- Diet & Weight Loss
Operation Skinny: Objective and Plan of Attack – How I will lose 40 lbs
They say a journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step. This is my first step...
So here I sit at 31 years old, at least 40 lbs overweight. On one hand I think, How did this happen? Where did it all come from? How did it get so out of control? I haven’t had a baby, a debilitating injury or surgery and all my hormones are normal (no “glandular problem” here). Sure, life has been rough the past few years – my father’s death, job changes, unemployment, the end of what I thought was my last relationship and the beginning of a new one. That’s a lot of changes in a few years—a lot of BIG changes even. Perhaps I haven’t coped nearly as well as I thought I did. I’m still standing, so that’s good, unfortunately it’s with an additional 40 lbs.
I know stress can cause weight gain, but is that really it? Yes and no. Stress causes a spike in the hormone cortisol which causes a myriad of negative effects on the body. It’s a hormone produce by the adrenal glands which is very useful in the short term when you need to respond to a life-threatening situation. But long-term high levels of cortisol can result in a depressed immune system, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, fatigue, headaches and weight gain (especially in the belly area). So, no doubt stress has made it difficult to lose weight or maintain my previous weight, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
My weight has yo-yo’d over the years and I’d never really been able to figure out why. I have all the information to lose the fat and maintain a healthy weight from good nutrition to exercise to supplements, but why haven’t I done it yet then? I’ve tried or read about every single diet, fad and supplement out there promising to be the missing link. So what am I missing? It’s only now that I realize that the missing link isn’t out there – it’s been right here all along. It isn’t a pill, a new diet plan, a fancy new piece of exercise equipment, it’s ME. But that’s the tricky part too – because “me” isn’t nearly as simple as I’d once thought.
Psychological Saboteurs. There are some very real, very powerful forces operating within me. On the surface, I can confidently answer, of course, I want to be 40 lbs lighter – who wouldn’t want that? But below, the surface, things aren’t quite as clear. I can now see that my biggest enemy has always been me. I’ve been fighting my own weight loss in tricky, underhanded ways --- unwittingly sabotaging myself.
I’ve come to realize that there are parts of me that are scared to be thinner. I’m not a big fan of unsolicited attention. I’m one of those folks that shies away from stranger attention. Even compliments from people I don’t know make me uncomfortable. Being thin feels way more vulnerable to me, and I’m not good with being vulnerable. As much as I loathe my fat layer when I’m trying on new pants or want to fit into the sexy cocktail dress, I also love its protection. How it makes me feel stronger, almost like armor, and less noticeable at the same time – easier to blend into crowds as one of those anonymous faces no one remembers. I’ve been my own worst enemy, and I didn’t even know it.
Emotional Eating. The last puzzle piece has been that I’ve discovered I’m an emotional eater. When I first heard that phrase years ago, I thought I understood it but I didn’t think it applied to me. I didn’t eat when I was sad or mad. In fact, I did the exact opposite. I usually lost all my appetite and wanted to be in the gym, working out any anger or sadness. However, I now understand that emotional eating applies to a lot more than just anger and sadness.
Although I don’t eat in response to anger and sadness, I have found that I do eat in response to anxiety, feelings of powerlessness and sometimes boredom. Who knew? With my recent experience with unemployment and career redirection, I’ve been feeling very anxious about money and very powerless in general. And guess what? Yep, there go the cookies, chocolate and cinnamon sugar toast (a favorite comfort food of mine). I never knew that carbs could literally affect your brain chemistry, essentially working as a temporary anti-depressant (detailed discussion to be written in another hub). So if I was feeling anxious, powerless or depressed – all very common reactions to losing one’s job – I just took a quick dose of chocolate chip cookie, glazed gingerbread or peppermint bark. Of course, then the sugar high crashes and you’re left feeling even worse, which usually means you have to go back for another “sugar hit”. Obviously this pattern resulted in the 40 lbs of extra fat I’m carrying now.
How could I have been oblivious to this pattern for so long? That I was coping with stress and difficult emotions using food as essentially a medication. I suspect a lot of my fellow Americans have been doing this very thing for a long time as well – using food to cope with difficulties in life, not noticing the slow creep of 5 lbs here or there. If I hadn’t so badly crashed when I lost my job, I may never have noticed this pattern at all. That inner me is very tricky indeed.
So, what’s the solution? Step 1 is dealing with these secret enemies --- the psychological saboteurs within myself – my fear of being thinner, emotional coping mechanisms and stress management. Not an easy task, but being able to identify the problem is the first step in solving it. I plan for these hubpages and articles detailing my journey (and hopefully comments from readers) to be a major part of that process. I plan to check in on a weekly basis, in addition to authoring articles regarding related topics experienced throughout this journey. Step 2 is laying out my plan for nutrition, exercise and supplements. Third, it’s the simple and consistent execution of these two steps, with the recognition that this will not be a linear process (i.e. sometimes I’ll take a step backwards or sidewise instead of always forward).
Beginning Stats, Exercise Plan and Exercise Program. For details on exactly where this journey begins, please read Operation Skinny: The Beginning. To find out more on my nutrition and exercise plans, please read Operation Skinny: Nutrition Plan and Operation Skinny: Exercise Program. For weekly progress updates, please see my profile pages for recent articles.
Will you come along with me on my journey? I sure hope so. Please feel free to add comments and suggestions – I’d love to hear from you!