The First Time

Eastern Orthodox Lent started this past Monday and reminded me of the first time I had success with weight loss.  I won’t call it a “diet” because I don’t think that was the intention.  I was twelve and decided to give “everything” up for lent.  This included sweets, pizza, sugar, butter, and gravy, etc.

Being a God-fearing young girl, I was very disciplined.  I can remember sitting in front of people who were eating pizza and I was very matter of fact about not eating anything.   It was as if there was an invisible barrier keeping me from eating anything I had given up.  Easter had arrived and I was still reluctant to eating anything on the “bad” list.  People had noticed I had lost weight and were very complimentary.

At this time, I had also started exercising.  I really didn’t know what I was doing, it was deep-knee bends and sit-ups, the basic calisthenics.  More weight came off and more compliments were received.  I was obsessed with making sure I never gained weight again!

My obsession led to exercising two hours each day and eating as little food as possible.  I would measure out every ounce of found and lived with my calorie counting book.  I was so proud when I could get down to eating only 250 calories a day.   People would tell me I was getting too thin, but I thought they were jealous and trying to sabotage me.  Eventually I had no energy and would just lie in bed crying wondering what was wrong.  My hair started thinning and my nails were brittle.

Somehow, I snapped out of the obsession of not eating and started bingeing on the weekends.   I remember eating a bunch of donuts one Saturday that kicked off the cycle.  I can see still see the box in front of me and not being able to control myself.   The once a week bingeing started to be more than once a week.   I eventually put all my weight back on and then some (and some more…).

I have tried other years to be disciplined during Lent but never really had the success of that time in my life.  I start off strong and then gradually fall off each week.  Usually by the last week my commitment is “I won’t eat chocolate chip cookies on Thursday”.

As Lent has arrived this year, I have decided to make the commitment to give up sweets.  This time it’s not about losing weight.  I am at peace for the most part of where I am.   This time it’s about reflecting that God has been with me the entire journey.  When so much around us in the world is out of our control, my faith in God has been my constant.  May God Bless you on your journey!

 

 

Be Inspired

Many times, I would run into someone who I had not seen in a while and they had managed to lose weight and look fabulous.  My first reaction is sadness, disappointment, and ultimately jealousy.  I would think how could they have done it and I not?  They are the better person than I because they were strong, and I am a loser that I could not control my eating.

Then I got to a place where I thought they were in my life for a reason.  Perhaps they will inspire me – maybe out of jealously or shame or just to surround myself with others who knew what to do.  I came to a point where I stopped looking at those people who were successful as the “enemy” and instead welcomed them into my world as a source of inspiration.  Having lost weight, they obviously knew where I have been or am.  They know about the challenges of overeating and were able to overcome the behavior and learn to lose the weight.

My feelings were not all negative.  I think it was mostly towards people who lost weight who I believed didn’t need to lose weight in the first place.  If I knew of someone who truly struggled as I did, I could be genuinely happy for them.  They found the strength within themselves to break through the “wall” and lose weight.

You can find inspiration to get you motivated in many different places.  Watching infomercials about exercise equipment or weight loss to feel healthy and get into a healthy mindset.   Surround yourself with people who have a healthy mindset and like to be active.  You can draw strength from people around you that have lost weight or have always been healthy.

You can be inspired by others who have faced challenges in their lives other than battling weight.  Inspiration can come from people who have overcome obstacles in their life other than losing weight.  You can adopt the same principles that people use to overcome any kind of challenge whether it be physical, emotional, mental, or even financial.  What was the common thread that helped them to succeed?  Read their stories to find the answer.  I would be willing to speculate that they started with a goal, had a plan and worked to stay positive and focused on that plan.  Again, read their stories and talk to these people, be uplifted from them and be inspired.

Going Over the Edge

Something unexpected has happened to me by sharing my stories from my past.   The hurt and pain has bubbled up to the surface.  I didn’t think much of it until something recently happened to me that put me over the edge emotionally.  Something seemingly insignificant was magnified in my emotional psyche and I lost it (didn’t want to say “lost my cookies” because that would never happen!).

I’m not going to go into detail, but I found myself back in fourth grade feeling embarrassed of myself.   That said, I recognized what was going on in my mind and compartmentalized fourth grade and now.  What I understand now is that I can only control my self-talk and my actions and own only that.   I have no idea what others are thinking and what is going on in their life and it would be silly to assume otherwise.   People are good.  I am good, and I will continue to share.

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The Diets

My mother took me to the doctor to see if my weight issues could be a thyroid problem. After the exam I was at the check-out counter and glanced down at my report. I saw the word “Endomorph” and had a moment of elation that my problem wasn’t my fault. I was relieved to see that I did have a medical condition. I asked the nurse what the word meant. She said it was “obesity”. My ears rung and my body felt as if it had been hit by a truck. I knew I struggled with my weight but did not consider myself obese. I felt ashamed.

My first attempt at a diet was these chewy squares of yummy chocolates called “Ayds”. They came in the rectangle box similar to that of which candy is packaged. I woke up the next morning with a blood-soaked pillow. Apparently, I had a bloody nose in the night without my knowledge. Looking back now I assume I ate several of the chewy chocolates instead of the recommended dose. Regardless, that was the last of the Ayds diet.
My second attempt was Dexatrim diet pills. These were not quite the appeal of the Ayds chocolates. This diet was very short lived because they just gave me the shakes. To calm my nerves, I self-medicated with more food.

Next my mother took me to my first Weight Watchers meeting. In the basement of a church with people much older than I was. In those days it was rare for children to be overweight. This was my first of five attempts throughout my life to try Weight Watchers. It never worked for me. Too much emphasis on what to eat. It has improved throughout the years but just looking at some of the paperwork I had saved it’s no wonder it didn’t work for me. Too complicated and life is too short to focus on food intake. I kept going back because they advertise heavily and convince me it should work and I’m not a quitter.

I tried NutriSystem in the past when they had meetings and you met with a nurse. The nurse was disgusted with me when I failed to lose weight. Not a good strategy for someone with already low self-esteem. At that time, you would select your food and they gave you your grocery bag filled. Unfortunately, UPS went on strike, so the food selections suffered.

This is the last diet I will describe and the lowest point for me. I saw an advertisement in a popular women’s fashion magazine for a “mystery” diet food supplement. Of course, having the word “mystery” I was intrigued and thought it was some new cutting-edge product that would launch the world into a new healthy population. I could not wait to get my miracle product in the mail. And then it arrived. This utopia for us desperate fatties. I opened the package and much to my disgust was a jar of banana baby food. I felt like a fool. I was ashamed that this baby food company was preying upon desperate people like myself to sell their product to a new demographic – the perfect “suckers”. I pictured the market research group all laughing at me for “buying” into the ideas of this being the solution to my pain.  Naturally, being the food addict that I am, I ate it. Even as I ate it, I felt ashamed. It was such a low feeling. Feeling that I was being taken advantage of and then not even having enough respect for myself to throw it away. I can still picture myself slowly eating this goop and my whole posture broken with shame.

The rest of the diets:Setpoint
Hot Dog Diet (all I remember was you had to 6 in one day)
Deal-a-Meal
Sweatin to the Oldies
Atkins
South Beach
SlimFast
Thin Within Prayer group. I didn’t buy the premise that God cared that I was a glutton.
Affirmations

The Selfie
I had to take a break from sharing the painful memories of my past. It’s interesting because I almost feel more comfortable sharing the hurt than the success. It’s as if I celebrate the success it will go away – “it’s too good to be true”. However, today I am owning it and celebrating. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and that I never gave up. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the selfie of which I am proud. This is me! This is Diana Chrisanthopoulos McLean who is okay with how she looks and feels.
P.S. I sobbed typing that. That’s a lot of years of pain coming out. Thank you for reading.

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Tried but Untrue

I strongly believe that if you have found something that worked for you then you should stick with it.  Please don’t look at my experiences as what will happen to you if you try some of these weight loss methods.  My point for talking about what I have tried in the past is that I learned something about myself each time I tried a different diet.  Trying a diet program and failing may be as important as succeeding because you can look at the situation and learn from it.   The fact that I tried Weight Watchers at least on five different occasions and failed doesn’t mean that Weight Watchers is a bad plan.  In fact, almost every time I have run into someone and noticed that they lost weight they have said that they were on Weight Watchers.

What I found for me is that I did not like the idea of waiting in a line to get weighed.  I was embarrassed and felt “punished” that I was in somewhat of the prison line waiting to be analyzed.  Was I being punished and analyzed – certainly not, but that was how I felt.   I also was distracted by the food products along the wall while I was in line.   I would purchase all that I could carry in my arms.  It was as if I felt that I had a license to eat/drink all these products because they were condoned by the authority on weight loss.

When I was in the meeting portion of the Weight Watchers program, I found that I would be obsessed with thinking about what they recommended for eating.  The discussion one day was about a brand of low-fat brownie mix.  They said where you could purchase this product but unfortunately it was at a location that was about 45 minutes from where I lived.   I packed up my two small children and drove to this store just to purchase this brownie mix.   I was so excited about my purchase that I immediately made the brownies and ate the entire batch.  Again, I felt that they were condoned by the weight loss authority and I took it a little too far – just a little.

When listening to diet “experts” I don’t always like to hear what they have to say.  I suppose they could be correct in their analyses, but their words do not help me.  I was watching a program about an extremely obese man who was bedridden due to his size.  The psychologist said that he needs to “feel his anxiety” instead of eating through it.   I disagree.  Who wants to feel their anxiety?  That’s not the desirable choice.  I do not think there are only two choices – eat vs. “feel” the anxiety.  Instead, feel the positives, feel good!  There is good there to enjoy.  How can anyone be successful if they are asked to feel uncomfortable and just plain bad vs. good.  I understand the point is that the man is eating to avoid the pain of anxiety.  But the man can deal with it another time – not when he is going to eat. Couldn’t there be a third choice to focus on something positive and solutions.

I also shun at the terms “lifestyle change” and “behavioral change”.  I believe that sounds so radical, so sad.  I like who I am, the core of my existence, the essence of who I am.  These terms make me feel like I have to say goodbye to that.  Is that what it means?  Certainly not but that’s what that kind of thinking – my kind of thinking prevented me from succeeding.  It’s about positive, empowering, power control, lifting yourself up being more then you can be.

Next week I will list the fourteen (at least) different diets that I tried without success.

The Lunch Lady

I remember being in sixth-grade in the cafeteria.   It was the usual boisterous lunch time with kids trying to get to their spots and excited to have the break.  I was standing next to the table getting ready to sit and the “lunch lady” apparently thought I was taking to long and yelled “sit down… if you can fit”!   I didn’t think too much of it myself but there was a gasp among my friends at the table and all eyes looking at me.   I felt a little weak and broken but as if a bubble was around me to shield the people looking at me and feeling the hurt.

When lunch was over, we lined up in the hall.  My two very skinny friends came over to me to express their shock and to let me know “don’t worry Diana the toothpicks are on your side”.  It made me laugh then burst into tears.   Well that brought even more unwanted attention.  I was pulled out of line to the principal’s office.   My teacher at the time (still my all-time favorite) was Miss Ann Dryden.  She met me in the office, put her hands on my face and said, “you are beautiful both on the inside and the outside”.  I adored her and respected her.  Anything Miss Dryden said was true, and if Miss Dryden said I was beautiful it must be true!

Miss Dryden – you are my hero!

 

 

 

Regroup to Renew

I read a great book years ago called “Raising Your Spirited Child”.  What I learned from this book I feel can apply to many things in life.  When you teach your children, you try to connect with them using different methods.  You might try to modify the technique each time.  What worked once might not work again.  The same is true for dieting.  Weight Watchers might have worked great at one time in your life but not now.  Never give up trying different techniques.

What might have worked on Monday might not work on Saturday.   Make specific action lists for days of the week or events.  Play out different scenarios.  What will your weekend strategy be for focusing on your goals?  If you miss even one day with your dieting – regroup and start again.  Arrest the behavior.

What happens when the plan doesn’t work, when you find that you cannot stick to the plan? Write down what you ate that day and when you ate it.  What else was going on that day?  When did you deviate from the schedule or why didn’t have a schedule or plan that day in the first place?  Can you modify your plan to accommodate that situation should you find that happening again?  Take out your goal reminders!  Why are you doing this in the first place.  It will help you refocus and get back on track.

Do you have feelings of giving up – that’s it’s just too overwhelming to think about?  I do all the time.  It depends on what I tell myself.  There are times that I feel physically exhausted just at the thought of trying to keep what I eat in check and keep moving.  However, after over 30 years of feeling that way I still have hope.  I do not give up.  It’s almost as if it is a habit, a part of my day to keep hanging in there.  It’s not a life that I would have chosen for myself or wish upon anyone.

I believe in myself and even though at times I think it would be easier to give up I feel that deep inside I know that would not be fair to myself.  I know that I have the strength to keep going.  I sound so dramatic but that is part of my nature and being someone addicted to food it’s my life.  It has been all consuming.  You might not have these issues and be glad that you don’t.  My point is that if someone like me who is consumed with thoughts of food can do so there is hope for you.

Keep Your Clothes On

I used to take dance class growing up.  The standard attire was the leotard and tights.  I remember standing in line for one of the warm up routines with “Black Magic Woman” playing.  A girl next in line to me, who was also in my class at school, turned to me and said, “you look better with clothes on”.   Yet another moment of mixed emotions.   I was embarrassed that standing there in my leotard I was clearly not the form of a dancer as the other girls.  However, I was also relieved that in public I must hide it well and look “normal”.    Luckily that song wasn’t an all-time classic because the very few times I’ve heard it since, I’m in my leotard feeling rather bulbus.

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Move

I have tried an obscene amount of diets and weight loss systems.  I will be devoting an entire blog to them in the future, and why they didn’t work.  However, I have always tried to at least get one “take away” from the experience.   When Nutrisystem first came around they had workbooks and meetings.   The one lesson I learned when I read the materials was about moving.  Incorporate moving into everything and anything.

There are so many ways that you can incorporate moving into your regular routine. When talking on the phone you can get a headset or put the phone on speaker and fold the laundry.   While cooking dinner you can put on some music and have a little sway or bounce, hippy hippy shake while you’re stirring up the pot.  If you live close to the market, to your children’s school, put in a walk instead of driving.  Don’t look for the closest parking spot while running errands or at the office, take the furthest spot away from the front door.

When cleaning your house be more purposeful.   When you are dusting really take to heart the expression of “using elbow grease”.  If you live in a house with two floors you might have been trying to group things together that have to go to the other level.  Make those extra trips instead of waiting.

Some of the fittest people I know also happen to love food. It’s as if it is an art form to them.  They talk about it as if they are creating a work of art from a master painter. I thought how could this be?   I’m not even that colorful when thinking or talking about food yet it captures my every thought.   However, what I noticed is that they are always moving and when they move they move fast!   Just walking from the parking lot to the mall with these people is a workout. When they clean their house it’s like a game show contest – speed cleaning.   For me, I could take 3 hours cleaning just my bathroom. I’m in my own little world taking my time. Which actually makes no sense. Who wants to spend more time cleaning a bathroom – get it over with!

We all know that it makes sense that in order to be healthy or to lose weight your body needs to be active.  It is so true when they say “a body in motion stays in motion”.  I feel it all the time, especially if I’ve learned something new.   It’s as if my body wants to repeat that move throughout the day.   If you’ve never exercised, just start moving, then move more and move faster!

I Wear Queensize

Throughout my youth the response from people and my own self-image fluctuated from shame to feeling “special”.  In fifth grade we performed in a mini skit that was a parody of commercials that reflected what was airing at the time.  Leggs pantyhose were popular and we decided to do a little live commercial as part of the skits.  Naturally it was decided my line at the end was… “and I wear Queensize.”

One by one the skits were performed and the reaction from the audience was boredom.  I felt embarrassed for the other performers.  The silence was awkward.  Then it was time for the Leggs commercial and my acting debut.   I remember being terrified for many reasons.   Acting in front of the audience and the reaction of my line in particular.  I still remember what I wore, where I was in the room, etc.  I had a purple silk blouse, purple velvet skirt and black boots.   I thought I looked “normal” and not someone who would be labeled as needing queensize anything.

The skit started and my cue was up, I did my swirl, held up the Leggs “egg” and said “and I wear Queensize!”  The audience roared!!!   Even though I knew I was poking fun at myself I was relieved that I entertained.  It was confusing for me because I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel.   The laughter felt happy and not hateful.  It exemplified the notion of whether people were laughing with me or at me.  I never knew the answer but I didn’t take up acting after that 🙂    Thank you for reading!

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Diffuse to Lose

Diffuse the thought to change the action to ultimately lose the weight. This goes back to the action plan in a previous blog –  when you have positive thoughts to replace the thoughts about eating.  For example, if you see a commercial on television for any kind of food item or restaurant, immediately change the channel.  Commercials are very powerful and are intended to call to action and choose their product or establishment. They are designed to lure you in. Don’t buy it; don’t let them suck you in.

I still have fond memories of watching holiday specials that were sponsored by food companies such as Kraft Foods or Dolly Madison cakes. It was the voice, the calming words, the images that were effective. The anticipation of the holiday to come around the corner.  I enjoyed the commercials as much as the specials. They were all packaged around the holiday special and conjured up memories of special times. There is so much to celebrate around the holidays than just the food.   Save those other memories and remember them when you need to diffuse the thoughts on eating.

Sometimes I think that I want to eat because I am remembering the environment, the idea surrounding the food. Thoughts of vacation, sunny days, relaxing with a glass of ice tea, breakfast. It was the idea, memory of the beautiful sunny day not the taste of the food. While it is nice to have positive happy memories, do not focus on the food aspect of the memory. Redirect the focus on the sunny day, relaxing. Certainly there are other aspects of the memory that are not associated with food. Diffuse the food part and focus on the sunny day.

When you were putting together your action plans it might have seemed overwhelming. Do not look at it that way. Take it one step at a time, one plan at a time. The good news is that if you’re focusing on your plan you’re not eating. You are doing an exercise that is about control, power. You having the power to take control of your life.

I was recently out to dinner with a friend of mine and I was saying how I was just about a pound away from a “new” goal. She asked me what I was eating to lose the weight. My mind drew a blank. I really had no idea what I ate because that wasn’t the focus for me. At the time of our discussion I didn’t realize how significant that was. I realized afterwards how far I had come in that I went through a month of purely focusing on all of my projects and day to day “stuff” and wasn’t in food planning focus mode. I’m pretty consistent with my breakfast and lunch so those are easy to remember but I really couldn’t recall what I was eating for dinner. My friend, on the other hand, had a regimented diet plan and actually had to count out spears of asparagus. From the time period of March to December she had lost 20 pounds but put back on 13 pounds.  The more your thoughts are on food the more you are going to be hungry and desire eating.  Diffuse those thoughts!
Disclaimer

I am blessed and grateful for my journey.  However, it was suggested to me that sharing my stories from my past sound a little like a “pitty party”.   That was not my intention at all.

When I wrote the book, from which this blog is based, I was very strategic in the layout of the chapters.   At the end of the book were the stories from my past so the reader could focus on the strategy of losing weight vs. my story.  However,  with blogging I’m giving readers minimal information and I thought it important to share my experiences.   It is important to me that you know that I lived this life and am now successful at maintaining a desired weight.

I am not writing a blog to gain commercial success.  It’s about helping others.  There might be many people who relate to the stories or there might be just one person.  If I can help even one person then I will be at peace.   Even if that one person is me.

This is my story, this is my truth.  Thank you for reading.

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