Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dieting and Sparkpeople

I have a love hate relationship when it comes to dieting. For years, I battled Bulimia and it took far too long for me to get help. One of the big reasons it took so long was - I was fat. I am still fat but that's not the point at this moment. Fat people can't really have eating disorders because dieting is good for losing weight and all fat people need to lose weight. It is this attitude that has left me a really bad feeling when it comes to my own weight. It's really hard to be a fat person with an eating disorder. First of all, everyone assumes that if you mention having an eating disorder and are not skinny then your problem must lay with eating too much or binge eating. I did have a little binge eating problem, usually due to the lack of food from before. My method of losing weight had to do with severe restriction of my intake followed by excessive exercising and other techniques for removing calories from my diet. The reason why I wasn't losing actual pounds was my body was fighting for every fat cells survival. I had a lot of muscle mass from working out but I couldn't make the number on the scale shrink.
Fast forward many years and lots of therapy. I weigh more now than I ever did. The heartbreaking part of eating disorder recovery is that you gain weight. I had gotten pregnant and had to see a nutritionist. My whole life changed and I gained 50 pounds when it was all said and done. My body knew it had a chance and took it. I knew I had a problem when I forgot to feed my son one day when I was not eating. He was still a baby. Fortunately my mothering instinct kicked in and I got myself help. I managed to maintain my weight and give up dieting all together. Later I got married and my life changed again. Things happen and one day I weight a lot more than I really want to weigh and realize that something needs to change.
How do I go about dieting when I know I have this problem? I talked with a friend who ran a weight loss group and eventually joined. I love my friends but I soon learned that I couldn't be a part of that group - there was too much self hate. I hadn't noticed it before but being in that group I had to be super vigilant. I wanted someone who could make sure I didn't go off the deep end. The sadest day of my life was when my friend mentioned getting off her fat butt and kicking her diet into gear. There was so much venom in those words that I realized that I had to be even more careful.
Fortunately during this time I discovered Sparkpeople. It's a free dieting site but it can be so much more. There are so many different avenues one can take that it pretty much creates a program for each person. You can choose to have the site select an actual diet for you and a workout plan but you don't have to. There are so many articles and e-newsletters in many topics that can assist you along the way. What I like is the nutrition and fitness tracker. Sparkpeople "assigns" me a number of calories a day. These calories are based on your current weight, the amount of weight you want to lose and the amount of time you want to take to lose that weight. My calorie amount is about 1600 to 1900. Notice that it's a range. All the parts of the diet are ranges not exacts, giving you flexibility. It tracks my calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates. At the end of the day, it tells me where I went too high and too low. Then it offers some suggestions to make a change. It's a little frustrating because I rarely get it all to balance but I love the challenge. I don't look at it as a diet but as a scientific experiment to get me healthy.
The fitness tracker is just as great. You put in what you did and for how long and it tracks calories burned. The tracker doesn't really yell at me (even though I say they do) but it encourages me to spend a certain amount of time exercising and gives me a calories to burn goal. They are not huge goals - maybe as much as 1000 calories a week. That sounds like a lot but it comes down to 90 minutes of exercise a week.
You can also earn points to spend on icons to send to friends you make on the site. I have made some great friends. Almost everyone is encouraging. Those who are negative are coping with their own problems not really being mean to you. I found those people were easy enough to avoid.
My favorite part of Sparkpeople is that it's all about me. There's no pressure. There's no negative part. There are no restrictions. If I choose to eat ice cream and popcorn for dinner - it won't hate me or tell me I am a loser. It just encourages me to eat better the next day.
I can't say that I have been perfect with Sparkpeople but I am learning. I struggle with my own emotions when it comes to eating and my body. I haven't been punishing myself for slipping and I found like minded people who encourage me with their own struggles. We all remind each other to use kind words about ourselves. We get to see each other's struggles (Sparkpeople encourages blogging on site about your process).
I had hoped to find that perfect solution to my weight issue. It's not out there. Weight is like particles that build a mountain. Most of the time, the gain doesn't happen overnight. (It can happen quicker than we plan - like during an illness or pregnancy but it didn't happen all at once. Even with my pregnancy, it took me months to put on all that weight and nature was against me the entire time.) However, a mountain doesn't crumble overnight either. It's warn away. Sometimes there are events that wear it down faster but it still takes time. Our bodies are made up of all these particles. We can't expect them to just go away. They need to be made useless and unnecessary. We have to provide our bodies with consistent nurishment and then put those cells to work with exercise.
Exercise can be as simple as walking a little out of your way, dancing while dusting the house or as complicated as a gym membership or training for a marathon. It's time to stop seeing this as a battle of wills and do something good for your body. I encourage anyone to ask questions and lets see what ideas I can come up with. I do think I will offer some tips I have learned along the way. Just because I am fat doesn't mean I don't understand healthy eating. I just struggle with some of the emotions that affect my eating (I still can't help it and need to work on them harder).

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