Monday, April 1, 2013

Runners unite!

Dr. Ron Eaker is an ob/gyn who practices in Atlanta. He has written many books, including Healthy Habits for a Fit Family. He also shared a story in my book Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories from Doctors.

I get Dr. Eaker's e-mail newsletter regularly and really enjoyed his latest one. In it, he talks about running a marathon, and he shares some of his insights into the courage of people who enter marathons, even when they aren't in the best condition of their lives.

"It takes a special brand of courage to lace up the shoes, knowing you are overweight, and vow to complete a race," he observes.

I'll let him tell you the whole story. Enjoy his thoughts!

"I ran and finished my 24th marathon this past Saturday. It was on the mercilessly undulating Atlanta course weaving itself through the hills and valleys of such spots as Virginia Highland and Druid Hills. You would think I would have had a premonition of the topography based on those neighborhood names, but I was blinded by catacholamines from training runs.

There were about 12,000 runners, 10,000 in the half  marathon and 2,000 brain-damaged body fat haters in the marathon, and I am always amazed at the relative diversity of folks running. There are people who you would see on the street and not immediately assume they were runners, some even you may suspect were taste testers at the Twinkie factory, but nevertheless, they were there and getting it done. It takes a special brand of courage to lace up the shoes, knowing you are overweight, and vow to complete a race.

Many people stay out of gyms to avoid the snickers and stray looks from the Barbies and Kens who pride themselves at having 2% body fat, so it is especially heartening to see folks of all shapes and sizes at races. What I have also discovered is that, in differentiation from the health clubs, runners embrace these folks and see them as fellow strugglers on a path to wellness. There is a respect and acceptance of those who don't have the expected anorectic body habitus of a marathoner as runners understand you can't fake covering the distance.

For most of us, it doesn't matter if you cover it in three hours or five hours as simply putting one foot in front of another for 26 consecutive miles is proof enough of courage,
persistence, and a bit of lunacy thrown in. It is a unique breed that wishes and then accomplishes this, and it proves there is an outlet for us all."

Monday, December 31, 2012

No time like the present

Tomorrow is just another day... in a way. January 1, 2013. Just one of 365 days in the year. But every year, thousands of people mark this day as a special one of resolutions. A time for new beginnings.

And the #1 New Year's resolution? Weight loss. It's no wonder: We've just come through our annual orgy of eating and drinking, and we all feel a little guilty about the excess and its unwanted effects.

To give you hope that you can accomplish this goal, I want to share with you one story from my book How We Did It: Weight Loss Choices That Will Work for You.

It's the story of Lori Kimble, a woman who lost 105 pounds on a variety of weight loss programs, including Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers and the Zone Diet. No matter what plan she was using, one thing was constant: she counted calories and added exercise to her day.

I'll let Lori tell you her story in her own words. It's contained in Chapter 4 of How We Did It. She's just one of about 30 people in the bookwho succeeded at weight loss using many of the popular plans, as well as plans of their own making. I wish for you the very same success!

Lori's story:

Remember the Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote? He was always rigging up a contraption to drop an anvil on the lightning-fast Road Runner. That cartoon image is embedded in Lori Kimble’s mind.

“At my heaviest, I weighed 250 pounds,” says Lori. “I saw that number on the scale and I had this image in my mind of one of Wile E. Coyote’s anvils marked ‘250 lbs.’ It dawned on me then—250 pounds is halfway to 500 pounds and I could see myself weighing that much if I kept going the way I was.”

But having that realization and acting on it was two different things for Lori.

“I was frustrated because I thought, ‘I’m going to weigh 500 pounds because I don’t know what to do about it,’” she says.

Lori recalls always being heavy—or at least chubby. She has no memories of ever being a healthy weight. From an early age, she was drawn to comfort foods like mac ‘n cheese, pasta, white rice, bagels and spaghetti. Hamburger Helper was a dinner staple at her house. The only vegetables she liked were broccoli and corn. She and her sister snacked at home, and they liked their sweets.

Like many people frustrated with their weight, Lori was always trying one diet or another, but she failed every time. “I had in my head that I only had to put up with this diet for awhile, and then I could go back to eating the way I always had,” she says. “It was an all-or-nothing attitude that just wasn’t working for me.”

In 2003, Lori read The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons. The book made her realize that her previous weight loss attempts may have failed because she was simply replacing high-fat foods with seemingly healthy low-fat foods that were instead loaded with sugar. By weaning off of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugars and what she calls “white things” and replacing them with proteins and whole grains like brown rice, she lost 20 pounds in one year.

This success spurred Lori on to address other problems with her diet, like portion control. She joined Weight Watchers and lost another 60 pounds but then hit a frustrating plateau.

“I was eating very little point-wise, exercising hard and seeing no progress,” she says. “I cried every week weighing in. This went on for six months.”

At the time, living in temporary housing without a kitchen, Lori and her husband began picking up food from a Mexican takeout place, and her weight started coming back on.

“I tried eating right again, and I tried going back on Weight Watchers and several other things, like eDiets and the low-glycemic plan GI Impact,” she says.

But by this time, Lori was exhausted. “I was tired of thinking about food all the time. I just wanted someone to tell me what to eat,” she says.

Lori found relief by joining NutriSystem and ordering their packaged meals for a few months. She found it to be helpful in once again training her to recognize an appropriate portion size. She liked the balance of fats, proteins and carbs—the meals included more protein than she was used to having, and that helped her stay full longer.

When she felt ready, Lori transitioned from NutriSystem to cooking her own meals. She combined some elements of NutriSystem and The Zone Diet to come up with meals that combined nutrients in a way that kept her from feeling hungry.

Exercise also figured into Lori’s success. She and her husband John Vaughn are avid bike riders. They generally take one long bike ride each weekend—at least when the weather in upstate New York cooperates—usually about 40 miles. She is training for a 100-mile bike ride and has participated in her first triathlon.

Gradually, Lori began to see success again. “It was a slow process, but that just made my weight loss feel more permanent to me,” she says. Within a few years, Lori’s total weight loss came to 105 pounds. At 5-feet, 2-inches, she wears a size 8 today, where once she wore a size 24.

Although Lori’s success came from several different programs, one thing remained constant—calorie counting. Throughout her weight loss journey, Lori logged the caloric value of her foods. She either used the system provided by the plan, like Weight Watchers Points plan or NutriSystem’s calorie counter, and when she was on her own, she sought help from an online calorie counting program, LiveStrong’s DailyPlate.

Determining her ideal daily caloric intake was a process of trial and error, Lori says. She eventually settled on about 1,500-1,600 calories a day for weight loss. “Anything lower than 1,400 and I get cranky,” she says. When she is in a maintenance mode, and on days when exercise has her body crying out for sustenance, she might up the calorie count to 2,000 a day.  

Logging calories and exercise choices isn’t a chore for Lori. “I’m a bit dorky that way,” she says. “I like seeing the numbers.”

Another motivator for Lori has been tracking her progress on her blog Finding Radiance. Her blog is filled with photo after photo of her colorful and appetizing meals.

“Once I began arranging meals on a plate to take photos, my food looked more appealing to me, and I began to get excited about food again,” she says. “I’m not afraid of food anymore. Cupcakes aren’t evil. If I really want something, I can make room for it and really, really enjoy it.”

Today, Lori continues to track her calories, food choices and exercise. For her, it’s the key to success. “Now, I have the complete puzzle put together! I feel like I can live this way for the rest of my life,” Lori says.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"We are not very nice"

In this article for the Huffington Post, writer Kelly Dorfman says "we are not very nice to the overweight."

Isn't that a fact! In writing How We Did It, I talked with many people who had achieved weight loss who had been subject to cruel remarks and thoughtless actions from other people. Kelly Dorfman calls us on our attitudes.

"The conversation I would like to have about obesity is about acceptance and being kind to each other," she says. "Gaining weight is a part of our modern life. All sorts of things happen that turn thin people into chubby people. That fat person you view with disdain today could be you tomorrow."

Hear! Hear! I'm all for acceptance and kindness. We all need to battle our nasty inner voices that spew condemnation all over the place -- directed to others as well as to ourselves.

I know from talking with hundreds of people about weight loss that for many, dropping excess weight is as much about what's going on in their head as what's going in their mouth. Overeating can be a vicious cycle in which you feel so bad about yourself -- often because of comments or actions by others -- that you run to what comforts you the most: food. Then, of course, you feel bad again after the feelings of relief wear off. 

But I fear that Ms. Dorfman's statement that "gaining weight is a part of our modern life" lets us all off too easily. Yes, there are medical conditions and medicines that make weight loss difficult and even impossible. I get that. Aging and a slowing metabolism are a contributing factor -- that I know for sure! But most of us do not put on extra weight for these reasons. For the vast majority of us, excess weight is a combination of too much food and too little movement.

I know that no one wants to hear that same old, same old, blah, blah, blah. But in my mind, there's no simpler way to put it. We know this in our hearts, yet we can't put it to work for us unless we embrace the facts and act on them.

And here's where I question Ms. Dorfman. Cruel as people may be, I found that many people in How We Did It were shocked into action by thoughtless comments. Certainly no one wants to be the target of cruelty, but would these people have begun their weight loss journey without the jolt of reality that these comments provided? Most often, the comments weren't personal attacks, but statements of reality: "She weighs more than I do," one doctor said outside an exam room. "Mr. M. is fat," some students said about a substitute teacher.

I wish there were another way, but I'm not sure what the alternative is. Well, I do know of one. Several people I talked with were moved to action when a spouse or friend lovingly told them that they were becoming concerned for their health. Putting the focus on health and not weight and body image may be the way to go. A few others saw or heard the words "morbid obesity" applied to them and became fearful enough of disability or early death to take action.

Still, I'm not certain these softer messages -- or even the cruelest comments -- are strong enough to move most people to action. Even when thoughtless comments stung, people often needed something more in order to help themselves. Many credit seeing unflattering photos or a glimpse in a mirror with providing the final piece of the puzzle. For some, it was the inability to do the simplest daily task or having to ask for the seat belt extender on a plane.

Whatever the motivator, what's certain is that a person needs to own their present situation and resolve to do what it takes to improve it. What do you think? Have you been the target of unkind remarks? If you could change something about the way people react to you, what would it be? If you've lost weight, what finally moved you to action?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Diane's incredible weight loss story

One of the weight loss blogs I've followed over the years is Diane Carbonell's Fit to the Finish. Diane once weighed over 300 pounds, but she went on to lose half her size on a three-pronged program of her own making. No one had to bully her into it, or jolly her into it -- Diane just set her mind to it and within a year had reached her goal.

Diane has blogged about her weight loss on Dr. Oz's blog and television show, and been interviewed on the 700 Club. Now Diane has come out with her own book about her weight loss, 150 Pounds Gone Forever: How I Lost Half My Size and You Can Too.

I appreciate Diane's approach to weight loss. She's not a cheerleader or a bully. Instead, she is a knowledgeable and inspiring guide. Her approach is one of quiet confidence: "I did it, and so can you." Hers is the perfect approach to weight loss, as it builds an inner desire to succeed, rather than relying on external motivators that will eventually fail.

In her book, Diane tells stories of her years as an obese young wife and mother, the agonies of day-to-day interactions with others as well as the self-condemning inner dialog that kept her running to food for comfort, trapping herself in her burgeoning body. It takes a brave person to reveal so many embarrassing moments (not to mention before photos!).

Along with her personal story, Diane includes useful information about nutrition, exercise and weight loss strategies, like how to grocery shop, read labels, and estimate caloric needs. She includes sections on the importance of planning and forethought when on a mission to lose weight. She even includes her favorite family recipes.

But I think one of the features of the book that I most appreciated is one that characterizes Diane's blog -- Diane asks great questions that will get you thinking about your own weight issues. "What did you have for dinner last night?" "Does fear of failure stop you from trying to get healthy?" "Do you ever eat in the car?" These seem like simple questions, but they can get at the core of your personal dilemmas. (I don't eat in my car, so the question made me think, "Where do I mindlessly eat?")

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a sensible, surefire way to attack a weight problem. Long after "The Biggest Loser" lands in the junk heap of discarded television shows, this kind of book will live on as an inspiring guide from someone who knows that you can indeed do it, because she did.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Livin La Vida Low Carb Podcast

One of the weight loss successes I profile in How We Did It is Jimmy Moore, a man who lost 180 pounds on the Atkins diet. Jimmy was so inspired by his achievement that he has become a full-time advocate and enthusiastic blogger for weight loss success.

What I really appreciate about Jimmy's approach to weight loss is that while he succeeded on Atkins, he realizes that it's not the only plan with which you can find success. He fully supports people who choose another plan. He's all about success! He provided me with the quote that ends my book: "Dance with the one that brung ya!" In other words, if it words for you--whatever it is--stick with it.

Jimmy has endless amounts of information on his website Livin La Vida Low Carb. As part of his blog, he posts podcasts with people involved in weight loss--including me! Click on this link to listen to our interview, which Jimmy ran earlier this week. It's the longest interview I've done for my book--36 minutes!--so I really had the chance to go into depth about the book and the inspiring people in it. I hope you enjoy listening in!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bye bye to back pain!

At one time, I suffered lower back pain that was bad enough to land me in physical therapy... not once but twice. I finally got the message and did two things: started swimming laps and in doing so, lost weight.

Losing 30 pounds and continuing my regular lap swimming (2-3x/week) has kept the ache away. I'd recommend swimming to anyone who suffers from lower back pain. It doesn't take much to whack that pain. I swim for just a half an hour and, if I have the time, I sit in the hot tub for a minute or two afterward.

In the new Chicken Soup book, Say Goodbye to Back Pain, I write about my hassle with back pain and my solution. It's a funny story about how I got to the point of not being able to pick up my child because of the pain, and what I had to do one day when I had to get him, kicking and squalling, to the car when he didn't want to leave the park. There are some great stories, and great solutions, in this book. Maybe one will help you, too.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mindless eating... it's how we eat!

One of the books I relied on for good -- and fascinating -- information for How We Did It was Dr. Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think.

Dr. Wansink is called a "food psychologist." From his lab at Cornell University, he conducts experiments into the factors that lead us to eat what we eat. And you'd think that we eat what we eat because it tastes good, right? Wrong!

In some of his crazy experiments, Dr. Wansink has uncovered the many misguided reasons we eat. Among them are these:

  • The size and shape of a bowl can almost double the amount of food you eat.
  • Restaurants can get you to eat more by describing their menu items with adjectives.
  • You will eat more candy if you throw away the wrappers as you go along than if you let the wrappers pile up.
  • If you have bread served with dipping oil rather than with butter, you'll consume less bread but more calories.
  • Grocery store signs that read 3-for-$3 rather than $1/each can more than double our purchases.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts Dr. Wansink has confirmed with his research. How can you apply this information to your food consumption? "By encouraging healthy, mindful eating, we can decrease obesity," Wansink says. "A keen awareness of all these hidden persuaders is an important step in controlling the amount and quality of food you eat."

For me, "mindful eating" means this:
I will not eat straight from a package. If I want some crackers, I'll put some on a plate.
I will not eat something just because it's there. Most chocolate made in the U.S. tastes like wax. I've stopped eating my son's leftover Halloween candy. If I want chocolate, I'll eat just a little bit of really good chocolate.
I absolutely do not shop when I'm hungry. The temptations are just too overwhelming. I'll have a small, healthy snack before I go, even if I'm in a hurry.
If I eat while watching TV, I choose the snack beforehand and set it out on the coffee table. No trips to the kitchen during a show!

How about you? What does "mindful eating" mean for you?