Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Some answers

I posted my success on MyFoodDiary.com recently and questions were asked about my journey and how difficult I found the transition to food and maintaining my weight. Thought I'd share my answers here....

First, about OPTIFAST - it is a nutritionally sound, restricted calorie, medically supervised diet. There were times it seemed difficult to stick to diet, but I decided I would not have anything that was not approved. Sugar-free gum was approved and I chewed a lot of it! At the time, I lived alone, so I emptied my kitchen of all food. I had no temptations. I think I was fortunate that I was able to do that. The result was a fairly rapid weight loss and to be honest, my mind just didn't keep up with my body, which played an huge factor in my transition to food and maintaining.

I remember the first restaurant meal I ordered after I was back on food. We were in a Mexican restaurant and I found a grilled chicken dish served with veggies on the side on the menu. It seemed like the healthiest choice for me so I ordered it. I almost started crying with the waiter brought my meal to me. The plate was at least 15" in diameter and completely covered. The chicken breast was HUGE and the veggies dripping in cheese sauce. I was overwhelmed. That is when I learned (and think I need to relearn) that it is OK to leave food on your plate. Wow - I get a bit emotional now just remembering that moment.

That moment is so poignant because the tears were from fear. Previous to OPTIFAST, my track record with maintaining weight loss was abysmal and I was petrified I was going to gain the weight back. This is where I have a criticism of Emory's program - each of the transitioning participants should receive at least 2 one-on-one sessions with the in-house psychologist. I was so afraid I got entirely too stressed out about it and even threw-up on the way home from work one day. It was hard. That's when I found MFD and another site - MasteringFood.com (it's since changed it's name, but I don't remember the new name). MFD was great for the support and I got some incredible advice from Mastering Food:

SLOW DOWN. BREATHE. Take some time to fully acknowledge what you have already accomplished. Give yourself credit for this. The rest will come in time.

Part of my fear and refusal to accept what I had accomplished was because I had not reached my goal. I had wanted to reach my goal while on OPTIFAST and I was beating myself up for failing. Yes, I did not consider my weight loss a success. And even now, 2 years later, there is part of me that still does not accept my accomplishment because I haven't finished - I haven't reached my goal.

What other things have I dealt with? Accepting that I am an attractive person - realizing the face in the mirror was mine. That has been difficult for so many different reasons, but I'm getting there. And yes, I still get surprised some times now when I look in the mirror. And yes, I do still struggle with body size perception.

The external responses to my weight loss have been varied and some have caused some resentment: getting promoted at work only AFTER I lost the weight. Now that may have just been a timing thing, but.... Male senior managers at work began to greet me in the hallway with a smile and saying "Hello, Maura," Before, they would simply not even see me. I think those are two things that just really got up my a$$ some - but only some. It's not worth it to stay resentful over someone else's problem. Most of the other responses have all been incredibly positive.

I think the biggest difference, though, is how I feel about myself and my outlook on life. I still struggle with depression sometimes, but it's much easier to catch when I start spiraling and is MUCH easier to avoid in the first place. I am more confident. Some of my friends remarked that I'm more approachable and more open.

I won't lie and say that maintenance is a piece of cake. Its not. In fact, it is MUCH MUCH MUCH harder than OPTIFAST. And I so admire the people on MFD who have achieved their weight loss without the luxury of having food and food choices removed.

I've been asked how I did it and how I maintain the loss. The short answer is SHEER DETERMINATION and STUBBORNESS. But that answer goes a long way. I made up my mind I was going to do this and once I make up my mind, I can be like a brick wall. I use my stubbornness to my advantage here.

The long answer is that I had to get my head in the right place about my health. And that is the number one piece of advice I give to everyone. Any diet (please make it a sound diet) will work if your head is in the right place. If your head isn't in the right place then the weight will come right back.

More advice - build a weight management toolbox and use the tools DAILY. My toolbox contains: my will, MFD, Nutritiondata.com, Flylady.net, Worlds Healthiest Foods (whfoods.com), Goals & Challenges, Water, my support network, Exercise, Heart Rate Monitor, Scales, Food scale and measuring cups/spoons

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