Labels

Why do we like labels so much? We like them so much we attach them to everything.

A label should make it clear as to what is inside, right?

But who put on the label and why should I use a label someone else applied?

Some labels make more sense or are more clear-cut than others. Like “Caution – high voltage!”

Others, like “Low Fat”, are not so clear.

Food labels can suck us into a sense of complacency where we think we know all we need to know after reading the label. Our brains do this because they like easy.

A label pre-filters the information for us, makes sense to our brains because it fills in the gaps and our brain says, “Just do it now!”

To stop and uncover the unconscious thinking our brain is doing we have to question the label as we are looking at it. I used to pick through food labels. I used to think food labels made a difference in my weight loss.

A lot of people think food labels make a difference. After all, our government requires them to exist and Big Food complies by testing ingredients to come up with the numbers on the labels.

But a food label is only a snapshot of that food. Once we put it into our bodies our complex system of homeostasis uses it in ways we are only now starting to understand.

Last week I discussed just one aspect of our modern diet, saturated and unsaturated plant and animal fats. We are still working out the science on fats after 100 years. But focusing on one thing without keeping it in context with the whole body will give only partial information. Because this is the way science currently hypothesizes, there is a lot of room for collateral, unintended consequences to result from the application of partial, out of context information.

John Berardi, Ph.D. and Helen Kollias, Ph.D. produced an infographic that considers why label reading and calorie counting is not an exact science when trying to lose weight.

I have mentioned before that the “calories in = calories out” theory doesn’t fit with the complexity of our bodies. But, remember, our brain wants easy so this way of thinking has taken a strong hold on many of us, for many years.

Over the past few years I have evolved my thinking to make weight loss easy without having to consider all the marketing, opinions, theories, and nutrition science that exists.

Eat whole foods.

Wait to eat until my body is hungry.

Stop eating when I am satisfied.

Listen to how my body and mind feel and function after eating food.

Rinse and repeat. Easy to remember in times of trouble. Simple to accomplish.

This thinking sounds easy but has required practice. My emotional dependence on food as my go to buffering and comforting partner had to be pushed into the back seat first. My emotional dependence on food still speaks up frequently from the back seat in an attempt to gain control over my eating. Sometimes she gets her way. But mostly she doesn’t.

If you like reading labels ask your self why?

If you give yourself permission to eat a processed food because it is low in fat, sugar, salt, or whatever other ingredient science says you should avoid then consider this.

Big food made it. Big food wants to make money and is marketing that food to get us to buy it.

Is it the best thing you can put in your body for yourself today?

Purpose and Inspiration

We all are born with this universal, human purpose in life.

To exist.

That’s it, and it is enough.

This may sound deep but it is really just simple. We are born with our purpose INSIDE us. We don’t have to go and find a purpose; it is already part of us.

Obviously we do not all live our purpose (to exist) the same.

As we go through our lives we gain inspiration on how to live from many places: our culture, our family, the news media, other people, other events. These are all outside inspirations. They pale in comparison to our inside inspirations for giving us the self-confidence to live our lives as we choose.

Use yourself for inspiration.

The best reasons or inspirations for doing anything in life come from our inside.

Think about some strong positive emotions you carry around and how you use them for inspiration

You LOVE your kids.

That is your inspiration for working, paying bills, saving money, keeping healthy.

You CARE about other people.

That is your inspiration for keeping your car mechanically sound, being your patient advocate, helping others in the world.

Our inside inspirations enrich our purpose in life which is to exist.

Anything opposite of our inspirations are uninspiring, boring, uninteresting, drab, dull, spiritless, banal, dreary, humdrum, mundane, unexciting, bland, vapid, flat, insipid, lackluster, lifeless, monotonous, soulless, tedious, tiresome, trite, unremarkable, wearisome, characterless, uneventful, sterile, and ho-hum.

My inspiration for working through my cancer therapies 9 years ago was my daughter; because to me, she represented the complete opposite of all those uninspiring words I just listed.

My inspiration for losing weight is the feeling I have when I bound out of bed eager to get up every day with no carbohydrate hangover, aching joints, or dread of facing the day with low energy.

What is yours?

Look inside and find it. It is there.

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Fat Surprise

I just completed reading “The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz. It is one of many books I have read to understand what a “healthy” diet should be.

Despite almost 100 years of nutrition science, there is still no clear consensus on what a “good and healthy” generic diet would be for humans. This makes sense to me. After all, we are extremely complex organic systems bundled into one organism. Moving the bead on one row of our abacus will affect other rows and their beads in order to maintain homeostasis within our body.

The book discussed more than what type of fat or how much fat I should or should not eat. It revealed a century’s worth of political, governmental, scientific, academic, and financial pressures that came to bear on developing our current American diet.

The book also discussed the affect carbohydrates have on human disease and weight gain. Not just sugar and processed flours but fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!

Another major subject in the book are unsaturated vegetable oils. Since these are not found in large quantities in nature, Big Food created them to replace lard, butter, suet, and tallow. Big Food’s first iteration of these replacement fats involved hydrogenation, which created trans-fats.

When science showed trans-fats created health problems Big Food had to replace them with other chemicals to make the food taste and look the same. This required more processing and usually more added sugar and salt to keep the products palatable. Big Food had to do this with A LOT of their processed foods.

Consequently, since the majority of food in any grocery store is processed that translates to Americans eating A LOT of chemicals, sugar, and salt over the last few decades. Small wonder we are dealing with increasing amounts of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity as compared with our ancestors.

Also, vegetable oils now used by Big Food and restaurants to fry food cannot tolerate repeated use at high temperatures. Vegetable oils break down into toxic compounds like aldehyde and formaldehyde. Yep, the stuff for storing specimens and listed in our MSDS book as a human toxin to be handled with gloves!

The book gave me a good understanding of why we have the American diet and food supply we do today. And it makes me sad. There are so many viewpoints about what we should and should not eat. Many of these viewpoints are maintained for the purpose of generating revenue. Humans for millennia before us did not have this quagmire to slog through. They just ate the food available to them without all this crazy discussion and debate!

The information in the book gives me the confidence to continue eating whole foods (this includes meat) and avoid anything processed or fried whether it is oil, meat, grain, vegetable, or fruit. The fewer middle men and chemicals between me and my food the better for my body.

For my purposes I learned saturated animal fats (full fat dairy, cheese, meat, butter, etc.) are not going to affect my cholesterol levels and can help me lose weight by providing satiety and lower insulin levels. So, I will be gradually adding these foods back into my diet while monitoring how they make me feel.

Lucky for me I can purchase food that is sustainably sourced, humanely handled, free of antibiotics and hormones, and fed a healthy and organic diet. My ancestors would never have had to consider all this!

This week’s topic ended up being an intensive book review.  I don’t find it useful to glom onto someone else’s ideas because they sound new and exciting. After gaining information from the book I had to recognize what it meant and how it affected all the other beliefs I had about my diet. In fact, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, you can see how difficult it is to learn from a book and synthesize the information!

However, I did the best I could and am passing it on to you this week.

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring our Progress

A common hubris (rule of thumb) for measuring success in weight loss is a scale.

But measuring our progress on losing weight with one number makes very little sense.

Because our bodies are so complex, we need to look at more than one data point to understand how to gauge our progress.

Here are other important measuring sticks that give us data points on our weight loss progress:

  • Body measurements.
  • How our clothes fit.
  • What kind of food we buy at the grocery store.
  • What kind of food we eat at a restaurant.
  • The amount of food we eat at each meal.
  • The number of times we eat each day.
  • How much sleep we get each night.
  • How much energy we have each day.
  • How we respond emotionally to stress.
  • How much activity we do.
  • How much our joints ache.
  • How much constipation or diarrhea we have.
  • How frequently we buffer with food, alcohol, or shopping.

Our weight loss progress can be measured in how we answer each of these data points. Remember the abacus picture last week? Each of these data points would be on it’s own row and you are the one moving the beads towards or away from the direction you desire to go.

I have worked out where all the above data points are for me. So this next 6 months I am focusing on making progress on decreasing my body measurements and body fat composition. I measured my neck, upper arms, thighs and trunk (that’s my bust, natural waist, belly button waist, and hips) to get my starting measurements along with my starting weight and body fat percentage (I get this number from my home Tantita scale). My current body fat percentage is 32% and it should to be about <25% for my age and height!

After 6 months of experimenting with fasting I am tuning my protocol to whole foods (nothing processed) with a 42-hour fasting schedule 3 days a week. This means I fast Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and eat two meals a day on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. This pattern fits my lifestyle.

Also, as a postmenopausal woman the 42-hour fasting protocol is supposed to keep my REE guessing AND get my body to use the fat I have stored for energy.

Because of my age, gender and past history of yoyo dieting it will be a slow but steady fat weight loss so I need to stick with it for 6 months, giving my body the time it needs to become fat adapted again.

Because I am now more interested in losing the fat padding my body than losing weight I will keep track of my measurements and how my clothes fit.

Since fasting preserves lean muscle I may actually gain weight as my body composition changes from less fat to more muscle and bone weight. We shall see how my experiment comes out. I will share the results with you in December!

Normal is a Myth

Every person is unique. There are no two identical fingerprints, palm prints, retinas, heights, weights, shapes, gut biomes, neurological pathways, etc. As organic beings there are so many differences between each of us.

It is a myth that there is a normal out there, in anything.

Normal is an idea built and perpetuated by our fears.

We think of normal as comforting, something to attain.

What happens to us if we feel we are not measuring up to normal? We live in a space of self-doubt. We identify with something else, established by other people. We don’t know how to be comfortable in our own skin.

I choose to think we are all our own version of normal.

Imagine we are built like an abacus with lots of rows and beads on each row. The beads shift from right to left or from more to less. Each row and each side represents a different attribute or trait unique to us.

Say the circumstance is we arrive late to work because of an accident. The red row of beads represents our feeling of anxiety about this circumstance. Some people have low anxiety (the two beads to the left) and some people respond with high anxiety (the eight beads to the right).  The two different anxiety levels are normal for each person!

Now say the blue row toward the bottom represents what is normal for the people in the above circumstance to do when they see doughnuts in the lounge when arriving late.

  • A person with low anxiety doesn’t eat a doughnut (no beads to the left).
  • A person with high anxiety eats a doughnut because the sugar, fat content, and taste “comforts” them by giving them a dopamine hit to counteract the anxiety (10 beads to the right).

We are very interactive beings. Our brains have evolved to unconsciously filter information and quickly make sense of things to get things done. Our primitive brain is also constantly on the hunt for low effort sources of pleasure to counteract our pain in life. This is why we respond to circumstances the same consistent way each time. I have a “tough” drive to work so I deserve a doughnut!

However, if we want the beads to move in the direction we WANT we have to take a stand with our neo-cortex against our unconscious brain!

If I want my anxiety less I need to think a different thoughts about getting late to work. If I want my eating food to comfort my anxiety less I need to plan ahead and give my unconscious mind a counter direction to go, opposite from the usual direction of just being anxious and mindlessly eating food.

I want to organize my beads on purpose! I don’t want doughnuts, people, things, or places pushing my weight loss beads around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress and Negative Emotions

Here we are into July already.

It is summer and everyone is taking a turn at enjoying a little time off for vacation. We are also “enjoying” shorter staffing at work as a result. This can mean more stress at work. Or rather, using the MODEL, there may be more circumstances at work that produce negative thoughts that we may want to buffer away with some comfort food.

It is OK to feel angry, frustrated, tired, slighted, ignored, anxious, or any other negative emotion. After all, they are 50% of the human experience. By experiencing them we are experiencing our humanness.

But negative emotions don’t feel good you say!

Nope, they don’t.

That is normal.

Does eating a doughnut make it feel better?

Yep, but only in the VERY short term.

By eating doughnuts to buffer negative emotion we create MORE negative emotion because our actions are at odds with what our neocortex brain REALLY wants – to lose weight. So eating doughnuts ultimately produces more negative emotions like shame and guilt, disappointment and strong feelings of failure.

We can experience the negative emotions now or later.

It is our CHOICE to buffer over them in the short term with food and experience an avalanche of negative emotions later

OR

Let the current negative emotion just pass through us and be gone.

I tend to avoid negative emotions around the end of my meal when I need to find my “satisfied” or +2 and stop eating.

I get upset over wasting the food on my plate. I feel “entitled” to clean my plate past my “satisfied” feeling in the stomach because the food is healthy, tastes good, is a reward for a busy day at work, or cost me money.

Here is the unintentional MODEL for this repeating behavior of mine:

CIRCUMSTANCE: FOOD ON A PLATE

THOUGHT: I can eat everything on my plate.

EMOTION: Entitled

ACTION: Eat all the food no matter what or how much is on my plate. Eat beyond my satisfied.

RESULT: A clean plate. Overeat beyond satisfied. Gain weight.

My feeling of being ENTITLED is a subtly negative emotion. It doesn’t seem like it would be bad to feel but it is. Feeling entitled means I am telling myself I have “earned” something, that I am “owed” something and I can eat all I want as a reward.

My actions have me actively ignoring what my body is clearly telling me: “I’m satisfied and you don’t need to give me more food!”

Clearly this unintentional model is not going to help me leave food behind on my plate so I am going to follow this INTENTIONAL model to redirect my thoughts.

CIRCUMSTANCE: FOOD ON A PLATE

THOUGHT: I stop eating when my body says it is satisfied.

EMOTION: Mindful

ACTION: Eat to my satisfied. Think about why my mind is not satisfied but my body is. Allow the urge to clean my plate to run through my body and dissipate while I look at the leftover food on my plate. Throw away leftover food or save it in the refrigerator.

RESULT: Listen to my body. Feel confident I can leave food behind.

The emotion of being MINDFUL is not a strong one but is subtly powerful. It forces my brain to pause and redirect my thinking. It redirects my mind from the primitive brain emotion of ENTITLED toward an emotion I choose. It gives me back control to think about the food in front of me and if my body really needs it.

It gives me a chance to be mindfully thinking instead of mindless eating!

 

 

 

My Experiment to Change my REE

This week I experimented with changing up my diet through meal timing, numbers of meals a day, and fasting. My experiment helped me lose 3 pounds!

My experiment included changing meal times to avoid eating later in the day AND reducing the total number of meals I ate in a week. I planned for two TYPES of days:

Days at home: I planned eating two meals before 4:00 pm.

Days at work: I planned fasting.

Days I work are the easiest for me to plan a fast. It is a hassle to pack food. I am busier at work and have a lot less time to get bored and think about food. Making workdays my intermittent fasting days was an easy choice. Our brains like easy!

I gave myself two ways to fast so I could change up my REE (Resting Energy Expenditure – we covered this last week) and avoid stagnating my basal metabolism. I could pick one or two fasting options each week.

24-hour fast – one meal before 4:00pm      OR

48-hour fast starting after 3pm on Sunday to 3pm Tuesday (or 3pm on Wednesday to 3pm Friday)

During my fast I had coffee, green tea, herbal tea, or water. I had vegetable broth when I got home at 3pm because it gave my mind something to “look forward to eating”.

On workdays I did either one meal before 4:00 pm or zero meals.

On days off I did two meals before 4:00 pm.

In addition to losing some weight this week I observed a few other things from my experiment:

  1. In choosing to do two 48-hour fasts I reduced the number of meals I ate in a week from 16 to 10.
  2. I was not hungry at work and much less “desperate” to eat a meal once I got home from work.
  3. I started thinking “I’m dining in on my own fat!” when my tummy growled at work.
  4. I really don’t need much food in a week! This observation showed me how much I overeat for my body!
  5. I didn’t plan what food I was going to eat; I just ate whatever I wanted to a satisfied level. I observed it was easier to pay attention to when I felt satisfied.
  6. I had a stronger desire to eat something healthy because I thought it was a good idea to make the meal “count” for my body’s nutritional needs.

On a very positive note for our weight loss group at work I have observed that the sweet things left in the lounge are not being eaten! We even had pizza left over three days later! This would have not been the case 6 months ago because everyone is much more aware of what they are eating and not going for the sugar and processed foods. Awesome!!

Changing It Up

We are going to review some physiology this week. It is important to understand that calorie restriction over a long duration is like fighting an uphill battle with weight loss. This is because obesity is due to hormonal imbalance and NOT calorie in calorie out imbalance.

Human bodies are elegant organisms that have survived because of their ability to maintain homeostasis. If there is a food shortage in our environment our resting energy expenditure (REE) – you may know it as the basal metabolic rate – decreases so we don’t burn energy the body “thinks” it may not be able to replace right away.

Restricting calories over weeks or months is like waving a red flag to our body’s hormonal energy homeostatic system forcing it to “think” it has to conserve energy by lowering the REE.

Science shows meal amounts and meal timing are two ways to increase our REE and continue to lose weight.

Here are a few ways to change up your diet plan within every month.

Change your intermittent fasting pattern. 

Making your eating window smaller on fast days by 2-4 hours.

OR

Shifting your eating window on fast days to the breakfast/lunch side of things and not eating in the evening. Here is more science on how this works well. Basically, this will help decrease insulin secretion and you will store less fat! Even doing this a few days a month will help you store less fat.

Does the second suggestion immediately make these thoughts appear?

“But “I have to eat dinner with my family!”

“But I’ll go to bed hungry!”

“But dinner is my favorite meal!”

“I need to relax after a crazy day in the OR with dinner!”

These thoughts are the unconscious primitive brain’s way of protecting the status quo you are currently living. The brain wants easy, pleasurable, and is SOOOO afraid of change! Fasting at dinnertime is a BIG CHANGE but a simple way to keep the REE higher and help you lose weight!

Change the number of meals eaten per day a few times a month.

It is actually quite easy to have one or two meals a day on workdays. It may be easier to have 3 meals on the weekend with extra activities you do with family and friends. As always we want to wait to eat till we are hungry (or at least have a 3-4 hour span between meals) and stop eating when we are satisfied. CAUTION: eating to full, even if you are only having one meal a day will still force your body to store that unnecessary energy as fat!

Changing the duration of planned fasting.

If you regularly 24-hour fast on workdays change it up by throwing a 36 or 48 hour fast in there once or twice a month.

This will allow you to dine in on your stored fat by burning fat for energy like our body has been designed to do.

I have fasted Sunday evening into Tuesday morning (36 hour) or Wednesday morning (48 hour) because that works with my work schedule. I ensure my fasting success by keeping hydrated, staying busy, having my husband cook his own meals and keeping out of the kitchen so I don’t tempt myself. I find a good broth with sodium helps along with lots of warm tea (green and peppermint) and coffee.

As with any fast, if you develop nausea it is time to eat!

Experiment with these meal number and timing techniques and find out how they work for you. Let’s keep our REE guessing and the weight loss going!

Meal Repetition

This week I’m using an idea from Mr. Pareto to help understand why doing a meal plan can make losing weight easier. In 1896 he demonstrated there was a LAW OF THE VITAL FEW and The Pareto Principal was born. Today we know it as the 80/20 rule.

We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.

We use 20% of our kitchen gadgets 80% of the time.

We watch 20% of the same channels 80% of the time.

And we eat 20% of the same food 80% of the time.

Take a look at what you eat and where you follow the 80/20 rule. You can create a meal plan around the 20% of the food you are already eating. You can put routine into your diet based on what you already like to eat! Here are a few reasons this can work with you in losing weight:

First it clears all these anxious thoughts out of your brain:

“I don’t know what to eat.”

“There is nothing I want in the pantry OR fridge OR freezer.”

“I want something different today.”

“I had that yesterday.”

“I like to be spontaneous in my food choices.”

“I had that for lunch.”

“I am supposed to have something different at every meal.”

“I’m too tired to think of what to eat.”

“My family doesn’t like the same things.”

Second, a set meal plan greatly eliminates wasting food and therefore saves money.

Third, a set meal plan takes all the drama out of what you have for meals and what your family anticipates eating on set days of the week.

Fourth, routine meals make food shopping so much simpler since you buy the same ingredients over and over.

Fifth, a set meal plan makes it easier to see where you can level up to healthier options like homemade pizza instead of the cheesy crust take-out kind.

Planning meals that are routine and repeated does not have to be boring!

Remember, “Meal planning is boring” is just a thought. . . . . . .

Trial and error builds a meal plan that works for a week or month or season. I have favorite foods I put in my cool weather diet (chili, soup, casseroles, etc.) that I don’t have as often in the warm months.

Written meal plans can be saved and repeated.

I know some people who are so organized they have the same shopping list!

Meal planning makes use of the Pareto Principal. If you are keeping track of your food this will become very clear to you!

 I challenge you to harness your ALREADY EXISTING routines and favorite habits around what foods are in your diet to create a meal plan. Then follow it. Boring can be a very underrated tool in losing weight, saving money and eliminating anxiety over what to eat every day.

Eating My Frustration

At the end of my first blog post in December 2018 I made this comment: “By the end of the year none of us will be afraid to try, fail, try, fail, try again and fail again. Because not doing anything is failing and nothing gets accomplished. By trying we learn.”

I have practiced failing a lot in the 6 months since I wrote this.

But I don’t feel like a failure because now I think differently about myself.

Mostly I keep thinking, “I haven’t got everything figured out yet but I will.”

I keep finding errors in my thinking and keep working to correct them.

When I overeat it is because I have failed to experience whatever feeling I’m having at the time and then make a choice to comfort eat away my negative feeling.

Tuesday I was frustrated by the actions of some co-workers. I came home and overate lettuce salad to comfort myself. It could have been worse if I had a bag of potato chips at home!

I had a life coaching call scheduled that evening so my coach helped me understand my thought process about work. I love my life coaches, they help me get out of my head and help me “see” what my thinking is doing to my feelings, actions and results.

My thinking about what was happening at work that day resulted in a general, unhelpful, frustrating thought spin and the results were I kept blaming my actions on other people. I had forgotten I can’t control other people therefore I can’t blame them for what I am thinking and doing!

I was generating my own frustration!

My coach reminded me I just needed to take care of my own business and stay out of other people’s business. Everyone wins!

At work I have explicit and implicit values by which I operate. For example, an explicit value (something clearly stated) would be: I am my patient’s advocate at all times – this is a value I uphold as part of my nursing profession. An implicit value (something implied but not directly stated) would be: I work with my team until all the work is done; there is not my work or your work because it is all our work.

As I thought about my thinking at work and how to lessen my frustration and blaming things on others I realized my explicit and implicit values about work are not carried around by anyone but me.

My values are important to me to the point I looked for confirmation they should be the only values and should be shared by everyone! That sounds silly once I expose my thinking to myself!

I unrealistically expected others to share my values. This was at the root of my thinking that produced my feeling of frustration. This was the feeling I tried to eat away with lettuce salad.

Being honest about why I am overeating turns a fail into a win! I’m on to myself!

And lettuce not overeat! (You have to say that line out loud for it to make sense!)