Monday, August 23, 2010

I know it is a diet, but ...

Can't we call it something else?

The phrase most commonly associated with diets is that "someone dropped off their diet." or "Someone broke their diet." Diets are very fragile because they are so easily broken.

My father struggled with his weight. He was a skinny kid. He was five foot eleven inches and a rail in high school. After school came the Air Force, then marriage and work as an electrician. He also was pastor of a church. Food was his friend. Dad was raised by his aunt as his mother was very young. He had abandonment issues even though he and his mom were very close. When something stressed him, he turned to his friend that never rejected him: food. His weight led to numerous health issues. There were times he was very heavy. He tried many ways to lose weight, and he would, for a while. Then he would eventually regain his weight and usually with more added. He tried diet after diet. They all failed. Diets are so easily broken.

We look at diets as rules that can be broken without immediate penalty. Since the majority of diets are self imposed, they can be self-broken.

I, jokingly, called this my IMP. That is my Ingestion Modification Plan.

In my whole life of nearly 53 years, I have never really dieted. I was a skinny child. When I was in 8th grade, I recall trying to break 100 pounds. I started lifting weights then and by my senior year in high school, I weighed in at 132 pounds and was lifting 220 pounds in the bench press. I was a 'lean mean fighting machine.' My metabolism was racing. I could eat practically anything and not gain weight. I stood around five foot eight inches tall.

A brief stint in college followed, then work and marriage. I worked in electrical construction and though I gained some weight, it wasn't an issue. We didn't own a scale. We didn't need one. I was around 200 pounds before I remember weighing myself again. Now, not making excuses, but I am thick built. My wrists, an indicator of bone density, are eight inches around. I am not going to be a small person even when I am at a good weight for me. At 200 pounds, I was not fat.

It was a while later, while working in Pennsylvania and living in Ohio that I weighed in at 240 pounds. I was overweight. I had to admit it to myself. Even then, admitting it, I felt no compunction to diet. I can’t begin to tell you what I was thinking then. It was if I assumed the weight appeared by some sleight of hand and was going to go away the same way. I don’t recall whether I tried a diet then or not. As I said, I can’t remember ever dieting.

Several years later, I came back home to Kentucky to work. I was staying in the mid 200’s then. I stayed around there for about ten years. Then came the divorce, and living on my own. I became an accomplished cook. Cooking for myself and eating without monitoring myself took its toll. It was also around this time that we discovered my hypothyroidism. Suddenly I was over 300 pounds.

The battle for stability of my thyroid condition produced casualties. I was always cold in the winter. I was always tired. I was always hungry. Being cold and tired kept me in. Being hungry kept me eating. I crept up to over 350 pounds. It went up and down after that. I quit drinking three 24 oz Mountain Dews a day and went to diet Dew. I lost 20 pounds doing that, but it crept back up as I was still eating. My Synthroid dosage went from the starting dose of 25 MCG to 350 MCG in the next six years. My weight went up and down but stayed close to the 350 pound range.

That brings me to just over two weeks ago. I was at mom’s house. She has a medical type scale. I weighed myself as I have often done while there. I was either to or down to 350 pounds depending on which way I was traveling in my weight gain or loss. That was a Friday. On Sunday, I decided it was enough.

I have to tell you. I am a procrastinator. Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until next week. This, however, needed to be done now. I had thought about it many times before and sometimes even went as far as to say in my mind, I am going to start a diet. It never happened, until that Sunday evening. I was visiting some sick friends in the hospital. Tammy was home fixing a pot roast. I was visiting “J” in his room. He had been dieting and told the hospital he was doing so. They put on his chart that he was dieting. The dietary staff gave him meals on their diet plan. He told me that others, family and friends, were bringing him food from restaurants, because he was hungry.

Mind you, I am not making a judgment call on “J”. It was just that at that moment, something in me changed.

My wife smokes. I tease her sometimes about being a slave to that thin white stick. She tells me I can’t understand since I have never been a smoker. I did smoke one pack of cigs when I was fifteen years old. That was the extent of my smoking career. She is right. I can’t understand being addicted to cigs, but addiction, I can understand. I was/am addicted to food. I ate when I was hungry. I ate when I wasn’t hungry. I ate when I was angry. I ate when I was happy. I celebrated good times with food. I commiserated bad times with food. I recall a friends joke about another person’s drinking. “He only drinks when he is by himself or with someone.” I was that way with food.

I liked most foods. I liked Mexican food, Chinese food, Italian food, Thai food, Indian food, German food, American food, Moroccan food, and most other foods. I liked the way food tasted. I like the way it felt. I liked feeling contented after a good meal. I am such a junkie.

I went home that Sunday and told Tammy, while eating a delicious supper of Pot Roast with potatoes, green beans, and carrots, that my diet would begin on Monday morning. Truth be told, it started after that meal, as I didn’t go down in the middle of the night to get an overnight bite.

The process of change is not an easy one. I immersed myself in the whole thing. I made a chart on Excel® to track my daily calories. It kept my meal totals and calculated my daily total. It charted my eating and gave me my averages. It keeps my per-meal averages and my daily averages. I found SparkPeople® and joined. I was a tracking fool.

Two things I loved in school were math and writing. I used both in this process. I track and calculate, and I write about the progression. Both are vital and integral parts for me. This is helping to make this more than just a diet. As I said, diets are easily broken. This is not my diet. This is my change.

Here are some examples of the change:
· I love chips and hot salsa. The salsa part is not as bad as the chips part. I was craving the taste. Before, that would have meant half a jar of salsa and half a bag of chips. Instead, this time, I took two scoop chips, filled them about half with the salsa, and ate them slowly, savoring the taste. I satisfied the craving for the taste and only took in 25 calories. That is a change.
· I love peanut butter. I generally kept a jar of it somewhere near my desk. There is still a container of it beside my desk now. It is a six-pound container. My granddaughters love it. I wanted the taste. Previously, this would have meant half a pack of saltine crackers and lots of peanut butter. This time, it was just about a quarter of a tablespoon and a slow savor. That was 27 calories and a craving sated. That is a change.
· More than a few times a week, my lunch would be my favorite sandwich: Bologna, cheese, onion, and Miracle Whip on white bread X two. One of these sandwiches was 585 calories and I would usually have two. That is a whopping 1170 calories for lunch more than twice a week. I haven’t had one of those since the change. As the matter of fact, my average daily calorie intake in the last 15 days is 1140 calories per day. That is a change.
· There are numerous other changes as well. Some of them large and some of them small. All of them are part of the change.

It was a twelve pound change in the first week. It was a five pound change in the second week. Change is good.

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