Emotional eating, Part 3

Now getting back to my current issue…

I am currently bouncing between 152 and 157 these days — a range I’m not particularly satisfied with. While my long-shot goal is 130-140 lbs, my current (and realistic) goal is 140-145 lbs. All I need is to fit in my pants. I don’t have money to buy new ones and the current ones I have in rotation are either uncomfortable or too dressy (read: formerly a corporate America drone).

Why am I having such a hard time? Well, other than the fact that I don’t get much cardio in, I’m also terrible about controlling my diet. (I’ve been playing the Wii religiously for about 30-60+ mins each day but it doesn’t seem to be doing much for the scale.)

dessertI indulge myself in anything I want: cupcakes; cake batter ice cream; pound cake topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries laden in syrup, drizzled with caramel and decorated with whipped cream on the sides. I’m trying to teach myself discipline, but an undisciplined person trying to teach herself discipline is a recipe for failure.

But I’m trying.

I’ve been successful at times. For a while I was addicted to cinnamon buns sold at UPenn bookstore’s cafe. They were (and probably still are) absolutely delicious. Somehow — and I don’t know how I talked myself into this — I looked at them one day and said, “You know, those are disgusting. They’re topped with all that icing. That huge bun underneath the icing is nothing but carbs and does you no good. You don’t like it anymore. Don’t eat it.”

I haven’t touched a cinnamon bun since.

It’s strange how I’ve been able to use that psychology on some food items but not on others. Let me tell you, how I’d love to give up my addiction to cakes and cupcakes. I can’t eat chocolate but I find  plenty of other things to take its place: strawberry shortcakes, strawberry sundaes, the Strawberry-Banana Rendezvous with cake batter ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery, carrot cakes, and Krispy Kreme donuts drenched in its original glaze icing. You can probably tell now why I can’t seem to dip below 150 lbs.

I want to stop. But each night, the ice cream place down the street beckons my name. Every morning, the bakery’s aroma wafts across the street and into the windows of my apartment, taunting me to defy the scale one more time for a temporary delight. There’s a diner that has dessert that is so good, I need to avoid eating there or else it becomes a requirement to indulge in after my entreé.

I’ve tried eating strawberries and grapes — natural sweets that should satisfy my sweet tooth. Grapes seem to make me hungrier and strawberries alone just don’t seem to cut it. I have tiny dessert cups used for individual shortcake servings but I’ve decided recently to cut them out to save calories.

I guess that it doesn’t help that I’m addicted to calorie-counting.

Goya riceI’m also trying to rid myself of my carb addiction. People from the Caribbean are notorious for their staples of rice and beans. As a product of Caribbean parents, I simply cannot live without rice. I can easily forgo meat if I can get my hands on some good rice and beans.

I don’t mind most veggies but trying to incorporate them into every single meal is incredibly difficult for me. And a house salad for lunch satisfies my hunger like a sip of water… that is to say, not at all.

So I’m currently faced with a dilemma. I need to stop eating so much and eat the right kind of food so I can lose weight. Because I lack discipline and feel hopeless and discouraged, I continue to overeat (American portions are larger than necessary) and indulge in dessert each night, continuing my slow trend toward weight gain.

My mental health suffered much less when I was 140 lbs. I looked good and felt good. There’s something to the saying that the physical contributes to the spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. Mind, body, and soul — they truly are all connected.

Emotional eating, Part 2

Seeing the scale at 180 scared me into action somehow. I thought of my father who died of a heart attack and remembered that I had a history of high cholesterol running through my family. I decided I had to do something so I didn’t drop dead of a myocardial infarction at 23.

  • gymBob and I joined a gym. We went 1-2 times a week for about 30 minutes, which — for a variety of reasons — was a disaster so this consistency didn’t last long. But it helped short-term. We mostly did circuit training and about 20 minutes of cardio. We also had a
    personal trainer for a while. It’s expensive and we haven’t been able to afford one since, but it was definitely worth the money. I dropped 5 lbs.
  • I stopped drinking soda. Everyone in my family will tell you that I was ADDICTED to soda. However, I knew the carbonation made me bloated.
    • I slowly weaned myself off of regular soda, forcing myself to like the significantly inferior diet products.
    • Crystal Light On-the-GoIn due time, I tired of diet drinks and became hooked on Crystal Light On-the-Go packets and forced myself to drink water regularly. This change resulted in an additional loss of 5 lbs. For whatever reason, the CL packets soon became too sweet for my sweet tooth and I stopped using them.
    • While I drink mostly water, I somehow picked up a daily habit of drinking coffee and lattés along the way. I usually make my own coffee but often order my lattés at coffee shops or cafés. I initially didn’t care about drinking whole milk but I soon learned that the calories can quickly add up between the vanilla shots and 16 oz. of milk.
    • Now, I ask for sugar-free vanilla lattés with skim milk. (These are called “skinny lattés” at Starbucks.) I always hated skim milk but forced myself to get used to it if I really wanted the pounds
      to continue to peel off. I still get my caffeine fix but for significantly less calories. Depending on the size I get, my latté can vary from 90-175 calories. Not bad when a regular vanilla latté is easily 300.
  • I began eating Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice for lunch. This is something that’s since dropped out of my diet but I need to reincorporate because it’s offered me the most results. I limited myself to LC or HC only and fought off any other hunger urges if I could. These pre-made frozen meals led to another 5-lb weight loss. (NOTE: The sodium counts on some of these meals are ridiculous, negating the healthy benefits of the low-calorie count, and causing increased hunger. Check the Nutritional Information for products that contain — on average — 600 mg or less of sodium. I’ve found that more than that can be counterproductive. Healthy Choice is pretty good about keeping the sodium milligrams around 500 or less.)
  • walkingI began commuting to the city and walked from the train station to work for a total of 20-30 minutes round-trip. I skipped walking during severe heatwaves and rain. The bus to the train station from my job wasn’t very reliable so I often ended up walking for at least 10 minutes during the day. Or more if I walked somewhere (usually by myself at a faster pace) for lunch. I lost 5 more pounds.
  • I ended up in the psych hospital. This is NOT recommended. I didn’t like much of the food so I hardly ate anything. I was also started on Effexor XR, of which weight loss was a side effect. I dropped a good 10 lbs in 7 days as a result of this. By this point, I was down to 150 — my “Freshman 15” weight.
  • Since my body was getting used to the 20-30 minute work walks, I began working out at the gym at least 2-3 days a week for at least 30 minutes. I attempted to do a minimum of 20 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of strength training or vice versa. I maintained a weight between 140-145 lbs for more than a year.

I haven’t been able to crack 139 on the scale for whatever reason and my goal is for a weight maintenance of 130-135 lbs. The BMI scale recommends that I weigh 110-125 lbs for my height.  Considering that my 26-year-old body is significantly different than my 16-year-old body, I’m not going to shoot for anything less than 130. I think to do so at this point in my life would be unrealistic. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be that skinny again anyway. 110 lbs on a 16-year-old looks vastly different on a 26-year-old  or a 36-year-old or a… you get the point. I’ve made 130 my minimum — a goal I’m sure I’ll be happy with if I’m able to attain it. Even if I bounced between 130 and 140 lbs, I wouldn’t mind as long as I didn’t regain my Freshman 15 weight. But I’m a work in progress.

Emotional eating: Part 1

I waver on whether I should attend the CCEF conference on Addiction in November. I have my own addiction that I’m dealing with and it’s ruining my mental health like nothing else right now.

Food.

Especially sweets.

donutsI’ve been keeping a record of everything I eat and while most of it is not terribly bad, it’s either the portion sizes that kill me or the delicious 5-scoop caramel strawberry brownie sundae from Friendly’s or a few helpings of those 200-calorie Krispy Kreme donuts. It also doesn’t help that I live across the street from a bakery that’s been named one of the best in the Philly area.

I grew up skinny and petite for the majority of my life and gained the usual “Freshman 15″ (or in my case 25) when I attended college at New York University. I did an incredible amount of walking each day — an average total of at least 75 minutes — and still somehow managed to gain weight. I didn’t occur to me at the time that 2 full plates of food from the cafeteria with several scoops of ice cream needed to be phased out of my diet.

By the time I attended a small Christian college in Florida, I was sitting at 150 lbs. (For a 5’4” female, this is considered slightly overweight.) During the nearly 2 years that I attended that college, I rarely ever rode in a car, which resulted in a drop of 20 lbs. Mind you, I still hadn’t changed my eating ways.

Fast-forward to August 2005, the month of my wedding. After a year of Paxil (3 months) and Lexapro (9 months), I hovered around 169-170 lbs. This was the largest I had ever been in my life. I never really realized that I’d gained all that weight. I was always pretty comfortable in my own skin. Sure, my jeans didn’t fit me as well as they used to but that was OK; it just gave me an excuse to buy new clothes!

Then, my family — pretty harsh critics, according to my husband — labeled me F-A-T. I never saw fat until they said it. The next time I looked in the mirror, I saw they were right. When I grinned, a double chin suddenly appeared. Saggy breasts hung in place of my once perky chest. Triple-fat rolls had now replaced the tummy that if I’d sucked it in just right, they’d look washboard. My lowest love handle drooped over my string bikini underwear like a fading flower.

Stretch marks also began to appear. They showed up looking like extremely red rashes. It was like watching my capillaries slowly attempting to burst out of the seams of my skin. The marks finally made permanent rest stops on my inner biceps and inner thighs.

A few months later, my max hit 180 lbs. To a lot of women, especially those who have been obese or overweight for a long time might pooh-pooh my weight problems. For a girl who — when her growth spurt had ended — fluctuated between 110 and 125 lbs, this was devastating. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t have been as bad if her family members hadn’t taken the liberty of pointing that out. Especially since she needed to be “skinny” for her wedding.

Is EVERYTHING a mental illness?

PEOPLE who send excessive texts and emails may have a mental illness, according to an article in a leading psychiatric journal.

As more people leave the office computer, only to log on as soon as they get home, the American Journal of Psychiatry has found addiction to text messaging and emailing could be another form of mental illness.

I kid you freakin’ not. That’s an actual finding by Dr. Jerald Block  as reported by news.com.au. Here are the four symptoms to classify people into this mentally ill group:

  • suffering from feelings of withdrawal when a computer cannot be accessed;
  • an increased need for better equipment;
  • need for more time to use it;
  • experiencing the negative repercussions of their addiction.

textingDr. Brock considers text messaging to be a part of this category because it’s a form of electronic communication. The article uses a female sales consultant as an example of someone who “suffers” from this “debilitating” illness. She explains that she’s on the computer for work all day and then comes home and simply has to browse Facebook, eBay, and other entertainment sites.

Dr Robert Kaplan, a forensic psychiatrist at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, said he first saw a case of internet addiction in 1998.

“I think in general it’s escalating,” Dr Kaplan said. “We now all live in an internet world, and it brings with it a range of problems.”

Someone please tell me this is an early April Fool’s joke. If not, I’ll cry golden tears if pharma companies put out medication for this.

Mental health parity bill

I haven’t posted anything on legislation that relates to mental health care so it’s about time I did.

On March 6, the House approved the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, a mental health parity bill that will require most medical insurance companies to provide better treatment for mental illnesses akin to what they do for physical illnesses. This is a significant move considering that insurers who cover mental health treatment can currently do one of two things: make patients pay for the bulk of the cost or place limits on treatment. The Senate also passed a similar bill in September 2007. Here’s what both pieces of legislation would do:

Both bills would outlaw health insurance practices that set lower
limits on treatment or higher co-payments for mental health services
than for other medical care.

Typical annual limits include 30 visits to a doctor or 30 days of
hospital care for treatment of a mental disorder. Such limits would no
longer be allowed if the insurer had no limits on treatment of
conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

As a result, the cost of group health insurance premiums likely will go up. However, the bills do not apply to businesses with 50 employees or less or individual insurance.

According to the NYTimes, President Bush initially endorsed mental health parity but came out opposing the current bill because it “would effectively mandate coverage of a broad range of diseases.” Technically, he’s right.

Under the bill, if an insurer chooses to provide mental health
coverage, it must “include benefits” for any mental health condition
listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The protections of the House bill apply to people who need treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, as well as mental illness.

Covering a broad range of conditions is a step forward, but I realize if group insurers are forced to pay for all conditions listed in the DSM, I can see why premiums would go up. It wouldn’t surprise me if costs increased significantly. No one likes to hear this but if people want better mental health coverage, they need to be willing to pay for it. For those who suffer with mental illnesses, it’s certainly worth the cost.

(By the way, only 47 Republicans joined the 221 Democrats in helping to pass the measure. It has nothing to do with the overall importance of the bill but it was a little annoyance that I had to throw in here. Grr.)