you by your kindness, sparkling wit, snappy repartee or peachy dancing, their first impression is of your appearance.

muffin catSo… it’s hard to be overweight. You can’t scamper around Scottish hiking trails as easily, acquit yourself as well on horseback (Hyde Park stables won’t rent you a horse if you weigh more than 170 pounds–ask me how I know that), or shop for clothes as cheerfully. Then there are the emotional burdens. Being obese not fun.

So I decided to try, try, try again. This time, when I hit that, “BUT I’M HUNGRY” wall (I pretty much live on that wall), I told myself, “You can be hungry, or you can be fat. Not fair, not easy, not a reflection on you, but those are the cards you’re holding, and you’ve done the being fat part for a while. How’s that working’ for ya, Grace?”

just a little huskyWhich has led to the third aspect of change: After an insight and a decision, change requires sustained action. I’ve tried long and hard to get the weight down before, weeks and weeks, and months and months, with little to show for it. This charge up the hill started about mid-summer, and I’m down a few pounds. That surprises me, because I’m not sure the physiological realities are any different, but this time, I’m seeing results.

HEDINGHAM-SHOOT-276Maybe the insight is the difference. As my sister put it, I’m choosing which challenge to take on, and accepting (oh, that word), that this aspect of life will BE a challenge for me, no matter what. Maybe I’ll fall off my destrier in the next week, but maybe not. Maybe mind, body and behavior have found a way to bury the hatchet, and I’ll be happier for it, even if I’m also hungry much of the time.

When you’re trying to make a change, what helps? What knocks you off the horse? Is there a change you’re particularly proud of?

To one commenter, I’ll send the first first four books in Joanna Bourne‘s Spymaster series.



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25 comments on “Reliable Change

  1. As a society, we do judge all too often simply on appearances. That is something we need to change.

    As for changing habit, having a good reason and support make all the difference in the world.

    Almost 10 years ago my sister was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That meant that most of my family members had it. I realized I needed to cut back on the sugar and eat healthier. We already mostly ate whole grains – wheat bread, brown rice, etc. And I try very hard to include a lot of veggies with meals. My downfall at the time was sodas and chocolate – lots of both.

    With encouragement from my husband I did it one step at a time. I slowly cut back on the number of sodas and started drinking lightly sweetened iced tea. Having grown up drinking Georgia sweet tea, it was harder than you might think. Eventually, I made the switch to unsweetened tea and rarely even have a soda. Since I get migraines with most artificial sweeteners, diet drinks are not an option.

    With this switch, I did lose weight, but my weight still is up and down within a 10 pound range. But I am back in the ‘healthy range’ for my height. My father (the second family member to develop diabetes-mom was first) has been telling me for years I should buy a blood glucose monitor and use it, but so far I haven’t taken that step.

    • If your weight is in the healthy range, then a glucose monitor seems a bit obsessive. I think–purely a subjective sense on my part–that part of what makes weight management problematic is when we fixate on it. All the subconscious knows is. “This stuff is important!” and I wonder if that doesn’t set some metabolic dials in the wrong position.

      Me and my theories…

  2. Oh Grace, I sympathize! Between the ages of 15 to 35 I was a yo-yoer. My weight was up and down constantly – and I don’t mean by 5 or 10 pounds. I had 4 different sizes of clothing in my closet. Tried every stupid diet that came down the pike!

    I had an epiphany one weekend when I was working overtime. I wanted a candy bar, but being a Saturday, there was nothing good left in the machine. So I bought a candy bar I didn’t even like. And as I was sitting there eating the awful thing, the obvious slapped me the face. I was a compulsive eater!

    After that my weight leveled off, just by my giving a little thought to what I was eating. That makes it sound awfully easy and really it wasn’t. But I did stop the yo-yoing.

    My weight gain was much slower after that, but I still managed to put on a pound or two every year (after Christmas). My problem is now that I’m 70 I’m pre-diabetic, have a bad back and knee. So I have to lose some weight and I have, but it is a slow process. I seem to be losing it as slowly as I gained it. At this rate I should be at my ideal weight by the time I’m 100 (smile).

    God bless you Grace, I wish you well. There is no simple answer to the problem more and more Americans have now. Again, I wish you well my dear.

    • I’m fortunate, I guess, that I’ve not yo-yo’d, which is said to be hard on the old metabolism. I just creep up and up and up.

      That mindless eating is scary stuff, because as you say, you can lose entirely the sense of what you’re stuffing in your mouth.

      For me, there’s also a tendency to confuse energy sources. Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m thirsty, sometimes I’m bored silly, sometimes I need social interaction (hugs?), and yet, the candy bar is an energy source I can have, and it seems to help a little…

      and then it doesn’t help at all.

  3. When I try to make some changes, I challenge myself to stick to it. I also make a goal and when I reach that goal, I usually reward myself with something. I think the hardest thing to do is to stick to the plan. You have to have the drive or willpower to overcome the temptation to give in.

    • Sheryl, excellent point. If you don’t know what the goal is, how do you know if you’re moving toward it?

      But here’s another excellent point: It has to be the right plan, or you’re simply wasting will power, if not losing ground. Many of the plans I’ve tried have been roaring failures. Not only did I see no weight loss, I ended up exhausted, sick, sore if not injured (can you see personal trainers who have no worthwhile credentials?), and out some money.

      Money and energy are two things I do NOT need to lose, but the greater loss from those failures has been a loss of hope. Take that from somebody, and you’re committing the equivalent of a spiritual assault.

  4. My weight is my nemesis .

    I have tried to loose weight this year. I have not put much effort towards really watching what I eat. I excercise, but I could do more. I am easily distracted when work gets busy ( a coffee and a muffin is a great mid afternoon pick-me up…not!:) or there is a human or corgi crisis at home.

    Yesterday, I started to make a plan. I am on vacation this week and am able to walk to my hearts content and plan healthier meals. Weight Watchers has always worked for me. I am considering joining the online program. I am writing down everything I eat….it’s more than I thought. Bread and pasta will be limited. I need to set my mind to this goal and go for it! 🙂

    I would be happy to be one size smaller ….two sizes….well that’s my fantasy!

    • Sue, one thing I’m trying this time is African Mango, along with Ashwaganda. The first is an anti-adipocyte, meaning it inhibits fat storage, which eases hunger, and the second is a non-stimulant appetite suppressant. Nobody should go messing around with supplements without consulting a doc (I did), but for those initial, hard, hard weeks, these seemed to help. Because I’ve had so many sure fire approaches fail, I’m glad to see anything that moves the needle in the downward direction.

  5. Ach, you are struggling with the same “non-existent” metabolism that I am. Add to that the very strong emotional factor attached to mine. I am never sure were my self-sabatoge ends and true weight loss struggles begin. Hunger is often a state of mind for me and sorting that out from physiological hunger is something I struggle with as well.

    I think the hardest issue for me is sustaining any change. I am very aware of how good I feel when I make a change for the better. I am not clear on why I sustain some changes and not others. As I write this I think it may be tied somehow to general self esteem. I can really get negative in my head and the things that are the most tied up in some cognitive emotional piece are the ones I do not sustain.

    I am thinking there needs to be some self-love thing I need to get me through the rough spots. Just what that is… an affirmation maybe? Several? I will need to explore and test.

    hmmm, I think I have what my sister the psychologist refers to as an “insight headache.”

    Odd as this may sound, I thank you for it.

    • Somewhere I came across the finding that exercise is the single best, most lasting anti-depressant. Therapy and medication work as well, but their relapse rates are higher, and if you do fall off the wagon, the benefits of exercise last much longer than either of those other interventions.

      The guy who presented those findings (TED talk) pointed out that until about 75 years ago, most people walked on average eight miles a day. That was normal, and far in excess of the 10,000 steps we’re told about so often.

      His conclusion was that exercise is not an antidepressant, but rather, the absence of regular movement IS a depressant.

      I take that one step further. For me, the absence of movement doesn’t seem to affect my mood much at all. I’m HAPPY sitting in the writing chair. I thrive there, I’m a champ-een sitter downer.

      But metabolically, I’ve probably thrown some switches that are stuck in the unhealthy position. So… onto the tread desk I go. My mood certainly has NOT improved. I dread those four miles. But my body is responding, so for now… tromp, tromp, tromp.

  6. Oh goodness, this one hits home with me. Weight was never a big issue with me until I had my last child almost 5 years ago. I lost most of the baby weight within 2 months and only had 10 lbs to go and then just couldn’t get that weight off and couldn’t loose the pregnant look. When I wound up in the hospital three years ago I started gaining weight for no reason, except maybe all the meds they had me on. I tried three different exercise programs before I gave up just over a year ago. My doctor got involved a couple years ago and I had to keep a food diary and test blood sugar for three weeks. In the end it was determined that I still have a high metabolism, but I didn’t eat enough food and add stress to the mix and that was why everything was going to my belly.
    At the beginning of July this year I decided to try another program via Sara Humphreys. I stuck to it faithfully for 8 weeks and even did the shakes. I was still not taking in enough calories and had to be very conscious of making sure I did get in all my calories. Even though I wasn’t seeing any results I kept on going because I had read that it sometimes takes 6-8 weeks for things to start happening. Around week 6 I went in for my annual exam and was told by the doctor that I had a separated stomach muscle, diastasis recti, and that a lot of the exercises in the program I was doing were detrimental to the condition. I was told this happened when I was pregnant (5 years ago!) and that most times, surgery is the only thing that can repair it. Why didn’t any of my other numerous doctors ever tell me this when they were pushing around on my belly? I finished the 8 weeks, with some modification and then switched to an old video series that I had done before I had my last son. Almost 3 months in and I haven’t lost a pound and have barely lost any inches, or centimeters. In fact I had to go up a size in pants since July. I know the exercise is good for me but it is so very disheartening. I don’t need to be as thin as I was 6 years ago, but I would like to be able to go a week without being asked when my baby is due. This with all my other health issues have me feeling down most days, but a lot of times I am able to push the negative thoughts away and just concentrate on being the best me and being thankful that things aren’t as bad as they could be.

    • Sarah, I’m often reminded of something we covered in a much earlier post. The University of Pittsburgh has done a study of people who’ve lost 100 pounds and kept it off (not that you have anywhere near that magnitude of a problem). Two factors were common to 95 percent of these folks, one was exercise (insert bad words here), the other was repeated failure.

      I’m encouraged by two things: One out of twenty lost 100 pounds WITHOUT EXERCISING. And… if I try, try again, one of these charges of the heavy brigade might result in success.

      Tally ho!

    • Interesting comment, bnn, but one many of us don’t enjoy. I go so far as to say that a lack of family support, the old, mixed messages and “change back!” messages probably motivates a lot of people too.

  7. You can’t ride if you weigh over 170? That seems like a random, ill chosen weight. I, too, couldn’t ride, and at the time same time most of the men I know couldn’t. Anyway.

    Sugar knocks me off my horse hard and often. Refined white sugar is literally trying to be the death of me. But tomorrow is another day and I give it my best effort yet again.

    • Sabrina, this is in Britain, where folk are, on average smaller than we are. I also think the fact that it’s an urban stable means they’re mostly keeping smaller horses.

      But yeah… 170 pounds for a grown man? That’s not even approaching overweight for many of ’em.

  8. I also struggle with my weight. I want to lose weight without putting in the effort. When I go to a weight loss program it works. But it is a daily commitment. I want the results without the commitment.

    • I come up against the same wall, Anne. It’s NOT FAIR that I can’t lose weight jogging 20 miles a week and living on 1200 calories. It shouldn’t even be POSSIBLE to maintain my weight on that routine, but I did. For months.

      But if I were stricken with an illness–cancer–and “it’s not fair” tantrum would do nothing to add years to my life, and pretty much guarantee defeat. My metabolism isn’t fair, but other people were born with crooked spines, lousy immune systems.

      I got to the point where I could feel very sorry for myself, but not so sorry that I was willing to watch that number continue creeping up.

      So… For years, I chose the challenge of being overweight, but eating a lot of what I wanted to (not in the portions I wanted!). Now I’m trying a different challenge. We’ll see if I can stick with it.

  9. I recently re-joined Weight Watchers for just what you describe … the gradual creep of pounds. Finally, I did not want to associate the number on the scale with myself. Best things, for me, about weight watchers is an accountability ($$ and a timeline) and the food diary. It makes me aware of my mindless eating.

    As your sister so rightly said, it IS hard to be overweight. It also takes a lot of energy, mental and physical, to decide to make a change. To take the time to measure a cup, instead of eyeballing it. To shop right and plan meals. In some ways, the decision to care enough to change is the hardest one to make … and I seem to have to make it day by day, sometimes even hour by hour.

    It sounds like you have a plan … good for you!! I’m sticking to someone else’s plan for now. Although, I refuse to buy/eat “light” food. I am a big believer in whole, real food that isn’t processed or substituted. I just need to learn to eat LESS of it.

    • “Light” is a dirty wood to me as it relates to diet.

      “Light” food can be poison. If it’s full of artificial sweeteners, the latest evidence is that stuff pretty much causes Type II diabetes by wrecking your micro-cultures. If it’s devoid of fat, then your brain won’t even recognize is as food from a satiety standpoint, so you don’t feel full.

      Then too, many nutritionists claim artificial sweeteners are full of neuro-toxins. I don’t use ’em, and the characters in my books won’t use ’em either.

      • Yes. This. I’ve eaten one too many freezer meal and then wondered, “what’s for lunch?”

  10. I find that yogurt helps me keep fuller longer or I drink lemon water, coffee and even red wine. I skip lunch but they say you shouldn’t. But I hate exercise so I know I have to eat less. But I know everyone is different and you just have to find what works for you.

    I’ve been working on not stressing as much or worrying about everything. I come from a long line of worriers. I have found that I worry about things that never happen or it’s things I can do nothing about. I’m making progress 🙂 Baby steps are better than no steps at all.

  11. I have been successful with Weight Watchers. You don’t feel like you are on a diet, but are adopting a life-style. After a while you automatically begin to eat more sensibly and consume smaller portions. You don’t cut out things you love, you just eat less of them. You eat healthy snacks instead of un-healthy ones.
    Good luck. Best wishes.

  12. I have spent YEARS learning how to love myself just the way I am. I’ll take your sister’s statement one step further – LIFE is hard. Fat, thin, male, female, healthy, married, single – every life circumstance comes with challenges. It is up to us to choose how we handle those challenges.

    I have chosen, for now, to learn how to love who I am *as is* … A challenge unlike any other I have undertaken. For most of my 42 years, I’ve actively hated myself – my weight, my personality, my propensity to talk “too much.” You name it, I hated it.

    But the thing is, not everyone else did. I had men who were attracted to and loved me. I have friends who love my outgoing, sarcastic, blunt and fun personality. And lots of people like what I have to say. So why was I the only person actively picking on myself? And why wouldn’t I just let people love me?

    So I made the decision to love myself. AS IS. It is the hardest change I’ve ever attempted, and takes daily renewals to maintain – let alone move forward. But it is essential, so I kept renewing my commitment and using all the resources available to succeed.

    And who knows – maybe when I learn to love myself better, other changes will happen, too!