I like to think that I am different. That the typical issues other people face are not a problem for me, like weight loss. I have been heavier than I wanted to be in the past, but as soon as I started paying attention and taking care of myself, eating right, exercising, sleeping well, the weight would come off.
Well not anymore. I hate to admit it. I am middle-aged, just turned 48. I still consider myself young, the same age someone in their thirties. But I’m not. Chemotherapy put me into menopause, and my body is not the same.
Maybe because it did not happen naturally – instead it was forced upon me – menopause has wreaked havoc on my metabolism. Or maybe it’s just age. One way or another two years ago, within a 3-4 month timeframe, I gained ten pounds while exercising every day, and without any significant change in my diet. I have yet to take it off.
No matter what I do.
I am stronger and fitter thanks to Crossfit, which is great, but I am also bigger, which is not so great. I don’t usually pay much attention to the number on a scale. I go more on how I feel and how my clothes fit, which is not well at the moment. Something needs to change.
But what? I eat healthy food; that is nutrient and fiber dense. I don’t eat a lot. I don’t eat sugar. I don’t eat processed food. I cook for myself. I try to eat slowly and enjoy my food. I even bake my own sourdough bread after grinding my own wheat and spelt berries. I know what your thinking – it’s the carbs, but I don’t even eat that many carbs. And I certainly don’t eat refined carbs.
All things that I recommend to patients and believe are important parts of an overall healthy diet. But I’m already doing those things, and still, I cannot lose weight. Am I perfect? No. Do I indulge? Yes. But I don’t see a lot of room for change. And something has got to change, or I will not have anything to wear. I’m not striving for a perfect body, some unattainable, impractical ideal. I just want my clothes to fit.
I believe in a plant-based diet. I am not vegan, but I am heading in that direction, by eating less and less meat, dairy and eggs. I think there is ample evidence to support its beneficial health effects; it can be tasty, which is essential. I feel better when I do, which is likely the most important factor and it’s sustainable, which is also important to me. Sustainable in planetary climate change kind of way, and sustainable for me, in that I think I can sustain eating this way for a long time.
But, again that is what I am doing now, and I haven’t seen much in the way of results. So I started looking into other options, low-carb, Paleo and ketogenic diets. Carefully considering the pros and cons. Looking at recipes, deciding if I could do it.
My biggest concern is that they restrict things I like to eat, legumes and grains, and encourage foods that I like less, meat. I looked on a paleo or ketogenic Pinterest page for some breakfast ideas; virtually every day was bacon and eggs in slightly different forms.
I enjoy bacon as much as the next person, but I don’t want to eat it every day. I know that fat is not necessarily the enemy, but I just can’t see how bacon- a fatty cut of meat that is then processed with salt and sugar- can be a staple of my diet. And I’m pretty sure our paleolithic ancestors did not have bacon.
The restrictions overwhelmed me. Eat this, but not that. The more restrictions a diet has, the harder it will be to maintain. Unless of course, the restrictions are things, you don’t like in the first place, then no problem; that should work for you. But excluding entire categories of foods like legumes and whole grains doesn’t work for me. Excluding certain fruits and vegetables also doesn’t work for me.
I had the feeling that I needed to go all in and make these drastic changes to my diet. Be all or nothing. Gretchen Rubin, in her book Better than Before, discusses various strategies for succeeding at habit change. The all-or-nothing method is one of them. But I also know that this rarely succeeds.
To be successful, some people need to make dramatic changes. For them, it is the bigness of the change that provides motivation to continue. But for most people, myself included, minuscule changes- changes so small they are hardly noticeable- are much more likely to work.
After a month of consideration, I am back to where I started, sticking with a plant-based diet. I am still curious about a low-carb diet and may still give it a try. But for now, instead of making a drastic change, I am going to continue on the path of eating less meat, more veggies, and maybe fewer carbs.
I am going to enjoy all the fresh produce that summer has to offer. And instead of focusing on the type of macronutrients, I am going to employ some strategies to eat a little less.
Such as, eat if you are hungry, not because there is food available, or it’s meal time.
Plan ahead. Think about and prepare healthy foods before you are hungry, so when that time comes, you eat well instead of grabbing for whatever is available.
Eat slowly. Enjoy and savor your food. This seems so simple in theory, but yet in practice, I find it is one of the hardest things for me to do. I am always reminding myself to chew, take a break, even if it’s a small break, in between bites.
I’ll let you know how it goes. How do you change your habits? Are you an all-or-nothing change maker? Or do you prefer small incremental change?