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The Diet Mentality

The short explanation for this post:  The Fast Metabolism Diet is NOT for me.

The long explanation follows.

This latest experiment highlighted for me that I still battle the diet mentality, or the diet trap.  Obsessing about what to eat, when, as if there’s some magical formula that will help me transform my life.  I can eat this… but not that.  I can eat 2 of this, but never more than that.  Or the whole diet is ruined.  If you fall into that all-or-nothing mentality, then it’s a). impossible to stay 100% on plan all the time and b). it’s difficult to recover from slippage.  It’s not a LIFESTYLE.  It’s a DIET.  Aka temporary.

That’s one reason I’m so sensitive/worried about That Man’s salad diet, because I’ve been there.  I’ve starved myself.  I lost weight…for awhile.  And then ended up right back beyond in my worst nightmare.

That vicious diet trap started to rear its ugly head this week, but thankfully I’ve nipped it in the bud before it could cause too much damage.

As I posted, the first week of comparison went well.  I had planned to do another 7-day cycle while still counting my points this week.  However, Middle missed a day of school last week sick, and while I had both Monday and Tuesday off…. I didn’t plan to lay around the house with no energy myself, nor to have Littlest home with me.  So needless to say, NaNoWriMo is not going well right now.

The first two days of the new cycle I did fine.  Then I entered the high protein, low fat, low carb days yesterday.  This is like the WORST of Atkins…without at least the bacon to help you get through all the protein.  I can eat eggs for breakfast, no problem.  I can even do egg whites, although I really hate throwing that glorious farm egg yolk down the drain.  But does it really make that much of a difference if I use 1 tsp of healthy oil to cook the egg?  Taste wise, it’s a huge difference.  I even made egg white “muffins” with sautéed veggies and could barely gag them down.  A little turkey bacon helped but even with 4 egg whites and 2 slices of bacon I was still starving.

Not a good sign.

I soldiered on, even though I just felt like crap.  Littlest wanted soup.  I didn’t have any whole food soup on hand and I sure didn’t feel like making any from scratch.  I SURELY didn’t have phase 2 appropriate soup on hand with no carb or fat of any kind.  Then she wanted mac and cheese.  A traditional comfort food.

I still did okay.  I had my lunch (tuna, a little Dijon, celery).  It wasn’t horrid.  But I was still hungry!  Worse, I had to run some errands to WalMart to stock up on stuff for the sick kiddies, and I missed my snack of cold deli meat.  Ugh.  I did not want cold turkey meat even if it was nitrate free.  No, heating it up wasn’t enough.  I wanted something… good.  Soothing.  Nutritious.  Or at least soothing and good.

You can see where this is going, right?

Yeah, the last bit of mac and cheese met its maker in my belly.

But I got back on track for dinner with a huge plate of plain ground beef and cabbage.  I sautéed the cabbage in a little coconut oil in my iron skillet to caramelize it (a slight cheat).  I even put salsa on it.  And siracha.  And I still couldn’t get it all down.  It just didn’t taste right and it sure didn’t feel GOOD.

Obviously some of that’s the cold speaking.  When you’re sick, you want a comfort food.  So I fought off the cravings, put the leftover cabbage/beef in the fridge, and went to bed.

This morning I was supposed to have the egg whites again.  I tried.  I really did.  But all I could think about was some nice warm delicious steel cut oats with sunbutter, like I’d had Sat.  I wanted it bad.  I started rationalizing in my head about how it probably wouldn’t matter if I ate it today instead of tomorrow.  Or would it?  Back and forth.  I ate the egg whites but I was still hungry.

Still starving.  I’m not kidding – this wasn’t emotional hunger.  My stomach was growling.  I started to get that HUNGER MUST EAT NOW feeling.  Like I’m going to stab someone with a fork hungry.  Maybe part of it was mental, driven by deprivation, but it was physical too.  I needed food.  Good food.

And I suddenly realized I had stepped into the diet trap.  I was excluding perfectly healthy whole foods–not because I have an allergy or real need to avoid certain foods–but because some book guru said to.  I was eating a formula instead of listening to my body and fueling my energy.

Dumb.  I’m sick.  I’m traveling to MN next week and Thanksgiving is the following week (we host, so I have a lot of prep to do).  The last thing I need to do is starve myself with some diet and make myself sicker, maybe even end up with pneumonia again.  DUMB. DUMB. DUMB.

So I made my oats and tracked it all.  And here’s the funny thing:  I didn’t even need a midmorning snack.  I was perfectly satisfied to wait for lunch, and I even ate later than usual because I was working on a production issue.

Whole foods = good.  Clean eating to minimize chemicals, processed foods, artificial sweeteners = good.  I’m not lactose intolerant or gluten sensitive to my knowledge, so there’s really no need for me to avoid dairy or whole grains unless they affect my weight loss.  Whole grains do sometimes make me ravenous unless I have protein or fat with them, so I do try to minimize them for that reason.

I like many paleo recipes and do incorporate many of those beliefs into my eating… but I don’t currently feel the need to give up all dairy and grains.

I’ll continue to use Weight Watchers to help me keep my portions manageable, but I don’t have to be so regimented in staying beneath my daily points.  It’s not a test that I have to pass every single day!  I’m also hoping that as I eat more whole foods and less of everything else that eventually I won’t need WW to tell me how much/little to eat any longer.  But for now, at least with WW no food is ever off limits.  I just have to be faithful in my tracking and measuring, which does get old really fast.

If it’s whole food, I’m not going to put some silly restriction on what day of the week I can eat it.

In summary, I’m grateful to the Fast Metabolism Diet for a few things.

  • introduced me to sunbutter, which I’ve decided I love.
  • reminded me that I love Ezekiel sprouted breads.  (I hadn’t had them since the stint with Atkins many years ago.)
  • if I’m more liberal with the coconut oil, things don’t stick in my iron skillet.  And taste really good.  Duh!
  • I finally found a way I really like sweet potatoes:  diced, cooked in coconut oil until crispy, sprinkled with salt, cumin, and a little cinnamon
  • I can eat well beyond my points a few days a week and still see really nice losses on the scale.
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Diet Comparison: WW and The Fast Metabolism Diet

I’m always interested in what the current diet trends are, so when Middle’s best friend’s Mom (an ex-Weight Watcher) said she was doing The Fast Metabolism Diet, I was intrigued.  I’d never heard of it before, and she was highly recommending it.  She was loving the food plan and seeing good results.  So I thought, hey, I’ll check it out.  I bought the book and scanned through it quickly.

A lot of its premises were really fascinating and I totally bought.  Yes, my metabolism is wretchedly slow after a lifetime of dieting.  My set point is low.  I can eat within my Daily Points (DPs) for weeks and the scale won’t budge–even if I’m exercising hard.  But oddly enough, if I have a controlled splurge of one thing–say we go to Quiznos Subs and I get a sandwich instead of a salad–I can suddenly see a huge loss the next day.  So I like the idea of “shaking things up.”

(Old time WWs will automatically think of the “Wendie Plan” – where you deliberately eat a low and high range of points throughout the week to do a similar trick.)

The basic premise of TFMD is that you keep your body confused with various high and low days carefully fine tuned to get your hormones balanced, your adrenals working again, and more importantly, your body actually burning your own fat stores.  There are phases — don’t groan, I know we’ve all heard all the phases of Atkins and South Beach, etc.  What makes this interesting is you only do the phases a few days (2-3) at a time, so you’re constantly changing things up.  I like that too.  There’s nothing worse than eating something nasty for weeks on end to the point where if you have to gag down one more dish you’re going to hurl.

Even better… everything is WHOLE FOODS.  Organic, sprouted, wholesome foods.  I find that highly appealing too.  No artificial sweeteners, no chemicals, even nitrate-free deli meats.  It does get pretty restrictive though with no wheat, no corn, no soy (unless you’re vegetarian), no dairy as well.  There’s also a relatively complicated list of eat this on this day, but don’t eat this on the other day.  I’m not a fan of such restrictions.

But the idea, the premise, is definitely intriguing. It’s like you’re deliberately fooling your body with high whole-food carbs like steel-cut oats and fruit for a few days.  Then you go strict Atkins/paleo-style high protein — only it’s extremely low fat too.  No fat-laden cream or cheese dishes here, or as many bacon and eggs as you can eat.  Then the last three days of the week, you go high natural fats with avocados, sunbutter, coconut and olive oils, seeds and nuts.

I could totally see how swinging through those cycles could fool your body into working harder and get a sluggish metabolism working again.  I had been back to tracking faithfully on WW for the past 3 weeks, eating within my points every single day, and the scale had not budged.  Okay, I lost 1 lb, gained two, then lost 1.  See?  Sluggish metabolism!

So last week, I decided to give it a try, with a few caveats.

  • I’m still tracking all my food in WW and trying to get my points in (more on that in a minute).
  • I’m not going to rush out and buy a bunch of diet crap.
  • I’m not going to have a cow if I eat something that’s not on the “okay” list on a certain day.  Whole food = good even if it’s not the “right” day.
  • I’m still keeping my coffee and half and half.

I was far from perfect that first week.  Right away, I had a coffee drink at church that had some sugar and dairy in it.  (That Man ordered a plain cappuccino but that’s not what I got.)  I made Chocolate Chili which had tomatoes in it — which weren’t approved on that certain day.  I also used whole grain wheat products a couple of times instead of sprouted because I wasn’t going to waste what we already had (and yum, I love whole grain).  I didn’t have any sunbutter, so I had natural peanut butter instead. I cheated a tiny bit on my oils too and had coconut oil a few times on the “low fat” days.  I didn’t really even exercise much — just a little.

I tracked on WW the entire week.  The first two days of high carb and fruit I was pretty close to getting my points in… but didn’t meat the healthy oil requirement.  The next two days of high protein, low fat, I was extremely low on points (like 10 pts short) and I ate a TON of food.  Those days, almost every single thing I ate were Power Foods — lean meats and veggies — so I knew I was getting a lot of nutrition.  If I was hungry, I ate, but I tried to stick to the plan.

Then the last three days…

Whoa.  WAY over points.  It was a shock.  For breakfast, I was supposed to eat 4 1/2 T of fat.  Yes.  4 1/2 T!!!  I couldn’t stomach it … let alone actually track that much fat.  I did a T of coconut oil in my oats and about passed out in fear logging it.  I went way over on points that day, and you know what?  The very next morning I was down another pound.

Hmmm, I thought to myself.  What the heck?  So I tried to be a little more generous on the healthy fats.  I ate the avocado AND the healthy olive oil on my salad.  I went ahead and used the full 3 T of natural peanut butter on my 1/2 bagel the next day — so much peanut butter I could hardly swallow it without my mouth gluing shut (man was it good!!).  And the scale went down AGAIN.

I ended up using almost all of my weeklies — something I hardly ever do.  And I lost 2.8 lbs, after staying in my dailies for 3 weeks and not losing a thing.

It was an eye opener for me.  I know you’re SUPPOSED to eat your weekly points.  They’re there for a reason.  But I always hoarded them for a special occasion….that never really came.  Sure, sometimes I’d have pizza or something and try to track it, but I never deliberately set out to eat those points.  Even when doing Power 90 faithfully, I only ate 4-6 pts extra a day and still felt guilty!  It’s crazy, I know.

If nothing else, giving this plan a shot is helping me get over that reluctance to use all of my points as WW intended.  I ate a TON — enough healthy fats to make the long-term dieter in me cringe — and I still lost a huge chunk of weight (for me).  I ate tons of Power Foods.  All healthy, organic as possible, whole grain, whole foods.  No “diet” foods with fillers and chemicals.

I’m still not a fan of being so restrictive on the first four days of the plan.  I mean, does it really make that much of a difference if I use 1 tsp of olive oil to cook my egg in?  Or 1 yolk?  The high protein days, I’m supposed to have 4 egg whites only for breakfast, which is hard to cook without any fat at all in the pan, even if it’s non stick.  There’s only so much all meat dishes I can get down too — I’m just not a fan of so much meat after my months of Atkins years ago.

However, it’s only two days.  And the very next morning I know I’m going to sit down to a delicious bowl of steel cut oats rich with coconut oil, sunbutter, and an apple (although apple wasn’t listed on the phase 3 fruits I ate it anyway).  It was SO GOOD and stuck with me for hours and hours.  I ate that on Saturday morning before the girls had two basketball games and I was so stuffed I really didn’t even need the snack 3 hours later.

I definitely saw enough results that I’m going to run through the phases again this week.  I’m continuing to track on WW again and get as near as I can to my points on the early phases.  You’re supposed to give a whole 28 days to allow your metabolism to recover.  With the upcoming MN trip next week, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to keep up with the restrictive plan, but I’ll at least continue to track my foods on WW and see what happens.

I strongly believe that we can heal our bodies with food.  I’m hoping that I can actually heal my metabolism a little after wrecking it all my life with one crazy diet after another.

P.S. I also ordered Well Fed 2 since I’m loving the first cookbook so much.  The high protein and high natural fat days are very paleo friendly with a few modifications.  (e.g. paleo doesn’t allow beans but TFMD does on phase 1 and phase 3)  I’m hoping to find some new inspiration!