Sunday, April 14, 2019

Book: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

One of the first books I remember reading about food and eating was Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. It was very impactful to me because it is a simple read, and presents a very simple formula for eating healthy:

1. Eat Food
• Real, whole, unprocessed foods in their whole/raw state or ingredients that were whole foods
• 5 or fewer ingredients
• No additives, sugar, or sweeteners

2. Mostly Plants
• Especially leaves
• Meat is a special occasion. When eating meat, eat meat that has itself eaten well (grass-fed)
• Fermented foods: Yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, etc.
• Whole grains only (whole grain bread, brown rice). No white foods.
• Limit saturated fats (whole dairy, fatty meats)

3. Not Too Much
• Intermittent fasting
• Calorie restriction
• Stop eating before full
• Eat only when hungry, not bored
• Eat slowly
• Eat lots of first bites, but not many second bites. Most of the flavor/enjoyment comes in the first bite.
• Eat meals - Don't eat in between meals
• Limit snacks to unprocessed plant foods: fruits, vegetables, and nuts
• Treat treats as treats (special occasions)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What If Your Trigger is Time, Not Food?

What if your binge eating trigger is not a specific food, but an event, like time, or a feeling, like stress?

I have read that people who aren't food-specific make their limits time-specific, to eat three meals per day, where each meal has a start and a stop point, and you do not eat other than during those three eating periods. Coming up with some rule to follow (whatever the rule was), was important because I can operate well with rules ... as long as I know what they are and they're targeting my problem.

Focus on the time you are usually triggered. When you get triggered, what can you do to not eat?  Go to bed early and read a book (so you stay out of the kitchen); promise yourself to just get through ONE evening without bingeing... just ONE. Focusing on how proud you'll feel tomorrow morning to have gotten through ONE evening. Forget points, weight, etc... your mission is to go to sleep tonight proud of yourself, and tomorrow when you get up you can eat all the healthy stuff you want.

Take a compulsive urge hour by hour and just get through one day. Forget about the bigger issues. You have to take it one tiny step at a time. I even set a timer on my watch or phone to look at and say "hey, I've made it 8 hours since my last binge... good job me... let's keep that streak going."

Your accomplishment at first is not that you've lost weight, but is "I haven't binged for ___ hours."

Pre-plan what you're going to do today, and visualize what gets you to success. If what you did yesterday worked well, do that again. But you have xx hours of success behind you ... you're just going to keep that going through today. Be aggressive against anything that might break your rules ... if you feel a temptation, be aggressive against it and tell it "nope, not today. maybe some other day, but not today..... I'm doing this for me!"

Get through 1 hour of not eating your trigger/binge foods. Then 2 hours. Count them. 12 hours. 24 hours!! 2 days.... you'll have cravings and urges. Eat everything else! Not the binge foods. A week will feel like an eternity. Just take it one day at a time and celebrate each day. I literally count the hours and days and pat myself on the back.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Exercise

My experience with physical fitness came later than for many, since I was successful in completely avoiding gym class in high school. When I was in graduate school, I needed something to help me deal with stress, so I would jog around the block a few times. That was about it. 



Running (2000-2001)

When I started working full time, I kept up the jogging, sometimes on a treadmill at work. That led to me running several 10k races from 2002 to 2005.

Strength Training (2001-2002)

One day when I was on my way to the gym at work, I ran into Lance. Literally - he knocked me down. He apologized profusely. I asked him to teach me about weight lifting in the gym, and he did. He explained the importance of doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps, to failure. And taught me about major muscle groups: Chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs. He showed me how to use the bench press for chest exercises, etc. Now I was able to mix some basic strength training into my workout program. I used the dumbbells and exercise machines at work regularly.

Gym (2002-2009)

In 2002 I changed jobs to a company without an adequate gym in the building, so I joined 24 Hour Fitness. I paid around $950 for a "lifetime" membership (annual renewal is $50 per year). That turned out to be a good deal - over the past many years I've paid very little per year for my gym membership. The gym gave me access to a greater diversity of equipment. I developed a routine, and changed it every 6 months or so to keep things interesting. But it was built around the same framework of repeating sets of reps of fundamentally the same exercises.

P90X (2009-2012)

In 2009, I had abdominal surgery and had to discontinue my gym-based workout regime for several months. That winter, I was laying in a bed in a hotel room in North Lake Tahoe watching infomercials at midnight, and I saw an infomercial for P90X. I have never bought anything before based on an infomercial. But a friend had told me about P90X, so when I got home, I bought it on Amazon.com for $140.

The box came a few days later: A nutritional booklet, an exercise guide, and about 12 DVD's, each with its own exercise program. The exercise guide contains a detailed, day-by-day, 90 day plan. The nutrition plan is equally detailed, but can be summarized as "low carb, low calorie, high protein". The only equipment needed are a pull-up bar (i.e., one you can put in your doorway easily), and a simple set of weights.

I started P90X in March of 2010 with a pull-up bar installed in my closet, and a set of BowFlex adjustable weights.

I thought my gym routine had been pretty good, but P90X was transformational. I completed the 90 day P90X program, losing 10 pounds, decreasing body fat by 5%, and increasing lean muscle mass.

Many people choose to stop P90X at the end of the 90 day period. I understand that - it's hard! But this had become a much more efficient use of my exercise time than going to the gym. So I chose to continue with a modified form of P90X. I tracked my progress using a spreadsheet, and viewed it as a long-term commitment.

When I was doing P90X I kept a blog about it, which I've consolidated into one (somewhat hard-to-read) post.

5x5 (2012-2018)

In Spring of 2012, I was still doing P90X, but I had heavily modified the routines so that I would not get bored. Despite the modifications, I was quite bored. It had been two years, and change was needed.

One day I was surfing around on the internet and read How I Got Ripped at 500 Startups (and the follow-up Entrepreneur's Guide to Fat Loss). The simplicity and minimalism, combined with effectiveness, attracted me. I set about creating a new workout routine, and started tracking points on fitocracy.com. My routine was built around alternating days of "A" exercises and "B" exercises, three times a week:

Routine A: Squats, Bench, Pendlay, Chinups
Routine B: Squats, Shoulder Press, Deadlift, Chinups

No cardio. I just ate less.

Back to Cardio

In spring 2018 I participated in Bike To Work Day, and really enjoyed biking to work. Throughout 2018 I biked to work once a week, which is 30-40 miles round trip. It was great exercise, and I plan to do that again in 2019.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Give Yourself A Gift

This mindset helped motivate me:

You've been carrying this problem around with you for a long time, perhaps years. In my case it was literally decades. It causes anxiety, depression, frustration, angst .... so many emotional issues. 

Think about how much "freer" you will feel if you have this problem off your back. Just not having to think about it every day, beating yourself up, freeing up your brain to focus on other more fun things, just not having to deal with it every waking moment.

Give that gift to yourself.  You are giving yourself that gift today. It's the best gift you can give yourself, better than any "thing".  Yes, the first day is tough. And the first week you might remember how "good" a binge feels. But remember how bad it feels after -- physically and emotionally. And remind yourself that you're giving this gift to yourself so that you don't have to carry this around in your brain any longer... and use that to get through one evening at a time. Use that time to read a book, or watch a movie ... something to distract yourself.  And once you get through a few days, it will get easier. Because you will recognize that you're freeing yourself of the baggage, and that's something only you can give yourself. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Dieting While On A Cruise

I have gone on cruises while on WW, and found that the cruises offered plenty of WW-friendly foods, like egg-based breakfasts, vegetables, chicken breast, and fruit desserts. Below are some comments on how to approach a cruise while staying on WW.

Mindset

When many people plan a cruise vacation, they think about the food: Buffets, piles of chocolates and cookies, unlimited ice cream, delicious steaks. And yes, many cruises offer all of that and more. Mindset is important: Are you really paying thousands of dollars to go on a trip for food? If so, cancel the trip and just go to your nearest buffet restaurant. Change your mindset so that your vacation is about experiences that do not involve food. The food is there to sustain you to give you energy to do the things you want to do, but this is not a "food destination" trip. You can absolutely continue to make healthy eating choices on a cruise ship, just as you would at home, and not lose any experience at all. If you see something delicious, don't deprive yourself, but do ask yourself: Is this special, or is this something I can get at home? Because if you can get it at home, it isn't worth the indulgence.

I am going to say something controversial here: I do not think the food on most cruise ships is exceptional. This is definitely true of the lower-end cruise lines (Carnival) and even the mid-range cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, NCL, etc.). Even on the Queen Mary II, I was completely unimpressed by the food offerings, compared to good restaurants I frequently eat at. Most of the food sits frozen on the ship for weeks. It is prepared in bulk. It is usually not made from fresh, expensive ingredients, the way a 5-star restaurant food would be.

When you get on the ship, board with the mindset that you are not there to eat. You are there for the experiences. Any food you pass over you can get at home (and probably better quality) if you really want it later.

Breakfast
  • Breakfast is served in both the cafeteria (buffet) and the sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria includes a lot of fruit and egg options. 
  • The sit-down restaurant usually includes fruit plates and omelettes.
Lunch
  • Lunch is served in both the cafeteria and sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria is usually easier to navigate for low-point offerings because you can control portions, and focus on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 
Dinner
  • Dinner is served in both the cafeteria and sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria is usually easier to navigate for low-point offerings because you can control portions, and focus on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 
  • Most people want to have dinner at the sit-down restaurant because it is a multi-course meal, usually fancier, and often seatted with other cruise guests. 
  • My tips for dinner is:
    (1) Pre-eat zero-point vegetables at the cafeteria if you need to, or eat low-point food at the cafeteria for a late night snack if you exercised portion control at dinner and are still hungry.
    (2) there is usually a lean protein dish offered (like chicken breast with steamed vegetables) at the restaurant menu, with a appetizer salad or broth soup, and a fruit plate for dessert.
  • You can ask your waiter to customize your dishes for things you don't want. 
  • Do not even think about eating the dinner rolls - they aren't that good and not worth the points.  
Specialty Restaurants
  • Cruise ships have specialty restaurants where you pay an additional fee for a formal; sit-down multi-course meal. These are often ethnic foods (Asian, Latin, etc.).  You can decide if they are worth the price and points, I think it is good to splurge once on a cruise to experience the specialty restaurants, but going for every dinner will not be point-friendly. 
  • Before you spend money (and calories/points) at a specialty restaurant, look at the menu and decide if this is really worth it. You may find that you have similar restaurants at home, and the restaurant on the ship is not really that special.
  • Most cruise ships have less formal specialty restaurants, like a hamburger and hot dog stand, or ice cream parlor.  You have access to these at home, there is no reason to indulge in this (unhealthy) food on vacation.
Snacks & Desserts
  • Fresh fruit is always available as a dessert option. Go for that, unless you pick one dessert to indulge in once. And then as yourself if it was worth it (the answer may be yes!).
Drinks
  • Water, tea, and coffee is free on ships. Soda and alcohol costs money. You can buy an unlimited soda plan for a fixed price. Consider using the cruise as an opportunity to break soda habits and abstain. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Reflection

When I was a kid, my mom made trail mix for me as a snack. I had a container of it in my bedroom. She added peanut butter chips, and M&M's. I loved those parts. I also loved cookies, especially the Little Debbie cookies, Oatmeal Cream Pies, and Chocolate Cream Pies, and peanut butter chocolate bars. When she would buy Little Debbie snacks, I would binge eating them. When I slept over at friends' houses, I raided their cookie jar at 3am.

I remember on one occasion when I was about 11 years old, my mom and I were golfing at a country club we belonged to, and she commented that I would "have to be careful to not get a gut like my grandfather."

As an adult, on many occasions I have gone to a grocery store and bought a box of cookies. I would sit in the parking lot eating them. I could not wait to get home. I was ashamed to eat them. I could not stop myself from eating. At work functions where there was dessert, I have gone back to the dessert table for seconds and thirds. I've had a normal dinners with friends, and then stopped by Wendy's or McDonalds on the way home to get two cheeseburgers and a milkshake. I've stopped by Burger King and gotten a Whopper with cheese, a cheeseburger "side dish", chicken nuggets, and a milkshake, and then gone out to dinner. I've reclined the seat in my car to drive because I was uncomfortably bloated.

I've tried just about every diet. I've lost a lot of weight, and regained it, repeatedly.

The food I would eat in shame would satiate me. It would scratch some emotional itch that I had.

I don't know the origin of my binge eating disorder and sugar addiction. They definitely originated when I was a kid, because I have many memories of binge eating high-sugar foods as a kid. I have fewer memories of binge eating high-sugar foods when I was in high school, college, and graduate school. But the problem definitely resumed when I was an adult. The problem is most likely linked to other anxiety / depression / stress issues that I have. I'm not sure I can remedy one problem without causing another, but I must try.

Diets don't work for me because I lack the ability to control what I eat. If I count calories or points, I will simply lose control and binge eat. This results in feeling like a failure, and starts a downward cycle of binge eating, fasting, dieting, more binge eating, and feelings of guilt and despair.

Abstinence has attracted me because I am an abstainer, not a moderator. I can abstain from something, but I cannot moderate my eating. I can have no cookies, or all the cookies; I cannot just have one cookie.

I've tried abstinence in the past but I had trouble defining what I was abstaining from. I have to eat food, so I cannot abstain from food. Alcoholics have to drink liquids, but abstain from liquids with alcohol. I need to eat foods, but need to abstain from foods with sugar added.

My trigger food is definitely sugar. But it is probably any food that results in an insulin spike.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Do Not Stress About Tracking Points

The other day for dinner I had homemade beef curry with vegetables over rice. I could have spent 15 minutes adding each ingredient to my WW app to track it. Instead, I just recorded the maximum points for the day (28 in my case, less 4 for a prior meal) and was happy with that. I ate a very moderate portion, and skipped eating most of the high-point rice, so I felt like 24 points was more than generous for that meal.

Tracking points is meant to bring mindfulness to eating, and guiding us towards eating healthier foods. It should not be stressful or take away from the enjoyment of eating, otherwise, we will stop tracking.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

SmartPoints and Zero Point Foods

Not losing weight? You're eating too many zero point foods.

Some people start counting points for zero point foods after consuming a certain number of servings per day (e.g., count 2 points for each serving of fruit after your first two "free" servings). That is too complex for me, so I took a different approach: My target daily points are 23, and my target weekly points are 35, for an average of 28 total points per day (23 + 35/7). I eat my daily points (23), and I don't use my weekly points. I treat my weekly points (5 per day, on average) as a "buffer" for the relatively large amount of zero point foods I eat.

For example: In a typical day, I will have a zero-point breakfast, and a 3 point lunch, and a 10 point dinner, for a total of 13 points. That is the lowest points I can eat in a day and still be within my recommended daily point range. But I eat a lot of zero-point foods: Three to four servings of fruit, several servings of eggs, two servings of beans, at least one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fat-free Greek yogurt. From a calorie perspective, that gets me to the calories I need for the day.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Key Take-Aways

They key things I've learned about food from being on Weight Watchers:
  • Moderating food intake is a vastly more effective method of weight loss than exercise
  • Before WW I rarely ate fruits or vegetables. On WW, fruits and vegetables are most of what I eat
  • If I go off track, I just need to go back to what I know works

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Reflection on a Binge

Note: I recently came across a journal entry I wrote a few years ago when I binged on cookies:

I went to Target to get a roll of tape for a project. On my way there, I started thinking about what food I could buy there. Cookies, specifically. Sugar cookies with icing. Once I arrived, I went directly to the food area, and found something even better: A dozen chocolate chip cookies, with icing. Grabbed it, and went to find the tape. The whole time I was looking for the tape, I was thinking about eating the cookies. Once I got to the car, I ate three. I did not even take the time to turn on the air conditioner, I just gobbled the cookies, in the heat of the closed car.

Guilt is the other side of eating. Knowing what the cookies do to my blood sugar. Wondering if eventually I'll get diabetes. And knowing that I am using the cookies to punish myself. The punishment is twofold: Fitness, and emotions

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tip: Tracking Zero-Point Foods

Tracking foods is an important part of WW. It is important to learn how many points various foods have, to learn which foods are healthy (to eat more) and which are less healthy (to eat less). Tracking is a good habit to get into, because not tracking can lead to laziness and sleepiness with making sure one is eating within one's daily and weekly points. Tracking is a great way to be mindful about what one is eating.

Tracking zero-point foods (fruits, vegetables, eggs, lean meats, beans) can be time intensive, especially when eating a lot of them (e.g., a salad). So rather than track individual ingredients or even individual zero-point foods, I created a custom zero-calorie food called "Zero-Point Food", favorited it, and I just track that.

For example, for breakfast I often have egg whites, with one or two hard boiled eggs, and fresh fruit. Those are all zero-point foods, but tracking 3 items is time intensive and sometimes leads me to not track at all (a bad habit!).  So now I track my "Zero-Point Food" favorite to mentally check that I did eat a healthy breakfast. It also counts towards Wellness Wins points!
"Zero-Point Food" Custom Food Entry

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reflection

I do not remember a time that my relationship with food was ever normal.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Crisis of Confidence

Every once in a while I spin into a crisis of confidence. I have a binge eating episode, and have a crisis about what plan I should follow to get back on track. I know part of this is caused by searching podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites for tricks and tips. I want to take an inventory of what goes on in my mind, ranked in order of overall likely success.
  • Weight Watchers (WW) was absolutely critical and successful in my weight loss, and getting me to a previously unreachable goal weight. But I often find it too restrictive for the (healthy) foods that I want to eat. Especially with hard to track foods like home cooked meals, ethnic foods, restaurant foods, etc. I'm not convinced that counting points is something I can keep doing long-term. But it is the only diet plan that has actually resulted in me losing weight.
  • Food plan abstinence was something I initially thought was too complicated to follow but revisited and found success with. I'm now convinced that following a food plan, and turning over my eating decisions to that food plan, is critical to my success, either alone or in combination with other strategies.
  • Intermittent fasting sounds easy to follow, something I can stick with long-term, is time based which I can follow, has good results for blood sugar, can be easily gamified. But I found that during my eating windows I would binge eat, and that was counterproductive.
  • Keto sounds  delicious, and successful for many. But when I've tried it, I gained weight, and couldn't stick with it for more than few days. Definitely not an option for me for long-term success.
  • Intuitive eating is an approach that basically lets me decide what to eat and when to eat based on how hungry I feel. No foods are off limits. That is pretty much how I got myself in trouble with binge eating to begin with.
  • Overeater's Anonymous is something that was very tempting to me because of gamification by counting days of sobriety, and comparative success with alcoholics. But meetings aren't convenient for me.
This analysis is useful for me to realize that following a food plan, and WW, are the only two programs that I know work. At the very least I need to stick with my food plan, and consider if or how WW should be integrated into my plan.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Achieving Goal Weight

Today I am reflecting back to November 20, 2018, the day I achieved my goal weight on WW. This was the blog post I wrote on that day. I reflect back on this to remember how I felt that day, as that gives me motivation to stay at my goal weight:

Today I achieved my goal weight. A weight that I am absolutely steadfastly committed to maintaining. This achievement is due to the framework that WW has provided to enable me to have control over my food choices.

I dedicate this achievement to the following past behaviors, which previously consumed an unjustifiably large part of my life:

  • Pervasive anxiety about food
  • Deep unhappiness with how my body looked
  • Frustration with my inability to control binge eating
  • Frustration with my inability to "just lose a few pounds"
  • Embarrassment with how I looked in photos
  • Trying and failing at a multitude of diets, 12 step programs, treatment programs, therapy, nutritionists, trainers, etc
  • Sitting in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store eating entire packages of cookies
  • Hiding in rooms at work eating entire boxes of Girl Scout Cookies or second slices of birthday cakes
  • Eating second dinners in secret at Wendy's or Burger King. (p.s., they weren't even that good)
  • Suffering through the physical and mental effects of blood sugar highs
  • Knowing that my actions were what was causing my anguish, but not being able to control my actions, and therefore the resulting horrible feelings
  • Generally feeling crappy - mentally and physically
I know maintenance will not be easy. I will have setbacks. But I am incredibly thankful and relieved that the above bad behaviors are largely behind me. I am proud of what I accomplished, happy for others who have also achieved this orare on their way, and thankful to WW for giving me the tools to overcome my weaknesses and achieve this monumental life goal. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Hitting Rock Bottom

I have an abusive relationship with food. I use food to punish myself. I use food to sabotage my happiness. This abuse led to (or was caused by, I'm not sure) body dysmorphia. Through much of my adult life, I experienced a pervasive anxiety about food, and extreme unhappiness about how my body looked. I was frustrated with my inability to control binge eating. I was frustrated with my inability to "just lose a few pounds." I was embarrassed about how I looked in photos, even if others did not perceive me as overweight.

I knew that my relationship with food was causing my anguish. But I could not control my eating, and therefore the resulting horrible feelings.

For most of my adult life, I have wanted to lose weight. Not a lot of weight, just ten to twenty pounds. I realize this is tiny by WW standards, and that most people on WW are struggling with much more weight, even 10x that. But I also know a lot of people who would just like to lose a few pounds, and develop healthier relationships with their body, food, and fitness. I have learned that WW can help a full spectrum of people who want to lose weight and be healthier.

Cycling Through Diets

I have cycled through many diets, fitness programs, nutritionists, trainers, 12 step programs, diet books, and therapy, trying to find a way to just lose a few pounds. I thought a few-pound start might give me the encouragement to lose more weight, and keep the weight off. Most of the time I would stick with a plan for a few weeks, with poor results. Other times I gave up after a few days and quickly went onto the next attempt. Fitbit, Atkins, P90X, CICO, OMAD, Intermittent Fasting, weight lifting, cardio, ketogenic, paleo, I have tried them all many times. A few times I have had significant success, but I was not able to successfully shift from the diet phase to a maintenance phase, and quickly regained all the weight I lost.

Enough Is Enough

I realized that my weight had hit an all-time high, that my fasting glucose levels were edging towards a diabetes diagnosis, and that my anxiety about food and weight was occupying all of my waking hours. None of the numerous diet programs and other attempts at a solution were working. I turned to WW.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Reflection on the Week

What went well this week:
  • I took advantage of good weather to bike to work twice, for a total of 60 miles.
  • I used my new 32oz Naglene bottle to drink a lot of water.
  • I recommitted myself to staying on track with WW, and tracking all the food I eat to build good habits and prevent bingeing.
  • I introduced a coworker to WW after she asked how I lost so much weight.
  • I met my week's step goal for my work's StepBet 4 week challenge.
  • I ended the week less than a pound over my goal weight.
  • I have some travel coming up, and I am mentally preparing for that, thinking through how I will stay on track and avoid binge eating while travelling.
What didn't go well this week:
  • The binge that started last Friday continued on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I stopped it and got back on track on Thursday. This was very disappointing to me after several weeks of success, but I know not to dwell on the past, and to only look forward.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Ooops, I did it again

The past five days have been a challenging ones. I fell off the wagon on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were okay. Monday and Tuesday were not okay. I am refocusing on my food plan and determined to start fresh today.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rewards

I am easily motivated by rewards. Rather than food-based rewards, which would be bad for a diet, WW uses charms. Charms are given for weight loss milestones. Charms are given out in meetings, and not available for online-only members. Because I am easily motivated by rewards/awards, I wanted charms despite not initially attending meetings. So I bought them on eBay. That kept my motivation up and gave me something tangible as a reward for my weight loss.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Running

San Francisco Half Marathon
Today I am running the St. Patrick's Day 10k race.

I do not like running. I know some people look forward to heading out and running 3, 6, 13, or even 26 miles. I do not understand that at all. I tolerate running. I am not particularly good at it, but I do it because it's the most efficient way to increase my cardiovascular health, and does not require any special equipment.

I've run a number of 5k and 10k races, and even a handful of half-marathons.

I started running in the spring of 2001. At first it was just around the block after work, but eventually I worked up to three miles in thirty minutes. That was my couch-to-5k program, before there was such a thing. In May 2003, I decided to run the Human Race 5k run. But when I got to the 5k/10k fork, I decided to go for the 10k. I managed to cross the finish line in just under an hour. I ran several other 10k races in 2003, until I injured my knee hiking Yosemite's Half Dome in October 2003. I decided to run again in 2004. My goal for the summer was to break the 50 minute mark (8 minute mile), which I did. I took 2005 off from running to focus on other activities. I ran a few more times in 2006, and that was the last of the races for a while as I focused more on biking, weight lifting, swimming, and other aerobics.

I'm pretty far away from my record 10k time (7:52 minute mile) now, as I'm focusing on keeping my heart rate in the aerobic zone (Z3), putting my time closer to 10 to 11 minute miles.
San Jose Turkey Trot

My favorite race that I've run is the Wharf-to-Wharf 6 mile run in Santa Cruz. The entire community turns out to support the runners along the length of the race. It is a very moving and emotional experience. And I saw someone die when I was running, which helped me keep life in perspective. My second favorite race was the Human Race in Mountain View (no longer run). They played Amazing Grace at the beginning, which I think is a moving way to start a race, and it was a festive atmosphere that ran through what is now the Googleplex.

I track my stats on Strava, if anyone wants to add me.

Closing this post with a few of my favorite running quotes:

"There will be days when you are not sure if you can finish a race. There will be a lifetime knowing that you have."

"The miracle isn't that you finished a run. The miracle is that you had the courage to start one."

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lifehacking

Mindset is important to succeeding with health goals. I used to think of my various attempts in terms of trial and error, or success and failure. That framed my health in very opposing positive and negative terms. I prefer instead to think of my attempts at things as lifehacks, and pivots. I try something for a while, take the parts of it that are successful, and pivot away from the aspects that do not work well for me. And I keep in mind that what works for one person or even the majority may not work for me. I apply this in my daily life with how I manage my calendar, tasks, email, and certainly my exercise and fitness regimes, and my approach to food.

One thing I've learned as a constant is that WW works for me. When I gain weight, if I go back and follow a "clean" or strict WW points program, it absolutely works for me.

I've also picked up recently that having a Food Plan with set rules is really helpful to me to avoid sugar, which has been an addition issue.

So, the wake of yesterday's binge after three successful weeks of abstinence, I am hacking my approach and pivoting slightly:

  • Resuming a clean/strict WW points approach. Tracking everything I eat, and staying within my allotted 23 points a day plus 35 weekly points. I know how to do this, and I'm good at it, and it absolutely works for me.
  • Keeping the best of my Food Plan approach: 
    • Never any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
    • Always stick to my WW points.
    • Always get a minimum level of physical activity each month.
    • Never restrict my intake of zero point foods.
  • I am eliminating the processed / unprocessed food element. That was a bit too nuanced and confusing and not really in response to my bingeing / addiction issues. Sticking to points should cover this.
I'll try this approach for a while and see how it works, but I'm not afraid to continue to hack this system and pivot as necessary. And I've learned to never think of my actions as failures -- just learning experiences on a continuum of progress.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Abstinence Day 21: Almost.

I almost made it ... almost three weeks. I attended my WW meeting in the morning, but my eating had been a bit sloppy lately, and this afternoon things fell apart. I am okay with that though ... I ate some foods that I have not eaten in three weeks, and they tasted good. I did not feel shame, or guilt. I felt pleasure while eating, with a determination to move on after, and knowing that I have the tools and skills to be healthy.

This weekend I will go back to basics with food tracking on WW, and stay within points. I need to stick with a simple system for a little while, and points is simple.

Vacations

When I go on vacation, I do my best to stick to my weight loss plan. But my goal on vacation is to maintain weight, not lose.

Having said that, I have gone on vacations that are food-heavy, where I did not want to feel guilty about indulging in delicious foods, and for those I put WW on pause (I stopped tracking). I resumed upon my return from vacation, guilt free.

I have gone on cruises while on WW, and found that the cruises offered WW-friendly foods, like egg-based breakfasts, vegetables, chicken breast, and fruit desserts.

Now that I am following a Food Plan, I will always maintain that plan while on vacation.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

What To Eat

I try to be strategic about eating. Viewing eating as an opportunity to further my progress to my goals helps me keep a positive relationship with food and not resent the program I am on. Sticking to meal routines (same food for most breakfasts/lunches) reduces opportunities for slipping up.

I rely a lot on Freestyle foods. Especially chicken breast, eggs, fish, and beans. I typically eat 3-4 servings of fruit a day, and as many servings of vegetables as I can. I developed some go-to meals that are healthy, low(er) in points, and reliable foods for me to seek out when I am hungry or eating out: Freestyle foods; eggs and egg whites for breakfast (or any meal); salads with black beans and soybeans, apples, bananas, berries for snacks; Subway chopped chicken salads with mustard for dressing (1 point!); Starbucks Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon & Cage Free Egg White Sandwich (5 points); tom yum chicken soup at Thai restaurants (2 points per cup); sashimi or tofu stew at Japanese restaurants; tofu kimchi soup at Korean restaurants; and poke bowls without dressing.

I had been a long-time heavy drinker of diet soda (2-3 cans a day). I know it was not great for me due to artificial ingredients and the possible link between artificial sweeteners and metabolic disorder due to insulin sensitivity. When I started WW I decided to continue drinking diet sodas. I felt making too many changes to my food routines all at once might cause me to fail in my goals. Once I achieved my goal weight, I made reducing my intake of diet soda a priority, and stopped drinking diet soda entirely soon after making Lifetime.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reflection on a Binge

Note: This is an entry in my journal that I wrote in the fall of 2018, a day after one of my binge eating episodes. I reprint this here because it is very typical of the type of crisis I had every time I binged.

Yesterday's binge eating was a classic for me. I'm getting close to my goal weight, so my subconscious decided it was time for some self-sabotage.

I had a healthy breakfast, and at lunch I decided to add some chicken thigh to my salad, which was not my eating plan for the day. I was craving nuts and cheese so I had some of that. Then a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sounded good. By then, SmartPoints were out the window, so it was time for some ice cream and a cookie. And some cereal. A few peanut butter cups. A coworker had a birthday, so two slices of birthday cake in the afternoon. At this point I started feeling physically and mentally unwell from the blood sugar spike. I'm pretty sure I ate some additional cookies and sweets, but I don't remember. Then it was time to go home from work.

The whole drive home I was thinking about Burger King, so I made a detour and that became dinner. Of course I can't just have one Whopper, so I also get a cheeseburger as a side dish. At least I didn't have my usual milkshake.

By then, I felt absolutely horrible. My stomach was not happy, and I could tell my blood sugar was sky high. I made it home and layed down, and started drinking herbal tea and water to flush sugar and salt out of my system.

I had my usual post-binge crisis about whether switching to another weightloss program like keto, intermittent fasting, etc. would be better. By the next morning I had come to my senses that WW has helped me lose 30 pounds, those other programs only resulted in weight gain, so I'm probably best just sticking with WW.

I skipped breakfast to let my stomach finish processing yesterday's binge, and had a healthy salad with chicken and eggs for lunch. I'm back on track towards goal.

Note: Soon after this happened I did reach my goal weight, and have maintained that weight since then, despite having additional binge eating episodes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Book: The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America

I recently read The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America, by Tommy Tomlinson. It's a book about a 460 pound man's quest to lose weight. He is very up front about his battle with binge eating, dieting, and exercise, and the obstacles he faced as he tried to lose weight. Many of his stories about eating resonated with me. I highly recommend this book

Monday, March 11, 2019

Easy Food Plan

Many days, if I am feeling that my weight is in a good place (below goal), I do not restrict myself from eating any foods that are whole, unprocessed foods. This includes SmartPoint indulgences like nuts, cheese, nut butters, and oatmeal. It satisfies me and keeps me from thinking about trigger foods.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Dieting vs. Absentence

Weight loss and the desire to stop binge eating are related, for sure. My experience has been that it is better to address each goal separately though.

During my weight loss phase with WW, I had binge eating days (sometimes many). That certainly slowed down my weight loss, but overall I had more days on-plan than bingeing, and so I lost weight steadily. Once I achieved my goal weight, I realized the harm binge eating was causing me, and I feared it would reverse my weight loss success.

I do not believe that a "diet" can be used to address binge eating disorder. Diets are restrictive, and binge eating rebels against a restrictive program. I had to identify what my trigger foods were (sugar and sweets) and come to a realization that I could not safely eat those foods. I had to completely, 100% eliminate certain foods (sugar-added foods) from my life. Allowing me a little bit of those foods was just a downhill slippery slope to a binge.

Figuring out how to do that was difficult, but developing a food plan that I could turn over my eating decisions to was the method that resonated with me, and so far has been successful!

My suggestion: Come up with a plan for weight loss that works for you. This might be following WW, keto, intermittent fasting, etc. Separately, come up with a plan that addresses binge eating: What are your trigger foods? Eliminate those entirely from your life for a day, then two days, then a week... and then you've built an abstinence habit.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Old Spaghetti Factory

Is it possible to eat at Old Spaghetti Factory while on a diet? Yes! Old Spaghetti Factory is one of my favorite restaurants. The bread, garlic spread, salad with Thousand Island dressing, and delicious spaghetti with meat sauce ... and of course the spumoni ice cream. Well, I do not eat any of that any more.
Chicken Marsala with Broccoli
After scouring the menu, I decided that chicken marsala, substituting broccoli for the pasta, is entirely within my healthy eating plan. I also had a cup of minestrone soup.

WW SmartPoints

I use the setting for eating my weeklies but not my FitPoints. I eat all my dailies, use my weeklies for overages / special occasions, and I do not eat any of my FitPoints. On average, I eat all of my daily and some or all of my weekly points, and none of my FitPoints.

Blue dots on the app's calendar signify days when I ate within a healthy range of daily points. My goal is as many blue dots as possible. If I do not get a blue-dot day, I do a postmortem on what happened and try to learn from that.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Abstinence Day 14: Two Week Milestone

I have now been abstinent from binge eating for two weeks. That's a big milestone for me. I definitely feel healthier, and more importantly I feel relief from what had been constant cycles of binge eating. A few observations on the past two weeks:
  • At times, my cravings and urges to eat trigger foods, and to binge eat, have been very strong. Referring myself to my Food Plan has really helped me with a reason to avoid the trigger food and avoid the binge.
  • I have been very diligent about avoiding sugar-added and artificially sweetened foods (items on my "Never" list). This is undoubtedly the longest I have gone in a long time without eating sweets. I feel good about that.
  • But I have not followed my Food Plan to the letter.  Specifically I've not been tracking with Weight Watchers and staying within my daily point range each day. My weight has been in a very healthy range below goal, and so I opened up my eating to a bit more quantity than when I need to lose weight. At all times though I followed the rest of my food plan, including eating only unprocessed foods (a lot of beans, eggs, whole grains, some meats), and no sugar/artificial sweetener.
  • Most importantly, I did not binge eat, for two weeks.
I feel very good about where I am at right now. I feel in control, and although I definitely battling urges and cravings, I feel like I have a great set of tools to keep me abstinent from binge eating.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Trigger Foods List

[Trigger warning: List and photos of unhealthy foods]

One of the techniques I implemented to divert my focus from binge eating was to keep a diary of my craves, at the time I crave them. I realized this had become a list of my trigger foods.

Writing down foods during a crave helps distract my focus from the crave, and reassures myself that if I put the craving out of the focus of my mind, I can come back to it later (perhaps for a special occasion, or in moderation, or never!).

Here is my list:
  • Warm chocolate chip peanut butter cookies or brownies
  • Spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread
  • Chinese food with big dumplings
  • Pizza buffet
  • All you can eat Korean BBQ
  • Really good cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milkshake
  • Little Debbie cookies (oatmeal cream pies, brownies, frosted Christmas tree, peanut butter wafers, etc.)
  • Cake with thick frosting
  • Girl scout cookies (Thin Mints, the coconut ones, and peanut butter patties)
As I read that list over, I do not crave any of those. But I know at times I have very strong cravings for those foods. Knowing they are written down somewhere reassures myself that they will still be there in the future, I do not have to eat them right now.

At work, we have snack drawers, and although most of the snacks are not too appealing to me, they were a target of many of my binges once I got triggered. Recently the snack drawers got a different rotation of snacks, and I absolutely know that prior to implementing my Food Plan, I absolutely would have been bingeing on this. But now when I look in the drawers I remember my food plan and my period of abstinence and that gives me tremendous strength to walk away.



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

WW Food Tracking

I use the WW app and website religiously for tracking. I track all my food, excluding zero-point food. In the past when I had a binge day, I track the binge. Having data is helpful to keep me motivated and learn about what foods are good and bad for me.

I do not eat anything without knowing in advance what its points value is. Particularly the first month on WW when I was still learning what foods had high vs. low points, I researched all foods before eating. Otherwise it is easy to eat an entire days worth of points in one meal by accidentally picking high-point foods.

I pretrack meals when I know I will be dining out. I scour the restaurant's menu in advance and pick out my meal, enter it into the app, to budget points, make sure I stick to healthy options, and stay within my points budget for the day. Pretracking prevents point overages as it establishes rules for future meals, especially when eating at restaurants.

I use Favorites to store frequent foods and custom meals to make tracking easier.

As I mentioned, I do not track zero-point foods: Mainly fruits and vegetables, lean meat, beans, eggs, and Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Quote & Truth

"You don't binge eat. I have never seen you binge eat."

That is the point. No one sees me binge eat.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Abstainer vs. Moderator

Gretchen Rubin taught me that I am an abstainer. When I see a box of cookies, I have a binary choice of eating either no cookies, or bingeing on the entire box. In contrast, moderators can have a few cookies and walk away from the rest. I know this is also true of alcohol and drugs, not just sweets. I am an abstainer (all or nothing), not a moderator. Knowing this has helped me to have the power to walk away from temptations (sometimes), knowing that if I have one, I will have all.

Abel James did a podcast about this topic in an interview with Gretchen Rubin. I recommend listening to the podcast, or at least reading the transcript.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Recipe: Chili

Slow Cooker Chili
Zero-Point Slow Cooker Chili
Zero SmartPoints!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 180 minutes

Ingredients
  • 1 large uncooked onion, minced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 30 oz canned black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 30 oz canned kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 30 oz canned pinto beans, rinsed & drained
  • 15 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 1¼ oz spiced seasoning mix, chili
  • 15 oz canned yellow corn
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 16 oz 98% fat free uncooked chicken breast, or turkey breast
  • 15 oz no salt added diced tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Combine onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes, meat, tomato sauce and seasoning mix in a slow cooker
  2. Cover and cook on high heat for 2 to 3 hours (or low heat for 4 to 6 hours)
  3. Add frozen corn during last hour of cooking
  4. Stir in lime juice and cilantro just before serving

What Is My Why?

What is my "why" for wanting to stop binge eating?
  • Health: My fasting blood sugar levels are in the prediabetic range
  • Health: Extending my healthy functional lifespan
  • Happiness: Being happy with my body aesthetic
  • Relinquish mental anguish, anxiety, and preoccupation with food for other more enjoyable pursuits
What is your "why" for the changes you want to make?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Integrating Exercise

I know that a Food Plan is, by its very name, a plan for food. But I feel I also need to make a commitment to a minimum level of exercise per week. Otherwise I do not hold myself accountable to a minimum level of high-exertion activity.

I think that measuring exercise by a certain number of minutes of high-exertion activity is the best way to do this, and gives me the flexibility to determine how I want to spent those minutes (cycling, running, swimming, elliptical, etc.).

My smartwatch tracks time spent on high-exertion activity, on a 1:1 basis for moderate activity and a 2:1 basis for high intensity activity. I'll set my goal at 60 minutes a day, or 420 minutes a week. Based on past experience that should be easily achievable as long as I do cardio many times a week. I will integrate this into my Food Plan as an "Always" behavior.

Attempts At WW

I have tried several approaches to weight loss (keto, intermittent fasting, whole foods), but I kept coming back to Weight Watchers because that was the only method that actually resulted in me losing weight. I have made several attempts at Weight Watchers over the years.

Attempt 1: Five Days to Failure 

In 2016, I tried WW for the first time. I lasted five days. On the fifth day, I exceeded my points for the week, got discouraged at my failure, and cancelled my membership.

I later learned that this type of “all or nothing” view of diets never leads to success: The goal is not 100% compliance; the goal is progress.

Attempt 2: Achieving Goal, Failing Maintenance

A year later, in March 2017, having reached an all-time high weight, I gave WW another try. Mostly out of desperation to find a program that would work for me. I was attracted to the gamification of weight loss (daily points! weekly points! points to earn from fitness and spend on food!), integration with my FitBit, and the prospect of eventually using the more lenient Simply Filling plan (now discontinued) to achieve a successful transition from weight loss to weight management. I was hopeful that the points system would help curb my bingeing and sugar addiction.

WW taught me how to lose weight, still eat good quality and tasting food, and achieve my fitness goals. My first month I lost 10 pounds, my clothes got looser, my belt needed to be tightened another notch, and I could see the change in the mirror. And although I had a few bingeing episodes, I ate much less sugar, junk food, and fat than I had been before. By my second month, my total cholesterol had declined to a significantly healthier level than I was able to achieve with prescription statins. I managed to lose twenty-five pounds and came within one pound of my goal weight. Then I sabotaged my success.

By July 2017, I relapsed. I had nearly achieved my weight goal, but my old habits crept back. I felt the points system to be too restrictive. By December 2017, I had regained all the weight I lost, plus more.

Attempt 3: Work In Progress

By March 2018, I set a new weight high. I realized once again that sugar was the key part of my problem, and tried various attempts at low-sugar diets (including keto), with limited success.

By August 2018, I returned to WW. I was exactly the weight when I started WW the first time in March 2017. This round took a bit longer for me to reach goal (which I achieved in November 2018, losing 32 pounds), but I eventually made it and entered the six-week maintenance window, and then achieved lifetime status (maintaining my weight at or below goal for 6+ weeks). I credit the Freestyle food plan, which was introduced for 2018, as helping me stick with WW and not feel that SmartPoints was too restrictive.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Tip: The Apple Test

If you are feeling hungry, but an apple does not sound good, you are not really hungry. -- Source.

Abstinence Day 7: One Week Milestone

Going one week without binge eating is a definite milestone for me. Yes, I've gone that long in the past, but it has been a while. My more immediate problem a week ago was that I really could not stop binge eating, as much as I wanted to. And so to go for seven days without a binge is a relief, and a milestone. I feel healthier, physically and mentally, and I feel optimistic that I can continue this to build into a habit and a way of life.

Having a Food Plan that is flexible enough to let me eat and not be hungry, but still gives me rules that I need to live by to avoid trigger foods and binge eating, has really been very helpful for navigating those times when I've had cravings and urges to binge.

My focus for the next week will be on reintroducing exercise into my overall health plan.

Go-To Meals For On-The-Go

Tom Yum Soup
Tom Yum Soup
Having a list of healthy food options for dining out is helpful when travelling or eating out with friends or family. Here's my go-to list. Most of these have very low WW SmartPoints.
  • Airport Convenience Food: Mixed-Fruit Container or Fat Free Greek Yogurt
  • BBQ: Turkey breast plate with salad, beans, or cole slaw
  • Diners: "High protein" breakfast, usually an egg white omelette with chicken breast and vegetables
  • Japanese: Sashimi (no rice), chicken and/or tofu stew
  • Korean: Tofu stew 
  • Starbucks: Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon Egg White Breakfast Sandwich or Mixed-Fruit Container
  • Subway: Double chicken chopped salad, with yellow mustard for dressing (1 WW SmartPoint), or the 6" or 12" roasted chicken sandwich on wheat bread (no dressings)
  • Thai: Tom Yum Soup (often can be vegetarian with tofu, or with chicken or shrimp)
  • Wendy's: Chili (plain)

Subway Salad
Subway Salad

Diner: Veggie Scramble with Chicken Breast Side
Diner: Veggie Scramble with Chicken Breast Side 

Diner: Egg White with Chicken Breast and Veggies
Diner: Egg White with Chicken Breast and Veggies

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Recipe: Zucchini Spaghetti Bowl

Zucchini Spaghetti Bowl
Zucchini Spaghetti Bowl
  • 1 cup cooked zucchini (spiral zucchini and lightly cook for 2 minutes with 1 tsp oil) 
  • 1⁄2 cup(s) cooked quinoa
  • 6 oz cooked 99% fat-free ground turkey breast
  • 1 medium fresh tomato(es), dice and cook into ground turkey
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1⁄4 cup sliced fresh radish(es)
  • 1⁄4 cup shredded carrot(s)
  • 1⁄3 cup edamame (shelled)
  • Kimchi to taste
  • Sriracha hot sauce to taste
Makes one serving.

Abstinence Day 6: A Birthday Gift To Myself

Birthday Balloons
Happy birthday, to me!
For this project that I'm undertaking, to find abstinence and recovery from my addictions, the past six days have been a warm-up. To be sure, a successful warm-up! Involving navigating temptations, cravings, and urges to binge, and feeling proud when I did so. My Food Plan and my determination to achieve my goals kept me on track.

Today is my birthday, and this project of abstinence and recovery is my birthday gift to myself: To rid myself of the anxiety and burden of battling an eating disorder and addictions that I have carried with me for as far back into my childhood as I can remember.

By the time of my birthday next year, I want to be able to reflect on the past year, of not binge eating, eating healthier foods, feeling healthier, and getting rid of the anxiety, frustration, and negative feelings that result from an eating disorder and addictions.

My next steps are to continue what I've been practicing for the past six days: Eating according to my food plan: No sugar, no artificial sweetener; eating lots of unprocessed foods within my WW SmartPoint range; and eating processed foods only in the company of others. Sticking to that for a year is unimaginable to me today. But I'm on day six, and I know to just take this one day at a time until the days turn into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the months into a year. And somewhere along the way I'll have developed a habit out of this and I will not need to think about it constantly.

Birthday Blueberries!
A coworker gave me Birthday Blueberries!
Birthday Orange
A coworker gave me a Birthday Orange

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

WW Grocery List

Grocery Shopping
An important part of any healthy eating approach is to have plenty of go-to foods to eat. This prevents getting hungry (or rather, hangry) that can lead to a binge eating situation. Many of the times that I binge eat are because there are obstacles to having convenient, quick access to healthier food options.

This is my cheatsheet grocery shopping list of ZeroPoint foods that I try to keep on hand at all times.
  • Fruit/Veg
    • Vegetable sticks
    • Fruit - fresh, frozen, or canned (no syrup/sugar added)
    • Tomatoes (diced - for chili or sauce)
    • Applesauce with cinnamon (no sugar added)
    • Corn - fresh, frozen, or canned
  • Beans/Dairy
    • Beans (canned - any type)
    • Soy beans (shelled)
    • Yogurt: Greek fat-free plain, no-sugar added
    • Eggs (or egg/white substitute)
  • Meat/Fish
    • Chicken breast (ground 98% fat-free okay)
    • Turkey breast (ground 98% fat-free okay)
    • Fish - Canned tuna, salmon fillet, etc.
    • Broth (fat free)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Books: Recommended Reading

Here is my recommended reading list of books I have read about healthy eating that I think are worth reading:
I also have a Goodreads book list of books about healthy eating and lifestyles.


In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
Atkins for Life: The Complete Controlled Carb Program for Permanent Weight Loss and Good Health
Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution
The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will
Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body's Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You
Wired to Eat: How to Rewire Your Appetite and Lose Weight for Good
Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person
Obsessed: America's Food Addiction - And My Own
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
The Keto Reset Diet: Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever
The Wellness Project: A Hedonist's Guide to Making Healthier Choices
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book
Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
The 22-Day Revolution: The Plant-Based Program That Will Transform Your Body, Reset Your Habits, and Change Your Life

Useful Websites

Terminology

Dictionary
For me it is important to define terminology, so that I know what I mean when I use certain terms.
  • Binge eating
    • Traditional definition: Consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as part of an eating disorder.
    • My definition: Eating not in accordance with my Food Plan.
  • Abstinence or sobriety: Not binge eating.
  • Recovery: The period of abstinence, combined with a mental shift towards self-growth and actualization to treat the underlying issues causing the eating disorder.
References:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Abstinence Day 3: Hotel Buffets

I gave up diet soda and artificial sweetener on December 26, 2018, nearly two months ago. For the first week or two I counted the days since I had last had a diet soda. Now I do not even think about it. I am feeling very optimistic that I can do the same for binge eating, by staying on my Food Plan.

I'm travelling right now and staying in a hotel for a few days. The hotel room has a small kitchen, so in theory I could make my own food, but there is not a market nearby. The hotel has free breakfast, which is usually hit or miss, but this morning I was happy the hotel has hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit! Hard boiled eggs and fruit are two of my go-to foods, especially for breakfast.

Buffet

Lunch was at work: Chicken breast, veggies, beans, fruit, yogurt. Dinner is eating out: Fresh flat noodles with lamb (saved up all my SmartPoints for this). It was delicious, and follows my Food Plan. I also walked a lot today, so I'm feeling well exercised. I was quite proud of myself that several times I walked past delicious foods that I normally would have stopped and eaten in excess (cookies, etc.) and I really wasn't tempted because I knew it was incompatible with my Food Plan. I am looking forward to the eggs and fruit at breakfast again tomorrow.

Podcasts & YouTube Channels

I love listening to podcasts. They are a great way to make productive use of time while sitting in traffic or doing chores at home! Here is my list of podcasts that I listen to related to food, weight loss, and general health.
YouTube Channels:

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Abstinence Day 2: Let's Not Do A Cake This Year

One of the tricks I learned about food through Weight Watchers is to plan out one's food. This involves pre-tracking meals that one will eat during the day, including researching healthy options on restaurant menus. Pre-tracking creates food rules for the day, and makes sure that total food intake is within the plan. Today I pre-planned out a few meals for this week when I know I'll be eating out at restaurants.

One aspect of planning out food is to communicate with others what I can eat. This is important for social eating. My birthday is coming up, and so today I had to tell my mother not to get a cake for my birthday. A cake is an absolutely binge trigger food for me, and I need to aggressively avoid cake, especially early in my abstinence journey.
Let's not do a cake this year. I have to not eat sugar, and so I've cut that entirely out of the foods I eat, so it would be good to just skip the cake.
Mom agreed.

Birthday Cake

Breakfast today was eggs and green tea. Lunch was the Whole Foods buffet. Normally buffets might be trouble, but at Whole Foods there are so many ZeroPoint food options (salad, beans, lean protein) that it is a good place for a meal. I had a full large container of food: Melons, berries, beans, leafy greens, an egg, shredded carrots. I ran about 4 miles this afternoon and had a greek yogurt for a snack. Dinner is oatmeal with peanut butter.

Writing My Food Plan

I know I lack the willpower to abstain from binge eating. I need external help in achieving my abstinence goal. As I wrote when I defined my abstinence, I believe I have to turn over my food-related decisions to a Higher Power. Since I lack religious beliefs, my Higher Power is my Food Plan. I turn my decision making about food over to that set of rules.

Now I just have to come up with a Food Plan that is rigid enough that it will enable me to achieve my goal, but flexible enough that I will not become frustrated and easily fail.

I really like the approach to a Food Plan that the book Never Binge Again developed. The approach involves creating rules in four categories:
  • There are foods I will never eat again
  • There are behaviors I will always follow
  • There are foods I can eat unrestricted
  • There are foods I can eat under certain conditions
The book also suggested the following tips for writing an effective Food Plan:
  • Create rules that will be followed for life
  • The rules should be very clear and explicit, with no wiggle room or ambiguity
  • Start with easy to follow rules
  • Focus on elminating binge triggers first, and weight loss later
  • Start with the most problematical food(s) -- for me, this is sugar
  • Have enough options to not be hungry
  • Once developed, the Food Plan must be followed to the letter
  • Any violation of the Food Plan is a binge, and remission from abstinence
  • Following the Food Plan may be uncomfortable at times
Quitting bad food habits is hard because I have to keep eating something. I cannot just quit food entirely. This is why quitting food might be harder than quitting cigarettes or drugs.

In drafting my Food Plan, I knew the following concepts were important for me to integrate:
  • I used to have a habit of drinking three to five servings of diet soda a day. I gave up that habit on December 26, 2018, and haven't had a diet soda since. My main reason for giving up diet soda was to stop ingesting artificial sweeteners, and so on December 26, 2018 I also gave up adding artificial sweeteners to foods and beverages. I know I ingest some with sugar free gum, but that does not target a sweet tooth craving. Therefore, artificial sweeteners will be a never again food.
  • Sugar is the main cause of my binge eating disorder. My earliest memories as a child involve bingeing on sugar. And throughout my childhood and adulthood, bingeing on sugar-added foods has the primary issue with my food addiction. Therefore, I have to completely stop eating foods with sugar added. Sugar will be a never again food for me. The only sweet foods I will eat are fruits. 
  • Weight loss has been important to me, and as I previously mentioned, Weight Watchers has been the only weight loss strategy that has ever worked for me. Making sure I maintain my goal weight is important to me, and therefore incorporating WW into my Food Plan is important. I will always cap my daily eating at 28 SmartPoints (the max points for a blue dot in my WW plan).
  • Both on WW and with a binge eating Food Plan, I understand the importance of having unrestricted foods. When I'm hungry, I need to be able to eat something, otherwise I will binge eat. WW has a long list of unrestricted ZeroPoint foods, and I will adopt that list as my unrestricted foods. This includes all fruits and vegetables, beans, eggs, and lean meat like chicken breast and turkey breast. As WW says, these are foods I am unlikely to overeat.
  • My conditional foods are the hardest category. I need to exclude my binge triggers, and have rules that will stop me from bingeing, but also give myself flexibility to enjoy food and eat out with friends. The lawyer in me drafted a conditional statement and I can eat processed foods only under certain circumstances: 
    • First, they have to follow the above rules, so no foods added with sugar or artificial sweetener. 
    • Second, they have to be eaten with other people around. 
    • Third, they can only be eaten when no unprocessed or ZeroPoint foods are available, or for special occasions.
  • The primary foods that the above rules allow me to eat are unprocessed foods. That is my go-to for every meal.
In the future, I will evaluate if I want to incorporate intermittent fasting into my Food Plan.

Book: "Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person"

Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person by Glenn Livingston (website).

eBook PDF available for free at this link!

The premise of the book is that we have "inner pigs" that cause us to binge eat bad foods ("slop"). We need to tame our pigs to avoid binge eating. I had a hard time with the pig analogy, but many of the other concepts in the book were meaningful to me. As other reviewers have said, it may help to suspend disbelief while reading the book, and focus on the elements that resonate with your experience.

My key takeaways are below.

Emotions

  • "It’s also why it seems like no matter how hard you try, you eventually find yourself eating in ways you swore you never would again. And it’s why you may feel demoralized, dejected, and hopeless about ever successfully dealing with food."
  • "Because in this book we’ll apply a very kindhearted, effective way to recover from mistakes without becoming preoccupied with guilt and shame."
  • "Bingeing transforms you into a wild animal. It rejects the laws of humanity and returns you to the jungle where life is brutish, chaotic, and short. Bingeing wipes out your spirit. Don’t spend years investigating WHY you Binge before you stop. Just stop."
  • "To Never Binge Again all you need to do is Never Binge Again. You do not need to repeatedly smack yourself in the head with a spatula to prove you’ve suffered enough."
  • "You do NOT need to know why you Binge. You just need to stop."
  • "Guilt and shame about Bingeing are uncomfortable emotions which quickly dissipate in the absence of a plan to Binge again. Much like the pain you feel after touching a hot stove, these feelings exist to help you learn…and they go away quickly once you’ve done so."
  • "most people report feeling somewhat “unconscious” during a Binge, almost as if another entity had “taken over.”"
  • "you can and should let go of the guilt and shame associated with Bingeing once you’ve analyzed the Squeals, corrected your Food Plan (if necessary,) and re-committed 100%…"
  • "whether you’ll choose a life of discipline versus a life of regret."

Relapse

  • "If you fall down, you’ll just get up and resume where you left off."
  • "a small Binge [will] snowball into a full-blown Food Orgy, and seriously undermines confidence in your ability to control yourself."
  • "What if you DO Binge? What then??? Simple: Analyze what happened, adjust your sails, and then NEVER Binge again."
  • "Making a mistake doesn’t invalidate the law. Your Food Plan remains law at every possible moment in time,"
  • "promptly forgive yourself and make a 100% confident, renewed commitment to perfectly follow your Food Plan forever. You are a fallible human being."
  • "A Binge is defined as even one bite or swallow outside of your carefully constructed Food Plan."

Eating Plan

  • Analogizing following a food plan to learning how to ride a bike: "And eventually—perhaps not on the first few tries—she WOULD make it…in large part because you protected her from becoming pre-occupied with the possibility of failure." and "If you make a mistake, you’ll just pick yourself up and get back to peddling in the right direction, speaking kindly to yourself the whole time."
  • On never eating certain foods again: "certain impulses are too strong to restrain when they’re given even a tiny opening."
  • The concept of "never": "If you can’t say you’ll NEVER do something again (or never engage in a particular food behavior again), the Pig knows it’s only a matter of time until it gains the upper hand. If we define a “Binge” as engaging in any eating behavior which contradicts your Food Plan, then at very minimum we must be able to say we will NEVER Binge again." and "“always” and “never” are sacred vows. They become something the Pig can’t assail, no matter how hard it tries, because the motives behind any Squeal suggesting an exception will be recognized immediately."
  • "Define your Food Plan with 100% clarity so you can tell with certainty when you are ON versus OFF it. A Binge = even one bite and/or swallow outside of your Food Plan. You will NEVER Binge again."
  • "Consuming even the most minuscule amount of Pig Slop —anything even remotely off of your well defined Food Plan—is, by definition, a Binge."
  • "When you stick to your Food Plan and nourish your body you will NOT die. But you won’t get a Food High either. You’ll just kill the Craving and go on with your day. This will NOT be exhilarating. You’ll experience life however life was meant to be on that particular day without a food high… But YOU will be 100% in control. This is the only way to get the results you want."
  • "If you find you’re repeatedly struggling with a food or drink in the Conditionals section, the odds are pretty good you need to move it to the Nevers. For many people, certain super-rewarding foods taste and feel too good to constrain with conditions and rules. But these same people—who may have struggled for years or even decades with a particular food—find it remarkably easy to NEVER have it again. Certainly much easier than the ongoing, painful search for that one “magic rule” which will let them have their cake and eat it too."
  • "Whole, unprocessed, organic plant foods—and a modest amount of organic animal protein—are the ONLY truly healthy foods for humans on this planet."
  • "Anything less than a 100% commitment is nothing more than the Pig’s plan to Binge."
  • "When you accept 90% compliance, you’re depriving yourself of the immense confidence and peace of mind which only 100% can bring. 100% is really the ONLY option."
  • "There’s absolutely NO need for “Cheat Days” and/or “Controlled Binges” on a well-considered Food Plan"

Counting Time

  • "Counting the number of days, months, or years it’s been since you last Binged is like counting how long you’ve been obeying the law. It’s actually harmful because it signals the Pig you are insecure and ambivalent about your commitment. There’s NO reason to count the number of days since you last Binged."