Monday, January 24, 2011
Le Projet Maigrir - Progress and a Shift in Strategy
I always approach posting on this topic with no small degree of trepidation. On one hand, I think our society has some horribly wrong-headed attitudes and beliefs about weight, food and health. Diet talk, age talk, or negative body talk of any kind all have a pernicious effect, not only for those who are talking but for the next generation of young women who are listening. I feel I'm treading a narrow path here in discussing my challenges with weight, while not wanting to give the impression that I buy into or endorse the cultural view. But I also want to be as honest as I'm able with myself, and with what I express on this blog.
Last fall I'd hit the wall. I'd known deep down for a while that I didn't look or feel my best, and it was dragging me down mentally and emotionally. My weight had been stable (though higher than I'd prefer) for a few years, but had begun creeping up in the last three years since I'd hit menopause, to a point where I just wanted to hide. Beginning in November, I did Weight Watchers for a few weeks and dropped a few pounds, but even with the new points system (a huge improvement, IMO) I was still almost constantly hungry, and the process of tracking points and having to plan every bite was sucking up too much mental energy. Then my nails started to peel and my skin felt dry and itchy, both of which usually mean that I'm not getting enough protein and fat in my diet. (WW points are skewed in such a way as to encourage consumption of a low percentage of fat.)
Over the Christmas weekend, I sat down and re-read parts of Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories", and a few days later picked up a copy of his new book (at left). I hate the title, BTW; sounds absolutist and preachy, and the content really is not. But for anyone who's ever struggled with weight or knows someone who does, this book concisely and convincingly lays out the science of fat and weight gain, backed up by medical studies and observations which taken together make a solid case for a lower-carb diet, not only for weight loss but also for better health. Some amazon.com reviewers have described this new book as a "Cliff Notes" version of GCBC, but it also updates some information from studies that were completed after GCBC was published. I understand that many people have strong views about food and diets, and I really don't want to provoke a heated debate. If your current way of eating is working for you and you feel great, I'm not trying to convert you, honestly. If it's not, you might want to check out this book. (Spoiler: The "calories in, calories out" mantra is a misunderstanding of how our bodies utilize and store energy.)
During the week between Christmas and New Years, I stopped counting points and shifted my intake toward a lower-carb mix and have been doing quite well with it since. I've hit my lowest weight in 15 years, and experience almost no hunger, and no cravings. This isn't a steak-three-times-a-day regime; I'm eating lots of fresh veggies and salads (though little fruit until I get to my goal) and am able to stay on track even when eating out. I even enjoy a glass of wine most nights, occasionally two. ;-) But the thing that really surprised me is that mentally I've noticed positive changes. I feel so much more clear-headed and calm, don't feel fatigued at the end of the day, and yet am sleeping more soundly. And my nails have recovered, such as they are.
One thing I remember vividly from childhood, my always slender grand-mère Lucille never served more than one starch at a meal. If there were potatoes, no bread. (But she always enjoyed a drink before dinner and a small dessert afterward like a scoop of ice cream or a cookie, so she was no food grinch.) She used to say that too many starches were what made people "heavy." Though oversimplified, the gist of her belief may have been right after all.
My goal is in sight, another 6 pounds to go. I'll still be une ronde, but a bit more compact, and that's OK. The important thing is that I feel good and comfortable in my body.
Have you made any changes recently that you believe have improved your health and well-being? Do they feel sustainable?