Sunday, August 18, 2013

An honest review of the diet clinic

August 18, 2013
40 pounds to go

Imagine this: 457 days ago (a little over a year and a quarter), uncomfortable, a little desperate and wide-eyed I walked into a “medical weight loss clinic.”  I had gotten a certificate from our newspaper’s Groupon spinoff, so I patted myself on the back for making a step towards good health and only investing $20!

I filled out an intake form with the normal blah blah questions, does cancer run in your family, known allergies, and further medical history etc etc.  Then came the moment of truth – leading me over to the scale and my heart dropped.  Next, I was shuffled into a patient room where normal intake procedure continued.  A huge BMI chart shaded in different colors depending on if you fell into “underweight,” “optimal,” “obese,” or “severely obese”  adorned the wall, and I watched a grossly overweight nurse find my height on the chart (a shrimpy 5’4) a run her finger along the axis for way to my weight which was literally on the border between “obese” and “severely obese.”  Severe?  Are you shitting me?  

She then started grilling me on what I typically eat in an average day / week to determine my eating habits.  On a final note, she took my blood pressure and then left the room while I awaited the Doctor.

This is the point when I started crying.

The doctor came in, a gloriously thin woman who had a kind face.  One that registered shock once she realized I had been sitting there for 10 minutes sobbing my eyes out.  She was gentle and went through her suggested plan.  She gave me all sorts of useful basic tools that I had been completely ignorant of before this point: my resting metabolism, target calorie intake per day, and breakdown of how many servings of each food group I should have (i.e. 3 cups of veggies, 4 carb, 2 fat exchanges, 6 meat).  She stressed that I should try and start walking everyday (the usual ‘exercise, just try it!’ approach that is always in one ear and out the other).  I gathered myself between tears and said “I’m sure you have lots of girls crying in your intake office.”  And the look back said, “um, no.”

This was all the good stuff.  I felt like I had a plan.  But we weren’t done.  Next came the discussion of what dose of Phentermine I would like to use and whether it would be a 1 day dose, or take the dose 3 times over the day with meals.  She mentioned to only drink 1 cup of coffee with it to see how I felt.  I said, "1 day dose, I’m too lazy to remember over the course of the day."   She then said good night and the nurse came back in and administered a vitamin B12 cocktail shot into my ass which burned like a mother fucker.

That night I kept running to the bathroom with terrible diarrhea from the shot.  My tummy hurt.  I was whiney. 

The next morning, I got up and thought, “here we go.”  I popped my first pill and downloaded myfitnesspal.  (I would start logging the next day)  I drank a cup of coffee then got ready for work.  I felt fine, and then once I arrived everything started glowing.  I shit you not, it was like everything suddenly developed an aura.  And I was thirsty.  So desperately thirsty.  I remember it was a Friday because I had my weekly department meeting at 9AM and I was hoping my staff wouldn’t notice I was licking my lips like an overdosed meth addict and was consciously trying to slow down my speech.  All I could think of was poor Ellen Burstyn in her red dress in Requiem for a Dream.  I actually spent my breaks race-walking around the block to try and get the drug out of my system.

I was a little scared.  I pulled up Goolgle and typed in Phentermine.  It was the second drug in the infamous Fen-Phen.  It will give you a false positive for methamphetamines on drug tests because it has the same basic chemical structure.

So I was on some generic look-alike to speed.  At least, according to the Internet.  I wondered if this was what those 50’s housewives were on so they could ‘do it all.’

The next day I was grateful to have come down off my diet high.  I never took another one of those pills.

Four days later I went to the clinic for my first check-in I had lost 6 pounds.  Go me!  I had the pills in hand and said “I want to give these back, I don’t like the way they make me feel and don’t want to be on something that could potentially be addicting.”  There was a lot of bluster how they’ve never seen one of their patients become addicted to Phentermine and it really wasn’t that dangerous. I asked if she had any natural alternatives.  To which they did – Diucaps and an Accai cocktail which were considered a ‘natural appetite suppressant.”  My only interest in taking them was the Diucaps were also something that helps relieve water retention that I heard was a good mood stabilizer during ye ol’ period week.

To be quite honest I didn’t feel a huge difference between taking the natural supplements and not taking them.  I have notes in my diary that “I didn’t feel quite right.”  I stopped after 2 weeks.

The next week I went back into the doctor for my next check in.   This time, the doctor did not see me, only the grossly overweight nurse.  I got on the scale: 2 pounds lost.  Go me!  She was disappointed with my progress.  The minute I sat down in the patient room she asked me if “I was still drinking my beers.”  I said “no, I haven’t, but it was a harder week because I was on my period and had two birthday dinners to get through.”  She then launched into a speech on how beer is too caloric and how I really needed to stop drinking it.  (Hello McFly, I just told you I didn’t!)  I tried to derail her by saying again, no, I hadn’t drunk any beer and would you like to see my food diary so you can give me some tips?

It was at this point I realized I was sitting in a business, not a genuine health clinic.  This woman didn’t give a shit about me or my habits.   The mean part of me thought, ‘who are you, morbidly obese lady to lecture me on my alcohol intake when you can’t even bother to listen to me and give me any genuine tips?  Where is the goddamn doctor?”  That whole encounter still makes my blood boil.

I think I went back for 1 more week before I abandoned the clinic for food logging and my blog to keep me accountable.  Admittedly, when I did talk to the doctor, she gave me good tips on things to watch for.  She set me up with invaluable tools in my intake, and did give the suggestion for a protein snack mid morning.  And she taught me about the advantage of eating low-glycemic foods.  All the nutritional guidance was good.

Another thing I should mention: the cost to go to this diet clinic was $60-$100 per week depending on if they gave you the phentermine or natural supplements.  While, I’m sure this is a fraction of the cost of doing illegal drugs to lose weight, it gets pretty pricey for the average Joe. (I googled “what does speed cost “ for shits and giggles and probably just got flagged by the government.) 

To recap, pros and cons:
Nutritional guidance
Good tools for learning – resting metabolism, calorie intake, etc.
Weekly weigh-ins keep you accountable.

They put you on a speed look-alike
It’s expensive
It’s a business

My word of advice when approaching these clinics is to keep your caution cap on.  Ultimately, it is a business and they are there to make money.  It is not a nutritional or medical clinic who has your best health interests at heart.  The best thing is that they helped get me on the wagon to health, but I’m the one who eventually had to take the reigns and steer it for myself.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Falling off the wagon

August 10, 2013
40.5 pounds to go

Mrs. Bonnie Rebecca Bracken here.  Married and BRB I unintentionally abandoned my blog for the world of wedding events.   And I’ve ditched it just long enough that I’m a frightened bird hesitantly hopping and pecking my way back to the computer.

Who cares about calories when he got that garter off with his teeth?

I’ve still been logging my food everyday (today = day 449), even on my wedding day which consisted of potato chips and champagne for lunch.   Even on the plane ride to Hawaii which served the last living airplane meal.  I tracked the welcome Mai Tai’s, the decadent dinners and long lounging days by the pool.  I was that crazy girl who used the hotel gym (there were chilled towels!) and ran my first 5k out of cocktail guilt.  While it was a long walk from the pool to the hotel room, I’m sure the calories burned did not equate to the 3 drinks I had just consumed by the pool.  

A bloody mary does not count as a vegetable.  

The honeymoon was like a dream, I couldn’t be luckier with my sweet husband.  And we did manage to eat and drink our way through the entire island of Kauai.  But that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?  I wasn’t completely going off the rails and eating gigantic hamburgers for every meal – I tried to pick the healthy things and still consistently ate my vegetables and ate on time.  I worked out.  I got the dressing on the side.  But the alcohol – I ditched my white wine / corona light staple and tried every tropical drink on the menu.  I walked the fine line of having a consistent buzz but never a hangover for just about the entire trip.  Not all day, but some part of the day there was a buzz in there.   Near the middle of the trip I turned to Mike and said “If I had a dollar for every drink I took a picture of, we’d have a lot of dollars.”

This was my favorite.

In the middle of the trip we had a lazy day of watching the Discovery Channel, eating room service and endless toffee chocolate covered macadamia nuts a warning bell went off in my mind: “Old habits have returned!  Danger! Danger!”  It only took 2 weeks and here I was sneaking extra chocolates.  A year and 2 months of solid work and discipline, and 2 weeks is all it took to fall off the wagon.  Then run to the swanky gym for my first 5k ever.

When we got back to San Diego, I had that fateful moment of stepping on the scale after the honeymoon.  I squeezed my eyes shut and then looked down.   I had gained 8 pounds.  Granted, some of it was period weight (sorry Mom & Dad, no honeymoon baby) but I was shocked.  I knew I hadn’t been great, but I didn’t think I was that bad.  Eight fucking pounds??  Holyshitsticks!  You couldn’t get me off the elliptical machine or the treadmill these past 2 weeks.  I’ve taken 5 of them off which puts me back at playing with these endless 3 pounds for what feels like months.

I’ve realized in the past few weeks that my body has reached a happy medium.  At my current rate of exercise (2ish times a week) and net calorie goal (1400) this is the body I will have.  It’s a good one – at the cusp of a size 10 and healthy. 

We looked good and burned calories!

However, my ultimate goal is 40 pounds less than this (gasp) because I want hit that 100 pounds lost number.  I’d also like to know what it feels like to have a flat belly and fat-less thighs.   It’s my stubborn nature that says “well, I said I was going to do it, so goddamnit I’m going to finish no matter how long it takes.”

But what will it take to finish?  While I have good habits now, I know I’m going to have to take it to the next level of a little more exercise and netting out little less calories.  (Probably 1200)  Which means realistically I have to exercise at least 400-500 calories off a day and only eat 1400-1500 calories.  Groan.  Even though it doesn’t seem like much starting that good habit is about as enticing as an alligator eating my eye.   And knowing it took me a solid 6 months to really get used to the level I’m comfortable with now makes it even less appealing.

Of course, my mind has dabbled with lose-weight-quick scenarios.  Just get this off of me.   Google-ing “lose 30 pounds fast” and getting lost in the internet pages of extreme dieting.  Juice fasting.  Marathon training.  Joining a gym.  A personal trainer.  Pills.  “Supplements.”  P90X.  Brazilian Butt lift.  (I own both)  The regular black hole of the diet industry that is alluring but not sustainable.  Double groan.  I’ve been at this threshold for what feels like too many times.   Do not get sucked in!  Resist!  The fact is I’m either going to start getting up early and working out or forcing myself after work until it no longer feels like a punishment.  I own a pair of legs, I just have to start using them more.  The key is to just start and not over-think it.   Here I go.  It's time to create a new normal.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Celebrate the little victories

May 26, 2013
38.4 pounds to go

Last Saturday was my 1- year health birthday and in honor of day 365 I’ll make a walking-clich√© statement: it’s not a sprint it’s steady climb to the top.   Turtle and the hare.  Long term sustainability.  Find something that feels like a habit not a punishment.   Stick with it.  Don’t give up.  Insert additional platitude here.

There is no way to sprint to the finish line with weight loss, unless you have the fat sucked off with a vacuum cleaner (i.e. liposuction) and I can personally attest to my own impatience with the “this is taking forever” (groaaan) feelings.  Since it’s happening so gradually sometimes it can feel like nothing.  And when it feels like nothing, it’s easy to give up.  Then inevitably start another sprint a few weeks later and drool over someone else’s long-term results.

I think one of the most important tools of long-term success is to celebrate the little victories.  Find the changes in your body that inspire joy, as big or little as it may be.

Here are my little victories:

1) November 7, 2012 I woke up and realized my thighs no longer chaffed when I walked.  (Yes, I wrote down the date) This is the one major thing that I look forward to every time I get in shape.  No more finagling pantyhose or baby powder with skirts and dresses.  I can just wear them and be comfortable.

2) I have to buy a new belt because I ran out of notches.  I always wondered why belts came in small medium and large! 
There are so many terrible jokes I can think of to insert here that I have to restrain myself.

3) People wear belts to hold their pants up.  I now have to do that.  So belts aren’t just an accessory?

4) Two words: skinny jeans.  I have two pairs from college.  I got into the first one in December.  Commence prancing.

5) Additional “I’m in the pants” dances.  I had several old pairs that hung in my closet for years and I’ve been slowly shrinking out of them.

6) I can tuck my shirt in without a muffin top.

7) My boobs are smaller.  Shrunk down 2 sizes so far. (I know for most women, this would make them sad but I come from German stock.  Even when I’m skinny they’re huge!  I’ve always said if I could find a way to share I would.)

8) Making it up the stairs without wheezing.

9) Using a hotel towel and it wraps all the way around so I look cute and not blobby.  This is one of my favorite victories.

10) I had to throw away all my size 16 pants.  Even with a belt there’s no hope.  I remember a year ago when they were getting uncomfortably tight. (Although I did keep one pair for final ‘after’ pictures.)

11) One of my favorite summer shirts is so loose I looked down and realized I could see my toes since it’s so baggy.  This is now starting to happen with the next size down.  Need new shirts!

12) No more baggy arms that keep waving after I stop.  (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about)

13) Thigh cellulite significantly reduced.  This is one of those things that is nearly impossible to get rid of no matter how hard I try.  It’s a girl thing.

14) I’m cold all.the.time.  Thank god summer is here.

15) One word: collarbone.

16) I let people take pictures of me again. 

17) I can go into any store and try on clothes.  Skinny stores tend to cut off at size 10-12. (Here’s looking at you Ambercrombie.)

18) I can cross my legs comfortably.

19) I can sit Indian style.

20) I can cross my arms without pushing my boobs up to my chin.

21) I can hug my knees to my chest.

22) I can see muscle tone on my calves and arms.  Tummy, you’re next!

23) It’s easy to trim my toenails.  (To echo Louis C.K. the worst part of my day is no longer putting on my socks.)

24) I can race you.

25) I’ve finally experienced a runner’s high.  I always thought those guys were lying.  If I had seen a glimpse of myself a year ago preparing to go running I would have laughed.  Yeah right!  Running.   That’s stupid.

26) I went bikini shopping for the first time without wanting to stab someone.

27) My body fat percentage is in an acceptable range. (Although, according to BMI charts I’m still not there which confuses me.)

28) I’ve lost 7 inches in my waist.

29) My favorite – I have a pair of sleeping boxers with an elastic waistband and I’ve shrunk out of the elastic circumference.  They literally won’t stay up but I can’t seem to part with them because my brother gave them to me.

That's elastic.

Not everything happens all at once, but I notice small things as gradually as they happen and it makes me feel pretty amazing.  Hail the conquering hero!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What was old is new again

May 11, 2013

39.8 pounds to go

This past month has been a struggle.  Truly.  I started slipping into ‘beat-myself-up-land-because-I’m not-losing-weight.”  I started oversnacking.  Overexercising.  Struggling.  The endless whining internal dialogue of ‘why is this so hard for me? Why can’t I get over it?  I’m never going to reach my goal.  Sob.’  My thoughts were constantly creeping towards the side of what I wasn’t doing and how much more weight I have to lose.  How it’s still a lot.  The inspections of my body became more frequent and more critical.  Is this stomach acceptable?  Still considered to big?  Maybe if I squeeze it in 13 second intervals it will start to look more sexy.

But I want to keep moping!

Getting down on myself on a daily basis for what I hadn’t accomplished was sucking me to the darkside.  It’s an old habit.  A pre-health-journey habit that I didn’t even realize I was participating in because it’s so comfortable.  And did I come to that conclusion on my own?  No, I needed help.  About a week ago I went into my therapist ('get help when you can’t do it on your own' in action) because I had slipped into random compulsive eating (get over here chips and cheese.  Mmmm) and that hadn’t happened in at least 9 months.  Why can I no longer control myself?  Help!

So I bitched about my weight and my alarm with my lack of self-control.  Then we started talking about other stuff.  The wedding planning.  The  family.  The work.  Work has been a struggle recently (specifics are changed for the sake of my employment) and I surprised myself on how long I went on about it.  There isn’t a hard red line sharpie mark from “my employees are idiots” √† “hand me the twinkie” because back in the winter I was under far more stress and the weight was still steadily dropping.  The difference is “my employees are idiots and I give up trying to teach them because it’s impossible.  Space.  Please hand me the twinkie.”  That feeling of despair or ‘giving up’ is what makes friends with the bag of kettlecorn.  Fill the impossible void.

Then she gave me really good advice (which she always does): treat my journey like I’m at the beginning again.   Pretend I’m at the starting line.

Which is impeccable timing because in my chapter outlines, right around now I had planned on talking about that farewell meal ritual I always plan for myself before I go on a diet.  A last supper to launch into the ‘new me’ which of course, never works and is never as satisfying as I think it’s going to be.  Although I do remember every meal I ate as a splurge before each official start over the years.  One time it was Arby’s. Then a big BLT.  I always remember what I put in my mouth and then the ensuing failure.

The difference this time with pretending to start over is going back to last May and thinking about how I saw myself.  How I saw this journey going.   I remember loathing exercise (which is still alive, but I force myself), scared of the food and being drawn to red meat.   Recently I’ve been overexercising and cut out the red meat, so I decided to flip those around.

However, the biggest, glaring difference is that even though I was ready to get on board with changing, I didn’t hate myself or my body.  I quite liked myself.  Even though it was bigger I still felt sexy.  And now that I am 60 pounds lighter and I started the daily beat-up.  Of how not sexy I am.  Of how much more I have to go.  Of the daily belly inspection.  So the biggest change I needed to make with pretending this is the beginning was to be nice to me.  It sounds silly but I forgot how to do that.  Be happy in the current package.

Although it may seem irrelevant, it’s the ever so slight attitude adjustment of thinking: it’s not about what I don’t want.  It’s about what I do want.  It’s not about what I don’t like but what I do like.  Just changing the view from the negative connotation “I don’t” to the positive “I do” has shifted me back onto my path.  What was old is new again.