Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear 268 Pound Me: A Letter of Weight Loss Advice for the New Year

Happy New Year my readers!  When reflecting on what to write for my 2012 New Year's resolution post I started to wonder what advice I would have given myself four years ago when I weighed over 268lbs (last known weigh-in, likely more).  So I wrote myself a letter.  This was very helpful to me so I wanted to share it with all of you!  As usual, with any advice I give (even to myself! :-))--take what you like and leave the rest.

Dear Me in 2007

2007 Me
I know your body is hurting right now and you can't make it up a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath. I know you eat chips & dip while hiding in your closet and sweets when you think no one is looking.  I know that the take-out wait staff in all the local restaurants know your name and what meal you want to order. And I know you go home alone to eat enough food for five people while sitting in front of the TV.   I know you try to hide your secrets from your friends and family because you don't think anyone will like you if you are honest about who you are and what "bad" things you do.  I know that you dream about going to sleep in this body and then waking up thin like an overnight miracle from God.  

But more than anything, I know that you hate yourself for weighing 268+ lbs.  I know you are sitting in your house today, New Years Eve, plotting your strategy to lose weight in the New Year.  As a side note, I also know that you went to your favorite restaurant today and got all your best binge foods to have a "last supper" of sorts before the clock strikes midnight and your new diet begins!

I want to tell you that someday you will be able to laugh with friends who share your disease about the crazy things you did for and with food.  Someday you will even have a body that doesn't hurt every time you stand up and a large size set of women's surgical scrubs instead of a XXX size from the men's section of the locker room.  Someday you will be able to be comfortable enough with your slender body to fall in love and marry a wonderful man.  Someday you will be proud to be a doctor who is living the advice you give your patients. Someday you will actually like who you are--inside & out.  

But that someday is not today.  Today I'm going to challenge you to forget your usual resolutions with weight loss deadlines & detailed plans of how to get there.  All I'm going to ask you to do is to do five things.  

1)  Throw away your scale and the negative self-talk that goes with it.  

Every year you start to lose weight and then one day you get on the scale and discover that you've gained a pound instead of lost one.  You shake this off but berate yourself for being "bad" that week and vow to be "good" from here on.  And then things get stressful at work, you don't have time to cook and you skip the daily intensive workouts.  Then next month you get on the scale and discover that half of the weight you lost in January is back, or worse, you are actually heavier than you were when the year started!  So you give up and go get a "treat" to feel better.  You look in the mirror and are disgusted with your laziness and your inability to have enough will power to change.  

Lets do something different this year.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  So why don't you be a bit gentler with yourself and eliminate the opportunity for self-critique based on numbers on a scale.  

Guess what, you don't need a scale to tell you if you are gaining or losing weight.   You can feel what your body is doing--are your clothes getting tighter or looser?  Are you eating nutrient dense foods or junk?  Do you feel more energetic or extremely tired?  Let these questions be your scale. Weigh yourself every 3-6 months if you have to and tell your friends about your progress in clothing sizes.  Someday you will be able to say you went from a 26 to a 14.   

2) Write down your food plan each night & cook ahead on the weekends.  

You know this works.  So do it.  It doesn't have to be elaborate.  Keep it simple.  Buy a slow cooker.

3) Start eating more and more vegetables & grains until 100% of your diet is plants

You know that dying young is not your greatest fear.  Your greatest fear is becoming disabled and having your family have to care for you.  You know that most people who eat poorly or are obese don't die suddenly--they waste away, losing their independence slowly and painfully from strokes, congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, GI bleeds, some cancers, depression and severe osteoarthritis.  Don't take chances and put food-based pleasure above preserving your independent lifestyle.  I know you don't like to change but you'll find that you actually really like vegan food when its done right.  And you will learn to do it right.  In fact, you won't even miss meat except at special occasions when its right in front of you.  But when that happens, you will look at your family over the dinner table, picture them having to take care of you as you age and that meat won't seem so important any more.  You will know that you made the right choice.

4) Give up sodas of all kinds, including diet soda

I know you love your diet sodas--especially your Fresca and your Diet Coke.  You gave up regular sodas and other non-water beverages years ago to lose weight and haven't picked it up since then but you think that diet soda is ok!  You may not have read this scientific literature but actually your soda is actively leeching calcium from your bones & changing the biochemical balance in your body to make you gain weight instead of losing it! So give them ALL up.

5)  Most importantly, find a free support group like a 12 step compulsive eating recovery program or form one of your own if the program is not for you 

I know you think you have this all figured out.  And I know you think that weight loss is just about the food & exercise.  Its not.  Its about a lot more than that.  You will discover that it has to do with your emotions and your spiritual center as well.  And to feel comfortable being honest about your overeating behavior, you need some supportive friends who share your struggles.  You need to hear encouragement from living, breathing success stories sitting in front of you.  You need to hear how someone hasn't eaten sugar in 20 years or that that cute guy over there lost 175lbs and you can't even recognize him from before even though you knew him.  You need to know the hard stuff too, that someone else hid in their closet to eat, snuck food from the refrigerator at night or ate until they felt sick but couldn't seem to stop.  

You also need to know that some people's disease is mild compared to yours--they just were tired of failing diets or couldn't manage to eat the food portions they wanted.  You need to know that some people's disease is worse than yours--they eat out of the trash, have been hospitalized multiple times or can't make themselves eat enough to stay a healthy weight.   You need to know that no matter what problems people have with their food, they are all accepted and acceptable.  You need to see others having the courage to be honest and to ask you to be too.

You are not alone.  There is hope for you yet Cat if you are willing to recover.  

You can believe me.  I'm you, nearly 100lbs lighter, in four years.


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    1. Thank you for your courage in sharing this! I love you! You are such an inspiration! Happy New Year!

    2. You inspire me. Thank you for doing this blog. I am learning so much from you.

    3. You are a real inspiration!

      And despite being thin I learn a lot from the things you share.
      You are living proof that change is possible!

      Yeah, for plant strong eating!

    4. I'm so happy that you wrote, and I read, this blog post. I didn't know any of this. Now I'm in love. Look what you did! Here's to a fabulous 2012!

    5. You truly are inspiring! You had a plan and executed it successfully for a major life change. Happy New Year. With love, Lucy

    6. Thank you all SO much for your comments! Hearing back from you just reinforces my mission and I really really appreciate the support! As I mentioned in my post, its nice to know I'm not alone :-)

      @Allison: Love you back! Thank you! I felt vulnerable but ready to share this so thanks for making me feel comfortable to do so!

      @Anonymous: Thanks so much! I learn more myself everyday, thanks for being here!

      @Silvia: Thank you! No matter what size we are I know we can make ourselves healthier every day! Thanks for chiming in and offering your support! Viva Plant-Strong! :-)

      @Wendy: Thank you SO much! Not just for your comment which made me feel so good, but for sending me so many readers! Your blog has been a major resource for me from the very beginning of my blogging journey--so thank you for being you and doing what YOU do! :-)

    7. @Lucy: Thank you!! Trust me, if I can do this, ANYONE can do this!! Love to you too!

    8. Cat! I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face! You are so incredibly brave and wonderfully uplifting. I'm so grateful that you are a part of my journey.

      Much Love to you. :)

    9. Great post! So eloquently said and inspiring for everyone. Happy 2012!

    10. @Katie--thank you SO much! Your words mean so much to me--I think we can all be brave if we have friends to support us! I'm grateful you are part of MY journey!

      @Anonymous--Thank you!! Happy New Year!:-)

    11. You are so inspiring! I have a very similar letter I could have written to my former self!

    12. Brilliant post Cat! I am sure this post will touch a lot of people who are struggling to make big changes. You and I know too well how tough those first steps can be. I love what you are doing here and can't imagine how you find time to stay current with your blog and be a doctor. What an inspiration you are on many levels.

      Hope your new year started with a bang (a good bang of course),

    13. Thank you for your wonderful post! I once heard a saying that echos in my heart as I read this.

      There are people with experience and people with opinions.
      When the fist talk, listen
      When the second talk, get coffee!


    14. Dr. Cat, thank you so much for sharing your journey. It is sad to think many people live with shame and guilt over what they eat, only to leave them punishing themselves by eating more unhealthy food, thus continuing the cycle. I love that you were able to push past this and can be kind,understanding and forgiving to yourself. A wondeful post to start the New Year with!

    15. @Jane--Thank you SO much!! It can be emotionally raw to be reminded of where we came from, but at the same time absolutely invigorating to know we are on the other side, eh? Thanks for commenting!

      @Ali--Thank you!! Its so wonderful to get support from a blogger I'm such a fan of!!:-) I'm not 100% sure how I stay up on the blog with my schedule but I think I feel like its an extracurricular activity--just SO much fun to write and so different from what I do all day! its almost a stress release! I'm a pretty quick writer when I'm just writing about myself so that helps :-) (its the perfecting and polishing which holds me up!) Luckily in this post, I felt like I was being completely guided by my spiritual core in what to say, the only edit I made was to delete 2 words. Pretty amazing. That's when I knew it was from the heart which made me very happy (and a little scared!):-)

      @B--Thank you SO much! As a person with both experience AND opinions, I really like being complimented on the latter :-) Keep coming back!

      @CindyB--Thank you!! I had so so much shame about what I ate and that punishment cycle was totally my life. I would never have been able to make it through to freedom without my OA program. It taught me how to be gentle with myself and how to forgive myself and others. I'm very grateful. Thanks for commenting!! I hope you keep coming back :-)

    16. Catherine, this letter is as beautiful and as kind as you are. Happy New Year! Thanks for this wonderful inspiring service.

    17. Thank you SO much, Dr. Cat, for sharing your blog with the world. I'm newly following Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live program and realize how addicted I am to certain foods (now that I'm not eating them). I am inspired by you and am so appreciative of all the information you've posted. Bless you! :)

    18. @Jane M: Thank you so much--you are so sweet:-) Happy to be of service!

      @Gina: Thank you for commenting and I'm so excited for you to be starting this new way of life!! You will be SO happy you made this choice :-) Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it too! I'm very happy that you like the site--it makes me feel so good to know my story is making a difference to you! Keep coming back and keep me posted on how you are doing!:-)

    19. Thank you SO much,You need to hear encouragement from living, breathing success stories sitting in front of you.


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