Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another way to deal with eating compulsion

If you've read past posts, you know that one reason for being overweight is a compulsion to eat. I discussed this in my post, "Reason 2 for being overweight."

There I listed some ways to deal with a compulsion and in "How to deal with a compulsion to eat," I talked about one of the ways.

Now I want to talk about the first method on the list, "Rules."

If you have a compulsion to eat, when you're in front of food, your mind goes all gooey and your reason disappears out the window. Usually, the sight of the food initiates the compulsion (it could be a smell), which is why my earlier post (linked to above) talked about removing yourself from temptation.

But sometimes, you just can't. After all, you need to see food sometimes!

Creating rules helps you to avoid having to make a decision on the spot. "Should I eat that piece of cake? Maybe just a little piece. And maybe that cookie there." And so on.

Rules may rise out of a medical condition. If you have diabetes, you may not be allowed to eat sugar. That rule helps you make the decision. "No, I'm not allowed to eat sugar." Then you go find something else to eat, but it's probably something better for you.

If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, your doctor may have told you that you should eat a low-fat diet. Maybe you even got some literature about how to eat. But it's all so complicated and sometimes vague. Simple rules can help. "No cream, no butter" for example. Then you can't eat the cake or the cookies. You just know that you're not allowed. Again, you find something else, something healthier, to eat.

You can even create temporary rules, but they're probably not going to be as effective in the long run. For example, if you're going to a party, you can say, "No sugar or fat for me tonight." Then you know what to do and don't have to make any decisions at the party, while you're staring at the food. That's not the time to decide!

Before going to any place where you'll be tempted, make a decision about what you won't eat. Set if firmly in your mind and see if this helps you.

A cute bit of advice I once read (for women, although men might be able to find an alternative): take a clutch purse with you and immediately get something to drink. Then both your hands will be full and you won't be able to eat as much!

Friday, May 25, 2007

My cholesterol is going down!

I just went to the local hospital's Wellness Clinic to get my cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose checked. Although my cholesterol is still high, I'm very pleased with the results.

The HDL (good) was 57.
The LDL (bad) was 136.
Total 213.

The other results were normal.

The total is not supposed to be over 200.
The LDL shouldn't be over 130.
My high HDL (which is a good thing) helps to increase the total.

In 2004, my results were the following:
HDL: 54
LDL: 198 (wow!)
Total: 252

What lowered my cholesterol? Mostly losing weight and exercise. But I have to admit, I did one more thing: I took a Chinese herb, Red Yeast Rice, which is supposed to reduce cholesterol. I took half the suggested dosage.

Unfortunately, I can't separate these two things out, so I can't be sure if exercise/losing weight or the Red Yeast Rice, or both were the most effective. You can't treat your health and life like a scientific experiment.

Read the research on milk

Sometimes I check out other blogs on losing weight. One, with an attitude, is The Lose Weight Diet Blog.

The blog has good information on it (at least for people without slow metabolisms or a compulsion to eat), but is off the mark in the post, "Milk: The Weight Loss Miracle Drink."

The article states, "Every commercial states pretty much the same thing their web site states. And, that is that drinking milk, as part of a reduced calorie diet, will make you lose weight. . .

"Well, guess what? Eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger, as part of a reduced calorie diet, will make you lose weight. . .

It’s not the milk… it’s the “reduced calorie diet” part. That’s it. Consume less calories than your body needs and you lose weight."

What's wrong with this? Not reading the research is what's wrong. I discussed the research in my earlier post, "Does drinking milk help?"

What he misses is this (among other examples): "...34 obese adults on a balanced, modestly reduced-calorie diet found that those who consumed a calcium-rich diet ... lost 22% more weight, 66% more body fat and 81% more trunk fat compared to those who simply reduced calories and consumed little or no dairy.

It's very simple. Both the people who lost weight and the people who didn't lose weight reduced their calories. But people who drank milk lost more weight. So, it wasn't the calorie reduction, it was the milk. At least that's what the study showed.

I want to add, in defense of the Lose Weight Diet Blog guy, that the research isn't easy to find on the site. You have to click Health & Nutrition at the top and then click Dairly and Weight Loss from the drop-down menu. Then click the Find Out More link.

For people with slow metabolisms and compulsions, just reducing calories is not necessarily enough. You do need to reduce calories, but you'll need some more help, both in metabolizing your food and in satisfying cravings. Perhaps calcium helps. Note, however, that the people didn't just scarf down calcium tablets; they ate or drank milk products.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I have metabolic syndrome, do you?

I learned about metabolic syndrome for the first time in an article by Andrew Weil in Time Magazine. Here's an article on the Mediterranean diet and metabolic syndrome from Dr. Weil's web site.

In that article, he defines metabolic syndrome as "a combination of obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar that raises the risk of heart disease."

Here's what the American Heart Ass'n has to say about it:

"The metabolic syndrome is characterized by a group of metabolic risk factors in one person. They include:

  • Abdominal obesity (excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen)
  • Atherogenic dyslipidemia (blood fat disorders — high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol — that foster plaque buildups in artery walls)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance or glucose intolerance (the body can’t properly use insulin or blood sugar)
  • Prothrombotic state (e.g., high fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor–1 in the blood)
  • Proinflammatory state (e.g., elevated C-reactive protein in the blood)"
Actually, all I know is that I have a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that I have abdominal obesity, and that I have (or have had) high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Moment I remember: When I was 16 years old, and probably around 125 pounds, someone asked me if I was pregnant.

When I lose weight, my abdomen doesn't budge. I lose weight elsewhere, but not there.

While my cholesterol is high, my HDL (the good kind) is also high. Perhaps that's because I'm a vegetarian (lacto-vegetarian).

I've had a screening for clogged arteries and came out with flying colors.

Here are the official stats for diagnosing metabolic syndrome, from the same site:
  • Elevated waist circumference:
    Men — Equal to or greater than 40 inches (102 cm)
    Women — Equal to or greater than 35 inches (88 cm)
  • Elevated triglycerides:
    Equal to or greater than 150 mg/dL
  • Reduced HDL (“good”) cholesterol:
    Men — Less than 40 mg/dL
    Women — Less than 50 mg/dL
  • Elevated blood pressure:
    Equal to or greater than 130/85 mm Hg
  • Elevated fasting glucose:
    Equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL
Hmmm, just took my blood pressure and it came in as 135/86, just barely above the limit. I'll have to get my other stats checked to be sure. My waist is 33, after losing the 17-18 pounds that I've been able to keep off. But I don't believe that makes the syndrome magically go away.

The recommendations are to lose weight, increase physical activity, and reduce intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

Here's an interesting tidbit:
"Use of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for 16 weeks in coronary heart disease (CHD) patients improved blood pressure and insulin resistance components of the metabolic syndrome as well as cardiac autonomic nervous system tone compared with a control group receiving health education. These results suggest that TM may modulate the physiological response to stress and improve CHD risk factors, which may be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of CHD."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What kind of exercise should you do?

Exercise is an important part of losing weight, especially if you have a slow metabolism. So what type of exercise should you do?

First of all, it should be safe. If you're out of shape or have any sort of disability, check with your doctor.

Walking is always good, but don't stroll, walk purposefully, as if you need to get somewhere on time.

However, walking is not enough. You also need more vigorous activity. There are three types of exercise:

  • Aerobic, which is more active and works your heart.
  • Isometric, resistance, or strength training, which uses weights or pressure to strengthen muscles
  • Flexibility or stretching, which stretches and tones muscles
People argue about which is best, but the truth is they're all important. A good exercise routine includes all three types of exercise. Many exercise videos combine all three types of exercise.

If you have a slow metabolism, you probably can't lose weight without exercising, so what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How to deal with a compulsion to eat

It's time to go into more detail about ways to deal with a compulsion to eat. I listed the techniques in this earlier post.

By the way, if you have a compulsion to eat, you might want to check out Overeaters Anonymous. OA is a group based on Alcoholics Anonymous principles; they have local chapters that hold meetings you can attend. I've never had any personal contact with members, so I can't give an opinion on it. Nevertheless, working on a compulsion problem with others can certainly be helpful.

One technique that worked for me, quoted from that earlier post, is: "Removing yourself from temptation, that is, food: An example is staying out of the kitchen."

Removing yourself from temptation means staying away from food. Here's my story:

When my kids were about 9 and 11, I started to realize that sitting down to dinner with them was a disaster for me. I always overate. If they left over anything on their plates, I scarfed that down in front of the sink.

I loved having dinner together. I have great memories of dinner time with my parents. We discussed the issues of the day and talked about science, history, politics, and more. I remember many times getting up to get the dictionary or encyclopedia during dinner to resolve some question.

But it wasn't working for me. I couldn't control myself. I had to break my attachment to having dinner together as a family. As soon as I did that, I was able to lose weight. I sat my kids down (my husband came home later) and gave them food, but I didn't sit with them. I put some vegetables in a bowl (plenty of food for me in the evening!) and ate them separately. Then I did other things.

Although I now cook two meals a day, I still don't sit and eat with the family at dinner time (I do for lunch), except on Friday nights. While the dinner is cooking, I take my own meal, which is different, and eat it. When dinner is ready, I get out of the kitchen and let others eat in the dining room. I go back to work in my office or do other chores. My husband, bless him, is repsonsible for cleaning up the dishes after dinner.

Whenever I come into the living room after dinner, where my husband is often parked in front of the TV, eating pretzels, I eat, so I try to avoid that, too.

All in all, this has been a very effective technique for me, a life-saver, in fact.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How can you tell how much you should eat?

Most of us eat according to habit or compulsion, not according to how much our body needs. Most people have no idea whatsoever how much food their body needs.

There's a Japanese saying, "hara hachi bu," which means "eat until you're 80 percent full."
But most people don't pay attention to their stomach as they eat.

So try recording how full your stomach is before and after you eat each meal. Just put your attention there and feel the sensation of food in your stomach. At first, you won't have much basis for judging, but after a while, you'll be able to use your previous sensations to get a better sense of it.

Then wait half an hour and feel the stomach again (with your mind, not your hand). Try to put your attention on your stomach several times throughout the day, for a second or two each time. Soon, you'll be much more aware of your stomach and how full it is. You'll notice when you're full and won't be as likely to keep on eating anyway.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What's a customized solution?

You may have noticed that the byline for my blog mentions customized solutions. What's a customized solution?

The main idea is that people are overweight for different reasons, so the way they lose weight will differ. But there's more.

People have different life situations. In my experience, most diet books assume that you're single and in total control over your food. But perhaps you're living with your parents and your Mom (probably) cooks for you. Or you cook for others and don't have time to cook two different dinners every night -- not to speak of the energy and patience!

You need to consider these situations. In fact, the family situation is often very intertwined with why you're overweight. For example, you may eat more or less the way your parents did.

For me, a big aha was that I didn't need to sit and eat dinner with my family. I wanted to, but it wasn't a healthy choice for me. I digest food painfully slowly at night and when I sat down with the family, I always ate too much. Eating dinner together with the family was a sweet memory for me from my childhood, but I had to break that pattern. As soon as I cooked for the family, quickly prepared something extremely light for me, and ate it elsewhere (where I wasn't tempted by the good food I made for my family), I was able to make progress.

Think about how your family situation constricts your ability to make the right eating choices.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

My Overweight Story

Before I go any further, you probably want to know more about me.

When I was 18 or 19, I went on a diet and lost about 10-15 pounds. When I returned to college in the fall, I started gorging on candy bars and gained back all the weight I'd lost and more, going up to 40 lbs. It was so disheartening, that I didn't diet again for almost 30 years!

Then I tried again. I'd had 2 children and I was almost 50. I had gotten up to 159 lbs. and the 160 number scared me. I started exercising -- I even created my own exercise routine to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. (I still do it!) And I went on a diet. I knew that I'd have to stay on it all my life, but I wasn't sure what would work. I lost weight, down to 144 lbs., although it wasn't easy. But then, my weight started to inch up again. A vacation with the family in Florida cost me 5 lbs. and I couldn't shake that. Soon I was up to 156.

I went to a doctor and she gave me a diet, but I couldn't stick to it. The compulsion to eat was too strong. So, slowly, I developed my own diet.

I started on 12/23/05 at 156.5 (my scale measures in halves of pounds).
I weighed myself very often, usually a few times a week. This was necessary for me to see what worked and what didn't work. And my weight fluctuates a lot, up a pound, down a pound.

The lowest I got to was 136.5, which was a 20-lb. loss, and that was last November. Since then I've held at around 138-139 and I was 139 at my last weighing. That was 6 months ago. Over the winter, I was writing 3 books at once and the weather here doesn't encourage going outside, so I almost completely stopped exercising except for walking. (I walk almost an hour each day, in 4 15-minute stretches.) So I know I've managed to hold my weight.

Along the weigh(!), I've learned a lot about why I'm overweight and what works for me. I'm hoping that my insights will help you, too.

Of course, I'd like to lose more weight. That will take more exericse, because I can't eat any less and still be getting enough nutrition. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Reason 3 for being overweight

It's time to get to the 3rd reason for being overweight -- slow metabolism/poor digestion. This is a very common reason for being overweight. It applies to most people over 30 or 40 (like me!), but also to some younger people.

It's possible to have a poorly functioning thyroid that creates this situation; if you suspect this, you should see a doctor.

Everyone has noticed that some people eat lots of food and don't gain weight while others tightly control what they eat and gain weight, or at least don't lose it. Everyone is different. In fact, for this reason, the often-stated "fact" that 3500 calories = 1 lb. makes no sense. Perhaps they did the study on 18-25 males. It certainly doesn't apply to me!

You need to eat the amount of food that's right for your metabolism. It can happen that your metabolism is so slow that this wouldn't give you enough nutrition. The main solution for slow metabolism is -- you guessed it -- EXERCISE!

Exercise raises your metabolic rate. It's that simple.

Poor digestion is another, more difficult issue. There's not a lot of understanding of this problem, but there are a few natural solutions. More about that later.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Does drinking milk help?

You've seen the Drink Milk ads, with the white moustache. Is it true? Here's a page from the site on the studies. They're pretty impressive. Note that out of the 5 studies, one study, on normal-weight women, showed no weight loss. However, the other 4 studies all showed good results.

My experience with this was the same. When I started drinking milk or eating yogurt for breakfast and dinner, I was able to lose weight more easily.

I like to see research. When you hear claims that something will work to help you lose weight, check out the research.

Dairy and Weight Management: A Look at the Science.

Here are some quotes:
"...34 obese adults on a balanced, modestly reduced-calorie diet found that those who consumed a calcium-rich diet ... lost 22% more weight, 66% more body fat and 81% more trunk fat compared to those who simply reduced calories and consumed little or no dairy."

"Two randomized controlled studies were conducted . . . The first clinical study, a 24-week study of 29 obese adults, found that those who consumed 3 servings of dairy per day . . . lost twice as much weight and fat while preserving lean body mass compared to participants who consumed less than 1 serving of dairy per day.

"The second clinical study. . . found that those who consumed 3 servings of dairy per day on a weight-maintenance diet lost more total body fat and trunk fat and gained lean mass compared to participants who consumed less than 1 serving of dairy per day. . . In addition, in the weight maintenance study, consuming 3 servings of dairy per day produced a significant decrease in blood pressure."

"A 12-month study of 155 women . . . found that normal weight subjects showed no effect on body composition under energy balance (study was not designed for weight loss)."

"In a 12-month study of 19 normal-weight women (aged 18-30 years), the participants who consumed 3-4 servings of dairy each day burned more fat and calories from a meal compared to women who consumed a low-dairy diet (1-2 servings per day). "