Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ideal Weight Versus Real Fate

I’ve been accused of being “stuck in the sixties”, but the past six months of my life give new meaning to that phrase! We must travel back in time more than six months, though, to begin this story.

Since Thanksgiving 2008, I have lost 77 pounds. I am now four pounds beneath my original goal. Personally, I feel great and profoundly grateful to be where I am. Yet the alleged “experts” and the dratted BMI calculator* say: lose more weight. My body says: “What ‘chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?!!! I’m staying right here at 161 and, short of starving me, you can’t make me do any different. You’re not the boss of me!” Yes, my body tends to sport a little bit of a ‘tude sometimes when it says something to me, what can I tell you?

I wasn’t overweight as a child, but I’ve struggled with obesity my entire adult life, and done a lot of yo-yoing, due to following diets that were all wrong for me (if only I knew then what I know now!), which resulted in the inevitable rebound cravings and gaining all the weight back, plus more. Even though I’ve yo-yoed a lot, most of the time, I was just whichever one of the “yo”s is the fat yo. Try as I might (and did), I never managed to get and keep the weight off until now.

I started on Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo’s GenoType Diet on Thanksgiving Day 2008, and reached my goal weight, which was 73 pounds less than where I started, on April 13, 2010. Let’s just put it all out there for the world to see: when I started on The GenoType Diet, I had ballooned up to my fattest weight ever and had been there for approximately three years. I was 238 pounds. 238 pounds and only 5’4.75” tall. Not good, people. But what IS good is that I lost 73 pounds in just under 17 months (precisely 72 weeks/16.5 months, but who’s counting?). My average loss per week over the entire 72 weeks was 1.01 lbs. Folks, that is not too shabby, in fact, it is nothing short of AWESOME, if I do say so myself! For me to sustain an average loss of 1.01 lbs per week for 72 weeks straight is unprecedented in my life. I got down to my goal weight of 165 lbs! And now I’m at 161! That’s the great, continually-amazing-to-me news.

The somewhat frustrating news is that, since reaching my goal on April 13th, my body has put the brakes on any further loss, big time. We are not talking plateau, I’m very familiar with those. I had some longies during the 16.5 month weight loss period, but this is different. Since April 13th, which is just shy of six months ago, I have lost a net total of four—count ‘em, four—pounds, to bring me to 161, where I’ve been hovering. For one brilliant day I was 158 but then back up the scale popped to somewhere between 160 and 162 and that’s where it remains, seemingly no matter what I do. Four pounds in six months, after previously averaging 1.01 lbs per week for the entire 16.5 months/73 lbs I lost to get to my goal. If you listen very carefully, you can actually hear the brakes squealing.

Well, you may be wondering, why are you still trying to lose, anyway, if you already reached your goal? The reason is that I set my original goal very high because I wanted to make it something I could conceivably reach. I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. And when you are 238 pounds, 165 seems very, very far away and impossible (in fact, I set an interim goal of 199 and a date to meet it by, which I did with two weeks to spare). My ultimate goal of 165 was modestly high, yet I knew, if I could just get there, I’d be so much healthier. When I started, I thought: “When I get there, I can decide if I want to try to go further, but whatever happens after reaching 165, I’ll be at peace with it, as long as I can get and stay there. I promise myself now that I won’t get frustrated if I can’t get any lower than that, because that frustration can lead to gaining it all back (been there, done that). I’ll just be so THRILLED if I can even get there.”

Well, when miraculously I got there, I reassessed, as I always had planned to do, and was very enthused and encouraged by my results to try and go further, to try to actually get to my ideal weight. For the first time in DECADES, it seemed like a real possibility! So I set my sights on 135 lbs, which I decided is my ideal weight. Years ago, Weight Watchers (not that I put any stock in them today) said that I should weigh between 126 and 144. 135 is in the middle of that range and I feel that is my ideal...but is it realistic? I thought it was possible, when I decided to forge ahead, but in the almost six months since reaching my goal of 165, it’s been tough to even drop a net total of four pounds. The take-home message from my body seems to be: “You’re done. This is as good as it gets, be grateful that you made it here and that you are healthy at 161 lbs. Now your job is to sustain this for a lifetime.” Okay, fine, thought I, if this is it, this is it, remember what you promised yourself about being at peace once you reached 165. I decided to ask my doctor about it, since I had a check-up scheduled, but I really thought she’d be thrilled with where I am, and I would take that as the official seal of approval to declare myself done with the weight loss phase of my journey. No such luck.

I had my annual check-up last week and the doctor said, very matter of factly, lose more weight. WHAT? I looked at her as if she had just instructed me to bring her the broomstick of the wicked witch. Tell me I’m done! Nope, lose more, said she, even when I politely reminded her that last year she said my goal of 165 was “fine”. Well, now I’m 160 (according to her scale, 161 per the one I have been using all along at work) and she’s telling me I have to lose more. Mind you, I stupidly opened up this discussion by asking her. My bad. WHY did I ask her? She is all of about 110 pounds, max, soaking wet. What does she know, truly, about losing a massive amount of weight and sustaining it? That last part is the key, that’s what the work has really been about for me: learning what diet and exercise I can live with happily for the rest of my life. As I’ve blogged about before, my diet is about abundance, not deprivation. In order to lose any more weight, I very much fear that I might have to switch into deprivation gear and that never can last. A deprivation diet puts you in danger of cravings setting in, your brain chemistry getting out of balance, and you getting off kilter and gaining every speck of weight you lost back, plus more. Been there, done that. Got the extra-large T-shirt. No thank you! I’d rather remain a scant 13 pounds overweight (The BMI calculator says I have to get down to AT LEAST 148 in order to be in the “normal” range) for the rest of my life than to mess with success, throw my body out of balance, and gain 77 lbs back! I have yo-yoed all my adult life and I don’t want to yo no mo’! I can’t afford it, not in any way, shape or form. Where I am is, like I said, a miracle in my life and if I go no lower, I go no lower.

I’ve been trying! I’ve been walking an hour per day, eating my optimal diet, and a four pound loss in almost six months is the net result of all that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that I reached my long-elusive goal, and even more thrilled that I am now four pounds BELOW it and holding. That is nothing short of a miracle in my life. Yet I must admit that, much as I promised myself from Day One back on Thanksgiving 2008 that, if I reached my goal, I would NOT get frustrated if I couldn’t get further (as frustration is dangerous and can—and HAS in the past for me—lead to gaining all the weight back), I come to you today LIVE...and at least a tad frustrated.

So, here’s the plan: because of my blasted primary care doctor, the blasted BMI calculator* and my blasted memory of what Weight Watchers told me years ago I should weigh, for the next few months, I will continue to try to lose weight. My revised goal is 148, I’m letting go of 135. Like I said, the BMI says, if I reach 148, my weight is in the “normal” range, the healthy range. I’ll take healthy any day, I don’t need ideal, no matter what the dag-nabbed doctor says--not that she even gave me a number—she just said lose more weight, and that was in the context of a visit in which she was singularly dismissive of every single question I asked her about anything, so I'm really disgusted with, and disappointed in, this doctor (my kingdom for a respectful, collaborative primary care doctor!), but I digress.  The relevant point is:  I'm not sure how much weight, no pun intended, I should give to what she says about anything, but since virtually all of the "experts" seem to be in agreement that I need to lose more, I will amp up my efforts, fearful as I am of tweaking anything (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). I know from long experience how much harder it is to get BACK to a place of biochemical balance once you get off kilter versus STAYING IN BALANCE once you are there. I am loathe to change ANYTHING about my wonderful, abundant diet that has kept me cravings-free, satisfied, healthy and in balance for 22 months—almost two years now. That said, I’ve thought long and hard and I GUESS I could cut out a LITTLE of the fat I add to things. I do kinda sorta use a LOT of olive oil and organic mayo (the latter of which is not even allowed on my diet, but ANYWAY, moving along…). And I GUESS I could make my portion sizes a LITTLE smaller. As long as I ensure that I get enough high-quality protein in each meal and that I continue to eat the variety of chi-laden, health-bestowing foods I typically eat, I should be fine. So, as of today, color my efforts amped up.

If, by February 1, 2011, I have still not gotten out of the blasted 160’s (mind you, I'm trying to reach my new goal of 148 by that date, but if I'm not at least out of the 160's and making steady progress by then, no matter how slow...), you can color me defiantly and blissfully done (with the weight loss portion of my journey—the maintaining/sustaining portion will be a lifetime thing for me). And, mark my words, I will be completely at peace about that, no matter what anyone has to say about it! Some of us are just a little bigger and that’s okay, as long as we’re healthy. Per the NIH BMI Calculator*, I am only 13 pounds above the top of the “normal” range for me anyway. 13 pounds! That is a hell of a lot better than being 90 pounds above it, which is what I was at my fattest. I had a BMI of 39.9 then. As in “your risk of death is severe.” As in “Obesity, Class II”, just a fraction of a point below “Morbid Obesity”. Morbid, as in “you’re dead”. So it is all relative! I’ll take my current, merely “overweight”, BMI of 27.0, if that’s as low as she goes!!! Besides, during the same check-up last week at which the doctor told me yes, you need to lose more weight, I also learned that my blood work numbers are fantastic. For example, my HDL cholesterol is 91, in the protective range, thank you very much. In fact, an HDL of 91 is kind of in the “unheard of” range. So get off my case, "experts"! I weigh what I weigh.

I’ve learned something on this journey: respect my body. If, despite my best efforts (and my best efforts are pretty dang good, if I do say so myself), my body continues consistently to tell me, in its gentle yet unbudging way, “We’re done, this is as low as I go, short of starvation”, then we’re done. I’m a member of a “thrifty” genotype, per the naturopathic doctor who wrote the diet I follow, and that means that my body is extraordinarily good at storing fat. It thinks it is protecting me, God love it and bless it. It thinks there is a famine around every corner. It is genetically hard-wired to think this and it is not going to change. No power of man or nature is going to change it, and certainly it doesn’t give a hoot about the BMI or some 110-pound MD saying “lose more weight”. In fact, the only reason it reluctantly gave in to my efforts and dropped the huge amount of weight it dropped is because, instead of fighting it and stressing it with deprivation diets, I worked with it and convinced it, through eating foods that are deeply nourishing to it and giving it plenty of stress-busting and muscle-strengthening exercise, that it is OKAY to release some fat—a lot of fat. My body responded beautifully to this diet and now it just may be telling me, enough is enough, this is where you have to trust me and listen to me, and I say we are done. And, if that is the case, as my mom often profoundly exclaims at various and sundry times in life: “Thank God we’re this far!”

You all are my witnesses: I’m giving it until February 1. If, by that date, I am not at LEAST out of the 160’s, then I’ll know it is the 160’s I’m meant to stay in and it will be time to RELAX and drink in the beautiful view from this vista, which I have literally hiked long and resolutely to reach. It’s gloriously good to be here. If I can go farther, fabulous. If not, right here is a beautiful place to plant my flag and build my LEED-certified, solar A-frame, permanent residence, no matter what anyone says about better sites down the trail apiece. I know a good place when I’m in one.

* Link: NIH BMI calculator