Reader Q and A: Post cruise weight loss slump

I have wonderful readers. This week, I wanted to feature a question I got from Jane, and my response. I thought many of you could relate to her question and my response.

Feet on a scale

Question from Jane

Back in April I attended your “Get Inspired” session at Nutrional Weight and Wellness in St. Paul; I was so inspired by your story.  I follow your blog and have been following the NWW plan since December 2011.  In the last couple of months I’ve been having a much harder time staying on plan and staying focused.  I was doing really well until July when my husband and I went on a cruise since then I’ve had a terrible time getting back on track and I’ve put on weight and feel so yucky!
I’ve been meaning to email you for months to ask how you do it?  How do you stay on plan and focused?  And when you were losing your weight did you have to be perfect all the time, or could you have the occasional slip but get back on plan and continue to lose weight?  At times I still worry that I’m eating too much fat, but then remember what I’ve learned and resolve not to cut back, but when I don’t lose I worry that that may be the culprit!  Before our trip I noticed that my body felt so good and looked good, but hadn’t really lost weight or inches.
Since we’ve come home and I’m not following like I was I’ve gained both inches and weight!  I’m so frustrated and thought maybe you’d have some quick advice for me.
Thank you so much for any help you could offer.

My answer

I am so glad you wrote. It’s such a struggle sometimes, isn’t it? Believe me, over the last four years I’ve gone through it all. And I am still going through it. I am working on losing the 10 pounds I gained in 10 days in Paris! My body is getting more and more fussy when I go off plan.
I absolutely was not perfect when I was losing the 90 pounds. I think I was on plan about 90% of the time. It was when I tried to be perfect that I slipped up most often. When I gave myself permission to be flexible and try my best, I did much better than aiming and missing for perfection. I found that over time, I was able to minimize the damage from those slip ups, and they didn’t matter as much.
It sounds like you are where I was at the end of my first year. The year that I didn’t lose one pound. I also wasn’t following the plan but for 40% of the time. I was still sliding into fast food drive ups and getting M&Ms at the checkout of Menard’s. I needed that year to get used to this way of eating. I know some people change overnight. I took a year to get ready for the change–I see this now in hindsight.
My body also needed that year to heal my metabolism. After all, I had been on a one woman mission to destroy it for the previous 25 years, with diets and bad food.
The fat (butter, coconut oil, olive oil) is key to getting your cravings under control. If you don’t have the fat, you are going to crave the bad stuff (donuts, bread, grains, etc.–the stuff that makes you fat).
Lately, my cravings have been SO calm. I really do have a “take it or leave it” attitude toward carbs and sweets. Why? I think it is my pre-meal cocktail (3 times a day that is):

I also am getting all my meals and snacks in so I am not hungry. I have been doing this ever since I got back from Paris–when I went on a bread and beer binge–and my cravings have never been quieter. Now that my cravings are quiet, I can focus on getting good food, and I am SLOWLY losing those 10 pounds. I asked my nutritionist  about this and she told be that glutamine works so well for cravings because it is the only amino acid that the brain can use to make glucose. So, with your brain getting the glucose it needs from the amino acid, you don’t crave bread. It also heals your gut, which is key to metabolism and weight loss.

I hope this helps you re-ignite your efforts. I was totally hopeless after trying to do this for a year in 2008. In 2009, I really decided to eat this way most of the time. I started doing yoga and walking more, and things started happening. And they can happen for you too!
I will answer your questions, too. Just leave a comment!

A book review for your health: Wheat Belly

For many months now I have been obsessed with how unhealthy everyone looks. It logically started when warm weather hit and I was at the pool a lot. I couldn't help but notice all of the teenage girls in bikinis, thin everywhere but a protruding stomach. And all of the men with large, very hard bellies. Or, shopping at Target and seeing so many people looking pale, tired and, well, very large. Having been overweight most of my life, I used to feel very alone. If I were obese now, I would have lots of company.
Which brings me to reknowned cardiologist Dr. William Davis's book, Wheat Belly. My interest in his book was piqued when I first heard him on Dishing Up Nutrition. When I read the book's intro, I was struck by his memory of when women and men, in the Mad Men era, were effortlessly thin. The most exercise he ever saw his size 4 mother do was vacuum the stairs. Women and men with large bellies were rare. He also remarks that today, even marathon runners and triathletes carry extra weight–America, where even the thin people are fat–and despite all of their working out can't maintain a healthy weight.
Apollo 11 Astronauts eating breakfast before launch in 1969
What's the difference between then and now? The abundance of wheat and “healthy whole grains” in our diets that's what. Look at this photo of the APOLLO 11 astronauts the morning before launch. They are eating steak and eggs (cooked in butter no doubt). The toast was likely an afterthought because they would have been so full from a protein and fat-rich breakfast. Bread was used like a condiment. Today, it is often the main course. And my guess is that these guys didn't work out nearly as strenuously as today's weekend warrior triathlete. And yet they are lean and healthy.
Dr. Davis asks, “Your dad called his rudimentary mid-twentieth-century equivalent a beer belly. But what are soccer moms, kids, and half of your friends and neighbors who don't drink beer doing with a beer belly?” He calls it a wheat belly, and it results from years of consuming foods that trigger insulin, the hormone that stores fat. He goes on to talk about how the negative effects of consuming wheat show up in every organ of the body, including the brain and skin.
I hope you check out the podcast and the book. I know so many people who are suffering needlessly because of gluten (the protein in wheat) intolerance, manifesting in joint deterioration, brain fog, obesity, and more. Remember Dr. Davis is a cardiologist, and he has observed amazing changes in people's health and improvement in heart disease at his practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I commend Dr. Davis for his book. Coming out against wheat and “healthy whole grains” (the food companies way of grasping at straws to make health claim) is sacrileage in this country. When I tell people that I don't eat wheat I get the “You're crazy” look or the “But, it's the staff of life!” comment. I have lost weight because of giving up wheat among other changes. I think when it comes to our health, we need to question what we are being told is healthy and stay open to changes that may scare us.

To lose weight seek balance, not extremes (or, death to the cabbage soup diet)

The other morning, I was listening to the Dr. Joy Brown interview Dr. Pam Popper on (a naturopathic doctor who consulted on the film Forks over Knives). I didn’t know who she was, and I hadn’t seen the movie. She started out talking about how most chronic conditions and obesity can be healed with food. “Great!” I thought at first. As the interview went on, I agreed with many of her statements: food has the power to heal; processed foods are damaging to the body; plants provide excellent nutrition. All good messages.

Then it came to the inevitable question, “Well, what should we be eating?” Dr. Popper proceeded to recommend a diet extremely low in fat, no animal protein, high in whole grains, with lots of vegetables. “Ugh,” I thought. I had followed many diets that had these low fat and no protein recommendations. These extreme diets were a big part of the reason that I felt starved for much of my life, and they contributed to my 100-pound weight gain.

I know better now. I know that I must eat protein, carbs and healthy fats IN BALANCE to lose weight and feel good. When listening to this extreme diet advice, my mind immediately went to all of the obese and overweight people listening who, in the absence of really good nutritional advice, would think this ultra-low fat, high carb path is the way to weight loss and health. I thought of the months they will waste trying this approach before their cravings get so out of control that they can’t take it anymore, go back to their old eating habits, and feel terrible about themselves yet again for their lack of willpower. This self-shaming place is where these extreme diets lead overweight people to.

Everyone remembers the “cabbage soup diet.” When I mention it while speaking to overweight people, I always get knowing laughter and usually a story or two about the perils of following this diet. But these kinds of extreme diets have not gone away; they are just hiding behind other names and concepts: all plant-based diet, raw vegan diets, intermittent fasting diets, extremely low-carb diets, etc.

Whenever you hear people talking about extremes in anything, especially diet, run. Seek a more balanced approach that will address not just your weight problem, but also your other health concerns (sleep, skin, etc.). Set out to lose weight in a quiet, gentle way without a lot of bombast or extremes. You will be happier while you lose the weight, and you have a better chance of succeeding over the long term.

Tell me about extreme diets you have been on. Leave a comment!