Friday, September 7, 2012

My Weight Journey; From Losing Weight, To Gaining Weight, To Maintaining It

Source: iStock Photo

**** WARNING: This post may not be appropriate for anyone with an eating disorder, or anyone who is sensitive to "weighty" issues (pun intended). ****
Today I wanted to write a personal post about weight management and life after an eating disorder. I figure this is my blog, otherwise known as a "web log", so I might as well write a candid post about life after an eating disorder, and specifically my thoughts and struggles with weight and weight management. After all, I have only written one or two posts about anorexia and my personal experience with anorexia, but never have I talked about life as a women who has healed, and who is in the midst of a weight-conscience and weight-obsessed society (my previous posts are "From Normal, To Anorexic" and "An Insight on Eating Disorders".)

After recently reading the book Gaining I pretty much figured out the meaning behind my anorexia, and how I was the perfect candidate for an eating disorder. I'm a perfectionist in just about every aspect of my life (I'm not perfect, I'm a perfectionist).
When I was recovering from anorexia, over five years ago, I was deathly afraid that I would spiral out of control and put on a ton of weight if I ever got "Better" (this is a classic sign of anorexia). In my mind I thought I had to either eat perfectly, or else I'd become what everyone else had become.....overweight or obese (both were equally scary to me). After all, as I started getting "better", I also started binging and to me that was very scary (not having control over what and how much I ate = scariest thing ever, at that time).
Source: iStock Photo

Now, over five years later, having been fully recovered for maybe three years (I still had some eating issues when I was first dating Nick, but not full blown anorexia. At the time I thought I was recovered, but looking back I was fooling myself), I am at the point in my life where I am no longer trying to put on weight, but instead I am actually having to watch my portions and be careful about how much I eat (something I was once way too good at, in a very bad way).

I'm finally at the point where I no longer feel like it may be disordered thoughts that are telling me to "only eat half the burger" (it has taken me quite a while to come to terms with this fact. For many years I couldn't tell whether my thoughts to eat less or to stop eating when I was full were coming from my eating disorder, or if they were coming from me actually trying to be healthy and eat intuitively.) For so long my goal was to put on weight and now that I have, I have to work hard not to keep on putting it on! Ironic. Right? Just as I imagined five years ago, I am at that point where I was always afraid I'd be. Now that I'm hear, however, it's not so bad. I'm just like every other American who has to work hard to keep weight from slowly creeping up. Is that a bad thing? Nope. It's a good thing because I'm a dietitian and I can practice what I preach, and learn many things along the way (thus I'm better able to teach others how to maintain a healthy weight, in a realistic way, how it should really be done, not by starving myself).

Sometimes I compare myself to someone who has gained a lot of weight, then lost it, and now has to maintain it. In many ways I am similar to that person. Eating too much is an eating disorder just like eating too little, and just like me, people who eat too much and gain a lot of weight have to eventually learn how to eat normally again, and have a better relationship with food. That's exactly what I've done. I've had to train myself to have a better relationship with food, and myself, and to love who I am, not to focus on a number, eat intuitively, and to live in the moment.

So I'm normal. I now have to work at maintaining a healthy weight, for the rest of my life. I no longer want to spiral out of control and lose a bunch of weight, and nor do I want the opposite to happen. I now live in the same world as everyone else. Trying to keep a healthy weight, and still enjoy good food that makes me happy, every step of the way.

Here is a great article I found not too long ago; Keeping Weight Off Is As Much A Challenge As Losing It. In the article they talked about the following ways that seem to keep people successfully maintaining a healthy weight;

•Count calories, carbs or fat grams or use a commercial weight-loss program to track food intake.
•Eat breakfast regularly, often including whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
•Limit dining out to an average of three times a week, and fast food to less than once a week.
•Eat similar foods often and don't splurge much.
•Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week.
•Weigh-in at least once a week (** Unless the scale alters your mood. In that case, try once a month. Personally I weigh-in once a month because scales are just not my friend....even still **)
Source: iStock Photo
And I'll add to this list by saying that it's extremely important to keep up with your workout routine. You should try to workout about an hour a day, most days of the week (90 minutes would be even more beneficial). Not into working out? Find a workout buddy to keep you motivated, and do stuff you ENJOY!
Source: iStock Photo
I also recently read this article about mindful eating. In the article they discuss how you can give mindful eating a spin "by incorporating a few chilled-out gestures and rituals into your regular calorie intake".
WHEN YOU EAT, JUST EAT. Unplug the electronics. For now, at least, focus on the food.
CONSIDER SILENCE. Avoiding chatter for 30 minutes might be impossible in some families, especially with young children, but specialists suggest starting your meal with short periods of quiet.
TRY IT WEEKLY. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid wolfing down onion rings in your cubicle. But if you set aside one sit-down meal a week as an experiment in mindfulness, the insights may influence everything else you do.
PLANT A GARDEN, AND COOK. Anything that reconnects you with the process of creating food will magnify your mindfulness.
CHEW PATIENTLY. It’s not easy, but try to slow down, aiming for 25 to 30 chews for each mouthful.
USE FLOWERS AND CANDLES. Put them on the table before dinner. Rituals that create a serene environment help foster what one advocate calls “that moment of gratitude.”
FIND A BUDDHIST CONGREGATION where the members invite people in for a day of mindfulness. For New Yorkers, it’s an easy drive to the Blue Cliff Monastery, about 90 minutes north of the city: on the Web.

QUESTION: How do you practice mindful eating? Do you have any tips? What's your best tip for maintaining a healthy weight, and/or a healthy relationship with food and your body?
STAY TUNED: Coming up next I will post my thoughts on Dr. Supplements....I mean Dr. Oz. And in the next couple weeks I will also post about the concept of volumetrics (my favorite weight management tool to teach clients!).

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  1. Gina, this is an amazing post for so many reasons. Firstly, thanks for talking about your eating disorder. I really appreciate it when bloggers open up about such things, as they can be difficult to understand.

    And I think a lot of what you describe is so relate-able even for people who have never been too far above or below a healthy weight. I think many of us know what it's like to eat less than we need to to "correct" for overeating, and eat more than we need to because we feel out of control.

    Your tips are great, and I am especially glad that you brought up mindful eating. Thich Nhat Hahn wrote a book called "Savor" all about it...I haven't read it, but I imagine it's a deeper treatment of the same stuff you're discussing here. I try to practice mindfulness in many things, and find that it really helps me reduce my anxiety and be happier in the moment.

    Whew...that was a novel. Thanks for the great post! =)

  2. Thank you for sharing this personal subject. It's great to hear and relate to others. I am also at the maintaining point after going through anorexia about 3 years ago. For the first time in a long time I am having to watch what I eat because after a running injury I put on a few lbs and would like to lose them. I was worried that the desire to lose weight & having to make more conscious choices was "triggering" previous disordered eating. However I have happily realized that I am just going through normal things. My outlook is cutting back, listening to my body when full, eating clean & nutritious, & finding fun ways to keep working out despite the injury. Happily have found it's about balance:)

  3. I wrote a week or two ago about maintenance after weight loss (I have maintained a 65 lb loss for what will be four years in May). For me, it's remembering that I cannot live me life the same way as someone who was never overweight. What I do in maintenance (my diet and exercise) is barely discernible from what I did when I was actively losing, which is identify and eliminate my trigger foods, eat extremely clean with very rare deviations (ice cream once a year is an example), weigh myself at least four times/week on different scales and work out for an hour a day EVERY DAY. Would I love to sleep in on Saturday and then go out for pancakes and think nothing of it? Sure. Can I? No. Never. Not unless I want to go back.

  4. It's interesting-- I've always considered gaining weight, and even losing weight, to be fairly easy-- it's the maintaining that takes real work!! I can see that maintaining would be extra hard coming from a disordered background, but it sounds like you're doing great so far.

  5. Thanks for your openness about this. It's a very interesting topic, and relevant to so many.
    I've never had an eating disorder, but I can relate to a lot of the feelings about weight/food.
    I've done some training in mind-body medicine, and one of the activities we do with people is regarding mindful eating. It's such an amazing experience---eye opening and wonderful. I think doing it regularly takes conscious effort and practice... I can say that I've been practicing for a year or so, and i've gotten a lot better. I can also catch myself in the middle of not eating mindfully and turn it around. I'm pretty happy with that!

  6. this is a great and thoughtful post Gina! It's really touching and you've came through a long way to where you're now. I am also happy to see your enthusiasm on helping on others!

    mindful eating comes natural to me nowadays because I think I've learned how to channel my emotions through others activities than food, like talking to my husband and friends. Also I listen to my body and eat mostly when I am hungry, not when it's supposed to or when I'm bored. Somedays I'll eat 3 meals and 2 snacks, some others when I'm specially hungry, I'll give it and eat more. It's okay. my body knows what is it doing! :)

  7. It is very inspiring of you to share your journey. You are tenacious and motivating for those who may be walking those shoes now.
    I am proud of you without even knowing you, thank you for sharing this peace of you.
    Making peace with food is behavior component that those seeking lifestyle change lack...I always say you have to change the behavior first or no nutrition plan will help.
    It is hard and difficult but you are a living example that it can be done! And you are right, disordered eating takes many shapes,its just not under eating!
    Have a super groovy weekend Gina!

  8. Thanks for sharing part of your journey. I can really relate to your post.

    When I was very young, I was underweight and purposefully underate. Then, for about 10 years or so, I think I was in a fairly healthy place. I ate well and exercised regularly. But then I went through an extremely stressful period in my life, and I turned to food to deal with it. As a result, I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. I was overweight for only a short period, but learning to be "normal" again has taken a lot of time. Last year was a very stressful year for me (and in a way a test to see how "normal" I really was), and I was able to get through it without overeating, and I continued to exercise and take care of myself. I wasn't "perfect" and had a few slip-ups, but overall I'm proud of the way I was able to cope.

    Looking forward to your post about Dr. Oz and volumetrics!

  9. Such an insightful and thought provoking post... I am going to ponder your words for many days to take it all in, I can tell! :-) Finding that "normal" balance is so challenging...
    Love your tips about mindful eating... Beautiful.

  10. I love when you said, "I'm normal" :) I think that having been at both ends of the spectrum with weight and nutritional needs (more vs. less) makes you a very well-rounded asset to the nutrition community :)

  11. Hi Gina! I appreciate your honesty in this post. I've struggled with anorexia for 11 years. I'm curious, when you say you have to "watch what you eat" in order to not gain, is it different than watching what you eat to lose (follow the ED)?I guess when I reach a healthy weight I don't want to have to still obsess over my intake. I hope that made sense!

  12. ooo I just saw avocanana bread as I began to comment. Haha, must read that one after.

    So... I didn't know that you had experience with anorexia! Maybe I just forgot after all this time. I'm a recovered bulimic/anorexic - but I have struggled with posting about it on my blog vs. not. It's like a closed chapter in my life that seems like "Do I go back to that page or not?".

    When I read posts like yours, I automatically become inspired to write about my experience. That is after all how I originally started recovering - I started writing therapeutically and started blogging.

    I've posted in a non-personal way to discuss eating disorders but I find that posts like yours are "Carthartic" or however you spell that.

    I think so much is involved with "mindful eating" and there are steps to conquer before you can reach a stage of eating mindfully. It can sometimes be easy to recognize "I'm not at my healthy weight" or "I'm off track"... but where to go from there is often too difficult to figure out. Like, what is your track ? Did you ever have a track to begin with that you fell off of ?

    I read a really amazing book suggested to me by a therapist and it was eye-opening in terms of getting to your "happy healthy weight". It wasn't a magic cure but principles from it definitely stuck with me!

    Maybe I will write a post about my ED experience...

  13. Maintaining IS really difficult - because we spend so much time in one extreme or the other that finding balance and staying at one place is often very difficult. Like in yoga - staying in one posture is often the most difficult - not the posture itself.

  14. Truly an inspiring article. I love how you say "I've had to train myself to have a better relationship with food, and myself, and to love who I am, not to focus on a number, eat intuitively, and to live in the moment." After losing 40 pounds several years ago, I still have to work on doing just that. :)

  15. Such a womderul post Gina and I love your honesty here. When I was in high school and college, I dieted a lot, and, when I was doing that, obsessed about food. Now, that I allow myself to eat whatever I want, I don't have that obsession and it's such a good feeling. I consider myself an Intuitive Eater, but I could do better on the Mindful part-slow down my chewing, and focus on the meal more and what I am eating. Thanks for opening up about your experience!