Just the sheer amount of weight-loss oriented advertising that is blasted in everyone's face on billboards, magazines, diet books and low calorie cookbooks, etc. Slap that together with some low self esteem and you've got a fun circle of hell to face every day.
Limited calorie options was the advertised "common sense" solution to obesity.
The truth is, those methods can and often do work for people. Honestly, they did work for me on several occasions, but the results were not what I was hoping for and so I often couldn't keep it up for the long term. It was too mentally straining on me to have to keep food diaries and logging every single thing I put into my mouth. But that's what I was told to do over and over again, so I kept trying it over and over again and feeling like an absolute failure every time I couldn't keep up. One mistake on one occasion was enough to spiral me into a negative mindset that I was a hopeless cause and I was obviously meant to be fat forever.
The most common mindset I had was calories in, calories out. For those who are unfamiliar with CICO (which I was until this year), the idea is that if you consume less calories than your body burns you will lose weight. This is true, and many people use CICO as their method for maintaining a healthy weight. But I was skeptical of it after watching Fed Up. For those who haven't had a chance to see it, the point that Dr. Mark Hyman brings up is that a calorie is NOT a calorie, meaning not all calories are equal. An example he uses to explain this is by comparing 160 calories of almonds to 160 calories of Coca Cola. This is a direct quote from the film:
"Why is a calorie NOT a calorie? Alright, let's give you an example. Let's take an easy one, let's take almonds. If you consume a 160 calories in almonds, because of the fiber in the almonds, the food is not going to get absorbed immediately. So your blood sugar rise is going to be a lot lower. It's going to be for longer.
So what's the opposite of almonds? Well, the opposite of an almond would be a soft drink. Because there's no fiber, they get absorbed straight through the portal system to the liver, the liver gets this big sugar rush. When your liver gets that onslaught it has no choice but to turn it into fat immediately."
This is just one of the countless quotes from the film that inspired me to try it out for myself to see if it was true. Even before having seen the film I knew that drinking soda wasn't good and cut it out of my life. It made a difference toward my overall health, but not a huge one weight-wise because I simply replaced my soda consumption with sugary coffee drinks, chocolate almond milk and juice. All contain sugar and no fiber to combat it.
I know I must sound like a broken record by now but I have no doubt in my mind that sugar is the main reason for my obesity. Once I cut down on added sugars (including honey, maple syrup, etc) to 6 teaspoons a day (9 for men) or less, I started losing significant weight and haven't stopped for 7 months now. The weight is coming off a lot slower these days which is honestly a relief at this point. I just want to be able to buy clothes and wear them for more than a month before having to re-home them and buy all new stuff again. The most common response I got was "that's a good problem to have". Just to be clear, I do love shopping but not for the same damned thing every month or so. It was more annoying than fun. But I did learn not to get attached to my clothing. It came and went so fast I kind of forgot I owned certain outfits until I looked back at pictures.
Another issue with calories in, calories out is how little time there is in a day to combat the calories coming in - especially if the calories coming in are from junk. The way they laid it out was like this:
"To burn off just one 20 oz. Coke a child would have to bike for an hour and 15 minutes. Most people don't have that kind of time in their day.
One cookie equals approximately 20 minutes of jogging.
1 medium french fry equals approximately 1 hour and 12 minutes of swimming."
This is probably why another industry is booming - fitness. Gym memberships, classes, and even commercials selling machines or devices you can use right at home to gain a six-pack in as little as 6 weeks. The Bow Flex even came with a suggested diet to go along with your fitness routine. I'm not saying exercise isn't important - it is - but it's not the root of my problem. The root of my problem is that I didn't want to just be thinner, I wanted to be healthier. Continuing to eat junk food and working out in a gym setting felt like torture. I would work my booty off by attending a cycle class 3-4 days a week at LA Fitness (I loved the teacher which made it easier), and restricted my food to about 1300 calories a day. I still ate Dominos pizza, Chinese take-out, cookies, fruit juice, chocolate almond milk, etc. but I would whip out my measuring cups to measure exactly what I was allowed to eat and tracked everything. I got down to 188lbs at my lowest and felt extremely fit. But I still didn't feel 'healthy'. I was still irregular, had stomach aches or headaches frequently, and had pain in my knees when climbing stairs or going for a run.
I thought I was healthy. I thought it must just be me and I just had some health issues I'd have to deal with forever.
With sugar playing such a minor role in my life these days, I can say that as far as feeling healthy goes, this is the most I've ever felt it. I get headaches very rarely and were usually related to dehydration or alcohol consumption. So I stopped drinking alcohol on any normal basis (which is HUGE for me since I used to be a daily wine drinker) and I make sure to drink plenty of water.
I've had 4 stomach aches since April and every one of them was related to the food I ate. Each time I got sick I looked back at what I had eaten earlier in the day or the day before and every time there was a food I ate that was low quality. It happened with a cheap veggie burger at a cookout, Pad Thai at a restaurant - basically always eating something where someone else was in charge of the quality of food being served. I realized I can't always be in control, but I've learned that I can avoid a lot of illness if I stick to foods that are as basic as possible. For example instead of a cheeseburger (which includes ground meat of several cows, cheap bread, processed cheese and ketchup that contains mostly sugar) I opt for a steak. The cut is from one cow and usually comes with vegetables and sometimes a bonus of a baked potato. I stick to the basics because they don't make me spend hours in the bathroom vomiting and writhing in pain.
I won't say much about it, but I'll just say my body figured things out - and being regular is way underrated. Your poop says a lot about your overall health, so pay attention.
And the biggest triumph for me is that I haven't felt pain in my knees. I take the stairs all the time when I'm out and about and I moved my home office/studio into the basement which gives me more room to move around, as well as forces me to go up and down stairs throughout the day. I used to avoid doing laundry because I hated going down there. If I left a light on it was always greeted with a huge sigh and lamenting myself for having forgotten. Now it's like, not an issue... I just run down stairs, turn it off, run back upstairs, forget to start the dryer and run down stairs, start the dryer and run back up. It's not an issue. Blows my mind.
I'm not saying people can't eat sugar and maintain a healthy lifestyle - I'm saying I couldn't. It was too powerful of a drug for me to use in moderation. Once I found out that sugar was 8 times more addictive than cocaine, I started asking myself questions.
Don't take my word for it. Try it yourself. If you've struggled with your weight or health and are looking to try something new - I challenge you to give up a sugar-filled diet and see how it makes you feel in a month. And then, of course, you have to tell me all about it!
Below is my first attempt at eating plain greek yogurt. I tried making a couple of sweetened batches with combinations of fruit, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and even a last ditch effort of dumping sweeteners into it - nope. It was gross when sweet. Basically it solidified that Yoplait is f*ing pudding and NOT a healthy snack.
Then I tried it savory and found that it was much tastier. Plain, it tastes kind of like sour cream or the dairy/cream that cottage cheese is in. It's not bad at all. In fact, I've heard several times that it is a good substitute for sour cream - so I'll try it on tacos next and see how that goes. I did find that it was delicious like this:
1/2 container (small) of Plain Greek Yogurt