First of all, can I tell you how touched I am by all of the kind words I received after my post yesterday? I was a little scared to put something so personal out there, and I am so, so appreciative of the many warm comments I received here, privately, and on facebook. Thank you.
I also received a lot of inquiries about the details of what I've been doing, so here they are! If anyone can learn from my long learning experience, that would make me ecstatic.
As I said yesterday, this has been an 18 year journey. I have learned so much along the way, and before I get to what is working NOW, I think it's important to cover what I already knew. There are a million and one weight loss plans out there, but I think the key to finding what you need is to see what pieces of the puzzle you are missing. That will make more sense in a minute.
Here are some things I already knew going into this latest attempt:
1. WHAT to eat - I had a good handle on what constitutes good nutrition. Lean proteins, whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, limiting sugars, refined and processed foods and harmful fats, etc. etc. I had studied this out for years and knew what was good for me.
2. How to exercise - I knew of the importance of both cardio and weight training, and how to do both effectively.
3. How to identify and watch for emotional triggers - I also knew what things caused me to eat without needing to. That doesn't mean I was necessarily good at avoiding that trap, but I was aware of it.
4. The importance of getting help - Doing something this hard is difficult to do alone. I knew I needed a support team. However, I went the less-effective route a few times. I started with trying to use my husband for accountability. That didn't go so well! Basically, because I want him just to love me no matter what, and I was putting him in a difficult situation by asking him to correct me. I also tried Weight Watchers, but the level of accountability was not high enough for what I needed. They celebrated my successes, but didn't address my failures. I needed more individual direction when I was failing, and the program was a little too one-size-fits-all for me. I already knew everything being presented at the meetings. I know it is great for some, but it didn't address my needs.
5. I knew that calories out needed to be greater than calories in. I knew that tracking my food and exercise were great tools, and that portion control was important.
6. The role of the Atonement - I knew that I could not do this alone, and that the Lord has the power to overcome all weakness. I knew that the Atonement was not made just to overcome sin, but all human suffering and weakness as well. I also knew that He wanted my best efforts, but that His grace was ultimately what was going to make this possible.
With that foundation, I struggled through trying to make this work for a very LONG time! Here are the main areas I struggled:
1. Portion control - Even with tracking food and counting calories, staying within the limits was hard - especially on special occassions or in social situations.
2. Persistence! So many times, I started strong, only to have the willpower die out after a while.
As I said yesterday, in late August, I went to a doctor and spelled out all of the areas I was struggling. She suggested going on complete meal replacement for 6 weeks. I was hesitant, because I thought it would be miserable, and I thought that it wouldn't teach me how to manage my food in the real world after the "program" was over. As I thought about it after the visit however, it felt right, and I decided to go ahead with it.
I was a little shocked to learn the specifics at my next visit. The first 2 weeks would be liquid only, and my calorie total would be 800/ day. After 2 weeks, I could substitute one shake a day with a meal bar. It seemed impossible, but I decided to commit myself and see it through. I would see the doctor each week, who would be monitoring my health and progress.
After the first day, I was surprised to find that I felt great physically, and that hunger had not been an issue at all. My nutritional needs were being met, which is very important! Your body will ask for the nutrients it needs in the form of cravings, so satisfying its NEEDS is critical. However, it probably needs less than you think. Bottom line, 800 calories of junk are not going to give you the results you want. You will feel out of control. One of my favorite quotes says, "You can never get enough of what you don't need, because what you don't need can never satisfy you."
I was drinking 5 shakes/ day, about one every 3 hours. The hardest part was in my head - WANTING some of the food that was around, or feeling like it was "time to eat", when I wasn't in fact, hungry.
I became very mindful of all of the times I would have grabbed a bite of this or a handful of that, and realized how many calories that added up to daily.
A few weeks into this, we had dinner guests. I did not want to pull out my shake in front of our guests, because frankly, I just didn't want to talk about it. I drank my shake before they came, and just had a glass of water and socialized at dinner. At one point I was asked, "Aren't you eating?" I simply stated, "I ate earlier", and that was the end of the discussion - much easier than I had anticipated!
A few important things happened during this time:
1. I learned not to mindlessly eat things throughout the day.
2. My stomach (the organ) shrunk to the point that eating the amounts I did before would be horribly uncomfortable now. I feel like I was able to reset my body back to normal in that regard after years of stretching it with too much food, and then feeling unsatisfied when I ate less.
3. I learned to eat based on hunger cues rather than external cues, such as the time of day or the presence of food.
I think the thing that has meant the most to me though, is to be mentally set free. I no longer obsess about what I am going to eat and when. I don't worry about overdoing it. I don't stress over special occasions and what will be available there that I shouldn't have. In short, I TRUST MYSELF. And it has been a very long time since I have felt that regarding my eating habits! I make a plan each morning based on my anticipated activities, and then I don't sweat it. It's awesome.
So here are my suggestions for anyone struggling with this problem -
First - find out where your missing piece is. I tried to apply solutions for years that did not address the root of my problem. Think through what it is you have not learned to apply yet, and then look for solutions that address that problem specifically. Set yourself up to establish habits that will carry you through.
Second - promise yourself diligence. I saw a quote early on that said, "Success in any endeavor requires single-minded attention to detail and total concentration." I wrote it on my mirror to remind myself to mind the details! It gets easier, and success is very, very motivating.
So, at the conclusion of my formal program, I am again eating normal food, but keeping the calorie count low. Frequently, I stick to shakes or bars during the day because I don't have to think about it, and then have a normal dinner with my family. I am satisfied with much less now. The other night I had half of a sandwich and a little salad and was stuffed to the point of uncomfortable. I made a mental note to scale it back a bit next time. The habits are becoming second nature, and I am no longer relying on willpower, which is the reason for my new-found confidence that I will succeed.
Finally, I must mention the strength I have received from my Heavenly Father. I know that He has made this possible, and that the lessons I have learned along the way are BLESSINGS to me! I am as grateful for the journey as I am for the destination I can now see on the horizon.