My Identity as Health Deficient

I’ve always struggled with the will to accomplish eating a healthy diet, or going to the gym on a regular basis. I thought it just wasn’t something in my nature to be able to do well. My uncle Ben had diabetes, and other people in my family have struggled with their weight.

Exercise

I don’t like feeling extremely sore. I’d go to the gym, and then I’d feel weak in some way. I’d try to lathe myself with a bar of soap, but my arms would feel too weak and sore to do it. This would keep me from continuing. It turns out that the soreness only lasts a short period of time. Ease into it, and give yourself some recovery time, but don’t wait too long.

It only took me 2-3 visits to the gym, easing into it, until I could do almost a full body workout and not really notice it. I’m functional, able to walk around and do what I need. Today I was stretching in a co-workers office as I talked to him and I noticed my calf muscles were sore as I stretched them. This is fine.

A Testament

The main point of this entry though is to record where I’m at right now with diet. I’ve struggled to restrict what I eat, or even fast, at various times in my life, and it’s usually resulted in headaches and tension in my body. This kept me from being able to restrict myself like I see others doing.

My Journey

Earlier this year I tried to get serious about losing weight. I signed up for a diet coaching program, and I tried twice to track what I ate. The first time I felt like I couldn’t handle it, but that was because I was not using the right strategy. I decided to do meal prep ahead of time, and make the diet more consistent so that it wouldn’t require as much tedious entering of data.

Later on I got a Fitbit watch (Charge 3), and this combined with the dietary intake tracking in the Fitbit app was really useful. I really liked the idea that I could earn more calories later in the day, for a really satisfying dinner, if I did some sort of exercise. I learned from tracking that fat carries a lot of calories, and that cutting just a bit of fat made a big difference. Switching from pork breakfast sausages in the morning to a filet of fish could go a long way. Setting up the watch to remind me to get up and walk for a short while throughout the day meant I got more steps in without it feeling like a lot of effort.

I thought it wouldn’t work, I suspected that the algorithm used by the Fitbit to detect steps was off a bit, and that I wouldn’t actually lose weight. I was able to sometimes have a taco from Taco Bell if I managed it right. I even went on a long hike for 4 miles, and had enough calories left to be able to have ice cream! And so I continued long enough, and there it was… I was losing weight.

This was a big breakthrough. I had only had success on a Keto diet previously, so I was much more loyal to the keto diet (or Primal Blueprint) than the Calories-In Calories-Out (CICO) method, but this was nice to see as a more sustainable alternative. In fact, after visiting a nutritionist in September, it became clear that I’m following a low-carb Paleo diet more than a Keto one because I’m not really limiting my protein intake strictly. I’m fine with this.

Gradual Transition

Just like my approach with exercise, the same should apply to healthy eating.

I’ve learned that it’s always going to be stressful and/or painful if you try to transition from less healthy foods to healthy foods. I dont’ know if it is the gut flora that thrive on sugar or refined carbs that cause upset digestion somehow that make you crave, or if it’s dependence of your system on those forms of energy. Maybe it’s both.

I’ve usually had bloating and headaches when I would cut out sugar and flour from my diet. I only had symptoms once that I would definitely call a “Keto Flu”, because I had a fever and low energy. I found out that the muscle cramps and this headache/bloating was being caused by electrolyte loss when the body dumps a lot of held water weight. I get enough Sodium from salt in my diet, but I’ve had the best results with transitioning to a healthier diet when I take Potassium (99mg) and Magnesium (500mg) supplements.

I was on a low to no-carb diet for quite a while once, and I decided to cheat by getting a Reuben sandwich with Latka’s (potato pancakes) from a local Jewish restaurant in my area, Sauls. I noticed that I wasn’t hungry the next day until later that night. The carbohydrates must have really helped keep my body fueled really well. I was amazed. I thought to myself, what if I could just keep doing this, eating only dinner each day. The next night I decided to go have a hamburger, fries, and soda from my local Bongo Burger.

The next morning as I walked into work, my stomach gurgled and had that kind of tension in the bottom center of it that I knew all too well. I asked myself what it was that caused me to have those hunger pangs, unlike the previous day where I didn’t feel like I needed to eat at all. It was the High Fructose Corn Syrup in the soda.

I learned from this experience that potatoes, and small doses of bread, don’t throw the metabolism off too much so that I get physical craving symptoms, but pure sugar does!

It seems that the higher the blood sugar spikes, the more I get put into a cycle of craving food. Within the last few months, I’ve been adopting a diet that’s not restricted from having carbs, but trying to avoid considerable amounts of sugar or flour… categorizing those as the types of foods that are a slippery slope to addictive eating. That has worked kind of well, but potatoes can be a slippery slope to some degree.

Right now I’m seeing that the following principles have made it so that I feel better about my relationship with food.

  • Have carbs, but limit portions and choose closer to natural sources (potatoes, whole grains). Fruit is actually not as high in calories as you would think.
  • It hard to eat too much protein. Seek protein as much as you can, preferrably lean protein. It may seem like bullshit, but it actually lends to a sustainable diet that is satisfying once you get used to it.
  • Fat is good, but limit portions if you can.
  • Don’t eat carbs in the morning. Limit them for lunch, but reserve your calories to have them for dinner. Carbs promote melatonin production, which will aid with sleep.

Conclusion

Overall my main conclusion here is that it’s possible to adjust to a diet that is healthy. It just requires that you gradually cut out the processed foods, the sugar and refined carbs… and then try to integrate more leafy greens, more vegetables. Only after you transition to this can you cut the fat and begin to thrive off moderate portions of high protein, low carb, moderate fat meals that help you meet your goals without requiring any physical pain or stress.

The only stress that is required is the psychological requirement that you be interested and willing to be a little let down, to stay present in your body and notice what’s going on. Don’t believe your thoughts that try to rationalize eating more when really your body isn’t exhibiting any hunger pangs or stress. They’re just trying to keep the status quo that you’ve developed all your life, a status quo that might be unhealthy for you as you go into your 40’s or 50’s.