Today’s topic is about when I realized my thinking and my beliefs were what led to my weight gain. I am a nurse for those who didn’t listen to my first post. I grew up learning about governmental nutrition recommendations in the diet pyramid and teaching diet information from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Foundation on to my patients. These are just the strongest examples that I remembered; there were many more like minded foundations and organizations out there in support of the calories in=calories out and low-fat diet theories. They did it with such certainty and authority that I never questioned it for decades.
Along came the Internet, Google, and the flood of weight-loss gurus and marketing campaigns focused on diet foods. I now had all these people and products to help me lose weight but I still couldn’t keep it off for more than a month before the weight crept back on. In the spring of 2015 I lost 40 pounds in 3 months by eating only 850 calories a day. I then gained it all back by the end of the year because I went right back to my old way of eating which included 3 full meals a day and snacking in the evening when I was bored.
As I nurse I kept feeling like I should know better.
I had a huge wakeup moment in February of 2016. I had been feeling foggy in the head and thought it was due to age, fatigue, poor diet, and work stress. In mid-February I cut the tip of my left index finger with my rotary cutter while cutting fabric. I bled like a stuck pig and it severely limited what I could do in my work as an operating room nurse. Then, a week later, I rear-ended another driver at a stop sign because my brain thought he was moving forward through the intersection. Luckily the accident was very minor but I had to ask myself “What the F**** is wrong with my brain?”
One thing stuck out like a flashing neon light on a dark street. My healthcare plan had changed my cholesterol prescription over to the generic equivalent because of the cost savings. I had been taking it the whole month of February. A common side effect of the medication is mental fogginess which I developed after 10 years on the medication. I stopped taking it and within a week my mental fogginess had cleared!
This series of events got me thinking: what else in my life am I taking for granted?
The belief that I needed to keep my diet low in fat and count my calories is precisely why I gained and lost the same 40 pounds over a 30-year period. I always wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep the weight off, why I lacked the willpower to stick to any diet. Me, a nurse with an abundant understanding of anatomy and physiology inside my head and I still couldn’t do what everyone said I needed to do to lose my weight.
I now had to lower my cholesterol solely by diet and lifestyle and had to figure out a new diet. I researched vegan diets and started experimenting with vegan recipes. It was so funny telling people I was a vegan, may as well have said I was a Martian!
I also researched the nutrition information on processed foods and realized almost all the diet food products out there are highly processed, calorically dense, and constructed to increase my desire to eat more. I learned about the hormonal regulation of hunger and realized I was insulin resistant which made it harder for me to lose weight. I had believed in the low-fat diet for so long I shuddered to add fats back into my diet. I even learned about intermittent fasting so I could show myself that I could skip meals for two days without feeling hungry or losing energy. Crazy stuff I was learning about what was possible.
Bottom line. My outmoded beliefs about food were:
• I need to eat more now because I don’t know when my next meal will be,
• food tastes good and I should eat it,
• what I’m eating is really healthy,
• it is not good to waste food,
• a few more bites of food won’t make a difference because I was good yesterday,
• I already blew today so I’ll just start my diet tomorrow, or on Monday,
• food comforts me and keeps me from being bored,
• I had a stressful busy day and deserve a food treat,
• I’ve got nothing else to do but eat,
• I did great on my diet today and deserve a reward,
I was using food to handle all my emotions and meet none of my nutritional needs. All my beliefs had nothing to do with fulfilling my body’s physical sense of hunger because when I thought these thoughts I was thinking about a specific food like potato chips, cake, or anything else salty, sugary, and crunchy! For me that is my hallmark signal that I am experiencing emotional hunger.