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Keeping the Howling Dogs at Bay

Friday, January 22, 2016

I have managed to stay on track for 19 days in a row. I have not been able to do this since June 2010. I think that I am kind of in shock about this. Yes, it is something that I have really wanted for a really long time but it was also something that just seemed to elude me. Up until this past effort I used to think that I would never be able to successfully do this because the main reason was I was always so hungry and found it so difficult for me to stay within my calorie range.

I would try suggestions from all kinds of reputable sources and nothing seemed to work long enough for me to stay within my calorie range longer than a day or two. So, 19 days and counting is a new record for me. I think that I have finally discovered what might have been the reason. I was watching a show on weight loss surgery and the surgeon said that most of these extremely obese people have stretched their stomach to the size of a football because of the excessive amount of calories and volume of food they had been eating.

I used to be a binge eater. I don't binge very often any more (thanks to both a few years of therapy and OA) and I even don't overeat except on a couple trigger foods: pizza and junk food (cookies, chocolate candy or pie). [my solution to dealing with those to 1) not have them around me and 2) with pizza, try to eat less] So, I am now thinking that it isn't about my willpower being weak but simply that no matter how much I tried to follow a healthy, balanced food plan, what I was eating was not enough to fill me up and keep satisfied longer than a few hours.

I tried eating smaller meals before but I was white-knuckling in between meals and would constantly be looking at the clock so I could eat the next meal or snack. I am already a person prone to anxiety (PTSS) so this just added to that. I have tried drinking over 128 oz. of plain water a day (I did that for a month solid before returning to 64 oz. per day as recommended) and it didn't help. I will say it was great for my skin complexion though. I have tried increasing raw vegetables but with a history of recurring ulcers my stomach does not tolerate digesting them well. I sometimes have even experienced acute stomach pangs after eating raw vegetables (carrots and cruciferous ones like broccoli) as a snack.

The only time that I noticed that I was close to being full was when I either had more legumes (fiber) or more fat (not recommended). However, legumes are really high in calories for the amount that is a single serving and fat is something that does have to be carefully monitored because of potential health risks. That was my 'remedy' in the past. None of them worked completely nor for very long.

However, when I began having some of these protein shakes (with fat free milk) and/or a bar, I have begun noticing that I haven't seemed to reach for more food (volume) and I also don't seem to want foods with higher fat in them. So, I have solved two issues and it was really 'by accident' when I discovered this. [Note: These protein shakes and bars though are double in protein grams over Atkins.] I truly believe that the inclusion of both of these have allowed me to feel 'satisfied' and not wanting more food (hence: more calories).

Since discovering this (by accident); I also took this one step further and I have included some other high protein low carb food 'exchanges' to help me further: low carb pancake mix (which is quite tasty), low carb dry soup mixes and snack 'chips'. In order to deal with those occasional (and they are truly occasional) cravings for something sweet, I have also found some protein bars (through trial and error) that mimic both the taste and texture of some of my former favorite chocolate bars; like a salted nut roll, caramel chocolate bar and coconut dark chocolate bar. I am discerning when it comes to taste and they had to pass my 'taste test' in order for me to eat them on a continual basis.

I order these online from one of the few companies that offer a line of products for post weight loss surgery patients that sells to the general public. Again, by accident (or Providence) they sent me a catalog and I began ordering their vitamins a few years ago; which I swear by. [I have taken vitamins and some herbal supplements over 40 years] I ordered vitamins for two years before I even decided to try some of the food supplement products. The main reason being is that they are not cheap. Plus, I resisted the idea of using them because I felt like they were still processed foods and I was really trying to eat whole foods and minimally processed foods.

I really had to think through this and I took over a year to 'come around'. I have listened and participated at times in the debates over using artificial sweeteners (I do use them sparingly and I have had no side effects) and what finally won the argument for me was the fact that I am diabetic. Having this extra weight on my body as well as having diabetes is far worse than using some processed foods. I do now use Stevia (recommended for diabetics) in my coffee and I have even baked successfully with both Stevia and Splenda. I trust this company in the quality of products they offer, having been a customer for nearly four years, and expanding into the food supplement area has been a successful bridge for me.
Again, these food supplements only comprise 9-10% of my overall daily calories. I still primarly get my nutrients from whole foods. I buy organic and fresh when that is possible. At this point, I feel the added cost (and it is real and actual contrary to the arguments that I have heard) is worth it if I find intrinsic beenefit from them. I feel they are worth the cost since I am getting tangible results already by virtue of being able to stay within my calorie range without any of the kind of unrelenting hunger pangs that I had before.

For the first time, I now am beginning to believe that my inability to stay on a specific restricted calorie food plan was not for lack of discipline but simply because the gnawing hunger was the cause of me 'caving in' many times in the past. I now have reason to believe that because of my decades of both binge eating (stomach stretching?)as well as food choices meant that no amount of food was going to satisfy me enough to keep the 'howling dogs' at bay. I can't confirm that my stomach was abnormally stretched (unless I verified that with an stomach scope--which I have had in the past) but considering that I often had in excess of 15K calories during one of my binges at my worst, I believe the possibility may exist.

I will admit that when I began eating a much healthier and more balanced food plan many of my cravings either subsided or were entirely eliminated so I knew I was on the right track with that but again that did not take away the gnawing hunger that I seemed to have. The result was that I felt like a failure because I thought it was 'me' (name any attitude) at being able to stick to the calorie range recommended to me. There is no worse feeling than feeling that you are doing 'everything right' and still not getting the results that you see others getting. So; this 'revelation' about dealing with my hunger by increasing the protein in my food plan has been revolutionary for me. Now, that I am aware of the 'association', I have made sure that those 'same foods' are ones that are present and readily available.

Now, that I have found something that will help me feel 'full and satisfied' longer I don't have to feel the internal pressure to hunker down and exert my will (which can be strong at times) when restricting my calories so that I can lose weight. It has released a lot of the former tension that I have felt about my own efforts in this area of my life. I now believe that with continual applying of higher protein (and for me food that is tailored specifically to be minimal calories as well as low carb/low fat) in my food plan I will be able to stay 'on plan' for a longer time and see the kind of weight loss results that I have always hoped for.

NOTE: This does not mean that I will not continue to include plant-based protein in my food plan. My end goal is to increase the consumption of vegetables (eat the rainbow) into my food plan. That is a 'work in progress' at this time. As much as I love all legumes, in order to keep my calories within my recommended range, it is not feasible for me to eat a plate of beans although I could easily do it. I am trying to move away from getting most of my protein even from lean animal meats (again I love meat which is why I found both the South Beach diet and Atkins in the past so user-friendly for me).

Again, at this time, this is what is working for me and has allowed me to stay on plan for the longest period of time that I have been able to in 5 1/2 years. In my opinion, that is truly noteworthy.
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