At age 8, I went to live with a foster family and ate myself into a chubby youth. As a teen I experimented with bulimia and reached my lowest weight, 135 (at 5'6" I looked like skin and bones somehow). When I entered college I enjoyed the freedom of late night pizzas and pints of Ben and Jerry's every weekend. In four years I packed on about 40 pounds, be then stopped weighing. Soon after, I learned about the blood type diet and faced the news that, as a Type O, I should avoid grains and dairy. I knew the foods that made me feel good and the ones that made me feel bad, but eventually I got tired of eating strictly and when I got married three years later, I'd reached 200 lbs.
Three years later I was pregnant for the first time and weighed monthly, then weekly, at the doctor's office. I was 220 when I got pregnant, 248 the day I left the hospital with my daughter. During my pregnancy I'd managed to avoid high blood pressure and pre-diabetes, but I was plagued by an itchy red rash that spread from my scalp to the soles of my feet and lasted for months. After a few years of suffering, I was finally diagnosed with psoriasis (an auto-immune disease).
When my daughter was 4 months old, a friend approached me to join Weight Watchers (WW). Apart from my time spent purging and using diet pills in high school and my year following the blood type diet, I'd never successfully dieted. I was looking forward to losing weight but I had no idea how much my life would change.
My first weigh-in was 220 lbs; I'd been nursing and that helped me lose some baby weight (I certainly wasn't exercising!) I enjoyed following the plan by eating what I knew I should (based on my blood type) and learning to limit portions and count points. In a year and a half I lost 50 lbs, then got tired of tracking and counting and quit WW. I kept all but 5 lbs off for a few years, then decided it was time to lose the rest.
At 175 lbs, I went back to WW in 2009. I knew how the program worked and I'd always stayed on the healthier side, mostly avoiding the packaged foods and fake sweeteners. Sometimes I was weary of dieting and would over-indulge on sugar free ice cream bars or high fiber bars. The good habit I took away was making a choice to have a delicious "real" food and avoid the fake filler foods like the flat breads and high fiber breads my friends ate. If I couldn't eat real bread, I just wouldn't bother.
I took up running (which I hated) as a means for keeping weight off. I placed first or second several times in my age range. I also dreaded that idea that I'd have to run my entire life to keep the weight off.
In a year I reached my goal weight, 150, and entered the maintenance phase. Suddenly I panicked, how could I eat normal food for the rest of my life and still maintain my weight without a lifetime of counting and measuring and weighing? Surely I'd fall off the wagon if I had to do that forever. I longed to be "normal" about food, to eat a meal without calculating calories and points values.
Two months later I read "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes, then the next month I read "The Primal Blueprint" by Mark Sisson — both making a strong case for eating meat and fat (and real FOOD), avoiding foods that cause insulin resistance, and following natural hunger patterns. Suddenly I had the opportunity to go out to eat, go to a party, visit a relative, and not panic about what I could eat. Just eat meat, don't worry about the fat, and don't freak. Years of WW taught me that I could eat a regular portion of meat and not starve. I started eating the skin and fat too, just for the satisfaction and flavor, knowing the calories would sustain me.
During that year I started training for a half marathon and got married at my best adult weight, 145. I hated running six times a week and I especially hated struggling with the 5-7 lbs that lurked on the scale — how could I be burning so many calories and still gaining??
I got injured just before my race, completed the event and retired from running at 36. I figured now the weight would pile on, but I started a Zumba class with a friend three times a week to remain active. Turns out I'd been avoiding admitting that I had another problem — I'd returned to bingeing and purging (through fasting) with the stress of training. Once I was "released" from running, the urge to binge backed off some and my weight returned to 145.
A few months ago I read "Brain Over Binge" by Kathryn Hansen. I learned that the urges to binge were created by my years of extreme poverty as a child, reinforce by bulimia as a teen, then exaggerated by years of dieting and running. Since I started to recover from binge-purge, I've reached 141 lbs, just about where I actually want to be. Recovering from bulimia meant that I couldn't focus on dieting, weighing or restricting. Part of my successful weight loss during recovery is following the paleo diet which allows me to eat delicious food and remain healthy without the hyper-focus of weighing, tracking and counting anymore. I burn calories better now, so I can select an exercise I enjoy and no longer punish myself with running or training!
Other people's perception of fat and grains.
What advice (if any) would you give to someone interested in trying a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet? Were there any obstacles that you overcame that could help future dieters?
Go slowly, eliminate one thing at a time. Don't focus on what you can't have anymore; think of how the foods you eat nourish and improve your body.
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