On plateaus and progress and The Diet Fix

by DaniGirl on June 11, 2014 · 4 comments

in Me, only better

I was already thinking about writing a blog post about Yoni Freedhoff’s book The Diet Fix when I happened to catch him speaking to Jian Ghomeshi this morning on CBC Radio Q. I’ve been aware of Dr Freedhoff, an Ottawa doctor who specializes in treating overweight people, for many years. I’ve been following him on Twitter for a lot of that time, and have occasionally read his Weighty Matters blog. While I have always found his opinions interesting, I have to admit that I have previously found him a little too strident in his views (and how he espouses them) for my tastes.

Maybe he’s become more moderate in his views, or maybe I’ve become more rigid in mine. Maybe I just never gave him enough of my attention to make a fair judgement. Regardless, between reading The Diet Fix and listening to him on Q this morning, I’m well on my way to becoming a fangirl.

If you’re struggling with health and weight and nutrition, I really recommend you give Dr Freedhoff’s book a try. He preaches embracing a lifestyle of moderation, giving you straightforward advice about how to re-think the idea of dieting and allowing you the flexibility to enjoy real food, including those occasional indulgences of chips, chocolate and ice cream – as long as it’s in thoughtful quantities that are the minimum amount that will make you happy. It’s exactly what I’ve already been doing, but it’s also given me some good insight into where I might have been deceiving myself and subverting my own efforts.

I know myself well enough to know that deprivation of any sort simply will not work for me. While I have great admiration for those of you who have succeeded on low carb or low fat diets, or who have eliminated sugar from their diets, I always knew that I would never be able to maintain that sort of diet. And if I did manage it, I’d be miserable. I’m a creature of comfort – I don’t like to be miserable. I do, however, believe in moderation, and that’s the thread that runs through The Diet Fix.

I keep thinking about one quote in the book: “You can’t outrun your fork.” Dr Freedhoff isn’t a fan of Biggest Loser style guerrilla exercise campaigns where you burn off excess calories with hours at the gym. I’ve been a little self-critical about the fact that I haven’t been making the time to work out more, so this spoke to me. He cautions that treadmills and elliptical often give a false and inflated sense of calories burned, and your body’s hunger response to all those burned calories is to crave – more calories. Instead, he asks “Is this a level of exercise you are comfortable committing to for the foreseeable future?” And he approaches calories in the same way: the amount of calories you should be consuming needs to be at a level you’ll be comfortable consuming not just until you achieve your best weight, but beyond that, too.

The nice thing for me is that I’m pretty much doing exactly that. I’m just over 1/3 of the way to my goal of 14 lbs weight loss about five and a half weeks in, which is not stellar progress but it is progress. I was going to crop this chart to take the actual weight out – but I’m going to take a deep breath and leave the numbers there. As some clever person said in an earlier comment, the absolute numbers really only offer true insight into my relationship with gravity. Ten years (and one baby and one miscarriage) ago, I was at 170 lbs and considering joining weight watchers because I thought I was too heavy. Now that’s my goal weight and I’m pretty happy with how I look just a few pounds over that. But it’s still tough to share those numbers. I’m pleased enough with the downward meandering curve to take a deep breath and post them, though I am cringing just a bit.

I remember when I had my big weight loss success in 2008-2009 having the idea in my mind “I don’t eat that.” At the time, “that” comprised doughnuts, nachos, chips and a handful of other things. For six months, I didn’t eat those things, and I remember feeling vaguely naughty eating chips and salsa at a New Years party that year, but giving myself “permission” because I’d reached my weight goal. It took five years, but I gained back about 80% of that weight in the intervening time. I’m hoping this time I’m able to find a balance, as the book preaches, that lets me continue happily eating this way for good – mostly on track, but with no forbidden foods and constant mindfulness.

I’ve capitulated to the fact that I must count and measure portions and calories, at least for now. I’m lazy about it, and I guesstimate a lot. I think if I were more diligent, I’d lose the weight a little quicker, but I really do appreciate the concept of embracing a relationship with food and eating that you will be comfortable maintaining for the long term. So I will happily trade slower progress for less stress in the getting there. To me, it’s as much about awareness and informed choices as anything.

I have to say, though, the chapter that most deeply affected me was called “Parent” – as in, how to parent a child who is overweight. This is a new challenge for us right now, and I really don’t want to say too much about it except to say that it is consuming a lot of my mental energy right now. I’m so grateful to Dr Freedhoff for this chapter, which I just read last night. While I have stratospherically improved in serving healthy meals at home in the last few years, getting the children to actually eat, let alone enjoy, those meals is an ongoing challenge. Dr Freedhoff’s recounting of changing his own taste for coffee from double-double to black over the course of months inspired me. He found it took roughly 1800 sips of coffee to retrain his taste buds to appreciate black coffee – and gave me great hope that maybe some day the boys will love quinoa salad, kale and seafood as much as I do. Only 1500 nibbles to go.

Anyway, this is not so much a book review as a brain dump. I picked up the book on a whim from the express loan section of the library, and although I have to say that I was more than 75% of the way down this road, I’m grateful for Dr Freedhoff for the ideas and inspiration on how to tweak my progress without depriving myself or setting myself up for future failure or regression. It’s a good book – if you’re interested in a healthier lifestyle that is the opposite of a prescriptive diet, I highly recommend it.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah McCormack June 12, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Hey Dani,
lots of great information here! I, like you, don’t do well with deprivation. One year I gave up chocolate for lent and gained 5 lbs ’cause I was eating everything else in sight. never again.

It sounds to me like you are on the right track and now that I have met you IRL, I can honestly say that you look very fit and healthy and gorgeous. lifestyle changes are gradual and don’t happen overnight. one day at a time….. enjoy your food and your fitness and the next thing you know you will be at your goal! Happiness & good health above all else ๐Ÿ™‚

2 coffeewithjulie June 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

Hi Dani – From a selfish point of view, I’m glad you shared the numbers on the scale. My own perspective is so skewed that I simply cannot tell what size I am any more … am I larger or smaller than that person? I actually can’t tell. That, plus too many years of ballet classes, have resulted in strange expectations of the scale. But I found looking at your numbers strangely comforting (I hope that doesn’t offend you!) because I think you look totally fine and healthy and I am in your range too (although, I’m quite certain you’re taller than me, but I can conveniently dismiss that bit of info).

3 DaniGirl June 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Thanks Julie! You can assume I’m 5 ft “and a little bit” if that helps. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Absolute numbers mean very little, IMHO. Some of us are, ahem, denser than others.

4 coffeewithjulie June 21, 2014 at 9:10 am

Damn, I am totally taller than you then. I had no idea you were so short ๐Ÿ˜‰

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