Sweetsville

Last week when I stepped on the scale, I was thrilled. I’d lost two pounds after a couple of weeks of plateau. It was due, I knew, to my decision to stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol isn’t banned from plant-based whole food diets. But it has calories, lots of them, empty ones that add no nutrition. So with weight loss as my #1 goal to reverse the diabetes train, dropping wine (and the occasional martini) from my life seemed obvious.

I went without alcohol and stuck firmly to the PBWF diet and I lost weight. Then I started to eat a little bit outside the PBWF box. I didn’t drink any wine, but consoled myself with cake. Just a little square. Which led to more sugar. Because I hadn’t really wanted the cake, what I really had been craving was a chocolate chip cookie. Once the cookies were in my shopping cart, I knew I’d eat more than one.

Now it is Friday and I have done my weekly weigh in. The two pounds I lost last week are back. Even though most of the time I have been faithfully eating my vegetables and fruit, my potatoes and rice, my oatmeal and almond milk … most of the time isn’t enough.

Sure as the sun shines, eating sugar leads to eating more sugar. There is nothing like the high of losing weight unless it’s having a little something sweet to reward myself. I have done this over and over again for thirty years now. Why? Because not eating sugar is hard. And I say sugar but there is a very long list of what I am no longer eating: no meat, poultry, fish, bread, oil, no dairy or processed foods.

I looked it up. About 1% of the US population is vegan. That’s about a million people. I couldn’t find any numbers for PBWF vegans. But really how much lower can you go than 1% ??? So, even the numbers say this is hard. I’m sticking with it, though, because I want to have a healthy rest of my life. After a brief detour into sweetsville, I am back on the PBWF path.

It’s not a coincidence that taking away wine made me crave sugar. It’s replacing one treat with another. Some people who quit drinking alcohol will drink endless cups of coffee laced with sugar and cream. Others smoke two packs of cigarettes a day. That’s a trope of AA meetings, the addicts with their coffee and cigarettes. Cigarettes would solve my problem with sugar. I never had a problem with sugar until I quit smoking. Quitting smoking is harder than quitting sugar. I tried to quit at least ten times before I finally did it thirty years ago.

I am worried right now that my week of eating sugar is going to show at the doctor’s office. My next visit is in ten days. That’s when I do the fasting blood work. Meanwhile, I will not be eating any more sugar. Once you get off of it, with PBWF you don’t even want it. In that way, it’s so much easier to kick than cigarettes.

 

True Confessions

Finishing out my series on the self-help book Stick With It today. I have a couple of confessions to make about it, too. First, none of the information seemed truly new to me, but that may be because I am a self-help junkie and always have one on the go. To sum up, I’ll just use the “science” acronym the author employs.

S. “stepladders” — breaking big goals into small steps makes sticking to them easier.

C. “community” — sharing the goal with others inspires you to keep on the path.

I. “important” — if the goal is truly important, you’ll more likely stick to it.

E. “easy” — the easier it is to follow the new habit, the more you’ll use it.

N. “neurohacks” — switch out the usual “thought precedes action” by taking action first.

C. “captivating” — to change behavior, make the change utterly compelling.

E. “engrained” — repeating the new action will make it into a lasting habit.

While the ideas here are not new, my doctor made it clear I must change some of my behaviors, as my blood sugar numbers are worse than ever, and even if I quit sweet treats today, I might still become a diabetic. I’m so close to being diabetic that a mere one tenth of a point would bring me to that official diagnosis.

I bought Stick To It after I read over the paperwork my doctor gave me at my last visit. Then I did more research on my own. It’s no secret I enjoy a cocktail or two now and then. My Instagram is loaded with photos of pretty drinks I’ve concocted and glasses of chardonnay captured in certain light.

According to my doctor, I can still enjoy a glass of wine. One glass. Once a week. With a meal. My habit has been to drink a bit more than that, so I did further research. I was worried about the one drink limit. I tend to have a couple of glasses. And I enjoy them very much. So I wondered: am I more than just a social drinker? Do I need some type of intervention program?

So I read another book and took a quiz and found that I am not in danger of becoming an alcoholic. This was a real concern to me, as there are people in my family with the disease. Luckily, it is not my disease. Which means I should be able to change my routine to just one glass of wine. How to make that captivating? I’ll need something else to post to my Instagram account, too.

I’ve known people with diabetes. Some of them have died from it. It has affected them in terrifying ways. A friend recently had a kidney transplant. Another didn’t get one and died after years of painful dialysis. Another had her foot amputated. And those are just people I’ve known quite well. Eyesight can be ruined, too.

So what are the top two things people can do to stop diabetes? #1 is lose weight. #2 is exercise. Cutting sweet or sugary foods is also a must. My doc asked me to try the Mediterranean diet. I’ve been trying. But now sticking to my goals of weight loss, exercise, and eating properly aren’t just about fitting into skinny jeans. Sticking to the habits that will make these behaviors permanent is really about quality of life. Or life itself.

Hypnotized

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A few days ago, not quite halfway into my three month experiment of living alone in a Florida beach town, I was waiting for something to happen. I’m reading Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, the book that had promised to break things open for me, I was living an experience I knew would challenge me and maybe, I hoped, release some kind of something inside.

My hopes for this time alone were ambitious. I wanted to finish a book, start blogging and lose weight (again). I was so far away from inspired when I came down here. I’ve been round and round the weight loss routine for too many years to really believe I could create lasting change. I was starting to give up on ever finishing the book I’ve been writing off and on for a few years now. I needed help, but only the kind I could provide for myself. I had to do the work, whatever that was.

Julia’s book is at the center of my plan. At the end of each week, she concludes with a series of questions about how things went. She always asks about synchronicity. Synchronicity is when you notice that certain themes keep popping up in your life. After weeks of faithful work, I wasn’t having any of that, and I wanted some. The thing with synchronicity is, you might be having it and just not notice. It might be tugging at you and you’re brushing it off.

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Two weeks ago I read a novel by one of my favorite authors with a hypnotherapist main character. Since I read that book, I’ve been thinking about learning more about hypnosis. Then out of the blue the other day my dad (who quit smoking via this method) mentioned hypnotherapy. This propelled me to the bookstore where I found Instant Self-Hypnosis. When I got home I realized I’d just experienced synchronicity.

Hypnosis is not exactly what I thought it was. There is no “going under” there is no time where the hypnotized person is not in complete control and fully aware of what’s happening.  After you’re hypnotized, you remember everything that happened while you were in the trance. It’s like the flow I enter when I meditate, or when I write.

The difference is, with hypnosis, the place I enter is not the still calm center of my consciousness or the place in the story where my characters are currently playing out my plot. The entry point in hypnosis is your subconscious. By relaxing, the conscious mind opens a door into the unconscious and then slips in an intention, like losing weight or finishing a book. It’s a simple process, takes about 20 minutes. The author suggests you undergo the process three times for any one thing you want to change in your life. So three 20 minutes sessions for weight loss, three more for finishing the book.

I’m going to try it. The thing that made me really believe that hypnosis can work was not that the AMA (American Medical Association) has given hypnotherapy its stamp of approval as a solid method to help stop bad habits and start good ones. No, what intrigued me most and felt most promising to me was something that I intuitively knew was true about myself. On a conscious level, I really do want to lose weight.

But on an unconscious level, I know I’m ambivalent about the weight loss. Does it mean I must forever forego chocolate? Wine? Pizza? Chips? Not Fun. And that formerly unconscious false belief that all fun will be drained from life if I lose weight is what has kept me from losing weight for good. I’ve lost 25-30 pounds half a dozen times. But I always gain it back…probably when I decide, on an unconscious level, I’m done being deprived and want to have fun again.

I understood this dynamic in a flash. But understanding a false belief is not the same as changing it. For that, I’m going to try hypnosis.

Losing the Benzos

A couple of weeks ago, the battery in my bathroom scale died. I weigh myself almost every day, and record my weight in my morning pages, so this was a problem. If I don’t weigh myself I can gain a couple of pounds a day without noticing until my jeans and rings don’t fit. I knew things were a bit grim, but hey, it’s winter in Michigan, so I wasn’t too worried. (I’m not worrying about my weight anymore. I’m a granny.)

But then I got a new battery for the scale. Turns out I gained 7 pounds this month. And you know, we’re only 3 weeks in. I know it’s the carbs. And chinese food. And possibly chardonnay, although I haven’t been drinking very much because of my little benzo problem. Which is now over. With benzos gone, I can once again let go of the carbs.

Couple of tricks you have to learn to successfully eat very low carb. One is that winter without carbs can be rough. Our cavewoman genes really want to bulk up for hibernation and food shortages. And it’s hard to fight a cavewoman. But it can be done. Example: me in January. So the other thing that can mess up the low carb life is drug withdrawal. As mentioned, I recently got off the benzos.

It took me six months to taper off Xanax, and to do that without a ton of anxiety and insomnia, and also some flu-like symptoms, and I mean a bad flu, like the worst flu ever, my doctor put me on Prozac and sleeping pills that had a little benzo in them. Just to help me taper. So yes, to get off one drug, I had to take three, in ever-diminishing doses, for what seemed like a really long time.

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At first I balked at the Prozac, because I thought only depressives or bipolar people needed Prozac. Also because I heard Prozac will pack on the pounds faster than estrogen cream. But at first, Prozac did not put weight on me. Not until I was completely off Xanax. Even then, it wasn’t so bad, because I was still taking the benzo sleeping pill. So my body was getting a little bit of benzo. And it was happy.

Then I tapered off the sleeping pill. I never wanted to take sleeping pills to begin with, so I was very happy to finally go down from those. Plus the low dose of the sleeping pill cost $600 so instead I halved the capsules. You have to very carefully twist the capsule apart and make sure only half the powder goes in each side of the capsule. Then you mix a half capsule with  a teaspoon of applesauce, eat it and put a piece of tape over the other half capsule for the next night. After two weeks, you take a half cap every other night. It’s tedious. So yes, I was thrilled to be off the benzos.

Meanwhile, with every micro-milligram I went down, I got some withdrawal symptoms. Not the bad ones like I had before my doctor stepped in, but a bit of anxiety and iffy stomach. I decided to ease those withdrawals by allowing sugar and carbs in, just for a while. And really, they do help. Then my scale broke. Then I tapered off Prozac, which wasn’t as difficult as the benzos because I had only been on it for maybe 2 or 3 months. I was on 4 mg Xanax for about 5 years, and used it casually (not that there is anything casual about panic attacks, I just didn’t have one every day) for maybe 20 years.

I didn’t know this until my new doctor told me (as opposed to the old doctor who prescribed the benzos and said they were perfectly harmless to take for the rest of my life) but 25 years is a really long time to take Xanax.

Now I only take one pill a day, one that has no noticeable effect other than eliminating acid reflux. You won’t hear of anyone on Nurse Jackie rocking the Prilosec. But people (who knew?) love benzos. I honestly didn’t know people used them recreationally. I used them to control panic attacks. And insomnia. And migraines. But then I did a past life regression that cured my panic attacks and the Xanax stopped working for insomnia. I also started using hormone therapy which stopped the migraine almost totally. So I thought, wow, I should just give these up. Ha! Way easier said than done. But eventually I did.

And I have the 7 extra pounds to prove it!

You know what? I’m so happy to be off all those pills (My energy is back! I thought it was gone forever!) that I don’t even mind having gained this weight. And now that I am not experiencing any withdrawal symptoms I can drop the carb crutch. Because really, I’d like to wear rings on my fingers and zip up my jeans.

Beautiful Eye Candy

Yesterday on Facebook somebody said I was “more beautiful than when I was in high school” and called me “eye candy” and said he hoped Al knew how lucky he was. So I told Al all of this because he has never once called me beautiful or eye candy. Al said, “well, but I think you are!” You know Al, man of few words. Then today he called me and said “Hi beautiful eye candy” haha. Gotta love that guy. But the truth is, I’m more wrinkled and weigh lots more than in high school.
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In high school I was not overweight. At all. But on the other hand, I did not wear any make up, did not wear nice clothes (just jeans and flannel shirts), and did not do anything to my hair. It was a wild mess of split ends. I was not pretty, but some boys thought I was “cute” even though I had those huge Gloria Steinem glasses. They didn’t suit my face at all.
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After about age 35, I gained lots of weight. 50 pounds. I lost and gained hundreds of pounds over the last several years. Just as Dr. Dukan (who I will talk more about in a minute) says is typical dieting human behavior, when I hit anything over the 30 pound limit in my head, I started to cup down. Ten pounds kept off from Weight Watchers, ten more from becoming vegetarian, and ten more when I cut sugar. I still have about twenty to lose, and sometimes it creeps back up to thirty like recently when I hurt my knee and could not walk or do yoga for TWO months!
That thirty pounds is my bingo! And I start to eat healthier again. But with so many restrictions on my foods, it is a challenge to know what is right for me and what will work and what I can live with. I like my wine! But I think Dr. Dukan has got me covered. I can have a glass of wine twice a week on his diet, and even two glasses. That’s plenty. This has been a grueling weight, feeling the pounds creep on, helpless to stop the spoonful of ice cream from entering the mouth. If you’re still reading this,  you’ve been there.
Tomorrow I will get my physical therapy script from my doc and boy I can’t wait. I have not weighed myself since the knee injury because I know without much activity and with the recent descent back into the madness that is sugar I have added back on the ten that just won’t leave. The last food plan I followed had me cut carbs to the bone, eat a lot of fat “fat doesn’t make you fat” and it worked really well. I lost those ten pounds in two weeks. But I felt sick a lot because I don’t have a gall bladder so the fat didn’t agree with me.
I knew I had to find another food plan, this one for life, that would agree with my system. In waltzes Dr. Dukan. He is also anti-sugar which I know works for me. He is high protein, not high fat. Yay! Now that I am (reluctantly) not a vegetarian anymore, I can work his program. He’s got two ways of working it and the first one is very similar to the one I followed last time, with the severe withdrawl of all carbs and sugars. I’ll lose ten pounds in two weeks again.
But he has another plan I’m interested in that I don’t know a lot about yet as I only got the book yesterday and I’m reading all his research, prefaces, and theories. He’s wordy. But basically I think this one MAY BE the one to get those final twenty pounds off as it looks at first glance like it’s a plan I can easily follow for life. I’ll let you know, you beautiful eye candy!