November 29, 2011

The Voice Didn't Stand A Chance

My observational research tells me that either my no-shampoo routine is not nearly as interesting to people as my no-soap routine, or that Thanksgiving is a terrible day to publish a new blog post. Pride kind of demands I assume it is the latter. Whatever the case, I'm happy to be able to talk about these new ways of doing things in my life, whereas before I wasn't mentioning them because I wanted to get people's unbiased opinions and reactions.

This next one is a little different, though. This is something I haven't told a soul I was doing, for two very specific reasons: 1. I hate (HATE) talking about weight loss and "dieting" and I feel like that is what most people will take away from it, and 2. I don't like having anyone "monitor" what or when I eat unless I ask them to. And I'm not asking. :-) This is all on me.

So, for me, this really falls into the Operation Eleanor model of doing something that scares me because I know I'm opening myself up to comment on something for which I don't particularly seek comments. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that, right?

Potentially Surprising Personal Revelation #3: I don't eat after 9pm.

Nothing, unless it's simply impossible to finish eating before that time, but absolutely nothing after 9:30pm. All I'll have is water, preferably as cold as I can make it, or sometimes hot tea. I've been doing this for six months and although it wasn't easy at the start, I can count on one hand the number of times I've breached the rule and only one of those times was a moment of complete forgetfulness. The results have been really positive, so I have no plans to change what I'm doing.

Why am I doing this? This will require a little personal back story. In case you don't know me in "real life," I'm overweight and have been since I was child. I've never been a big one for diets because I'm convinced they don't work plus I just get bored. I'm not a real fan of exercise, though I do enjoy walking and hiking; I just don't do them enough. I have something called Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which makes it easy to gain weight, and a sluggish thyroid, which makes it difficult to lose weight. Diabetes has been a health threat that looms over me, given my weight and family history, but I've never had that come to pass. What I do have, however, are high triglycerides. They have been a little high when tested in the past, but nothing serious. By May, however, they had shot up to over 400 mg/dL, more than double what's considered the normal range.

I felt like I was on a fast track to a heart attack, so I decided to act but, being me, I wanted to do it my way and on my terms. I took a good hard look at what I was eating, what exercise I was (or wasn't) getting, what I was willing to do and what, realistically, I felt I could do. I love food and I don't think life is worth living if I have to deprive myself of things I really want to enjoy, so I needed to figure something out that would let me eat what I want, but help lower my triglycerides. I decided that it was pretty much the late-night snacking out of boredom that was hurting me the most. I live alone and that's the time of day when I feel the lack of someone special in my life most keenly, and I used to let myself "eat my feelings," as they say.

I actually have a lot of willpower (when I choose to exercise it!), but it's a lot harder to stop once I've started snacking than it is to simply not start snacking. It's too easy to say, "Just one more..." and let that turn into a dozen "one mores." So I had to pick a reasonable time and make it an iron-clad rule not to eat anything after that time had passed. I found that the more I exercised the willpower needed to make this work, the easier it was to exercise it at other times during the day. I snack, in general, very little during the day now.

I've pretty much managed to change my relationship with food and, while I haven't quite mastered the art of conscious eating, I'm a lot closer to it than I used to be. This is different than dieting, because I'm making the rules and they are ones I can live with, long-term. I eat when I'm hungry, not just because the clock says it's time to eat, and I don't let myself eat out of boredom; I don't deprive myself of the treats I really want, I just limit them a lot more; I try not to eat full portions at dinner when eating at a restaurant, because usually half a meal is more than enough and I get a second meal out of the leftovers; and I have tried to slow down when I eat, in order to really enjoy what I'm eating -- this has proved to be the hardest for me because I don't like eating hot food when it gets cold, I don't get up early enough to have a real breakfast every day and, because I'm eating less, I'm really hungry at mealtimes!

There's more, but I think you get the idea. So, what has the result been? In the first three months, I slashed my triglycerides almost in half. They were still above the normal range when tested, but a hell of a lot closer to normal than they have been in years. I've lost 25 pounds, though I have also tried to increase my exercise by walking more, I just don't do it consistently. I've learned that I can survive the feeling of hunger and I don't need to feed The Voice every time it pipes up. (Remember this post? That was the day I started this.) I've re-learned something important I found out a decade ago but managed to forget: Just because something is delicious doesn't mean you have to eat it until it's gone; the last cookie isn't any more delicious than the first one, so enjoy the first one to the fullest (or, okay, the second one, too) and you don't need to finish the pack.

Have questions? Fire away. But first, it's time for lunch. I'm hungry!