This month I turned 48 years old and made the decision that I was going to make some lifestyle changes for my health. At my last physical, my labs showed elevated LDL cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and due to some elevated platelet numbers, my doctor ran some labs on inflammatory markers and found that I have some inflammation going on in my body. I also have developed a nasty case of GERD/acid reflux, not to mention some of the physical limitations I was starting to notice in my knees and other joints due to my weight.
At this stage in life, I am really at the point of “piss or get off the pot”. If my numbers do not go down, then we have to talk about starting medications, which I would like to avoid until much later in life, or not at all. Losing weight at this point is not purely a matter of vanity—it’s about longevity and quality of life, as well as doing what I can to prevent getting diabetes or other diseases or having a stroke or heart attack.
One thing I have come to understand is that diets don’t work for me. I’m not a rule follower and most diets, for me anyway, are short-term fixes. I feel like I have tried them all: Cabbage Soup Diet, Jenny Craig, Weight Watcher’s, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Whole 30, accountability groups, Flat Belly Diet, 5-Factor Diet, Bob Greene Best Life Diet, Keto, Lazy Keto, and so on…I’ve got a shelf full of books that were supposed to be the answer.
I know these work for some people and that’s great, you-do-you. I could not sustain any of these for more than a few weeks or months, let alone a lifetime. I need to be able to eat carbs other than dark, leafy greens; I like bread, pie, berries, chocolate, and cheese! I don’t want to give these up for a lifetime.
The first thing I looked into has nothing to do with what I am actually consuming, rather it’s about when I consume. What is it? I developed a habit of intermittent fasting (IF). I first learned about it watching Dr. Oz last year. You can Google it and find all kinds of variations, but for me, it means that I stop consuming food by 6-6:30 pm every night; I do not eat again until 10-10:30 am (sometimes, noon) the next day. The kitchen is closed to me for a solid 16-20 hours, the exact opposite of the way it’s always been. This is a habit change that has proven to be fairly easy for me to change. It’s not good to be free-wheelin’ through the fridge or cupboards feeding my face every waking hour of my day–and most of the time the reason I was eating had very little to do with actually being hungry.
Closing the kitchen and starting my fast at 6-6:30pm allows my stomach to digest dinner and empty enough before I got to bed so that I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night, puking in my mouth—GROSS, I know, sorry–but that’s what I was experiencing on a regular basis. I do take a med to help reduce acid production, but I would rather not. The med treats symptoms, but it does not make the root problem go away–that being, the fat around my middle that crushes my stomach when I lie down. Acid reflux did not start until I added the spare tire around my middle, so losing weight will also help this to become a non-issue as well. By delaying when I eat my first meal of the day, I also have learned what actual hunger signals feel like instead of just eating because it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time. I also like IF for the fact that it’s flexible in that if I have to adjust my start and stop times, I can. I don’t expect everyone else to have dinner at 5:30pm, so if we are going out with friends and eating later, I just adjust the time I eat my first meal the next day so I still get my 16 hours of fasting done.
The second habit I started is good, old-fashioned calorie counting. I use the Fitbit app to track what I eat and how many calories I am consuming. I am not restricting calories in the sense of starving myself, but I am AWARE of what I am eating, so it helps me to be more mindful about what I eat. I still eat what I want, but I am learning to do it in moderation instead acting as if every meal or snack might be my last. I think about nutrition more now and what I am feeding my body, not just my taste buds or emotions.
I’ve lost just over 4 pounds this month without feeling like a failure with no self-control. Instead, I know I am making positive, healthy changes that I can continue for a lifetime. The weight may come off slower, but I’m not doing it with a deadline. I have set a measurable goal though. My first weight loss goal is to lose 30 lbs. There is no magic pill for lasting weight loss, but there are many ways to achieve optimal health and wellness, and I think I am finally on the right track. I don’t plan on ever “going on a diet” again.
I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or certified trainer (though that may be something I may pursue in the future), but I want to share my journey to health and wellness; it’s my hope that in sharing my experience that I can help someone else. I know so many struggle with this and how hard it is, but I also know that we can all do better–our bodies deserve it and we deserve to have a great quality of life for many years to come.