We are beginning our last week of full meal replacements. 15 weeks is a long time to go without any real food. My body is starting to rebel I think, or maybe I am just compensating for the anxiety I feel about this phase of the program coming to an end.
It is a finish line and it isn’t. This is a marathon and it isn’t. Maybe it is a triathlon. The first part “products” only, the second “transition” adding real food slowly over several weeks, one meal at a time, and the third is what they label “lifestyle” which is for the rest of our lives, 6 small meals everyday, with 3 “products’ recommended. Maybe the line “until death do you part” applies. I am resistant to including these Optifast products in my diet for the rest of my life. There are too many weird chemicals and Nestle really is an “evil corporation.” I’ll try to keep a (relatively) open mind though. I need to make this work. Ignoring my health is no longer an option for me, so I will do whatever it takes. I will ditch the picture of the products starting with next week’s blog, however, as one small act of resistance.
I only lost .3 pounds last week, my smallest weekly weight loss since I started the program. I felt kind of bloated all week, so it did not surprise me much. I also didn’t get much exercise in last week as I had a cut on my arm that swimming wasn’t helping heal, so I skipped several days. Life always happens. We do the best we can.
(My stats for the last week – down .3 pounds, drank 7 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 210 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 40.7 pounds.)
Less than a month to go before I can taste real food again! August 9th is the day and it will only be one (small) meal each day for that first week. We will start slow and continue on plan, being very careful of calories, increasing them just enough to keep our bodies out of starvation mode, but low enough that we will continue to lose weight. It is kind of scary. As hard as the full meal replacements have been, the joy has been not to have to think about it. Our facilitator said that was the goal for when we are back on real food. Do enough planning, measuring, etc. so that we will continue to be able to function around food and healthy eating will become a new routine. She likes to call it the “new normal” but that always reminds me of the slogan “This is NOT normal.” You know where that comes from.
Speaking of treason, it hit me in class that I was one of very few (2 maybe 3) people in the class that have stayed completely on plan for all 13 weeks. That freaks me out some. Is it going to be harder for me when I get my first taste of, say, an actual egg? Eggs are a good choice, it was said, for our first non-product breakfast.
The other thing we talked about was how to avoid falling into old patterns of gaining back the lost weight. One of my issues has been not continuing to pay attention and to assuming that any weight gain would be VERY slow. I can’t do that again. One thing that will help, I think, is that I am now much more aware of my body. There is a favorite hymn of mine that has the line, “body and spirit united once more”. (Gather The Spirit by Jim Scott)
Much of my life, however, I have lived in my head and my heart, and my body was a mere vehicle for getting things done. My weight gain over the years has been like a slow motion car crash. I need to keep my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel: of my body, of my life. I also need to look out for those hit and run drivers, running red lights, bringing bagels.
In other news, I figured out that swimming with my snorkel set was easier on my neck than my usual modified, head-out-of-the water dog paddle.
Once the whiplash is completely healed, I’ll likely go back to my noodle.
But the only donuts I will play with will be inflatable.
(My stats for the last week – down 3.2 pounds, drank 7 1/2 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 340 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 38.1 pounds.)
We are officially half way through the total meal replacement phase. Then we will gradually began eating real food again, but making better choices and consuming much smaller portions than previously. I am at 300.3 pounds as of last night. Only 100+ pounds to go to get down to a weight where knee surgery will be a viable option. Somehow, that doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it did a few months ago. It is still a big number, but I am making progress and remain determined to do this. It has been difficult to get this far, and I can’t let the efforts I have already made be in vain. Si se puente!
Class was much better last night, we asked and the substitute facilitator agreed to let us do check-ins before the content part of the class. It is so helpful to hear from everyone and to give and receive support. We are also very happy that our regular facilitator will be back in a couple of weeks.
Challenges for me this week included attending a retirement party with lots of food. It was outside, so I could put my camp chair away from the table, but it was still a challenge. Watching others eat a regular meal isn’t as hard as watching folks snack.
Then there is physical pain. I got an x-ray on my shoulder this week and have severe arthritis there as well. Swimming is harder, although the hot tub helps. Good food has always been comforting to me. Eating more yummy food than I need has been a useful distraction when I have been in pain, physical or emotional, at least in the short term. Now I will need to rely on cortisone shots and physical therapy, and ice. (But oh, not the ICE that is causing so much pain to our immigrant neighbors. We need to melt that one down and wash it away.)
We leave for General Assembly (Unitarian Universalism’s annual denomination-wide meeting) in a few more days. Other than getting all the meal replacements into my suitcase, it shouldn’t be that hard. Finding time for actual meals during GA’s jam-packed days is always difficult. I think it will be much simpler to just mix up and drink a shake every 2-3 hours. Unlike in the past, however, I won’t be able to hang out in the hotel bar with a martini, chatting with the good friends that I only see once a year. I still hope to spend some time with those friends.
Doing hard things
Is always hard
I have done many other
Hard things in my life
Never making the easy choices
When it came to love
I can do
This hard thing too.
(My stats for last week – down 2.4 pounds, drank 7 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 250 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 24.2 pounds.)
We had a substitute facilitator this week – and we will have her for the next 3 weeks before our regular one comes back. It was a little disorienting. The substitute was fine, and is likely awesome, but the group, including me, acted out a bit. We have bonded, and our regular facilitator is part of that bond. She knows us. We know her. It felt a little like it did back (way back!) in high school when we had a substitute teacher. This program, with its rigid rules about the meal replacements, doesn’t encourage much flexibility. Any change is hard when we are trying to make such a big change in our lives.
We also talked about support systems and not so supportive folks, of who to tell we are doing this and who not to tell because they might be judgmental about our choice. I have been extremely public about being in the program. It doesn’t get much more public than posting about it on a blog and then sharing that blog on Facebook. I have received only positive support, which has been very helpful. My family and close friends have been particularly wonderful.
I gave up shame years ago, and believe that sharing this process may be helpful to others. The one concern I have is that the friends that I have bonded with over the years around being fat might feel abandoned by me and might be afraid that I will start judging them. It is hard to live in this world as a “person of size.” We have shared tears, anger, and laughter over our common experiences. They loved all of me and I loved all of them. That won’t change, for me anyway. I know the pain too well to judge anyone for their size. We are all beautiful and worthy of love just the way we are. I would not be doing this if I did not know that my health and my life are at risk. I will do this and I will succeed, but it is a hard choice and not one I would recommend to anyone unless they have similarly powerful motivations.
(My stats for last week – down 4.2 pounds, drank 7 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 370 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 21.5 pounds.)
How organized can one be?
This week we talked about organizing our lives so that we can make the changes we need to make, to stay on program, and to reach our goals. We need to remember that the goals are not just numbers on a scale, but the deeper goals, the “why’s” that brought us to this point. Mine are listed here. I keep referring to them when things get hard.
Since I am retired, being organized has been fairly easy for me. There are not many things I have to do. I don’t have small children I need to feed, and my wife Anne is completely capable of cooking her own meals. I can keep a gallon jug of water in the fridge, and set out my meal replacements for each day on the kitchen counter. I can exercise at home in my pool. A challenge for me has been going out. Because of the water I am drinking, I can’t make it through an hour church service without a bathroom break. Maybe I need to slow down on the water on Sunday mornings before church, but that would require being more flexible. Flexible seems hard as compulsively following the routine, a regimen really, is what has made this easier for me. Can I do the Mountain play next week? The hours in the sun, the hike to the bathrooms, and folks eating fancy picnics all around me, might be more of a challenge than I am up for right now. We will see.
One of the ways I am “organizing my world” is by doing this blog. Since I post it on Facebook as well as on my website, I have in some ways created a “community of accountability”. Friends, family, and others know I am doing this. As a minister, my community of accountability has been my colleagues and our professional organization which hold me in covenant to certain standards of ethical behavior. I count on those good people for feedback, for help as I struggle with all kinds of issues, including how to be a decent ally in the holy work of dismantling white supremacy and other forms of oppression.
My group at Kaiser is also a community of accountability in this particular and very specific journey.
Community is so important. Friends are so important.
It must be time to post a link to a video. Music is also important.
a little help from my friends (I get by)
(My stats for last week – down 5.2 pounds, drank 7 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 270 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 17.3 pounds.)
I woke up a little weepy this morning. Change is hard, and knowing that those rocks we are trying to push uphill just want to roll back down over us, makes it all a little harder. Little victories are the clue, placing small wedges under the rocks, keeping a steady pace, and taking the time to rest. Good shoes for the journey can help too. Traveling companions make the journey less lonely, and a friend can help you with your shoe laces.
Speaking of laces, we had another good group meeting last night, and the connections are deepening as the sharing becomes more personal. We went around the room talking about our successes this last week and why we are doing this. I was moved by many of the stories. They resonated with many of my own struggles. Personal stories always do that. Empathy shimmers around a room and we are moved to laughter or tears. The stories are all different as each individual is unique, but in broad strokes the pictures being painted are all the same. This is even truer when a group has gathered around a common issue.
When it was my turn, I had a moment of befuddlement. I had already shared in my head and also right here in my earlier post. Writing is like that sometimes. The words flow out and then they are gone into a deeper part of my being.
We also talked about goals, and the need to be specific about changing behaviors in order to reach a goal. Deciding to “lose weight” doesn’t work as well as deciding to exercise “x” hours per week, or deciding how many calories to have tomorrow. The calorie decisions are being made for me in this program, as long as I follow it. The other stuff is up to me, as always and of course, with more than a little help from my friends.
The idea reminded me of the churches who say they want to “grow,” but are unwilling to change in order to meet that goal. Change is hard, no matter the issue. We need to acknowledge what we will lose as well as what we will gain. Churches may need to give up some familiar practices (music, liturgy, gossip, and exclusive habits of all sorts) in order to welcome the seekers who will help reenergize them in fulfilling their mission. I am giving up the pleasure I have found in eating (and over-eating) delicious high calorie foods in order to live longer and better. L’Chaim!
(My stats for last week: down 2.8 pounds, drank 7 gallons of water, and exercised for 375 minutes – mainly swimming)
Pencils are thin
But people aren’t
Sticks and stones cause damage
And words hurt too
Even when hiding
Behind a smile
Belongs to someone
Remember to feed it
There is something very sweet and inspiring about a relatively diverse group of people bonding over their engagement with a common issue. It happens all kinds of groups (i.e. cancer and grief support groups, non-profit boards, committees, and 12 step programs of all sorts). I should not have been at all surprised that it is happening in my weight management group, even if the personal sharing has been somewhat limited given last night was only our 3rd meeting. I was a bit surprised, however, at how quickly the mutual rapport is developing. Maybe it is partly because we have all committed to journeying together for at least 82 weeks. That commitment is probably a key factor as well as is having a common mission. We want/need the group to jell well so we can all be successful. We are rapidly becoming a “We” and not merely a collection of individuals.
This is a spiritual exercise, coming to a deep realization that we are connected, that we are not alone, in our struggles or in our triumphs. In Unitarian Universalism, this is our seven principle. “We covenant to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
This connection is what many people are seeking when they join a religious community. Commitment to a common mission is what makes for a successful group and a successful church.
Success can be defined partly as transformation, both individual and collective, a transformation that goes much deeper that what the scale says or how gorgeous a church building is. It is what is inside that matters.
(My stats for last week – down 5 pounds, drank 6 1/2 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 365 minutes, mainly swimming.)
Rock on, rock on.
Last night I broke a chair. It was a recliner we have had for around for ten years or so, but I have been using it a lot more since September. Because of my leg condition, I have needed to elevate my legs for several hours a day. This got me into watching TV again, something I had not done much at all in quite a few years, but that is another story.
Anyway, when I tried to get up last night, the chair wobbled and pretty much broke. Leaning on one of the arms while I also used my cane to get up, not to mention my weight, was too much ongoing stress for it. I felt terrible and this morning I got mad at Anne when she mentioned that some of our other chairs are also weak. She did not mean anything by her comment, but it hurt my sensitive feelings. I knew this journey would be emotional.
It helped when she reminded me that the chair had been moved twice and dropped once in the driveway by the movers. It was a weak and damaged chair! The evidence is in the glued together leg. It needed more gentle treatment than I have been able to give it. This morning, Anne sort of fixed it, and we moved its twin into the TV room and put the sad chair in the living room where it won’t get as much use. Whew. I had never broken a real chair before (cheap camp/beach chairs don’t count), but I have certainly worried about doing so and always try to score the sturdier seats if there is a choice. Maybe I won’t have to worry about that as much in the future.
On a weirder note. I have been really craving carrot sticks all week. I thought I would be craving all the yummy things I have loved to eat, but no. Carrot sticks. I don’t even like them much and have always considered carrots as merely convenient spoons for dip, or something to throw in a stew for color. This must be the behavior modification part of the program working. After months of not eating real food, carrots will be wonderful – and jicama, snap peas, and cucumbers too. Don’t they all sound really delish?
When I can eat real food again, I just might binge on raw carrots.
You can tell that I have quite a bit of empathy for the old broken down chair. We all have our broken places.
I got through day 1 just fine: an off and on headache and some mild nausea. The water was the biggest challenge. I drank almost the recommended gallon of water, but going to the bathroom constantly was not fun. I swam for 40 minutes. I wasn’t all that grumpy with Anne, which has been one of my fears. I remember how horrible I was when quitting smoking and did not want to repeat that behavior. OK, I was grumpy this morning when she was stressing about something before I had my 2 cups of black coffee. Then again, I am always grumpy before my coffee. She may not agree about my relative grumpiness.
Any change involves feelings of loss and of grief. It is part of why change is so hard. Part of what I need to keep telling myself that what is changing is my lifestyle – not the essence of who I am. (And please tell that to the congregants who can freak out with any minor change to their liturgy. )
Two poems from years past about being a large woman:
Taking Up Space (2004)
I am a large woman
And I need some space.
The world is not big enough
Sharp elbows jutting, jabbing
The smaller people
Push by with impatience.
Their looks of disgust
Try to cut me down to size.
I don’t feel crowded
By other fat people,
Even in a small space.
Our round bodies bump
With a jiggling, Jello-pudding ease.
Earth mother goddess,
Welcoming, warm, and wise.
Funny how someone so big
Can feel so invisible.
Yes, EXTRA large
Is way too small.
I don’t want to feel small
Simply because I am
What someone else thinks is
Way too big.
I am a large woman
And I need some space.
I want to grow larger still
Spirit filling my body – and more
Flowing out, around.
Larger than all imagination,
Teach us how to bump more gently
Into one another.
May our spirits flow
Around the sharp edges,
Around the rude elbows
That jab us apart.
We are large souls
And we need some space
A Larger Ministry (2014)
I am a large woman
It is a good thing.
As a minister
My shoulders must be wide
When people need them
To absorb their tears.
My arms must open up
To create a safe space
To hold the fearful
Close to my body
In a strong embrace.
If I could only be
My giant heart
Might beat a rhythm
Just loud enough
To teach this hurting world
The joy of the dance.
No matter what size we are in body, may our spirits be as large as the infinite universe.