So, maybe you remember how I didn’t make resolutions but I DID set up a list of things I wanted to learn, which kind of sort of maybe would lead to accomplishing things that sounded an awful lot like resolutions? Yeah, that.
So I signed up for Weight Watchers online a couple of weeks ago and so far I have done really well in sticking to the eating plan. I have wanted to snack mindlessly on things from time to time, but when I looked up the points value, those things suddenly seemed not worth it, so I either had some water or found something else to do or took a nap or something so as not to snack mindlessly, and I feel good about that.
Ever since I started working in HIV and have had working relationships with people involved in substance abuse, I have been intrigued by the ways that weight loss and substance abuse treatment are similar. One way is that your head HAS to be in the game…and whether that means you start on a Monday or a Wednesday or New Year’s or your birthday or after hitting rock bottom, it means you start on YOUR schedule. Another thing – planning ahead is essential. If I have a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, I have no reason to eat out or stray from my healthy eating regime except in the case of an actual emergency…just like, as a drug user, if you have a plan as to how you will react to various situations you will be more likely to be able to say no to the thing you’re trying to get off of.
Another similarity – weekends are HARD. Almost every weekend has an excuse to stray from the plan. And it’s so easy to say “We’re going on a trip! It’s so-and-so’s birthday! It’s Restaurant Week! It’s the playoffs! It’s a holiday! It’s payday! It’s THE WEEKEND DAMMIT AND THAT IS SPECIAL ENOUGH!” Well, depending on how many people you know, EVERY weekend could potentially be a special occasion/minefield. So you have to plan, and answer the question for yourself -what is my limit? How many calories am I willing to give up to so-and-so’s birthday, or whatever, and you have to make a thoughtful decision that, in the end, affects your weight loss and your success at your program. Sometimes, it might be worth it. And that’s fine. Usually, it probably isn’t. The key is to approach it thoughtfully and make an informed decision ahead of time.
I have also learned how in weight-loss and in SA treatment, having a supportive group around you is essential (for most people. Some people just don’t need it…but I think most do.) To that end I started a small group on Facebook, and we are all super supportive – we’re all actively and intentionally trying to lose weight, and we post recipes of things we have tried that we’ve liked, we ask questions, we offer advice, and we have agreed to lovingly call BS on people when they start to give up. I have started to sneak in challenges – this week it’s to sign up for a no-soda challenge for the month of February. Next week, probably something about working more fish into our diets. Bottom line is, there is almost always someone there who can answer your questions, and we have become great cheerleaders for each other. I think, I hope, this will help me stay with it.
The last way I know that weight loss and SA treatment are similar is relapse – in SA it’s often said that people WILL relapse, the goal being for the relapse to be as short as possible, and for the frequency to decrease as time goes by. I fight that by weighing every day. The times in my life when I have gained weight have been the times when I didn’t have a scale. So now I make sure I have a scale and extra batteries on hand. That way if I am up even a pound I know it’s time to tighten up. Well, in theory I know that. It took me 10 pounds up to decide to do WW. But, I think, I THINK, I have learned my lesson this time.
I think the biggest thing for me has been taking ownership and doing what works for me. The same breakfast and lunch work for me, with something different every night for dinner. Weighing every day, being hyper-vigilant and super-involved with my FB group, and talking about it in therapy and here and tracking my stuff online all work for me. But each person has to do what works for them – if you need to see a big giant loss, then wait a month to weigh. If you need to be the lone ranger and keep it a surprise, then do it. If desserts are non-negotiable, well, journal it, track your calories and try to find some that are healthier than others and see how that works for you.
The two magic bullets in losing weight for me, now and in the past, have been water, and sleep. Even if I was doing everything right, without those two things I could easily go weeks without losing an ounce. Now let me tell you, it takes effort to make myself drink water. At least at the beginning. But the more I drink it, the more I crave it. And getting 7-8 hours of sleep really gives your body time to recover from the things you put it through every day.
So now you know all my secrets. Weight loss is hard, and it takes a long time, and it seems like you might never get to your goal and you have to work at it. There are no short-cuts. And you really can’t compare your success to anyone else’s because everyone’s body is different.
Basically, it’s just as easy and as hard as “eat less, move more.” But my hope and my prayer and my most ferverent wish is that I will get there, and on the other side I will be able to tell you that it’s worth it. Than being healthy feels as good as they tell me it will, that cute clothes and being active and not hiding in the back of pictures and being an example for my kids are all worth the sacrifice it’s going to take to get there.