Help me not screw up my efforts to lose weight
September 4, 2014 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Late 30's female here who is undergoing a physician supervised diet because (obviously) I need to lose weight. I'm only on day two and all I can think about is FOOD! I keep reminding myself of all the reasons I want and need to lose weight but I'm getting discouraged. I know it's going to take time to break the old, unhealthy habits so, until that happens, I'm looking for advice on how to get over this hurdle. Special bonus points for website suggestions with inspirational stories.
posted by cdg7707 to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, the FOOD! goes away after a week or so, and then only becomes FOOD! Your metabolism adjusts a little and it gets a tiny bit easier.
posted by Melismata at 12:14 PM on September 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I've been doing a fairly strict version of the ketogenic diet since Feb/14 and while it's restrictive, I don't ever have physical hunger. The mental game, however, can be quite tough at first. What really helped me was pledging to do 100 days of it with no cheats. I decided I'd give it my best shot for the 100 days and having a finish line helped me psychologically more than anything else. By the time 100 days came and went, I had all new habits, cravings were gone, and I had lost a significant amount of weight, so it was very easy to keep going.

The other thing that's helped is being active on the Reddit sub-board for women following a ketogenic diet. I know that Reddit has other diet subs that may be a better fit for you depending on what diet your doctor has you on. There's also a sub-board where people post their progress pics (before/during/after) and those can be very inspirational as well. I generally am not a fan of Reddit, but those subs have been super helpful to me and I attribute a lot of my success to them.
posted by quince at 12:17 PM on September 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

When I've been successful losing weight (which is on and off) it's because I have almost fetishized being hungry. Dieting is only successful when hunger is embraced in some way. I'm always, always hungry on a diet, so I can either distract myself by knowing my hungry times and doing something besides sitting around, or try to stick to healthy snacks (which never works for me), or talk myself into liking the hunger. It sounds so gross to write it down, but it's true for me. You have to be hungry.
posted by feste at 12:20 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It will be useful to practice separating hunger from anxiety about hunger, if you plan to keep off any weight you lose. (I had to learn to do this to quit smoking, too, because my anxiety about suffering in any way was very intense.) It's complicated as shit, trying to learn how to self-soothe know, that thing you self-soothe with.

Start trying new things today, to find what soothes you. If that's websites with inspirational stories, you can find those everywhere there's a community for weight loss - probably a dozen or more subreddits, websites and forums. It seems to be easier if you stick to a community that's eating in a similar way to you, as you may feel uncomfortable if you are, for example, low-fat but hanging out in a keto community.

You may also want to treat yourself to a game, something that's specifically for giving your brain a 5-minute break from the gnashing. I like Bejeweled for that because each round is kind of ethereal and fleeting, gone when it's over, but if level games don't bother you there's stuff like Tiny Wings or Angry Birds.

Also, know that this too shall pass. It's new, and new things are like that. New puppy = 500 puppy pictures on Facebook in the first week, 200 the second, by the third month there's like 1. We tend to think that the way we feel right this second is how we'll feel forever, but that is basically never true. The way you feel today is going to last a couple of days at best, and then experience is going to alter your perception.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:20 PM on September 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Hi. I'm a mid 30's woman who has managed to lose roughly 100lbs through diet and exercise. And I still have another 60lbs I want to lose.

Here is my advice:
1. don't focus on the entire goal, don't focus on how important or dire you think it is for you to lose weight. Seriously. The bigger you make this in your head, the harder it you'll make it for yourself.
2. A continuation of #1, keep your focus short term for now. I would even go as far as just focusing on staying on track an hour at a time. You can do pretty much anything for an hour. It seems way less daunting, vs. demanding you stay on track FOREVER or even for the whole week. Just stay on track this afternoon, or for the next hour, or the next meal, whatever. Break it down to small goals. Genuinely be proud of yourself when you succeed in those small goals. It is hard changing behaviours that you engaged in for (I'm guessing) decades.
3. At the beginning, yes, cravings can be tough. But they are temporary. It helped me to get ANGRY at the cravings, instead of angry at myself. I personified my excess weight and my bad habits and my cravings. They were jerk ass individuals, not ME. I just had to learn to stop listening to those jerk asses, and I did that by getting pissed off at them. Sort of like and inner dialogue of "Fuck you, stupid cravings. Quit trying to derail me! No way am I giving in to your stupid ass demands. You suck, cravings. Shut the hell up."
3. You aren't weak because it is hard. What you are going through is NORMAL. A big part of my success was to stop making myself out to be some weak loser who can't do this. I kept reminding myself that this IS hard, it is hard for EVERYONE, but I can do it. Just take it an hour at a time.
4. Chew sugar free gum. When my cravings are bad or I am "mouth hungry" (instead of stomach hungry) I chew gum. My jaw gets to move, I get to taste something, and it distracts me.

And to echo quince, I too am doing a strict keto diet (and on the xxketo board for women doing a keto diet) and I effing love this way of eating. I lost the majority of 100lbs through Weight Watchers, and at the time liked the "nothing is off limits" thing, but it was a hard fought battle to lose that weight and cravings never went away. Since going keto I get to actually be FULL and SATISFIED now, the weight is coming off fairly consistently, and this doesn't feel hard. The only time I get properly crave-y is during lady time. Giving up all the carbs was a hard choice to make, but feeling SO MUCH BETTER and seeing the weight come off again definitely helped me stick to it. So yeah, I don't know what way of eating/method of weight loss you are undertaking. Weight Watchers worked for me, Keto is also working for me. Just find what works for you!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:23 PM on September 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

I have found the website 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet to be a good and supportive place. According to their "about us" page it was started by three sisters separated by geography who wanted to support each other in their weight loss efforts. It is moderated, the forum software is easy to use, and there are many many active users and sub-forums for particular interests.

I also find that exercise, both strength training and aerobic training helps me want to eat well. I have found a personal trainer that I "click" with (for me, that is someone who seems sincerely interested in my progress as well as someone who technically knows what to do). I like being in the outdoors, so planning an outdoor event every weekend is another good motivator.

Finally, I have had good luck with calorie counting and My Fitness Pal is my website of choice there.

Good luck to you!
posted by elmay at 12:25 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Find a few acceptable foods you love, and buy a lot of them. An example of an acceptable food that I love is a Subway ham & turkey sandwich. Weight Watchers chocolates are delicious and more acceptable than mass-market chocolates. These are only examples.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2014

I've lost 60 lb. in the last 20 months. I can second the point that it gets easier (for me, three weeks was the point where I stopped thinking about food much of the time, especially in the hour or two before a meal). It takes a while for your body to become more efficient at fueling itself from the free fatty acids that your fat cells can release into your bloodstream.

A few tips that helped me in the first few weeks: Keep sparkling water on hand. If you feel hungry because you're bored, do something that takes concentration (I will sometimes work on my bike). Go for a walk, or stretch. If nothing else works, have a dill pickle: they're filling and they have very few calories. (Don't do that if you have to regulate your sodium intake, though.)

The success stories at the National Weight Control Registry might be inspirational. The MyFitnessPal site also has a number of forums for seeking advice and inspiration, including success stories.

Good luck!
posted by brianogilvie at 12:37 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

What I did differently when I finally lost weight was I started taking WAY more multivitamins. I reasoned that the dosage on the bottle was likely calculated for someone way smaller than very tall and very overweight me.

The extra supplements helped my body stave off that "I'm STARVING - FEED ME!!!" feeling. I basically doubled my multivitamin intake, added D3 (based on bloodwork), added a B complex (based on bloodwork - I am diagnosed with MTHFR so I don't metabolize B vitamins very well) and a few other things like vitamin C.

I won't go into the food part of my diet, since you are under a physcian's direction.
posted by vignettist at 12:37 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take it day by day and build in non-food rewards. I use to chart habits I'm trying to build. At the end of the day I log whether I met my goal and if I did I'm rewarded with a tiny, fun animation.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 12:38 PM on September 4, 2014

I have been doing intermittent fasting (a modified 5:2) for the past few months, and on my fasting days I feel much as you describe. It was worse for the first few weeks, and has gotten easier. In retrospect, I think this is because it has helped me develop a sense of mindfulness about hunger - acknowledging it as something I feel strongly at present, but as a feeling that will pass. Also, and I know maybe this sounds cheesy, but I have found it helpful when I feel hungry to think about all of the people in the world who regularly don't have enough to eat and who feel hungry like this all the time, not just at particular points and by choice (like I do). Rather than feeling bitter about being on a diet, it helps me feel gratitude for the food I do eat, and for the fact that my diet is a choice in the midst of food abundance.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:39 PM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, as practical suggestions, I second the ideas above about keeping busy - going on a walk or concentrating on a particular project or piece of writing is a good way to push past the feelings of hunger. Also, sparkling water can make you feel surprisingly full (and if you want to actually have food in your mouth, dill pickles are great too).
posted by ClaireBear at 12:41 PM on September 4, 2014

Also, I'd bet that once you start to see the difference on the scale, in the ways that your clothes fit, and in your increase in energy and strength (if you're exercising), the diet might well get its own momentum. I found the first few weeks particularly difficult partly because my scales showed no movement, so my efforts felt in vain. Once I actually started losing weight, and especially once old clothes started fitting me better, it was pretty exciting, and it was very motivating to spur me on.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:45 PM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing that the"FOOD!" thing goes away. However, eating more protein can help you feel full. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and little packs of tuna (with lots of chili lime cholula, yum) are my go-to snacks when I'm feeling really hungry. I also started using a lot more chicken breast in my cooking.

I've been using MyFitnessPal and I've lost just over 50lbs since the end of April. The forums can be very helpful, as long as you know what you're looking for and have a decent bullshit detector. The success stories are always fun. I joined a few groups and that's what I've found to be the most helpful because it's a relatively steady bunch of people that I can be accountable to, almost like a support group.
posted by SugarAndSass at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sour can help stave off the craving for sweet, so: pickles. (This is a low-carb/keto trick but works for any diet.) Also: celery just has no calories, so makes a good crutch for stress eating, etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:25 PM on September 4, 2014

I am on a low-carb diet at the moment and I agree, I have no cravings. I am almost never hungry. I am not going to keep it up forever but if you need a place to start, something that is incidentially-low carb like paleo or Whole30 might be useful. (I know you're on a doctor-recommended diet so I suppose you should discuss these ideas with them first!)
posted by stoneandstar at 1:28 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and yes, if you have a problem with snacking, things like celery, lettuce, sparkling water and pickled veg are great! (You can make pickles yourself if you want to know what goes in them and try different spices and flavors.)
posted by stoneandstar at 1:28 PM on September 4, 2014

This is something to discuss with your doctor/nutritionist in a couple of weeks if you're still feeling anxious, but I am in a "time to get serious" phase right now and I ended up having to switch to protein shakes, really high protein content and the kind of formulation that is long/slow-acting, for breakfast. Even eating nothing but protein for breakfast, in substantial quantities, wasn't doing it.

I did not want to be a shake person. I am annoyed at the things I now know about isolates and eating the tops of strawberries. But I'm also not pacing and fretting at 10am, and a 350-calorie lunch leaves me stuffed.

It's not the most delightful meal of my day, but the difference in how I feel *all day* is startling. And also not every meal has to be delightful. That's a weird thinky thing I've had to deal with, food as fuel vs food for pleasure.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

One day at a time. One meal at a time.

"Three meals a day with life in between" is comforting and can be inspiring. After you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you can occupy yourself with other endeavors that don't involve food. When we are overweight we can form a habit of eating and snacking all of the time. It's a matter of breaking that habit.

Food and thinking about food can take up so much of your life. It is extremely freeing when you're not eating around the clock or thinking of your next meal. You'll start to remember things you would like to do with your time instead of eating. Learning, creating, exercising, socializing, cleaning, etc.

Am I hungry? is a question that I try to ask myself when I feel like grabbing something to eat to soothe myself.
posted by Fairchild at 1:50 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I personally disagree with trying to rewrite yourself to think "hunger is good!". Hunger is an uncomfortable feeling for a reason - and what if you swing all the way to the other end and accidentally give yourself an eating disorder? I prefer a method where I just don't feel hungry often, and hunger becomes a healthy "it is time to eat" signal. Obviously, this takes time to develop.

Feed yourself such that you as satiated without swinging into stuffed/starving cycles. For some, that is often snacking on small amounts of food. For others, intermittent fasting is the key(surprisingly, I've done this by accident and once you are "on" it, you aren't feeling that ridiculous starved feeling).

I'm on the low-carb/keto bandwagon and it works for me. For the low price of cutting out bread and sugar, I gain access to a whole variety of fun foods like avocadoes, cheese, and bacon. There are a variety of reasons keto "works", but I don't feel hungry on it, I don't get energy swings, and I lose weight while eating cheesy bacon bombs. (WTF, right?)

But pro tip? Don't go to the grocery store hungry. Have someone with you at the store when you are buying things so they can disapprove when you put cookies in the cart. Carve "treat time" into your food schedule, but try to make those treats reasonable. A square of chocolate after dinner when you are used to bowls of ice cream for dessert every day?
posted by aggyface at 1:55 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you thinking of food due to hunger or due to missing caloric foods?

If due to hunger, then you're on the wrong diet. If you're eating what athletes describe as "clean" calories, you'll actually have a hard time ingesting sufficient daily food to meet your minimum calorie count (and if you don't get enough calories, your body may hunker down into metabolic syndrome, burn muscle, and do lots of other non-optimal things). People who diet smart frequently remark that they feel like they've never eaten so much (in several small meals rather than a few large ones).

If it's just a matter of cravings, let me give you a pretty broad and shallow-sounding (yet accurate) assurance: food cravings break easily. Even sugar addiction. Hold tight with the cold-turkey and your body will lose interest in whatever craving (and remain uninterested unless you yourself self-defeatingly reintroduce it, e.g. for a "special occasion").

It's not like quitting smoking or drinking. Three or four days should be more than sufficient. Which means you're nearly there. I'm betting you'll have some serious relief tomorrow.

Your body's only craving these things because it's used to them. The body's a conservative - it craves more of whatever it's accustomed to, and it resists change. But the good news is it actually reprograms pretty swiftly. Just don't confuse it with mixed messages (e.g. ice cream in the midst of re-programming). Again, it's a way shorter turnaround time than you'd think. It only seems longer than that because people tend to foil the training. Three, maybe four days is all you need, really, as long as you hold firm. Then your body will actually crave healthy stuff! That's a nice result, and it's easy if you just train your body to adopt a new normal.
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:14 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It helped me to learn to distinguish between different kinds of hunger: mechanical/stomach hunger where you can feel your stomach grumbling and empty, mouth/aesthetic hunger where you just want to eat something because yum and emotional eating.

I took up long walks around the same time I was losing weight and I have to say that while exercise won't really help you lose weight (believe me), it provides an excellent distraction and use of that time. And it may even boost your emotional state, which helped me with the emotional eating thing.

I have to remind myself that feeling a bit hungry is not bad or dangerous or scary. (My automatic thought about this usually was/is"But what if I get *hungry?" followed by panicky feelings.) But being hungry for a little while isn't that bad. (Key being a little while, like 30-60 minutes.) I also went through an unrelated trouble where I had very little appetite and it was during that tribulation that I discovered that hunger makes food taste better. This is still true.
posted by purple_bird at 2:16 PM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pretty much everything that's worked for me has been mentioned, but I'll bullet point it anyway:

- No sugar... I lost my taste for sugar and can't tolerate soda or candy anymore
- Mineral water... I get the unsweetened lemon and lime flavored ones
- Most meals are just to keep me alive... and a couple of times a week I have whatever I want
- DON'T LET YOURSELF GET TOO HUNGRY! For me, snacking on almonds or carrots or whatever maintains a fine line between hungry/not hungry.
- Weigh yourself every day and track what works and what doesn't... I think 1 lb/week is a healthy rate for most, at least after the first week or two.
- Cut down on alcohol as much as possible. I'm not really good at this one.

All this helped me lose 60 lbs. or so in the course of a couple of years, and I've mostly kept it off, although summers are hell because I don't work and I can cook all day, which I love doing... ok, not hell, but hard to maintain the weight. Once school starts, though, it's easy, because I only have time to eat for sustenance, not pleasure.
posted by Huck500 at 3:18 PM on September 4, 2014

When I find myself thinking about food when I know I shouldn't really be hungry (I'm a bored eater), I go to and read the user boards there. Lots of people going through the same struggles, with great suggestions and inspirational boards with pictures and stories.

The format is super similar to Facebook, where you are able to add people, update your status, etc - but also track your calories, exercise, etc.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 3:31 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

...I'm getting discouraged
Don't get into the habit of weighing yourself everyday.* A natural fluctuation of weight is normal: how much (water, ideally) you're drinking, how much water you're retaining, ... Weighing everyday can easily lead to a "bwwwwah I'm a half pound heavier today! This isn't working at all!" mentality. Personal recommendation? Every 2-3 weeks.
*unless your physician recommended it
posted by whatzit at 4:25 PM on September 4, 2014

Cravings are often messages your body needs nutrients - vitamins and minerals.

If your physician won't do it, work with someone to help you figure out a supplementation plan that will assist your efforts to resist cheating.

Example: craving salty foods is a signal your body needs Calcium and other minerals.

posted by jbenben at 4:31 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

For inspirational stories and support from others working on weight loss try

Great tips and before/after pics in the success stories! Best of luck to you!
posted by goodsearch at 5:08 PM on September 4, 2014

Don't get into the habit of weighing yourself everyday.* A natural fluctuation of weight is normal: how much (water, ideally) you're drinking, how much water you're retaining, ... Weighing everyday can easily lead to a "bwwwwah I'm a half pound heavier today! This isn't working at all!" mentality. Personal recommendation? Every 2-3 weeks.
*unless your physician recommended it

Just to provide another perspective to whatzit, I have found weighing myself everyday to be very helpful as a way of not getting too emotionally attached to the number on the scale. My weight fluctuates a fair amount over the course of my monthly cycle (as well as more daily fluctuations), and when I used to weigh myself less often, I tended to imbue the number on the scale with more significance, as if it were a permanent mark on my record. Weighing myself everyday has let me keep track of the trendline while seeing how much noise there is on a day-to-day basis. It almost reminds me of the stock market - there is a definite trendline but there are fluctuations that can last weeks. The graphing program I use to log my weight draws a trendline for me so I don't get too caught up in any one fluctuation. Minor fluctuations on a day-to-day basis don't bother me anymore, because I have now realized how much my weight varies on a day-to-day basis in ways that have nothing to do with how much real weight I am actually gaining or losing. If I gain two pounds between one morning and the next, I definitely didn't eat 6500 calories, so it must be water weight, and not something I need to worry about. If you're a woman and don't want to weigh yourself everyday, I would recommend weighing yourself once a month, at the same point in your cycle each time.
posted by ClaireBear at 5:22 PM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am you seven weeks ago. My physician asked me to try a very low carb diet. I am *still* thinking of food a lot of the time, but the way I'm thinking about food has changed and it's less urgent now, more...empowering. I'm thinking about things I'll enjoy rather than things I "need". It's almost like I am grieving for my eating habits, because there is something that was part of my daily life that is now gone, very much like losing a loved one. (And absolutely losing what was my primary coping mechanism.)

It will get easier. I managed at first by thinking (maybe too much) about planning what I *can* eat. Doing that proved to me that there were still foods worth living for (and if it seems like there aren't go talk to your doctor again, because starving yourself is not the way to go about this!) But there is a learning curve for what to eat now, and I indulged in that. It got me through the first few weeks.

If you haven't thought yet about new coping mechanisms for stress and overwhelming emotions, start thinking now. Does journaling help you? Crafting? Meditation? (I say this like I've already found a new coping mechanism...I have not. But I'm working on it!) What you're experiencing is a dramatic change so please don't underestimate or discredit how hard it is! Be kind to yourself through the process - even in your thoughts. Your brain is used to habit (ie a certain way of eating and thinking about food), and habits don't change overnight.

Kudos for reaching out. You're doing a big thing, and help is good to have. (And, for inspiration: I have lost 23 pounds. I'm sleeping better, I'm less achy already, I'm not having those wild rages and fuzzy minded crashes anymore. Totally worth that first few days of feeling like a zombie.)
posted by AliceBlue at 5:45 PM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've been thinking more about this and it may help to reframe how you think about changing your eating habits. Thinking "this is how I eat now" can feel hugely different from "I have to eat this way for a while." I wish you lots of success.
posted by purple_bird at 1:25 PM on September 5, 2014

A follow-up to my comment about vitamins: counter to standard advice, I stopped drinking 64+Oz of water per day. All that water flushes your vitamins, which causes your body to need to replenish. Less water = less hungry, for me.
posted by vignettist at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2014

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